Interview: Matthew Lillard Talks ‘The Bridge’ on FX and Much More

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Appearing on FX Wednesday nights at 10pm, the FX drama The Bridge is a crime-thriller that takes place along the Texas-Mexican border. Known for his work in Scream, the Scooby Doo movies, Serial Mom, and SLC Punk!, Matthew Lillard has been a mainstay on the screen for going on two decades. Recently, a number of outlets, including our faithful editor-in-chief R.C. Samo, took part in a conference call interview with Lillard, who plays El Paso Times reporter Daniel Frye on The Bridge.


Question: Could you just talk about how you got involved in the project?

Matthew Lillard: Yes.  Like most of my jobs, I auditioned for it.  There actually is a fun story behind it.  I got a phone call one day from Annabeth Gish, who I’d done a movie with years ago, and she said, “You should go in and audition for this character on the show called The Bridge.”  I was like, “I don’t know what it is, what is it?”  She said, “It’s Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir and it’s this adaptation of the Swedish show.”

I immediately called my agent and said, “What’s the deal with this gig?  Why isn’t it in my world?”  They said, “Well, they basically have no money, and it’s only six episodes.”  The character dies after six episodes.  I’m like, “Well, I’m not doing anything so some money is better than no money.”   And agent’s idea of no money and my idea of no money are usually quite different.  I said, “Why don’t you send me the script?  If it’s not something I want to do—just let me see it anyway.”

They sent it to me, and I read it.  It’s one of those scripts—the pilot was unbelievably well read.  You kind of fly through it, and you get to the last scene in the pilot and you’re like, oh my, God, what an amazing scene.  The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I’d rather do something than not do something.

I had never been on TV, and I said—this is one of those things that actors sometimes struggle with, because I was like, “All right. I’d love to do this even if it is no money.  Why don’t you see if they’ll have me?” expecting some kind of offer.  They were like, “Yes, they like you.  They want you to come in and audition for it.”

The thing was like, there’s no money; the guy dies in Episode 6; he’s barely in the pilot.  I have to audition for it?  Then it just feels like you’re fighting for something that somebody doesn’t really want you in.  The more I dug into it the more I realized they had tested a bunch of guys for it, and none of the guys had gotten the job.  Now I’m just rambling.

The point was that, I went in and auditioned for it, and the audition went great.  Then, Elwood (Reid) called me into his office and said, “There’s no money, and he dies in Episode 6.”  I was like, “Yes, but look at this part, and look at how amazing this scene is; I get to do this scene.  I’d love to do it.”  So I did it.  On Episode 6 I lived and in Episode 10 I was supposed to die and they re-wrote it after I fell off the bridge, and I made it to Season 2, which is the longest story I’ll tell this entire conference.  I’m sorry it was so long.

Q: The Bridge is obviously a very heavy dramatic project; you always seem to provide some kind of comic relief in your roles.  Do you seek out those roles, or do you try to inject a little bit of extra humor at times on the page that’s not already there?

ML: I definitely bring an energy that’s different than other people on the show.  I don’t really have a lot of jokes.  It’s not like Elwood and our incredible writing staff; it’s not like they give me a lot of jokes.  I certainly get to say more funny things on the show than anyone else.

Then, I think what I bring is energy and, yes, I generally find opportunities to be funny in really high stakes; Scream is a great example of that.  When you’re running for your life, and you’re at the end of your rope and the stakes are really high, to be able to make people laugh in that little sweet spot; I like doing that.

I think that it’s a combination.  I think that the writers and Elwood have found a great way to use me in the show.  I think that Emily (Rios) and I do a lot of solving the case, but on top of it, we can add a little levity to a world that’s so ripe with drama.  Yes, I think it’s a combination of both.  I think that they lean into me for that, and I tend to find it on the day.

Q: Can you give us any teasers about what’s in store for Daniel in the upcoming episodes?

ML: Yes. I think that leading into the first episode of the season, the idea of having a two beer rule or two beer limit is pretty rife with drama. He doesn’t really hold onto that rule very well.  He struggles with his sobriety. One of the great things that I love about playing the character is that he’s this incredibly tortured soul, and he happens to be a reporter. He struggles with his sobriety, and as he’s on this journey he may fall into that pit somewhere along the line.

