Exclusive Interview: Sam Anderson Talks LEVERAGE

sam anderson leverage lost bernard
By: Amrie Cunningham [My Take on TV]

Say what you want about Jack and Kate and Sawyer and how that triangle is going to play out – the castaway I prefer to spend my time with is Bernard Nadler, the dentist with a heart of gold. His portrayer, the incomparable Sam Anderson (known for roles on just about every TV show you can imagine including but most definitely not limited to GROWING PAINS, MURDER SHE WROTE, and PICKET FENCES), is guest starring on another one of my favorite shows, TNT’s LEVERAGE, Tuesday night, and he and I spent some phone time talking about what he’s up to in this episode (he’s a scammer getting scammed), what’s coming up for Bernard (he knows about as much as we do), and why being a character actor is fantastic work.

Tell me about your role on LEVERAGE. I’m loving this show and am so I’m excited to see you on it.
Sam Anderson:
Oh, good, because I love it too. It’s very, very different from my role on LOST for sure. I play a very ruthless contractor, major contractor, who with my 2 sons, go into disaster areas, like Hurricane Katrina, offer to rebuild people’s houses or fix them or do whatever needs to be done, and never do the work. And when they refuse to pay, I remind them of their contract which has a lien on their property if they don’t pay, we take their property, we kick them out, and we move on.

What attracted you to this role?
Well, I love Dean Devlin. I love Tony Bill who is the director and it was so different from what I do on LOST that I just thought “Oh how much fun could this be?!” Also, just the underlying issue of that, even though there’s a lot of this that’s very funny. The underlying story is that there certainly are a lot of ruthless people in the world, and we’ve heard a lot about them in the news recently. I love seeing that. I love seeing that, even if it’s fiction, I love seeing them get their comeuppance.

I don’t want you to get in trouble or give anything away, but who do you get to interact with in the main group?
Gee, I think I interacted most with Gina Bellman, who I just adored. Her ability with accents just blows my mind. I also interacted with Christian Kane a little bit, and you know, he and I are old friends because we did ANGEL together. He was my protégé at the horrible, nasty law firm of Wolfram and Hart on the old ANGEL show, and then a little bit with Tim, who I thought was as spectacular as I imagined he would be.

You play a good guy so well, and you play a bad guy so well. You mention ANGEL – that was one of my favorite characters on the show. How do you make the decision to play bad or good? Is that something you consciously try to do, to play both sides?
Yes. For a character actor, the roles are always so interesting. The interesting thing is to make their motivation human, so it’s not just a baseboard thing. I’m fascinated with that. When we did ANGEL for example, I did some outlandish things, of having someone killed in front of me and then worrying about my carpet and the blood stains. I chose with him to just be as calm and normal with him as I possibly could.

Do you prefer good versus evil or vice versa?
It depends on the role and the writer. I really love them all if it’s written good.

What else do you have coming up besides your episode of LEVERAGE and the rest of LOST?
I just finished a GREY’S ANATOMY last week which should be on within the next month, in which I play a man who is dying of colon cancer, which is a different challenge. I’m in the middle of shooting CRIMINAL MINDS right now, playing a small town doctor dealing with an arsonist.

I have to ask about LOST, naturally. What can you tease is coming up for Bernard?
I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know! I do know that so far I have no flaming arrow in my back, which is a really good thing. I know that Rose and I are supposed to go back, but I don’t exactly know when. Given what happened in the opening, I have no idea even what time zone we’ll be in, what year, because that island seems to be spinning out of control!

Do you get to watch a lot of TV in your down time?
I don’t. I have the shows that I do make a point of watching, my appointment shows, that I TiVo and watch. I love THE CLOSER, I love Holly Hunter and SAVING GRACE. I watch DAMAGES with Glenn Close. I’m just addicted to that. My wife and I are big 24 fans. Just because it’s so much fun. Even if it’s like, how many people in the administration can be traitors, you still just have to watch because you want to know! And of course, I watch the shows I do. I have gotten hooked with Tim and the gang on LEVERAGE.

I was pleasantly surprised with how light and at the same time deep the show is.
And there’s nothing like it on the air.

You mentioned being a character actor. Is that something you always strived to be?
Yes, always. When I was a very small child, I went to the movies a lot with my grandfather. And I loved watching him watch. There was a gallery of phenomenal character actors in those years in film. You’d see, god, I’m going to date myself and it’s awful, but you’d see everybody from Fredric March who is just an amazing underrated actor. Charles Laughton, a little later on, like Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson and some of those films from England, Alan Bates. I was much more interested in those guys who might not necessarily be the hero, but whatever they had going on was so full and so interesting and they always got to be somebody else. I loved the idea of that. And I have to this day. I still love that. I’m always fascinated when there’s a new facet of a character that comes into play that I didn’t know was there, to discover, and that’s what can be the most fun about television, in an ongoing kind of way. Learning all these things, especially now the way it’s done, since so many of them are like little novels, where they surprise you as they move along as well as the audience and I like that a lot.

Last question before I let you go – tell us why you think people should tune in to your episode of LEVERAGE.
First of all, I think it’s a great entertaining romp for starters. I think it’s quite funny. I love watching the way that the scammers get scammed. And at the same time, I love learning a little more about Tim’s character, his past. There’s a bit of tension inside the group itself this week, which I found interesting, with some questions about leadership and where it’s going, and I thought that was just great, beautifully played. Just the whole idea of taking a very topical subject of these guys, that our country seems full of lately over the last few years, somebody scamming somebody in a big way for something. People coming along and finding a way to do it the way that they do it, and get the better of them for it!

Don’t miss an all new episode of LEVERAGE Tuesday January 27 at 10PM on TNT