When art imitates life, it is often more truthful than reality itself. In USA Network’s new series NECESSARY ROUGHNESS, in a twist of fate, a psychotherapist finds her personal life derailed just as her professional life takes off.
Based on a true story, the show manages to find the truth and trueness of some extraordinary stories (albeit fictionally depicted), but which echo the real world and everything seen in the news. Celebrities, sports figures, politicians and Wall Street wizards all have one thing in common – a breaking point. In NECESSARY ROUGHNESS, it is Dr. Dani Santino’s job to bring back these high-powered individuals from their breaking points. She spotlights or highlights the stress-fractures in their professional/personal lives and teaches them to manage that stress. Therapy is not always the most octane-fueled subject matter, but when looking at the lives of a professional football star, a high-stakes gambler, a radio or television personality, a CEO or even a race car driver, suddenly the inside-look at their lives and how they cope is just a bit more fascinating. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to know what they are talking about behind closed doors?
NECESSARY ROUGHNESS introduces us to Dr. Dani Santino, brilliantly and deftly portrayed by Callie Thorne, who helps such talented and privileged individuals. But like a mirror does not just one side, each of these glittering stars and celebrities has a side that hides their fears and insecurities – all which combusts or manifests in negative ways threatening their successful professional lives. And like her clients, Dani is not just a great therapist, helping those who do not even know they need help, she too needs a bit of help as her personal life disintegrates. With a divorce, nasty allegations, rebellious teenage children and a mother with a propensity for eavesdropping, Dani must find a balance in her own life. With humor, resilience and some surprising allies, Dani learns to navigate a world of high-stakes and even tougher personalities. It will intrigue you and delight you as you discover the world of NECESSARY ROUGHNESS.
Taking a few moments to talk about the show and what is all about are executive producer Craig Shapiro, along with stars Marc Blucas, Scott Cohen, Hannah Marks and Patrick Johnson (To read more from Callie Thorne about her role as Dr. Dani, visit this article.) Mark Blucas portrays Matthew Donnally, a sports trainer for the Atlanta Hawks football team. Scott Cohen portrays Nico Careles, the Atlanta Hawks’ fixer. Hannah Marks and Patrick Johnson portray Lindsay and Ray J, the teenage children of Dr. Dani Santino.
Executive Producer Craig Shapiro
Can you talk about the genesis of the show?
CRAIG: It’s inspired by a true story. There is a real Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, who was therapist for the Jets in the 1990’s. . . She was one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. We had a 3-hour meeting in a coffee shop and when we left there, we were like, ‘This it is. This is the one. We have to do this story!’ She is so compelling as a character and she has so many stories that were just hilarious and moving and we just thought, ‘Oh my god, there’s so much story material here’. . . So Dr. Donna, she had stories that were hilarious and they were moving and they involved the [football] players — and they involved her family as she tried to juggle these two lives – the overwhelming need to take care of these players and the overwhelming need to take care of her kids and those two things were in conflict all of the time. So we just thought that was a great jumping off point for a series. In addition, she saw [other] athletes. She started out seeing football players, but she began to see other athletes because the trainers in New York City all knew each other, so she would suddenly be seeing baseball players and hockey players and tennis players and Olympic athletes and everybody — because New York was such a nexus of sport activity. So, rapidly, her practice became like a 24/7 kind of a deal that just sucked up huge amounts of her time and energy and emotional life. It provided a lot of interesting stories.
Aside from the premise, without naming names, are there any specific storylines that come from Dr. Donna’s stories?
CRAIG: Let me just say this, no story is taken directly from her life. She had, like TK, a wide receiver but, not only do we not know who the real guy is, but from what I understand, he’s nothing like TK. . . . So, in that sense, nothing is really taken from Donna’s actual life. But she’s with us every day in the writer’s room, or on most days, and she is a producer on the show. So she keeps an eye on keeping the therapy realistic and helping us understand: how would you handle a patient like this? What would you do? She also just has a lot of stories that we sort of use to fill up the characters that we come up with to tell the stories of the show. Like we have coming up this episode is about a world champion poker player — it’s not really an athlete, but she had elements of handling somebody else who was similar, even though it had nothing to do with poker. So there are elements floating around that we’re putting into the stories. Also, her brother was a professional football player. He played for the Armani team in Italy. He is full of sports tales and trying to put in authenticity in the sports world so it has some authenticity and he’s very knowledgeable about the whole sports world.
Did it make it easier when the show got picked up for a series that the cast already had a strong relationship?
CRAIG: Oh yes. No question about that. Our cast is some of the most hilarious people I’ve met. So we just had a lot of lot of laughs, because Craig Bierko, who is in the pilot but is not a series regular, he was here almost the whole time during the pilot and is one of the funniest people I ever met; and Amanda Detmer, who is not a series regular but plays Jeanette in the pilot, also is an unbelievable funny person. It’s also got Callie and Mehcad, who is one of the quickest witted individuals I have ever met, and Marc Blucas and Scott [Cohen]. We just had a lot of laughs. It was a lot of fun.
Are there any storylines with this that are off limits — any particular topic you won’t touch in therapy on the show?