Q: Daniel has his eye on the prize with this big story he’s pursuing.  What is he willing to do to find the truth and solve the case?  Does he ever go too far?

ML: Daniel has no scruples.  I feel like there’s no end to what he’ll do and where he’ll go.  This season, I don’t think he really gets to that end.  The great thing about playing this guy is that he doesn’t really care.  At the end of the day it’s all about the story.

He’s got a great line, I think, in Episode 4 where he says, “All I care about is how to fix the story, I don’t care if the guy blew his brains out.”  That kind of drive to him, that kind of single-mindedness, that’s fun to play.  This season he stays relatively within the bounds.

Q: I have to ask you, since you mentioned Scream, we’re big horror fans.  What are your thoughts on Scream becoming a TV series, and if that is a good format to tell those stories?

ML: Oh, I feel like it makes me very old.  Any time that they’re remaking something that you’re in in a completely different format it generally means you’re ancient.  As far as the format’s concerned or whether it works, which I don’t understand how Scream rolls into a TV series, but there are very smart writers in the world, and I’m sure they can figure it out.  I’ll be interested to see the first episode, and see how they do.

Q: Talk to me a bit about working with Emily Rios, you’re really good together onscreen.

ML: Oh, thanks, man.  She’s great.  I think that we’re a little bit of the wonder twins.  I think—I [indiscernible] shape up, she and I are very simpatico in how we approach the work.  On set, we have developed, over the last few years, great shorthand.  Together, we work on scenes before we ever get to set; we’ll bring scripts to set.  I think that together we have a rhythm in terms of how we work.  I love her to pieces, and I think that she feels the same way about me.  We’re great friends.  Between having the same approach to the work, and caring deeply for her and loving the woman, it makes work a real joy.

On top of that, I think that we both are really proud to be on the show.  You can’t always say that on every show you’re on or every piece of movie you do.  I have been in God knows some horrible films, and when you’re doing those movies there’s a lot of that.  You understand that you’re just trying to make your rent and feed your kids.  This is a show that I think that we both appreciate every day we’re on set, and are having fun doing it.  I think that that comes out in the work we’re doing, and I think it’s translating to the writers room and I think that they like writing for us.  All in all, I can’t imagine a better situation to be in as an actor.  That’s how goo-goo, ga-ga I am over her and what’s happening with us on the show.

R.C. Samo: Good morning, Matthew.  How are you today?

ML: You do not sound like a fan boy, you sound like you’ve been on a binge for about 48 hours in Vegas.

R.C.: No, this is my normal voice.

ML: Lucky, gravely son of a bitch.

R.C.: Well, thanks for that.  Your character, Daniel, is an embittered chip-on-your-shoulder type journalist, which I’ve been accustomed to work with.  Did you channel any particular journalists that have interviewed you in the past, or any Hunter S. Thompson aspects of the character that you’re using?  How’d you put Daniel together?

ML: I just dip into my own angry bitterness that I possess, and I created it from a wealth of anger that lives within me.  You know, not really.  It’s not built on anyone specifically, so to speak.  There’s an aspect of the drug use and alcoholism and being an addict that there’s somebody that I’ve drawn on in my life in terms of how they acted, and I’m very clear as to who that person is when I get into that kind of a state.  In terms of the journalist, no, I trust the words of Elwood and the writers.

We also have a New York Times writer on our staff.  Early, in both seasons, last season and this season, I sat with him and I got a chance to—he covers all of South America for the New York Times.  He and I sat down a couple times and talked about what it’s like to be on that drive, to be on the hunt of a story trying to figure out where the passion is.  What is the motor that drives that person, because I didn’t really get it?

Is it winning the Pulitzer Prize?  Is it showing the world that you can write?  What is that thing that motivates that guy?  Daniel’s been great to give me that insight as to what it means to him, and I’m just extrapolating what he’s said and what he’s given me has helped.  I guess, let me revise my answer.  Yes, I have.  I’ve built around this guy who’s on our staff, his name is—oh geez.  New York Times writer covers South America.  His name is escaping me right now.  Roslyn, can you help me?  Can anyone help me?

Roslyn: Sorry, who are you referring to?

