Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interview: Catching Up With Tim Griffin

Tim Griffin is one of those actors who you’ve probably seen in just about everything. The classic “Everyman,” Tim has been on "General Hospital," "24," “Party of Five,” “Grey’s Anatomy," "Cold Case," "Bones," Lie to Me" and ”ER.” He's also starred on the big screen, most recently in “Abduction,” “Fair Game,” “Super 8,” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” And now, you can catch him weekly on NBC’s “Prime Suspect” as Det. Augie Blando. I spoke with Tim recently about Det. Blando and how much fun he and the rest of the cast are having working on “Prime Suspect.”

Daytime Dial: When you first heard that the British hit “Prime Suspect” was going to be remade for American audiences, were you a bit apprehensive about how fans would receive the new show?

Tim Griffin: It wasn’t really until we started doing the initial press work that I realized, “OK, this is a sacred institution,” because I was a huge fan of the British series, too. It’s almost like a trial by fire that you have to go through. Can it be envisioned, reimagined with an American voice? Our partners are the original producers of the original “Prime Suspect,” so we have that entire canon of scripts at our disposal, and we have Peter Berg [as the executive producer and director]. It’s like its own new animal.”

DD: That’s very smart to do it that way, rather than trying to remake the British series, verbatim, you create your own niche with the original as your guideline.

TG: Right. That’s when it’s successful. If you look at shows like “The Office.” You can’t get more beloved than Ricky Gervais and the original “Office.” But I’m a huge fan of the American “Office.” I did “Leatherheads” with John Krasinski for four months. I think he’s one of the funniest people on the planet, and he’s not even one of the funniest people on that show. It’s just like they’ve created this quirky animal that’s so them. I can’t imagine it not set in Scranton, Pa.

And it’s the same thing with our show. This thing was such a perfect fit for Manhattan Homicide, but I think it’s also brilliant as a fan of the show. It’s not like they just used the title “Prime Suspect” and threw away the entire canon. There was an episode where the remnants of a murder in a storage facility were discovered, which was registered to the killer’s mother. Well, that’s right out of the original “Prime Suspect,” where you had this crazy, Joan Crawford-type mother who’s protecting her son. The son seems completely normal on the outside, but he’s got something about him — both Helen Mirren’s character in the original and Maria Bello’s character in our show can see something is off with this guy. When I see that, I can tell as a fan of the original show that they used that plot device, but they retold it in such a way that it’s almost like you’re not even aware that you’re watching sort of a tribute to something that came before. I am very happy that they are our partners, and that we have access to those brilliant cases and scripts.

DD: Tell me about your character, Detective Blando.

TG: The funny thing is, this wasn’t even the part that I was originally read for. And now looking back on it, I can’t imagine playing any other character. He is sort of like the class clown of the squad. All of these people have a dark humorous streak to them, because there is no way to do this job without a sense of humor. It doesn’t mean I’m any less effective as a homicide detective, just the guy who will always employ my natural personality. As an actor, I am normally brought in to do the heavy dramatic lifting or just outright comedy, so it’s nice to do a nuanced character like this. I’ve rarely gotten to do something that really sort of blends both. I don’t know if it’s because they saw that character in me or they tailored the character to fit my personality. It’s probably a little bit of both. I originally read for Kirk Acevedo’s character, who was originally named Detective Carter, but I can’t imagine anybody else playing Detective Calderon.

DD: The entire cast that Peter Berg has assembled for “Prime Suspect” is really phenomenal. What is it like working with them?

TG: We were amazed that they had assembled that cast, because normally you’ll get a couple of luminaries — you’ll get an Aidan Quinn and a Maria Bello, and they’ll populate the rest of the show with nonthreatening pretty people. But Pete was adamant that he wanted every single character to hearken back to shows like “Hill Street Blues” or “NYPD Blue,” where everybody has a distinct voice. So they went out and hired probably the most accomplished cast I’ve ever been a part of. Pete Berg and Alex Cunningham were given carte blanche to hire the best actors. Hopefully they’re not sitting there thinking, “We should have gotten more pretty people.”

DD: What is life on the set like?

TG: We had an episode that aired a few weeks ago where we’re trying to destroy the killer’s ironclad alibi. He checks in at this restaurant at, let’s say, 10 minutes past the hour. He makes a call from his phone, and then it’s surmised that he might have made it from the restaurant to the murder site where he dumps the body. Is it physically possible to do this with New York traffic? Maria speculates, what if he ran it? Then they have me, Kirk (Acevedo) and Maria all run the route. That was such a fun day. We were all just riffing on each other all day long, and then we go into a bar afterward and have a few cocktails.

DD: You’ve been fortunate to have had quite a varied acting career so far. Has that been your intention, or the luck of the audition?

TG: I will tell you, I didn’t go out to do it intentionally. I think it comes with the volume of work that I’ve done. I do strive to not be pigeonholed. But I’ll tell you, there are certain characters that if you are going to be known for something, you’d better be proud of it, and this is one of those characters. Hopefully in five years I won’t be like, “If one more person calls me Augie, I’m going to punch him in the face.”