CRAIG: Let’s just say its USA [Network] so things are lighter. They’re more blue skies than they would be if we lived in FX-land. FX is so much more gritty. So while we could pretty much go to anything, we try not to get too gritty about it. So there are obviously the kind of stories that would take a much darker turn. That’s the kind of thing we don’t really want to go to. On the other hand, I’ll say that we don’t cure people. You don’t go to therapy for 12 days and come out the other side cured. We’d like to say that the show is more about finding these people at a point of crisis in their life and [Dani] helps them get through this point in crisis and on the road to whatever it is that is a happier, healthier life. We expect they will be her patient for a while, things are not just fixed. So I think that’s kind of important because there is some level of believability. We want to make it clear that this is not something where she is claiming that she can fix people in a handful of days.
Will there be characters coming back?
CRAIG: TK is someone we will see all of the time. A few characters, especially football players, I want to bring back. [An episode] that we just finished shooting is about one of the guys on the team who is a defensive-end, who is perpetually late to practices and misses a game completely, and he shows up like in the middle of the second quarter of a game. This is not common and this is a big no-no. So she helps him get to the bottom of his issues, which I don’t want to give away here, but it’s fairly compelling and, at the end, he’ll be back, I think. Also, we’re doing the quarterback [story] right now in Episode 104. The quarterback of the team is not the main story but we’re going to meet him and he’s got some issues and he’ll be back so our favorite characters. As we begin to sort of sort out who our favorite patients are, we’ll see them again.
When you did the pilot you obviously had some thoughts about, ‘This is where we want the series to go.’ How has that really contrasted with where the show is now?
CRAIG: We sent to USA [Network] a document during the pilot process, which was sort of like where we want to go, where we see the stories going, both the personal side and what kind of cases we were doing, and I’d say we are pretty right on. We sort of stuck to that document as our ‘blueprint’ for the season and its worked because we had some interesting cases. Some were sports. Some were more like a Martha Stewart-type and we have the poker player and we have an Anderson Cooper type. So we had a lot of these things laid out before we really hit the writer’s room with all of the writers and we really stuck to it. It is surprising actually how much we have.
Can you just talk about the process of finding your leading lady Callie Thorne and what the strengths you think she brings to it?
CRAIG: Let me say this about her strengths — when we write, we pick an actor for a voice for the character, not having any expectations. I mean, it’s easy to pick Brad Pitt even though we’re not going to actually get Brad Pitt for a movie or a TV show. Whatever it is, just to get a sound of somebody and we said, ‘Okay, its Callie Thorne. Let’s just set that around Callie.’ Because I didn’t know her — but her voice on RESCUE ME and really on THE WIRE — she had the right sound for the character and the right attitude and even though she is kind of a tough guy, she’s hilarious and that balance will allow us to write some tough stuff and still like her. She’s so funny and she’s a fierce mom and all this stuff and so we wrote Callie, and as we got towards the end of the script we thought, ‘I Callie can’t do this, who is going to do this?’ So we started looking through a list of actors and then as we got into it, Callie was not available, she was doing a pilot for another network and we could not get her and we said, ‘Well, the pilot, we don’t know if its going to go or not but it doesn’t shoot for another month and they have her for like 4 months so in about 3 ½ months we’ll know if her pilot is going to go and you can have her.’ I’m like, ‘Tree and a half months? We’re casting now. We are casting!’ So we saw — I’m not exaggerating, –120 actresses, many of whom are fantastic. They were great actors, almost all of them. But they weren’t Callie. They just weren’t the part quite the way she can inhabit it and as it got later and later and we were going longer and longer, we just kept saying, ‘We can wait for Callie.’ It was like a month and a half and we just thought, ‘This is nuts. We can’t wait for Callie for another month and a half.’ But, as things dragged on, we basically realized that her pilot was not going to go ahead and we got her at the 11th hour and 59 minutes. The absolute last second and she did an audition for us from New York on tape, she sent it in, and it was great.
You mentioned writing with people in mind, is there someone when you ultimately cast a role that wasn’t the person or the type of person you had written?
CRAIG: In this particular scenario, I feel like Mehcad, in particular, as TK. He’s so much better than I imagined the part would ever be. He fills it up in a way. He’s so human in a way that I just didn’t know he was going to be. I just knew that he was going to be this wild man, wide-receiver and that he wouldn’t have such an amazing inner light. But he’s just like a whole person and that really surprised me. It’s because he’s not only a good actor, but kind of like a ‘deep soul’ and it just all comes out. Sometimes he just has these short little scenes that are nothing and yet he’s like a fully-formed person. You just love the guy and he seems very real. I never knew that TK was going to be so real. I guess that’s what I’d say. Everybody else fell pretty much right in.
Will Amanda Detmer and Craig Bierko be back after the pilot?
CRAIG: They’re recurring. They’re not regulars. Like Amanda Detmer was in Episodes 101, 102, 105 and probably 107 or 108. . . . We wanted her to be [in all the episodes] but there’s a limit to how many cast members we can hold all at once — because it’s a fortune to hold all of these actors. When you start to get into a huge ensemble, it gets extremely expensive. . . Also, because we have so many characters to service, and we have our case of the week, we decided we couldn’t really utilize all of this stuff every week. We would have these actors and we wouldn’t have anything to do with them. So we bring them here and there. The [grandmother] just came back for her first episode. She was in 103. Craig Bierko happens to be here in town shooting The Three Stooges so it worked out perfectly because now he’s going to be in Episode 105 and right as he finishes that, he’s going to be in Episode 105, the big reunion episode where they go to the high school reunion. So in that sense, we know we’ve got all of these amazing weapons in our arsenal, but we can’t use them all at once.