ML: He’s a consulting producer on our staff.  He’s the New York Times writer from South America, his name is Daniel?  This is embarrassing.  He’s in South America so I’ve only seen him twice, but both times having a conversation with him, and digging into what motivates him has been fantastic.  Does that help?

R.C.: That helps.  Yes.  If we have to throw in movies that you’ve done that we love, Scooby Doo is on the list.

ML: Oh, right on.  I never expected anyone with such a dramatic voice to ever like that movie.

R.C.: I got to review Scooby Doo at WrestleMania, so that was fun, too.  You’re doing the voiceover as well.

ML: There you go.  We just did Kiss, which is fun.

R.C.: Even better.

ML: Scooby Doo and Kiss.  There you go.

Q: I think you were talking about Damien Cave before.

ML: Yes, thank you so much.  It is Damien.  Thank you so much.  Did everyone hear that?  Damien, yes.  Got it.  I’m like, dang it it’s not Daniel, I know it’s not Daniel, I play Daniel.  I’m not that smart.  Let it be known on this conference call and with thousands of people, and the woman somewhere in Iowa who’s connecting us.  I am not that smart.

Q: That’s all right.  What’s your favorite aspect about the character of Daniel, and how does it compare to your own personality?

ML: Oh, good question.  I think my favorite aspect of the personality is that I like the fact that he’s tragically flawed.  I like the fact that a modern television and modern drama on cable even has characters that are really intricate and deep and have multiple layers.  I love the fact that he is a character that is tragically flawed and is continually trying to rise up and do his best; that he hasn’t given up, and he’s not living in a hotel room in Juarez just getting drunk and high all day every day.  He’s still on this pursuit of redemption and that’s what I love about the character is that he’s incredibly broken and still trying to get back.  There’s a resiliency that I love.

I think that that is the part that I can relate to as a man, and as an actor in this industry, being resilient.  Look, there are a lot of people in ‘90s films that just never came back.  Having been a guy that didn’t work for a year and didn’t have a job and downsized his life and sold his house and his cars and just tried to figure out what the heck I was going to do if I never had a chance to come back.  Looking into that kind of abyss of being cooked in this industry and sticking with it and finding myself in the place I am now, which is a place I’m, again, proud of my work and proud of where I’m at and on a great show, I think that that resilience I understand in a really great way.

ML: (To Moderator) Where are you right now?  Who is the woman—are you on the space station?  Who are you?  Where are you?  Are you at FX [indiscernible]?

Moderator: Minneapolis, Minnesota.

ML: How’s Minneapolis today?

Moderator: It’s wonderful.

ML: Is it gorgeous outside?  I bet you it is; it’s summer right now.

Moderator: It’s supposed to get up to 82.

ML: What a nice day!  You have to get to the lake.

Moderator: Yes.

ML: There you go.

Q: Hello?

ML: Hi.  How are you?

Q: Hi, again.  Do you have a favorite memory from the show?

ML: From life?  Favorite memory from life?

Q: No, from The Bridge.  Either The Bridge filming or not.  Yes, maybe it can be behind the scenes, whichever.

ML: Well, I think that I do have a favorite memory.  What is it?  There are a couple things, but I think the first thing that jumps to my mind is the fact that in the pilot episode where I’m losing my mind in the front seat of the car because I’m on the bomb.  When I did that scene the first time, I think that I surprised people.  The reason I wanted to do the show so bad is, I saw an opportunity in that scene to do really amazing great textured work.  And look—I haven’t had a chance to do a long time in my career; not since SLC Punk! actually have I had a chance to do a scene like that in something so well written.

I took the opportunity and I relished it; I loved it and I felt like in that scene, in the car, was some of the best that I’ve ever done as an actor on screen.  The crazy thing is, is that after seeing that scene the network and the studio loved it so much but there’s something that—we’d shot it initially outside so outside in the middle of this parking lot.  In the original version of The Bridge, the Swedish version, it was underground in this parking garage.  The guys at FX, they loved the scene, it was great, but something was missing in that it wasn’t in the dark, foreboding kind of area, which is underground in the parking garage.

