BACKSTROM to the Bone! Rainn Wilson Dishes on His Deliciously Dark Comedy Drama Hybrid


Rainn Wilson is a well known actor for his emmy nominated role on the American version of the comedy, The Office. Wilson In 2014, Wilson was cast as the lead role in the upcoming FOX crime-drama BACKSTROM, based on Leif G. W. Persson’s Swedish book series of the same name. He plays Everett Backstrom, an offensive, self-destructive detective who is part of a team of eccentric criminologists. Wilson also serves as the show’s producer. In an interview, Wilson said playing this role has opened an entire new set of dark comedy for him to play with.

Alright, well, I really enjoyed the two episodes that we saw that Sarah was in. I thought it was interesting – I guess I was surprised at how affectionate Amy still feels for BACKSTROM. Do you think he is as surprised by that, or did they end things amicably
Wilson: There’s definitely a tension, there. There’s an energy between the two of them. There’s a lot of love. I mean, they almost got married. They’re still very attracted to each other, even though BACKSTROM is a grotesque lump of a man at this point in his life. I think that that was something we wanted to play with, to learn more about BACKSTROM’s past and she’s a door into his past because they were from 10 years ago, but also to show that – to show what he had lost back in those days. That he had blown this potentially great relationship that could have actually brought him some modicum of happiness. And to play with the tension of the possibility of a future between him and Amy.

I was just curious about the chemistry between all the different characters. They seem to have such a familial feeling amongst all of them, which is unusual for what seems to be characters that have just been recently working together. How did you guys work to create that chemistry?
Wilson: Well, I think that it’s relatively new. When the show starts, I think what was cut out of the pilot early on was the fact that they had been working together for 6 weeks or a couple of months. So they didn’t know each other and they have a working relationship. The chemistry, obviously, is created by the actors, but chemistry is also, really, created by the writer. Shows where people lack chemistry, usually the chemistry is lacking in the writing, that there’s not a sense of dynamism between the characters. Both on The Office and in BACKSTROM, both Hart and Greg Daniels focused a lot of time and energy on how do characters relate to one another. In shows that are a little bit more standard, like standard procedurals or standard comedies, there are goofy characters, but a different chemistry is created when you match any two people together. It’s like flavors in a recipe.

He also has a very unique relationship with his roommate, Valentine. It seems like they, themselves, have a personal history that’s not been fully mined in the show yet. How much more are we going to see of that?
Wilson: You are going to see a lot more of Valentine. You’re going to get to know him a lot better; you’re going to see a lot more of him and BACKSTROM. Believe me, that relationship between the two of them, that is very mysterious and is a very interesting bond, is going to be really delved into. It really is one of the most fascinating relationships in the show. It’s the one, certainly, with the most emotion and the most heart and gooey fun stuff to explore.

Does any of it kind of give you the chills? When you look at these stories and go wow, are we actually showing this on television?
Wilson: I would say that I was – as I read some of the episodes that really dug into this family story, especially the stuff with his dad, and it got really dark. I was like wow, are we going to be able to be this funny and this dark at the same time?

Because I’m very, very interested in that. There’s this Russian playwright, Anton Chekov, who I did a lot of work with when I was in college and as a young actor. I love Chekov’s work because they’re both really tragic and really, absurdly funny at the same time. They really reach for both; both live in the world of Chekov, and it’s very reflective of the human experience. That’s where I do get the chills. It’s like wow, we get to be that silly sometimes and also that dark and true.

Watch Wilson on BACKSTROM Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

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