Do you have a ‘wish list’ of who you would like to see come on the show?
CRAIG: As guest actors? The thing that I’m trying to arrange is more of — and this is very difficult to arrange — is sort of using real sports stars, like your Charles Barkley, that kind of a guy. Someone who lives nearby because Barkley is with TNT and he’s here all of the time. So that’s the kind of thing that would be so much fun to arrange, but these guys are so busy, they’re hard to pin down, it is hard to make it happen. That’s it. Real athletes would be great. I’m also trying to arrange like to get TK on a real talk show, something we can incorporate into the show. But again, these things are monumentally difficult to arrange because nothing shoots here [in Atlanta]. I’ve got to get him into the city where the shoot is going to organize, people have to talk to people. So if we can pull that off, I’ll be thrilled. But, in terms of other actors, not really. We’ve had what I would say are incredible guest actors, but they’re not very well known because they are working character actors, who are so crazy talented, but every person just doesn’t know who they are.
Does it add to the realism that the viewer doesn’t recognize everyone on screen?
CRAIG: I think so. Particularly because I hope Callie will be a household-name once the show is on the air. But right now there is an unbelievably talented actor who has been on 3 of the greatest shows of all time and nobody knows who she is. If you’re a diehard fan of RESCUE ME, you know who she is. But she’s not a well known star by any means and that’s part of the charm of the show. You don’t have a preconceived notion of her unless you watched RESCUE ME. People know her as Shelia, but it’s surprising how few people know her work. I think that’s to our advantage, it’s kind of cool. The other cast is the same. There’s no major stars in this, but a bunch of really, really talented character actors and I think that is part of the charm.
Can you talk about the other casting besides Callie? It feels like such a curious mix of characters.
CRAIG: Everybody else? Well, Mehcad did not audition. We met him in a coffee shop and said, ‘Okay, done!’ You just meet the guy for 30-seconds and, not only do you fall in love with the guy, he just embodied the whole thing. So he never auditioned. We just loved him and everybody else we sort of had auditions. We had a few rounds of auditions. We had testing at the studio and each phase people were just the ones who were the choices that we have. It was immediately apparent that they were the most right for the part, so it was kind of cool.
I get why you cast Marc Blucas because he’s athletic and he’s tall and he embodies that. But as to Scott Cohen, that is unexpected casting. Can you talk about that?
CRAIG: This is where casting directors are important. They’re so important because it would never have dawned on me to cast Scott. I knew him. He had played a parole officer and he was a good guy and he was serious, but he wasn’t that comedic. But I think the casting director said, ‘I think you should look at Scott’ and I was like, ‘I love Scott, but he was in Kissing Jessica Stein and he doesn’t seem like the right guy.’ She was like, ‘Trust me. He’s the right guy.’ So we flew him out from New York to L.A. and he got the part on the spot. He just was the right guy at the right time and I would never have thought of it. But this is the power of casting directors. Once she put him in front of us, it was like fantastic, incredible. That’s where you need a strong casting director. In TV, in particular, as we go through the casting process more often, it happens so quickly for our guest stars or our patients of the week, it unfolds so fast that casting directors are very important because they’ve got their fingers on those great actors, bring them in on Monday or wherever we are, or Thursday or Friday so it’s critical to make the show run.
What do you think makes Dani that strong?
CRAIG: Well, what’s interesting about a show to me — the most interesting thing is not the sports or anything like that — what I think is interesting is: it’s about a woman who has never been tested. She’s never had to do anything difficult. She was always taken care of. She doesn’t know the reserve she has inside, which is why some of this stuff is so entertaining in the pilot. Because she rises to something she did not know she had and gets in coach’s face or handles TK when he’s trying to juggle things around the office. She’s discovering this inner-strength that she has and therein lies her journey for the first season. It is to understand her own power and how to use it and I think that to me is what the core of the character really is.
Isn’t that an interesting balancing act? Because as Dani changes, everyone else has to sort of change around her in the way that they interact with her.
CRAIG: Yes, particularly people who have known her a long time like Ray, her husband. When he comes back in Episode 105, she’s like a different person than she was before the pilot started. So he has got to adjust. He can’t do the things he used to do. He can’t manipulate her the way he used to — because she’s just not the same person.
How often are we going to see the divorce pop-up throughout the first season?
CRAIG: We’ll hear about it a lot, but we’re not going to see her ex-husband. He’s more peripheral. I think he’s probably only in two episodes of the season.
Are there going to be flashback episodes?
CRAIG: No, we’re dealing with him now because she tries to push the divorce through and he wants back in. He doesn’t want to get divorced.
Is there a reason? Or is it just like a monetary thing?
CRAIG: No. Again, it’s just like we can’t look everywhere at once and we only have 42 minutes. You’ve got to pick your battles kind of and it seems like we could keep the divorce alive without actually writing it in. Because once you bring in an actor of that stature, like Craig Bierko, you’ve got to turn a whole episode around on him. You don’t want him to just come in for a scene or two. It would be weird. So I would have to build a whole story around it and it just seems like that’s not where we’re going but for one episode, like in Episode 105, when they go to the high school reunion and she almost gets together with him in the bathroom at the high school where they first did it and she manages come to her senses and walk away at the last second. Then she’s free of him forever and the curse is finally broken.