They went back and asked me to do the scene again.  Some of the best work I’ve ever done in my life was—I walked away going, wow, that was great.  Then they came back to me and they said, “Can do you do it again?”  I’ll never forget; we were at dinner.  We were at a celebratory dinner, and we’d just gotten picked up.  It was Carolyn Bernstein and myself, and Emily and Denny and Bashir and Annabeth Gish and Elwood Reid and Diane Kruger and we were all sitting around a table.  Elwood leaned over to me and said, “You know that scene that you did at the end of the episode?”   I’m like, “Yes, you know the best scene of my life?”  He’s like, “Yes.  Do you think you could do it again?”  I was like, “Yes, of course I can do it again,” because it’s my job.  I’m a professional.  I’m a professional actor, that’s my job, I could do that shit again.

There was a part of me that was like, oh he’s kidding, or oh he just wants to know about the craft.  Then I sat there and I thought about it, and it was like the next day I called him up.  I’m like, “You’re kidding right?  You don’t want me to do it again do you?”  He was like, “Yes, they want to do it again.”

For the next two months was shitting my pants, quite frankly, because I was like, what if we go back and do it again—that moment’s very elusive for me and actors and in defying that and be connected with something real.  What happens if I get back there and I can’t do it again?  We got to that scene and we started to do the work, and it happened again.  Again, now I’m even doubly more proud of that scene.  That’s not proper English.  That, I think, is the most memorable moment for me, is having to do that scene twice.

I’m talking too long aren’t I?  Minneapolis, I’m talking too long.  I’ve had too many cups of coffee, I understand that.  I’ll make them shorter, sorry.

Moderator: It doesn’t matter to me.  I’m sure everybody’s quite happy with you.

Q:  Well, you were talking about how it was rare for you to get those kinds of roles.  You’ve been known for comedy, and this is a chance for you to mix comedy and drama together.  Would you like to maybe do more of that; that special mix where you get a little bit of both?  We obviously just lost one of the masters of being able to mix those two art forms.  Do you think that’s something that you might be interested in doing more of?

ML: Yes.  I think that every actor is interested in doing that.  There’s not a comedy actor out there who doesn’t want a chance to do drama, and vice versa.  As actors, we’re always looking to be pushed and to do the other side of the coin.  Look, for me, I would love to do both.  I’d love to just continue to work in great things.

Having worked with Alexander Payne in Descendants; that kind of tone where you’re laughing one moment and the very next moment you’re crying, speaking specifically when he says goodbye.  Judy Greer comes into the room in Descendants and she’s going off on his wife.  Then, he throws her out and it’s very funny then she leaves and then you’re crying because he’s saying goodbye to his wife.  I think that’s real life.  I think that comedy and drama live a breath away.

For me, if I’m doing really great work and I can be connected to the words and being “dramatic” and real and then immediately make people laugh, I think that that’s a fantastic place to live.  I agree with you, we did lose a master at that.  I feel like there are not a lot of people that deal in that nuance.

Not to get too crazy and blither off too long, but film and television has been pushed in extreme directions having extreme horror and extreme comedy, extreme—I don’t think that that reflects real life.  I look at some of the gals in the [indiscernible] in the movie [indiscernible], that’s the world I think is really exciting to live.  Yes, I would love to do those jobs, and I would love to have great jobs; that’s what I’d love to have.

Q:  This show’s obviously a really dark show, and we’ve been talking about how you added a comedic element to the character, and the show.  But, do you ever take any of the darkness from the show home with you, or do you find you don’t have too much of a problem separating yourself from your character?

ML: I know it’s so funny is, we just wrapped two weeks ago, and I have been in this absolute funk.  I’ve been in this weird kind of really sad, morose kind of mellow place.  Normally when I wrap I’m immediately, what’s next and I start writing something and I start directing; I’m always going.

After the wrap of the show I’ve found myself to be in a really different, quiet place, and personally I think it’s the effect of the show, it’s had on me, endearing in this—certainly towards the end of the season Daniel goes to a darker place, and living in that space on a set all day and having to deal with that and the tension of that and the really high stakes of that, I feel like it has left an impact on me.  There’s been kind of a re-entry period.

