Lou Diamond Phillips begins a multi-episode arc tonight on NBC’s breakout hit BLINDSPOT playing notorious criminal Saul Guerrero. Earlier today, Lou spent time answering questions from the press about his exciting new character as well sharing insights into other projects including his upcoming film THE 33 and newly renewed Netflix original drama LONGMIRE.
His path to portraying this villainous character was as intriguing as the character itself. “I was very, very intrigued by BLINDSPOT initially just from watching the ads,” he explained. “I was going to watch the show as a fan and then the call came with an offer to go on it. They didn’t even have the script yet but they gave me a character description and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. I’d worked with [series creator] Martin Gero before on STARGATE UNIVERSE and I had a sense of how intelligent and fun the script would be so I sort of jumped into the blindspot, so to speak.”
Commercials for tonight’s episode suggest that Saul, billed as one of the most feared criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, might just be the key to unlocking the mystery of Jane’s tattoos. That description prompted Phillips to clarify, “Saul might be the most feared but he’s got a great sense of humor. That’s one of the things that I really loved about the role. There’s a certain charm and off-the-cuff cavalier quality about him that I found very refreshing. It was an absolute blast to play him. One of the nice things about playing bad guys is that you have a license that you wouldn’t necessarily have as a hero.” Lou added, “He’s definitely part of the puzzle but I don’t even know if he knows what part he plays in this. Every question just leads to more questions and I’m really just one big worm in a can of worms. It’s intriguing. I think any show, in success, has a long-term plan and I’m very interested to see how it’s going to play out.”
Will fans see the action-oriented side of Lou Diamond Phillips on BLINDSPOT? He assured, “I get to do a lot of action in the episode tonight and I have to do all of it while handcuffed. I took a few bumps ‘n bruises on this one but like I’ve always said about fight scenes, if you don’t come away a little sore you’re not doing it right.”
Throughout Lou’s prolific career he’s mainly portrayed heroes or at least various shades of ‘good guys.’ He’s recently begun to play more dastardly roles, tackling varying types of bad guys. He gladly confessed, “I love playing bad guys because the gloves come off and there are no rules. You can be as mean or irreverent as you want to be. Saul Guerrero is certainly part and parcel of that. I think he’s hilarious. They gave him some very funny lines and he’s incredibly cocky, but indeed, he’s a bad guy. He’s definitely different from Henry Standing Bear and very, very different from the emotional and earnest role I had in THE 33.”
His journey into villainy has even provoked a recent warning to his children. “Even though I have older daughters, I warned them about an independent film I did recently in which I play Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker. We’ll see that next year,” divulged Lou. Regarding younger children, “It depends on the role,” he granted. “This is one [referring to BLINDSPOT's Saul Guerrero] that I’d not have a problem with them watching, but I played a serial killer and child molester on LAW & ORDER: SVU that was one that I wouldn’t let them see.”
Due to his busy schedule promoting THE 33, Lou hasn’t seen every episode of BLINDSPOT that’s aired to date but he confidently confirmed, “I’ve certainly seen enough to know that the writing and directing is of incredibly high quality.” Adding, “It’s just a big show. It’s a little action film every single week. I think they’re doing a great job.
Before addressing other projects, Lou shared his experience watching BLINDSPOT’s series premiere. “I was very fortunate that the actual week I was filming I got to have Sullivan Stapleton, Audrey Esparza and Ashley Johnson with me in my hotel room where we all watched the premiere together. That was pretty exciting.”
Phillips’ fans were pleased to learn this past week that Netflix greenlit a fifth season of LONGMIRE. “Yeah, that news just came down on Friday. I’m absolutely thrilled about it. Season Four was our best yet; it certainly gave Henry Standing Bear so much more to do and has set the table for some very interesting plotlines for next season. Our writers just keep raising the bar and we’re all incredibly grateful that we’ll get the opportunity to continue that series,” beamed Lou.