Can you talk a little bit about Andrea Anders character and casting of Andrea? It seemed like an interesting chemistry between her and Marc Blucas.
CRAIG: As we started to write, we found that nobody wanted Dani and Matt to get back together right away — that would kill the fun of the show. So they have to sort of stay apart, circling each other. But how long can they really circle each other unless something else gets in the way. So [Andrea is] the thing that’s going to get in the way. She’s a high powered publicist who was brought in to help TK and some of the other guys on the team because this team is a public embarrassment. They are on the news all of the time. In Episode 106, the wives and girlfriends in the stands have a cat-fight that breaks out. So this is the kind of thing that is very embarrassing to the team and it is very bad for the locker room to have all of this fighting between the wives. Then TK has a fight in Episode 101 with like other wide receivers. So in essence, we needed somebody who was strong and obviously beautiful and would be like a strong rival for Callie. We needed someone who could hold her own against Callie because Callie is a force of nature. You cannot just put any actress against Callie, they would just be blown out of the water. She is one of the strongest performers I’ve ever seen. She makes everybody better. he’s just an unbelievable talent and a force. So we thought that Andrea could hold her own with Callie. [Andrea] was great. She was terrific. . . She had always done comedy and she’s a comedy person. In many ways, this show is supposed to be a comedy — a dramedy in a way. It’s supposed to be, having a lot of light fun stuff – so [Andrea will] have that energy and kind of like right balance for the show.
In the pilot episode there was guy that had to accompany Lindsay around the high school, like a shadow. Where did that come from? That was hysterical.
CRAIG: A lot of the small stuff in this came from our lives. I write with my wife. Liz and I created the show and we’ve been married for 20 years. So a lot of the stuff comes from our kids’ life, but the rest of it is really from Donna and the stories of her kids, which are unbelievable Long Island-tales of everybody squabbling and a lot of that kind of stuff — particularly the relationship with the kids and stuff is either from our life or Donna’s. Her kid had a shadow. He’s grown now. It was a lot of work getting her kids grown, but part of that we’re going to tap into in the show because Lindsay is coming off-the-rails. Unfortunately, the two characters that I loved in the pilot — we haven’t found a way [to quite bring them back yet] — Laurie Sharp has not yet come back as the ‘shadow’ and Zeno as the ‘pancakes guy.’ He’s hilarious. We just had him working the other day for the first time again in Episode 104. It took a while to get him back.
Are we going to find out why Lindsay is so belligerent?
CRAIG: I don’t think there’s a reason. Because Lindsay is a teenager. But I’d say the one thing we’re going into explore is at the exact same moment that Lindsay is starting to date — she has a completely inappropriate boyfriend in Episode 103 — and it causes Dani to realize that at the same time Dani is starting to date, her daughter is starting to date and her daughter is much better at it than she is. That is very disheartening for a woman that she hasn’t been on a date in almost 20 years. So it’s not so easy and it’s not the same as it was when she was 17. Therein lies a lot of juice between the two of them. A lot of the conflict, as well as a lot of the love. Because we try and keep them in conflict a lot of the time. But we let them have their moments.
The pilot really was a surprise.
CRAIG: I have to say that, to some degree, it surprised me. You always want to do something terrific. But I think, and I’ve always thought, the script was good. But then you put that cast together and the whole thing just came to life. It was amazing.
Can you describe a little bit of the tension between your and Scott’s characters?
MARC: It is kind of the blessing and curse of TV is that you are kind of figuring it out as you go. One thing about developing a character for a movie, you see a beginning, middle and end — which again is a blessing and a curse. Like it allows us to know where to start because we’ve seen an end point. Whereas in TV, you don’t have that. So we get it per episode and we’re flying by the seat of our pants sometimes — and it takes conversations with the creators. This just happened the other day where it was just like every scene, it seems Matthew and Nico have a moment — and we hadn’t played the tension up really in the past episode. So I was like, ‘Hey, are we still going down this road over the next few episodes? Because here is a moment where I can find it and give him a little hit or whatever.’ So, yes. I feel like we’re finding that as we go. That’s the blessing side in that they can write to the actor’s strengths and now they get to know our personalities. For example, ‘He’s not funny, don’t write comedy for him.’ So that’s the nice thing. We’re kind of finding it — which is great because, otherwise, we are just like two guys that work together and he’s kind of being the ‘overseer/wallflower’ in those scenes and the ‘heavy’ that makes sure everything goes right — interjecting his opinion when he thinks that someone’s not handling the situation right. And I’m that kind of in between, between Callie’s character and the coach. I’m kind of the fish-out-of-water. I’m the transition piece between. So it’s fun that they’re writing us some moments where you see these guys don’t see eye-to-eye on how to get things done, which is going to be interesting.
How much do you want to know about where your character is going?