When you are on location for two months or something and you come home and you immediately are expected to be a dad again and a husband again, and you’re picking up from school and your whole world is upside down.  There’s a re-entry period; that’s what I call it with my wife.  Generally, there’s this moment where you have to recollect yourself and re-attune to who you are as a man back in the real world.  This season—because I know I’m on the show all season and there’s a darker place, and from the beginning of the season I had a very clear sense of where we were going to start and where my character was going to finish, I felt like this year has definitely left its mark on me in a really great way.  I just want to clarify, I don’t think I’m a comedic element, I think I bring some levity, but I still think that he’s dealing with these really high stakes.  I don’t think he’s a piece of comedy.  It definitely left an impact on me this season for sure.

Q: I just wanted to clarify for a second, I don’t think that your character is the comedic element to the show.  I just meant that you, as an actor, are able to bring a little bit of lightheartedness to such a dark themed show.  To me, that’s a really good quality to have in an actor, because not a lot of people can do that.

ML: Oh, thank you.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.  I’m super proud of that.  I like the actor I am.  I’m not just saying this in an egotistical, arrogant way, but I like being able to be funny and to bring drama and to be able to do both sides of those energies.  Sometimes I feel like I get labeled—I’m not saying that you’re doing this, but sometimes I think people label me as a comedian, and I don’t feel like I am.  I just felt like, for a moment there, protective of something you were not asking.

Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.

Q: No problem.  You’ve been one of my favorite actors since I was younger.  Thank you.

ML: Oh, that’s awesome.  By the way you guys, we can stay on this phone call all day because this has been the nicest phone call I’ve ever had in my life.

Q: Daniel, at his best, is a high-functioning addict.  I’m wondering—there has to come a point where he’s going to self-combust.  I’m wondering how long will it be before we get to that point, and could you maybe hint at what some of the consequences might be.

ML: Well, you have, in your possession, I think one through eight or something.  I think you could probably see self-destruction in there somewhere.  I think that in 207, one of the great things Elwood said to me coming back next year, and I don’t think that this has come to fruition, but I think that one of his expectations is and one of the things he likes about me is, I feel like—Elwood has said, in the past, to me, and I think he said it publicly is that he likes writing for me because he feels like he can give me anything.

He gave me in Episode 207—that is really great, it’s a really great episode for me.  I remember reading 207 and thinking to myself, this is what he promised when I came back is episodes like these.  So 207, he starts self-destructing in the teaser, and he—Daniel Frye is like any guy, when they self-destruct they do it in pretty glorious ways.  I think 207 is a great episode for me.  If you want to see self-destruction, probably look at that one.

Q: Consequences will play out over the rest of the season?

ML: Yes, for sure.  Yes.  I think that consequences from 207 directly impact the character for seasons to come.  Our show is hard.  Once you’re past Episode 203 you are really connected to a story, 204, 205, 6, 7, 8; these episodes start to drive forward.  In general, I’m not number one and number two on the call sheet; I’m number three or four.  Consequences are not really that important to the show, meaning the show has a lot of pieces to pull together and what happens is, Daniel Frye isn’t necessarily on the top of the agenda.  The consequences, though, are over the course of the end of the season, and into next year I think will be felt deeper.  Does that make sense?

Q: Absolutely.  Thanks so much.

ML: Yes.  My storyline isn’t the most important—I love that we’re talking about me, and I get to talk about my character and the great show.  The amazing thing about the show is, the two leads are incredible and the stories that we’re chasing are multi-faceted, dark and twisted and long reaching.  In general, the impact of what happens to Daniel Frye isn’t necessarily as interesting to the world as what happens to our lead stories.

Q: That’s up for debate.  I’ve been enjoying your work this season, so thanks very much.

ML: Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It’s certainly appreciated.  It’s so funny, I was saying to Abraham Benrubi, who is one of my best friends in the world, and we play Dungeons and Dragons together, which is fantastic; it’s shocking to me how infrequently you hear nice things about the show.

The show has gotten great reviews, so that first flurry comes out over the first episode; people like the first episode.  Other than that, you’re kind of in a vacuum and you don’t really know how you know, you don’t really have a sense of what people think so it’s nice to hear that people like the show and like my work.  Thank you very much for that, it’s very validating.

Q:  You were talking about having a rhythm with Emily.  What have you enjoyed about the Daniel/Adriana partnership this season and where is it heading in the remaining episodes?