Also making news was a less than flattering remark made via tweet by Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief for Variety, about LONGMIRE’s renewal. Andrew’s jab pertained to his perception of the show’s primary demo. I asked if Lou cared to comment beyond his succinctly eloquent reply tweet. He offered, “I will simply say that it is inaccurate to assume that we appeal to only one demographic. Our fans are incredibly loyal and vocal and that’s the reason that we were not only picked up by Netflix but that we have a Season Five. Any statement to the contrary is not only irresponsible, it’s also inaccurate.”
Reflecting on the type of character he wishes he could play more often, Phillips volunteered, “The one thing that I don’t get to do enough of is comedy. I absolutely love comedy and cut my teeth on it when I was doing theater back in Texas. My first paying role ever was as part of a sketch comedy troupe called The Zero Hour. We used to play comedy and punk clubs where if you weren’t funny they threw bottles at you. Fortunately I’ve had great success in drama with intense roles but I like to get away from the brooding ethnic once in a while and bring the funny.”
Pressed to name some of his favorite shows currently on in primetime, Lou shared, “I’m a huge fan of THE WALKING DEAD and GOTHAM. I need to catch up with other shows I love like THE GOOD WIFE and RAY DONOVAN. Unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of downtime to catch up on everything that’s out there.”
Moving to the topic of film, I was curious about the status of a film Phillips is helming as director. I inquired as to whether or not TAO OF SURFING had completed principle photography. “No, unfortunately we have not finished that film. It’s one of those little films that has struggled and we’re still trying to get the finishing funds for that one. Hopefully that will get completed sometime in the future because it really is a beautiful little piece. Given the state of independent film in the world right now, it’s difficult, it’s like getting blood out of a turnip.”
On another note I wondered, given the number of Native Americans Phillips has portrayed throughout his career (including most recently on Comedy Central’s ANOTHER PERIOD), if he has a personal affinity towards any particular tribe or if any native tribes ever made him an honorary member? ”Honorary member is actually an understatement,” Lou proudly proclaimed. “After the YOUNG GUNS films I was adopted into the Lakota Nation on the Pine Ridge Porcupine and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota and was given a Lakota name. Just last year, the Cheyenne people of the Reindeer Reservation in Montana adopted me and also gave me a Cheyenne name. In both cases I went through a naming and blessing ceremony. So, much like when I represent the Latino community — be it Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, or Chilean as in the case of THE 33 – I try to be specific and respectful and accurate because I know I’m representing a community of people who have pride and dignity. Fortunately, I think the acceptance that I’ve received from any number of these communities is affirmation that I’m approaching it in the right way.”
As mentioned earlier, the poignant real-life story of THE 33 hits theaters nationwide this month. I asked Lou if he got to spend any time with the survivors of that ordeal and how he found the experience of being directed by Patricia Riggen (GIRL IN PROGRESS, LEMONADE MOUTH). “Yes, the miners were involved with this process from the beginning,” he informed. “I had the great opportunity to spend some time with Luis Urzua, whom I play, and just soak up the man’s quiet dignity and reserve. It really helped me approach the role in the right way. Mario Sepúlveda, who is played by Antonio Banderas, was there almost constantly. He’s as magnanimous and bigger-than-life as Antonio plays him.”
Regarding the film’s director Phillips declared, “Patricia Riggen was absolutely the best choice to direct this film. She, obviously, brought a woman’s sensibility to it. She never forgot the heart and the soul. She never forgot the importance of the families; the wives, the sisters and mothers that were keeping hope alive in Camp Hope. And I also think, as a Mexican, she brought a real cultural sensitivity to the story and that the authenticity of the Chilean people was not lost. To me, she was the whole package. She and I had an absolutely wonderful collaboration and I’m quite proud of what we put on the screen. We’re really operating in rarefied air and I feel very privileged to be a part of this.” THE 33 premieres on the ninth as part of the AFI International Film Festival.
Make sure to catch Lou Diamond Phillips‘ multi-layered portrayal of Saul Guerrero tonight on BLINDSPOT at 10: 00 p.m. on NBC immediately following THE VOICE. There’s no telling what clues to Jane’s tattoos his character will illuminate.