After seven seasons spent bringing one of our all-time favorite television characters to life on THE WEST WING, your very own TV Addict would be content spending a Sunday night watching Bradley Whitford read a phone book. So you can imagine our excitement upon discovering that the actor’s latest project has him teaming up with Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose and Martin Landau in an adaption of Mitch Albom’s best-selling tome Have a Little Faith. So just what attracted the artist formally known as Josh Lyman to the project, and what does he hope audiences walk away with? See for yourself, after the jump.
What attracted you to the project?
Bradley Whitford: It really was a two-levelled thing. One was the street cred of all the creative people involved, Jon Avnet, is a great director, obviously Mitch [Albom] is an amazing storyteller, Laurence Fishburne is an old friend and great actor while Martin Landau is on Mount Rushmore. That was the easy part of it. The second level of this was that I get frustrated that the only religious voices we tend to hear in the American media are voices of judgement and condemnation. This told a story from these radically different communities of the common virtue that at its best every religious community has which is the responsibility to connect and to help people who are not as lucky as you are. That kind of radical inclusion was something that very nice for me as an actor to begin with.
Some of your most famous roles are fictional character you’re playing match a real person, true story approach this originally playing a real life person.
If you’re playing Bobby Kennedy you have to do an imitation, but when you’re playing Mitch Albom, most people don’t know what he looks and sounds like so it would actually be bizarre to physically imitate him. What I tried to do is sync up with in terms of his level of skepticism at different moments in the story, the struggle that he had about faith, about organized religion and what his thinking was at that time. It’s interesting, because I was at the big opening in Detroit and everybody said, “Wow, great imitation of Mitch, you nailed it!” and I thought ,”Oh God, I wasn’t trying to!” I was just trying to convey emotionally what Mitch was going through.
Movies that fall under the Hallmark Hall of Fame umbrella often come with some sort of positive message that audiences are supposed to walk away with. Did you as an actor find yourself reflecting on how could life your life differently after this film wrapped?
In the case of this movie, I did. Becoming exposed to the community of “I Am My Brother’s Keeper,” that kind of congregation, working with Anthony Castelow who plays himself in this, meeting the Covingtons, meeting the Lewis family — and I’m someone who is extremely skeptical and critical of organized religion — bu I found this community to be incredibly inspiring and I hope that would have an affect on me.
Might a role like this, one with such a positive message, give you an itch to perhaps return to a weekly television role.
As a father I got fed up with the inevitable premature loss of my children’s innocence because of all the crap that they’re exposed to. That we live in a country where you can shoot people on TV but you can’t watch a mother nurse her baby and all sorts of assorted hypocrisies. I’ve been very lucky to be apart of some of these stories that are attempting to stay something positive. At the same time there is a tremendous paranoia when you are doing something that has that aspiration to do it well because there’s nothing worse than a crappy movie that’s trying to tell you how to behave. I can tell you, speaking on behalf off Aaron Sorking, that you had to make sure that you were telling a good story and that the requirements of storytelling and entertainment exceeded your desire to feed the world what you proceed as vegetables.
And finally, as a fan of THE GOOD GUYS I have to ask, do you miss the moustache?
You know what, as a bare lip now, as a nude lip, I can’t imagine going back!
MITCH ALBOM’S HAVE A LITTLE FAITH airs Sunday November 27 at 9PM on ABC.