ML: Well, the thing I like about it is that the writers trust us, and they know that we’re going to be around.  A lot of the problems were last season, so like they were beholden to what was happening in the Swedish show and they weren’t creating their own story.  Last year, I don’t feel like they had a clear sense of what they were doing with us.

The thing I like about us this season is that the writers are using us in a really great way to help solve the case.  Diane, Marco and Sonya are off doing their thing, and I think that one of the great things is Emily and I can help piece together the story, and they’re different trajectories.  They’re working on their story; we’re working on our story.  The great thing is that I think we’re more active this year in the main storyline.

Sometimes if you’re third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh on the call sheet you get relegated to one or two scenes, and I feel like towards the end of the season we start to get more work, and we start to answer that riddle a lot for the writers.  The writers like writing for us, and that’s one of the great things I like, is that they like putting words in our mouth, so we get great words and we great opportunities to do good stuff.

Where we’re going, I think that we get connected to the case, and we start to help solve it.  Not to give away spoilers, but we’re in the last episode and we’re part of answering part of a big riddle of the season.  As it expands, we expand with it instead of getting left behind so that’s been pretty great.

Q: Cool.  Just because you mentioned you wrapped already, do you have another project in the pipeline already?

ML: No.  I would like one, though.  Can you please—?

Q: Sure.

ML: —put me in Guardians of the Galaxy II?  I’d love to be in that movie.  I’d like to be in any movie, actually.

Q: I’ll email James Gunn right now.

ML: That would be fantastic.  I’ve already emailed him multiple times.

Q: I am curious to know that when you get a script for The Bridge, besides reading for your own scenes, has there been another storyline, so far, that you’ve been really intrigued with the other characters to follow along with and see how it turns out.

ML: One of the joys of being on the show is that once a week we get together and read the scripts out loud.  Basically, for example, the scripts will release on a Tuesday night and we’ll all get together on Wednesday morning and read it.  We get the joy of sitting in a room and all reading, and generally, you read it for the first time out loud, or at least I do in that moment.  I can say without blenching, that I love our show.  I love the fact that Elwood and our writers are trying to do something outside the box that’s really expansive and different and are trying to tell a story based on [indiscernible] character.  Yes, there’s a driving element to it, but there’s so much character that the show is chalk full of these amazing people, and I love that.

In that, I feel like we’re really lucky because I like them all, and I’m not just saying that to be cheesy.  I love the Linder story; I love where it gets to at the end of the season.  I love him as an actor; I think he’s lovely and weird and eccentric and kind of is the poster child for the weirdness that is The BridgeI love Sonya, I feel like she’s becoming way more human.  I love the depth that Marco has this season, and the pain he’s carrying from the first season over to the second season.

It’s not like his son dies in Episode 10 of The Bridge, and then is gone forever.  He carried this pain and it influences and shapes his trajectory throughout the season, and I love that.  I love the fact that at the end of last year I fell off a bridge and I’m in a wheelchair.  I said, “Look, I think he should limp.  I think he should have a limp from the seven weeks after, and I feel like there should be some kind of limping.”

In the course of the season I got to play with the idea of this physical limp, this ailment that gradually goes away over the 13 episodes.  I like that there’s texture that’s built on, and that each piece and each episode is a block that’s building.  I think one of the things that doing a [indiscernible] the week show, and then they’re fantastic shows and you make great funny being on CBS for 30 years sounds great.  But one of the things is you kind of walk into the middle of an episode and you know the characters and where they’re at and where they’re going to finish and you walk in the next episode and it could be shot three years later and you still know that world.

The great thing about our show is that we’re building and there’s pieces and intricacy in the tapestry these characters, is exciting as an actor.  I’m sort of in love with our show and our characters and there’s not one that leaves me wanting for more.  I think the Fausto and the work that our Mexican actors are doing—all the actors south of the border are fantastic, they’re just incredibly talented and fun to work with.  It’s hard to pick just one, and not to be a total cheese ball, but I think they’re all pretty fantastic.

Q: Awesome.  I can’t wait to see the rest of this season, and you are just phenomenal on the show.  Thank you for such an awesome performance.

