Full Disclosure: If you had asked us at the start of the new television season if we’d still be watching ELEMENTARY four episodes in, we probably wouldn’t have answered in the affirmative. Yet here we are on November 8th, eagerly awaiting tonight’s episode thanks in no small part to the winning performances of Sherlock star Jonny Lee Miller and partners in crime-solving Jane Watson. (Lucy Liu) and Captain Gregson (Aadan Quinn). The latter of whom we recently had the pleasure of chatting during a stop in Toronto to talk about the hit CBS series, what appealed to him about playing Sherlock’s supportive Captain and the controversy that comes with starring in a hit television show.
CBS recently picked up ELEMENTARY for a complete twenty-two episode first season. What does that vote of confidence mean to you as an actor?
Aidan Quinn: It’s a great feeling. If you make it long enough in this industry, you gain a little wisdom and try not to get too low from the lows and too high from the highs because you never know. I’m trying to practice humility, but it’s really really a much better feeling to see quality work get acknowledged and backed up with a back nine [episodes] then like on PRIME SUSPECT where we felt we had a really high quality show and it got cancelled.
Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re starring in a show primarily about the relationship between Sherlock and Watson. When you first got the offer, what is it that attracted you to a supporting role like Captain Gregson?
Well, the script number one, the actors I’m working with number two, and the fact that I’m not Sherlock or Watson, so I won’t be working five days a week hopefully. That’s a serious attraction. You work very very long hours when you’re the lead, I’ve been there with the BOOK OF DANIEL and I remember thinking after six episodes, my God it’s tough. It’s akin to being an athlete and I don’t know how Jonny [Lee Miller] is doing it with all the soliloquies every day but he’s great. So is the show. It’s in New York, it’s a great story and the writers are writing interesting stuff. We’re getting great directors and a great guest cast from a wonderful pool of New York actors so it’s all good.
ELEMENTARY’s initial string of episodes have all been very case-of-the-week focused. Does a full first season order mean we’re going to get a chance to delve more into your character’s backstory and his relationship with Sherlock?
I kind of got the message that for the first six episodes, they [the writers] really wanted to kind of establish the format and get us into the audiences mind and after that they were going to start to give my character more interesting stuff to do. There’s an upcoming episode, I think the fifth one, where all of a sudden I have a tremendous amount to do, where Sherlock and my character Captain Gregson really go at it over an issue that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. But it’s been really fascinating because not only were the writers good to their word, they brought in the interesting stuff even earlier so I’m hopeful that continues because that was great fun for me and the results are a very good episode.
Can you elaborate just a smidgen more about what lights Captain Gregson’s fuse?
Sherlock starts to question an old case of mine and the results of it and I take very serious umbrage about that because it relates to a current case that we’re working on that gets woven into an old case from 15 years earlier. So it’s very interesting what happens.
As of right now, much of Captain Gregson’s interactions have been with Sherlock. Is it safe to say that his relationship with Watson is something you’re looking forward to exploring as an actor?
I would vote for that. I could see us throwing back a few cold ones complaining to each other about Holmes, counsel each other and trade advice about what do you do when he goes like this or acts like this. Personally I would like to see a great friendship develop between Gregson and Watson, but I have no idea.
The show’s initial episodes have been quite dark in tone. Are the writers planning on mixing things up with some lighter crimes in future episodes?
I’m all for it. I think there is great humor between Gregson and Sherlock in their exchanges. Obviously Sherlock always has some caustic witty thing to say about everyone but I would vote for more of that. I have yet to meet an NYPD detective that didn’t have a pretty good sense of humor within the police world, but again, that’s up to the writers.
As evidence by your mile long IMDB resume, you’ve had quite the varied career. Do you welcome the idea that you could be playing the same character for five to ten seasons, or does that thought terrify you?
It’s definitely scary without a doubt, I’m going to be honest, but it’s nice to contemplate to have that kind of stability and ability to expand on something and grow and to deepen the character and to show where a character comes from what his life is like at home. All the things that are possible if the show was to keep going. I welcome the opportunity and am very happy to be working at home in New York however long the show may run.
Recently, former CRIMINAL MINDS star called his time spent on the hit CBS procedural as “his biggest public mistake,” sighting the show’s penchant for portraying violence towards women on television. Does ELEMENTARY’s subject matter ever keep you up at night?
Can you expand on that at all?
When violence is over gratuitous. Thankfully, I think our show is showing a very low quotient of that compared to other shows that are out there. We are not basking in the blood and guts and microscopic close ups of the bloated this or that. Our show is more cerebral about the details about how the crime is solved then showing the slashed arteries and I’m happy about that. But I do get upset, particularly when there’s an over obsession things against children because I’m a father, girls because I’m a father of two girls and women. I don’t know why we’re so obsessed in our culture about showing that when the truth is most of the murders are men on men.
And finally, your career as an actor has obviously been a very successful one. That said, acting is an incredibly perilous profession. Had things not worked out had they did, what was your “Plan B?”
Well I had dreams of being a writer, I have a love of travel and being a park ranger or something to do with nature, those kind o things always interested me. I loved the idea of working with disabled kids and helping people some how.
ELEMENTARY airs Thursdays at 10PM on CBS (Global TV in Canada)