Paley Festival Recap ‘09: THE MENTALIST


Our Paley Festival adventure continues with a report from Friday night’s panel honoring THE MENTALIST featuring the cast (Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Owain Yeoman, Amanda Righetti, missing in action Tim Kang) and creative team (Bruno Heller and Chris Demetral).

On the show’s origins:
Creator/executive producer Bruno Heller’s basic pitch for THE MENTALIST was Sherlock Homes, with a spin. “Essentially it was our attempt to get back to an old fashioned detective in which we tried to create a framework for a bravura performance by a great actor and this is the result.”

Inspiration for Thomas Jane:
“If you go to any city in America, any part of town, you’ll find a psychic on the block who is essentially applying the same trade as mentalists,” explains Heller. “They’re trying to create the illusion that they can read your mind, that they can see beyond the veil. And what they’re doing is essentially using genuine nature skills of empathy… to create the illusion of supernatural powers. And that seemed to be a very interesting moral position to be in because they’re essentially performing the function of a psychoanalyst or a priest. But at the same time they’re lying about their powers. And least that’s my opinion. I think the interesting thing about the psychics is that half the country will say they’re, it’s not real, they’re charlatans, the other half will say, no, they are truthful and profound things about them. And it’s precisely that line that mentalists walks along.”

Simon Baker vs. Tim Roth:
“I haven’t seen an episode of LIE TO ME but I think Tim Roth is a fantastic actor,” explains star Simon Baker. “My fear always going into the THE MENTALIST was, how can you branch out the concept so that the characters can go in a lot of different directions. And I was very interested in how LIE TO ME deals with it, the concept after five or six episodes. It’s a lie! So what?”

Meet the class clown:
When asked by moderator Ben Grossman who the class clown is among the cast, without missing a beat, the entire panel looked over at Owain Yeoman, who quickly blamed the panel’s only absentee member Tim Kang, “He’s a joker.” Adds Baker, “Tunney has her moments too.” Who quickly defends herself by saying, Sometimes when I guy wins ‘Sexiest Guy on Television,’ somebody’s got to make fun of him.”

Meet the class clown (Part II):
Continuing the light-hearted tone of the evening, Robin Tunney attempts to praise creator Bruno Heller by saying that the relaxed tone on the set, “comes from the bottom down.”
Bruno Heller: “Bottom down?”
Robin Tunney [Laughing]: “Top down. A lot of guys that are successful in Hollywood are the guys who weren’t cool in high school and want to take control, be loud and feel important.”
Bruno Heller: “Are you saying I wasn’t cool in high school?”
Robin Tunney: “He’s really bright, he’s not somebody who got this job who couldn’t get a girlfriend. [Heller mimes digging a hole, audience laughs] He’s incredibly comfortable with himself, nobody feels slighted, everybody feels safe, incredibly gentle and kind. I don’t think that happens a lot. I feel completely good at work and it’s because of him.”

Owain hearts Chuck Norris:
“Tim [Kang] and I will pass many hours reading Chuck Norris facts,” explained Yeoman. “I can recommend “Chuck Norris vs. Mr. T” which is one of my favorites.” Adds Yeoman when asked for his favorite Chuck Norris fact, “When Chuck Norris doesn’t do a push up, he pushes the world down.”

Or at least that’s what moderator Ben Grossman told the mother of two young kids in the audience before asking, “When is somebody finally going to get laid on the show?” Answered Heller, “It’s deliberate that everyone is not getting laid every week. I don’t think people get laid in real life as they do in television. But I just think that we’ll go there but we’ll go there carefully, respectively and slowly. And once you start getting laid you have to keep getting laid and we only have five actors.” Adds Tunney, “The chase is so much more fun.”

Jisbon forever:
Grossman alerts the panel that there is a “Brangelina-esque” name for Jane and Lisbon, “Jisbon!” And not only that, there is a facebook group as well: Jisbon Forever, complete with 18 members.

Should they or shouldn’t they:
Baker says “No! [Claps the audience] What was it… MOONLIGHTING…. did they get together? [Audience: Yes!] Was that the end of the show? [Audience: Yes!] Bingo!” Adds Heller, “That will be the end of the show then.” “I think the reason why the relationship works is that the characters are hardwired completely differently,” explains Tunney. “They approach work completely differently and they’re both very damaged. He’s [Jane] has been through this horrible thing with his wife, he’s not dating material.”

Elaborates Baker, “There’s five regular characters on the show. Van Pelt and Rigsby represent youthful sexual exuberance desire while our characters [Jane and Lisbon] represent a working evolved adult relationship where people see things differently at times. There’s sort of a sibling relationship and sometimes I think it’s paternal relationship. I think we’re not just pursing the sort of sexy vibe all the time, we’re actually filling their relationship with other areas people can identify with.”

THE MENTALIST vs. The Devil Wears Prada:
On which role was more fun, Baker says, “This one, because I had like three scenes in The Devil Wears Prada and I get to play this one every day.”

Paging Nurse Baker:
Prior to acting, Baker went to nursing school. “I was a dud student who spent too much time socializing and couldn’t concentrate, cognitive difficulties,” recalled Baker. “I was looking for a way out from the small town and meet women and the best possibility was nursing school where 85% of the students were women, 85% of the men were gay. So suffice to say, there will be a Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow movie about two guys going to nursing school!”

Solving the mystery of Thomas Jane’s car:
According to Baker, Thomas Jane’s car [a Citreon DS 21 in case you're wondering] was the actor’s idea. “Like his old worn shoes, I thought he [Jane] would be a guy who woul dhave a unique car.” Adds Tunney, “I still can’t open the door on it!”

Funniest fan question of the night:
Goes to the woman who told Baker, “My husband told me to say he thinks your ride marvelously in Ride with the Devil. He likes your riding, I like you!”

The truth about the CBI:
“The CBI used to exist but no longer does,” revealed Heller. Laughs Tunney with regards to the irony, “They [CBI] finally get a TV show and they no longer exist!”

  • allie

    Thanks. I LOVE this show!

  • AHA

    Nice to know about the car, it’s a real design classic that Citröen.

    These Paley reports have been fun, thanks!

  • AHA

    Got the dots in the wrong place – Citroën, after Andre Citroën. The Henry Ford of France, there is a beautiful modern park in Paris named after him.

  • Tiffany

    Nice write up! I also liked the one you did for the “DH” panel. Makes me wish I had been there for that one too. Great meeting you on Friday. My sister Jennifer and I had a blast chatting with you about our favorite TV shows. Hope to see you next year!

  • theTVaddict

    Dear Tiffany,

    It was an absolute pleasure chatting TV with yourself and Jennifer on Friday. Next year we’ll grab a bite to eat after the show!

  • JisbonLoveForever

    this wasn’t paricularly enlightening on the parts of Jisbon. Being a fan and a member of Jisbon-Forever and most other Jane/Lisbon sites, it was heart breaking to think that they’re disapproving of the Jisbon idea. But there still is hope, as the series progresses, hopefully. I liked the humour and everything about it, especially Robin’s new hair-style. Cute.

  • Leah

    I am 13 years old and I love The Mentalist. I love acting and it is my dream to be on this show so I love hearing new facts about and being up to date on whats happening. Thankyou =)

  • Alexandria Rascon

    I’m 14 and LOVE this show! I love Baker and Tunney and Yeoman and Righetti and Kang(too bad he wasnt there). They’re such great actors/actresses. You never get bored of the show, and mom and dad never really have to change the channel ’cause it’s usually a clean show.
    I’ll be totally bummed out when the show ends.Luv the show!!!!!!