MARC: The workaholic, prepared actor in me wants to know it all so I can make choice now to help pay that off. But there is something fun about each episode — seeing a surprise and having to build to a certain moment, like, ‘Hey, this happens!’ Great to read. Fun to see, but it happens on page forty — and I need to find that moment on page 8. I don’t like jumping from A to C. You’ve got to see B or it doesn’t make sense or it feels like it’s coming out of left field. So there’s something nice about the surprise. But these writers are so talented — very rarely do we have no ‘B.’ They get it and they and they really trust us, which is really welcome. I tip my hat to that. I’m not saying that actors don’t have great ideas. Ninety-nine percent of brainstorm is bullshit, but the one percent can be gold and they come to us and they say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this’ or ‘What do you think of that?’ and they’ve really given us all a voice in helping create this. It’s not stand here say this as some TV shows because of the pace. We don’t have time to rehearse and explore it and find it. It’s not like oh Take-8, we just found our rhythm. There’s no such thing as Take-8. Take-8 means we’re all fired. We’re not making our day and so that kind of trust has to be there before and they’ve been unbelievable about that.
How much can you tell us about where things go with Matthew and Dani?
MARC: Again, I don’t know. I can give you some stock answers, which is: good relationships on TV are boring.
But what’s different in this case it that Matt and Dani have already slept together.
MARC: We did. I gave her my “A” game that first night. What I really like and, I don’t think has been overdone, is that when Callie and I met each other on the pilot, the first day at a wardrobe fitting, we just cut right to the chase: ‘I’m so excited we’re doing this, I’m a fan. What can we do to set this apart? How do you see this? What’s the hook?’ and we both had the exact same answer: ‘I want them to be two people that have fun like that just enjoy each other.’ I don’t want to be the guy trying too hard to be charming. I don’t think either of these characters are in that life place. They know who they are. They’re comfortable in that lane and can just be themselves. Suddenly, it’s just like, ‘Hey, that works’ and we both take each other off guard. That’s another thing we both wanted to bring. She labels me as in the jock-world and I meet her in a club full of groupies. So I don’t expect much from her – it’s sort of the fun weekend to meet someone you can connect with who has a brain and a soul and does something you don’t expect. Yet I’m not that stereotype, that thing she thinks she would meet in a bar with a bunch of athletes in there. So we both caught each other off-guard. Two people to have fun and then the situation dictates that we have to put the brakes on. I think the situation was handled well. So we try to continue that in the scenes we have together. We always try to find a couple of moments where we genuinely laugh. Even if it’s with the coach or other people — because I feel that helps pull the rooting interest through. You’ve got to have people wanting us together and that will pay off when those moments happen. It will hopefully be a bittersweet sting when they don’t. Where it’s going is, of course, we’re going to have to flirt and tease and have moments of like, we took a back-paddle and had a back-slide for a minute with each other. ‘No, it can’t happen’ and then grope and fondle. Then we come back. It’s like the breadstick will conveniently disappear occasionally but without that push-and-pull, then I don’t think it is interesting. The roller-coaster ride is going to be there and what’s more fun than interjecting some exes and people who through in the jealousy-card. Again, it’s a nice triangularity to a relationship to throw in that other component.
What is it like working with Andrea Anders as Matt’s ex?
MARC: It was our first day. Andrea Anders is like so great. Great actress. . . She’s going to be here for a few episodes I think it’s going to be fun.
Did you feel it was premature to introduce new love interest so quickly in the series, particularly when Matt seems like he is ready to embark on a relationship with Dani?
MARC: No and I’ll tell you why — and I’m not going to take the credit for this because the writers know what they’re doing. Obviously, they are much smarter than I am. But from Day One I had asked them — I was like, ‘Look, I don’t want to be the guy that pines for a girl for 13 episodes.’ I don’t think that’s interesting. I don’t think there is any conflict in that and I think that’s not strong and, frankly, I don’t think that’s real life. I think that we all take our knocks. We try to put it out there and be honest and say: this is not what I want. I would like for this [relationship] to continue and if someone says ‘no,’ you’re only going to be your head in the wall so many times. So I think they’ve taken the opportunities to show there’s still a connection – that [Matt and Dani] still want this but it’s still can’t happen. So at that point, we have to make a choice. We have to move forward. She’s got to be with someone. I’ve got to be with someone. Otherwise it become stagnant. . . It’s kind of interesting to play the jealousy-card because then it puts [Dani] in a corner to make a choice. It makes her be active… It makes me active instead of reactive to everything and I think that’s important for all characters to be able to take a strong step forward and not just be reactive to something.
What are some of qualities that you admire about your character?
MARC: I really like to find someone’s passion and what they want. I think we all have a goal. We’re all working towards something. At the end of the day — I’m not going to kid anyone here — most actors usually respond to ‘I want to play the ex-con with the shaved head and tattoos and smoking and drinking,’ but at the end of the day, the apple’s not far from the tree here. This is the role that’s been closest to me. The writers are writing it more towards who I am and what I want and I think that because I had an athletic background, I’ve been in this world, I know it. I think that they are making [Matt] sarcastic and they’re giving him some colors that I really like, such as that.
Is there a sports advisor on the show?
MARC: We do have coordinators and I’ve worked with them in like 3 different movies now. Mark Ellis and Jessie Moore, these guys, they’re the best in the business. Sports Studios. They did We Are Marshall and Any Given Sunday and Miracle. They do all of the great spots shows and movies it seems and they do an unbelievable job casting.