You know who I love, who I feel is absolutely brilliant? Jared Leto. I am a huge fan of all of David Fincher’s films, and when I saw Jared in “Panic Room,” I was like, “This is the kid from ‘My So-Called Life’?” Can you imagine if that was the only thing he ever did, and everybody called him Jordan Catalano? When I saw the video for “The Kill” (by Jared’s band, Thirty Seconds to Mars), I was like, this better not be that pretty boy. Do you really have to be an amazing rock ‘n’ roll musician too? There are certain people who are just ridiculously talented, and God bless him, he’s one of them. Let him go conquer every arena in the world. I’m just going to stick to acting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview ( Days): Christie Clark Is Counting Her Lucky Stars

As viewers of “Days of Our Lives” have been noticing, old faces are new again. With the influx of veteran actors reclaiming their space in Salem in recent months, one can’t walk through Horton Square without tripping over Jack, Marlena, John, Austin or Carrie. Christie Clark, who returned in September to her role of Carrie Brady-Reed, is thrilled to be back home on the set — a little older, a little wiser and ready to have some fun.

Daytime Dial: What made you decide that this was the right time to come back to “Days”? I know you came back earlier for Alice, but what convinced you that now was the time to return with more permanence?

Christie Clark: Well, (executive producers) Greg (Meng) and Noel (Maxam) are manning the ship, and they have a ton of heart, and they really want to make the show succeed. You can tell there is something different in the air this time around. It’s really inspiring to work with, when the writing is good and the character development is great. It inspires all the actors and trickles down, and it’s just positive energy galore at “Days” right now. All the actors are inspiring me to do good work.

And now we have 15 weeks off a year, and it used to be that we would work crazy hours, like 70 to 80 hours a week. We would get to work at 6 in the morning and sometimes leave at midnight. Now they are kind enough to bulk my shows into three days, so I get to spend time with my family in San Francisco on my days off.

DD: I know you have young children, so it’s great that they are able to accommodate you to be able to see them a lot.

CC: Oh, yeah. It’s a dream job. I’m eating humble pie now, because I have two or three days of being a little soap star and cruising in my two-seat convertible, and then I fly home and I’m back on diaper duty and dishes. Right now I’m living what all the people who watch “Days of Our Lives” are living, and I’m just counting my lucky stars.

DD: You and I are the same age, and I started watching “Days” around ’90 or ’91 — right after high school — and to me, those were the glory days. And looking back, you can see that was a really great time for the show, so I was really excited when I found out all these people were coming back to recapture the magic of that time. What were your thoughts when you heard about that idea?

CC: I am right there with you. I feel like it was the glory days too, but that’s because I was working a lot, and I was enjoying those story lines. But so many people come up to me and say that “I started watching it in early ’91-’92 and my whole sorority or my whole sewing class watched it.” People would get together as a group and watch it and talk about it. And it seemed popular then, so when they approached us about getting all that back — the romance and the light and the airiness and the beauty — of course I was all for it! I love working, so if they are going to try to touch on when I thought it was the best, then great! Sign me up!

DD: What were those first few days back like for you — stepping on the set and seeing everybody again?

CC: It was a trip. It's like a funny dream being back in the same place and with the actors that you worked with 16 years ago. Like with Patrick (Muldoon, who plays Austin). We feel the same age, we feel that it's been no time at all, but that was a long time ago! It's weird, but hopefully we've grown up a little bit and matured a bit. It's like riding a bike. I was nervous the first day, thinking, "Can I memorize these lines again?" And that muscle memory is still there for memorizing lines, and it's still the same faces in the crew. Like, Jackie is still on the boom; Mike and Johnny are still behind the camera. People never leave "Days," because it's such a good job. And I'd say 85 percent of the people who work there now, I know them and have worked with them for 20 years.

DD: Now we have the story line of Carrie defending John, which has her at odds with Austin, who isn't so sure of his innocence — because we need some drama. What can you divulge about how it will take its toll on their relationship?

CC: It's something that Carrie's never seen with Austin before, because he had a terrible upbringing, and family has always been a big thing for him. And for him to suddenly not see that and not react the "right" way is irking Carrie, and it breaks her heart. I just want to shake him to wake him up and say, "What are you doing?" So that definitely creates friction, but it doesn't break us up — at the moment.

DD: And it doesn't help now that Austin is living with Sami.

CC: That doesn't help at all! I don't like that one bit!

DD: They have always had this rivalry, Sami and Carrie. When you first came back and everybody is all grown up and mature — I was afraid that you weren't going to have that rivalry again. So, I'm really glad that we're starting to see that emerge. The path is being set.

CC: There's just been too much bad blood. You can't just forget it, and the writers are doing a wonderful job of acknowledging that. I think in the past I've come back, and I have completely forgiven Sami. To me as an actor it's like, "I can't do that!" And now these writers are really doing a fabulous job of expressing that rivalry. I tell Austin: "I don't like you staying with her. I don't trust her." I want to trust my sister, but I don't yet.

DD: You have two daughters in real life, and you on the show do not have any children. I think you are the only female of childbearing age who doesn't. Last we heard, you guys were going to try to start a family. Has there been any discussion of your trying to do that, or is that something that is way in the future?

CC: I think they will definitely do something with that in the future — there's been a good amount of practicing.

DD: And you've got to catch up with Sami. She's got like what, 12 kids by now?

CC: I know — she's got four! It's crazy! I've got some catching up to do. Maybe I'll bust out some twins to kick-start the whole thing.