What can you tell us about the character you’re playing tonight?
The thing that really turned me on about the role is that its a romantic. It’s a guy who is going back in time and he’s making some serious sacrifices in terms of other people’s livelihood and well-being to get back to save his wife from dying in a ridiculous moment, mistake that he made. So he’s trying to find redemption and go back to the only person that really means anything to him. It’s just tremendously romantic and very moving, so that alone was enough to make me want to jump on it.
What brought you back to television?
Robert Mitchum always said he looked at the money and then he looked to where he’s going to shoot it; those are good criterion. But I always look at the script and look at the director, too. I thought it’s fantastic. It’s just rare. It’s rare that you see episodic television that has like a four page acting scene. It’s usually a lot of guns and cars these days or a lot of police work, but this is different, man. This is unique and wonderful. FRINGE is unique. FRINGE is the best that science fiction can be. It’s fantastic and it’s entertaining, but at the same time has a humanist theme to it of people, places and things and relationships.
What specifically challenged you about the role?
First of all, that there are scenes that are four pages of explanation and dialogue, but really well written. They’re not just expository, but their dramatic scenes to justify love and need and family. Those were challenges. Those are challenges to make come alive. The thing is predicated on losing the person you love. I come from the method. I come from Elia Kazan and Uta Hagen and you’ve got to plug in your personal life into that stuff and it’s upsetting stuff. So you have to sort of imagine what it would be like if I lost my wife, if a guy lost his wife or lost his fiancé anyway. That’s hard stuff to tap into. At 60 years old, you want to kind of sit by the sea which I’m doing now; smoke a cigar, have a cappuccino and not take a look at those possible horrors. So that’s the biggest challenge; how to access the sorrow of losing the dearest person to you in the world.
If you, personally, were able to go back in time at some point in your life either to warn yourself about something or to tell yourself about something or even just relive an experience in a better way, is there someplace that you think you’d like to go?
Yes, there’s a couple of places I would like to go but I don’t know if I’d redo anything. I’ve been very blessed, but there’s a couple of relationships that I made youthful mistakes about and they were egotistical and sort of self absorbed mistakes. Just like the guy in “White Tulip” (Tonight’s episode) as you will see. He gets in an argument with his fiancé, just a small argument and therein, death happens. I’d go back and I’d sort of make a few amends with some people that are no longer on the earth. That’s all I think I would do.
What was it like working with the cast of FRINGE?
Fantastic! One of the most fabulous crews, on the ball, some old friends and the cast is egoless, which is sometimes and many times not the case. I’ve been in the movie business for, I don’t know, many years and I’m sure when I was a younger man I threw my own little hissy fits once in a while. But after a while, you just want to get the work done, particularly if it’s a great part in a great show. You just want to really get the best work out and the way to get the best work out is that everybody puts their ego on hold. After 60, 70 pieces of work that I’ve done in the movie business and television business and theater, that show has this fantastic egalitarian accessibility of everyone on it. It’s magic. That show is a gift of creation and a wonderful place to create. The writers were available to me on the phone. The directors were available to me night and day. The crew was extraordinarily, unbelievably helpful. The cast was nothing but gems, three gifted people and I had a ball. I just had an absolute ball.