Are we going to see more of the inside aspects of Matt’s job and whether he really cares about it?
MARC: I think we’ll see more and more that he does care. So much so that he’s going to influence how things are handled because it’s not working and he’s going to get in there and say this is how it has to be done and we’re all going to have to adjust and deal with that. Selfishly speaking, the fact that they built a whole stage about my character gives me some job security. They’re not going to throw that much money away if I’m not on the show for at least a season. It’s an opportunity, like in real life. In a lot of sports you have owners that are a part of — whether its NASCAR or whether its football or they’re owning different teams — it gives us an entree into another world. Because I’m kind of that liaison between Dani’s world and this whole world of crazy celebrity rich people and issues. That to me is one of the primary things that makes the show interesting. It’s not just her – who she is talking to this week. It’s a defensive lineman and this week’s it’s a linebacker, or the wide receiver. I can’t just be the whole football team — that would be boring. We’ve got to exposure her to a world of celebrities and politicians and athletes that I naturally have access to – and the owner that’s the head of ours also owns a racecar team — so it’s just an easy and very smart way into other worlds.
With your character, is what we’re seeing on the surface exactly who he is or does he have an underside that hasn’t quite been revealed yet?
MARC: That’s one of these things I don’t know. What I always think is interesting is to put a character in the same situation after they’ve learned a lesson. You see someone at the beginning of a movie and they act a certain way and then hopefully there’s a journey where they learn a lesson and then suddenly they’re in the exact same situation and you see them handle it differently because they’ve learned something after the story. So I would like to see Matthew get put in those situations a little bit. I’d like to see something come up like that. I’d also really like to see a shift of power. I would love to see Matthew suddenly be in the front office or something where he is suddenly now in a position above the head coach. Where you see power differences within the work world. I think that’s really an interesting place to take characters. Especially when traveling over time in the course of a TV show.
One of interesting things is there is always that conflict in sports between money and people who play for love of sports — and if it gets too far in one direction or the other, everything is off kilter.
MARC: We explored that in second episode. Obviously TK is primed for that – Mehcad’s character and he’s doing it beautifully — is finding that line of knowing himself and having a love and a passion for the game, but also milking it sometimes a little too hard. There was actually a great moment where the writers had written the scene a certain way and they wanted Mehcad and I to run it – but they’re like, ‘It doesn’t feel like you’re comfortable in this monologue’ and I’m like, ‘That’s for saying I suck’ and they said, ‘No, just go say what you would want to say to him.’ We weren’t filming and it was strictly a rehearsal before we started and I did, and they’re sitting there just writing it down. Between what they had and what I had, we just found a way to address that exactly — which is: you have a window this big to be a professional athlete, to do what you supposedly love, and you’re fucking it up. Where I can give him a lesson. Someone’s got to put him in his place and that to me is the fascinating role of the trainer.
Is it hard to balance being in sports world that you’re very familiar with while viewers are not, as far as not being too technical, not being able to use certain terms?
MARC: We always err to the side of simplicity. I want Matthew to be a laser communicator. So to do that, you have to put things in layman’s terms and make it simple. Sometimes they have over written it and made it so technical. So it’s not talking down. That’s the nice thing because we have Dani, who knows nothing about football , which is also attractive. That’s what I loved in the bar scene in the pilot. She’s like, ‘Football, what’s that? and I’m like, ‘You’re hot!’ Its someone outside of your world. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s not like someone who knows the whole roster and their salaries. I think that between how they write it and through my filters, I think it’s like, ‘Hey, this is simple. This is direct and this explains it to the audience’ — which is Dani in a lot of these scenes because she doesn’t know.
How does what you do for the players differ from what Dani does in therapy?
MARC: I think that’s what gives me an appreciation for what she does because . . I think that’s exactly what it is. In a way, you are that sounding board for the [players] because it is a safe place. . . Sometimes strangers are the safest place and you sometimes run something by them. . . .That’s just kind of how it works and I feel that trainer is safe enough because you’re with them every day and it’s that person you can kind of let behind the curtain a little bit.
Does Matt eventually meet Dani’s kids?
MARC: Not yet. In fact, it’s like every time [Hannah, Patrick and I] work on the same day, we bump into each other in the makeup trailer and introduce ourselves — like it’s kind of a running thing. It’s like, ‘I don’t know you. How’s your show going?’ It does feel like two different shows.
What inspired you to take a role where you are kind of like the ‘big heavy’?
SCOTT: The thing that inspired me really was just the script. The pilot script was just so fantastic. At first, it was like I’m not sure if I wanted to be doing this type of part. Is it big enough? Is it small enough? What is it exactly? Then I had my son who read it and he said, ‘This is an awesome part, Dad. You’re like so mysterious and so dark. So I was like, ‘Oh really?’ and so I did it.
Did you have any sort of sense where your character would be going when you took the pilot?
SCOTT: The writer’s did. But I have actually chosen to not have conversations with them in terms of where they’re sending [Nico], mainly because I love to be surprised in TV. I think if it’s too far in advance you start to have lots of opinions about what happens and then you have to argue every time something comes up. This way it’s like, this is the way it is — and I have no time to argue about it.
Are we going to learn more about Nico?
SCOTT: I hear in an episode or two it starts to be all about Nico and his past. You do learn things. . . . You learn a little, like every episode you learn something about Nico. You learn kind of where he’s from and what his past is. But you’re not really sure if it’s true or if it’s not true — and he remains very dark. Very mysterious. Very sexy.
What can you say about your ‘pancake’ co-star from the pilot?
SCOTT: Biggie. He’s awesome. Biggie is his real name. He’s huge — the guy is huge. He’s actually in this upcoming episode, but we’re not together. I can kind send him off to do his thing, but that’s a really great scene in the pilot. He’s really fun.
Is Nico’s services exclusive to the Atlanta Hawks?
SCOTT: No. Good question. You learn that he’s not. I can’t really talk about anything. They’ve told me to be silent. So far what we’ve learned is that he actually works for the owner of the Hawks. So he knows everything that goes on beyond what’s happening with the football team. The owner of the Hawks is very spread out. He’s a corporate businessman and has his hands in everything, although we don’t see him as of yet.
Does Nico start interacting more with Dani’s therapy practice?
SCOTT: Yeah, I interact with her and I get into kind of helping her with certain people and I bring people to her and things like that. In this episode, I bring somebody to her that has nothing to do with the Hawks or the owner.
So Nico is not just a ‘fix it’ man, he’s kind of a facilitator of a different kind.
SCOTT: Yes. But I fix things too.
How do you describe your character perhaps like in one succinct phrase?
SCOTT: I say that he’s a ‘fixer.’ That’s the best way. I kind of see him is he knows everything there is to know about anything and knows much more than what he lets on to knowing. He seems to know everything that is going on beyond his kind of circle and allows people to kind of follow what they think is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do and then when it goes awry, he fixes it. He’s a fixer. I see him like a Michael Clayton character. . . . He is working without everybody knowing exactly what he’s doing and so he kind of sets people up and makes things right.
Did you build a back-story for Nico?
SCOTT: In TV, sometimes it’s hard — especially this type of character where he was sketchy to begin with. So you’re not really sure where he’s going to go. I definitely had my ideas and some of them were used and some of them weren’t used. I was very surprised to find out what he did in his past. . . You’ll see. I was like ‘holy shit!’ because it was lots of responsibility. But, I think that to me this kind of character is about an energy. It’s about what he is inside the context of Dani’s world and he creates an energy. He creates a kind of safe haven for her to lean on.
Does Nico carry any weapons?
SCOTT: I don’t know. He might, behind his jacket. He might not carry weapons but he definitely knows how to use them.
Where do you think his moral compass lies, like is he a good guy?
SCOTT: He’s a good guy, I think. But I think that he can do bad things. But what they kind of bring out for him is that he has definitely done bad things, but he’s a good guy.
Does he step further into Dani’s personal world, like with her divorce conflict?
SCOTT: Not so much yet, but possibly. I mean, he deals with her kids and the divorce actually is very big in Episode 105, in the fifth episode.
Are you able to relate to your character?
SCOTT: Well, he’s sexy. Do I relate to him? I don’t at all, which is kind of one of the things that lead me to the character because he is so not like me. Maybe other people think that — I have no idea — but I love that it doesn’t take many words for him to say what he’s saying or to get the idea of what he needs to accomplish. I don’t think I’ve ever played a part like that and so that’s really fun to do.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for this character?
SCOTT: I would say that it’s hard to say without saying exactly what his past is. The inspiration has come from different…the idea of energy came from Clive Owen because I’ve watched him a lot and I’ve watched interviews with him and I kind of got ideas from like how he approached his characters. But inspiration in terms of the character really comes up in terms of what they’ve been writing.
It sounds like your character evolves a little bit as the show progresses. But in the pilot, there is sort of this unambiguous approach to things, to problem solving.
SCOTT: Yes, he’s very head on. Very straightforward. That’s what I love about it too. It’s like he says what he means. Does what he says. There’s no question. That’s what it is. I love it. I really love that. I’ve always played people that people can’t quite figure out.
Can you maybe describe what has been a fun scene for you to work with so far, maybe generally without giving away a specific plot line?
SCOTT: The pilot, the scene in the car with the guy, that was a fantastic scene . . .
I enjoy everything. I really do. Every scene I’ve had so far I’ve enjoyed. Because they’ve been very, very careful with Nico. . . They’ve been so treating him with kid gloves. It’s really great because I feel really very special. They’re not just giving him anything, they’re giving him specific things to do.
So you like being the mystery of the show?
SCOTT: I love it.
Are there real Nicos you think for sports teams? Is he based on anything?
SCOTT: The research that I did — I found out that there are Nicos — usually they’re agents that are like that type of security, like that type of people around sports teams. Those people are very much around them and they are actually security — like the people that are hired to protect a younger kind generation of athletes that are not quite ready to make the step, but they are going to make the step. There’s publicity people and security people. I mean, heads of security are everywhere. I talked to one person that works at Fox Sports and he told me you can do as much research as you want. I could tell you that there are those people, but you will never be able to speak to them.
Have you had to hide a body as Nico?
SCOTT: No. I haven’t had to hide a body. It’s really interesting though. Like, Burgess is coming out of prison. That’s the type of people that we’re dealing with. And it’s not just football they have in the show. We have every sport that comes up. Really kind of interesting. Next episode is a skateboarder and that’s really like a type of Tony Hawk kind of character and other characters like that. In terms of football or any other major sport, people like Michael Vick and Burgess, those are the people that we are dealing with which have issues beyond your normal kind of therapy issue and they’re much more difficult to deal with. I think that in terms of Dani’s life, she’s able to deal with this ‘necessary roughness’ kind of concept. It’s very hard to deal with these people and their issues because they are so deeply-seated that there has to be somebody else on the outside to help facilitate to get them to a place where they are doing the job they are supposed to be doing. Because I think that’s what Nico’s job is in the end is. Everybody needs to do their job. My job is to make sure everyone else is doing their job.
Are there any boundaries that your character cannot do in the show?
SCOTT: Not yet, nothing. I am hoping nothing. Seriously. I’m sure it has to be in the context of Dani’s life somewhere. But hopefully the boundaries are unclear because that is really fun to play — and really to remain stoic in complicated scenarios, I think that will be even more of a challenge, which is really pretty interesting.
What actors would you like to see act opposite as part of your character?
SCOTT: Oh gosh, that’s a crazy question. I could name thousands. Anybody whose good. It’s the four of us — Mehcad, Marc and Callie — the thing that I came out of the pilot with was that I am part of one of the most balanced cast I’ve ever been a part of in my life. Across the board is high level acting to me. Hopefully, that gets translated and its true. Working opposite Callie is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever had in my life. The easiest, most talented woman actor, I should say I’ve ever worked with. Besides that, it’s like anybody who comes in and wants to participate, come on in — let’s have a good time. But most of my stuff is with those guys — so far those guys have been brilliant.
So it’s not like a ‘boy’s club’ with like the three men and Callie?
SCOTT: Completely opposite. I mean, she controls us. She is awesome. She’s really, really awesome. She’s a great actress and her ability to be challenging and natural and present – I’ve really never seen it before and she works every day. She works almost every scene. I don’t think we’ve shot a scene where she’s not in. Actually, I think this episode is the first episode where she’s not in a scene. . . She’s incredible. She’s really, really incredible and I’m not saying that because it’s our show. I think she’s a phenomenal actress. It’s really an honor to work with her.
How early in the process did you sort of feel that chemistry click?
SCOTT: Right before I did this, I did a short movie with her which was really fun to do. So I always knew her and I always loved her. But I knew the minute I walked on set — the minute I said a line and she responded — I was like, ‘Wow, this is really easy.’ And when its somebody that you feel really comfortable with and she’s making you feel comfortable, it just is so easy and it’s so interesting. She responds to what you do and you respond to what she does, and you feel like the two of you make something bigger and better than what was just written on the page. . . [Callie and I] didn’t audition together. We didn’t test together. I don’t know if she tested with anybody actually. I don’t know if she tested with Marc or Mehcad. It’s hit or miss, but I think she has chemistry with everybody — which I think is a very difficult thing to have accomplished. I think that is just a testament to her talent and her ability to include everybody at every level. I mean, guest stars that come in, she’s like that with them as well. With us, she’s like that. She really has an ability to make everybody comfortable and everybody feel like they are doing something special.
Is most of your time on screen with Callie?
What other characters are involved with Nico on screen?
SCOTT: With the coach. I’m with him a lot because, so far, the first few episodes it’s been about the team. I have some stuff coming up with TK, with Mehcad, which I adore him –that will be really cool. He’s fantastic.
So you don’t do many scenes with Marc [Blucas]?
SCOTT: No, Marc and I — there’s some tension that they’re developing [between Matt and Nico]. He has something going on with [Dani] and I don’t have anything going on with her, but I think they want to create some kind of tension.
Do you think they are actually deliberately fostering that for your character?
SCOTT: I think so.
That’s a big clue.
SCOTT: Yeah, but I think overtime. I think it will be a relationship that doesn’t ever happen.
They’re just letting it lie there?
SCOTT: I think so. Maybe season three. For some reason season three is like the season in relationships where they’re like, ‘Alright, let’s put them together, we have nothing else.’
Have you seen the full pilot yet?
SCOTT: Yes. I loved it.
What’s your favorite part?
SCOTT: I don’t really have a favorite part. I love that it’s an hour and half and I’m never bored. I’m really kind of like, ‘This is really good!’ When you’re shooting it, you have no idea how it’s going to be put together. But their ability to put the football together, I thought was really quite incredible. I think that’s really hard to do. Mark Ellis who did choreography for the football stuff was pretty phenomenal. We shot in the Georgia Dome which we’re going to shoot at again and that was really special
Do you find that there’s inadvertent moments of comedy because you’re playing such the straight heavy person?
SCOTT: I hope so. I hope [Nico’s] moments of real charm are funny. I see them like that. I hope others will see them like that.
Are you playing for that or is it just happening?
SCOTT: No, just happening.
Does Nico get involved with Dani’s kids at all?
SCOTT: Yes, in this episode. Like show we’re shooting, we get the next episode, sometimes it gets a little confusing. This episode, yeah.
Does he ‘fix’ them?
SCOTT: Yes he does, actually.
That’s awesome. Those kids were out of control.
SCOTT: Yes, they do get out of control. [Laughter]
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).