ML: You’re welcome.  You want to go to prom?  I’ll take you to prom, you’re so nice.

Q: That’s funny.  You were one of my dream prom dates back in the day.

ML: What?  We can do it, dammit.

Q: I was just wondering, your character has dodged death once, and he looks like he’s getting into a little bit of trouble again on the show getting into some danger.  I know you can’t give away any spoilers, but do you think that Daniel has it in him to keep dodging death and stay on the show a little longer?

ML: Look, I will say that there’s an episode that comes up that is mind blowing the things that happen.  No character is safe on our show, and I will tell you, I’ve seen a script where I died in Season 1.  I got the script and it said Daniel Frye is dead.  I’ve seen it and I know how it happens and I know the look on Elwood’s face when he hands you the script.  I’m not beyond that, I don’t think anyone on our show is beyond that.  Saving probably Diane and Demian, I think that—everyone is up for grabs, and I think there’s an episode coming up that will surprise people on what happens to characters.

The truth of the matter is, I would love to be a character that they use and use and they dig him deeper and deeper into a pit of despair, and then they have to kill him because there’s no way out.  I’d love to be that kind of character; that means that they’re using you in a way that’s full of muscle.  As an actor, that’s what you want.  I’d love to go out in a blaze of glory if you’ve given me an entire season of work that gets him to a place where you have to kill him; that’s the truth.  If you can build a great story around it and it supports Season 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of the show and you have to kill me, then God bless him.  Kill me good.

Q: Just exhaust the character.

ML: Yes.  That’s the thing, you dig a character into a hole and you’re like, well, what are you going to do?  You can’t come back from that.  To write a character that you can’t come back from, to be that character would be really exciting.

Q: Just get the fans behind you; sell t-shirts that say, if Daniel dies we riot and maybe pick up a crossbow.

ML: I would love that.  If you could—because I can go right from that to like a zombie show or to the dragon show I’d be into it.  If you can give me a crossbow I’d be completely happy with that decision.

Q:  Do you ever get to sit down and speak to the writers about how you would like them to develop your character?

ML: No.  I do not do that.  What I do do is, I go in and say, “Why are you doing this to my character?”  I think that was one of the things, and Elwood said this is the past, is that he is an open door.  I believe in the idea of being an advocate for your character.  It does not happen on every show, I know that for a fact, but his door is open and I’m one of the guys that uses it to walk in and say, “Why is this happening?  Why are you doing this?”

I definitely don’t tell them what to do with my character, but I certainly help shape what’s happening to the character in the moment.  I have strong opinions; they’re not always listened to.  There’s some times that I go in and pitch something or ask to change something and it doesn’t happen, and there are a lot of times that they listen to what I’m saying.  One of the things is that look, I walk and I talk and breathe and I walk in that skin of Daniel Frye in every episode.  I know him better than anyone.

Our writers come in and they have to service 20 different voices, and all I do is service one.  I have a clear sense of who he is, and the decisions I’ve made about being an addict and trying to rise from that and finding strength in that and being the smartest guy in the room.  There are all these choices that I’ve made, so they write something that’s completely contrary to who he is I’ll go in and say, “How does this track with Episode 4 of Season 1?  It doesn’t make sense.”  Together, we’ll try to find a good way to bridge that gap that sometimes happens between the writers and Daniel Frye.

The best way I would describe me is being an advocate for my character.  I’m really lucky that we have a writer whom and a show runner who is gracious enough and humble enough to say, okay, and will at least listen.

Moderator: (Operator instructions.)

ML: Should I press star one?

Roslyn: No, I think we’re good.  We went over a little bit, so I think that’s a perfect ending.  The Bridge airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.  Transcripts from this call will be available in 24 to 48 hours.  Matthew, thank you for a very lively and insightful call.  Thanks to everyone else who participated.

ML: I talked too much.  I talked too much.  That’s what you’re saying, I did.  I talked too much, I’m sorry.  Can I just say one thing real quick?

Roslyn: Please.  Go ahead.

ML: As this is on the back of the transcript, we need viewers.  If you like the show tell your friends, tell your people.  I feel like we’re doing really great work and we’re super proud of it and the show gets better and better and better.  That’s just my quiet plea to, if you like it push people to see it because I think that we’re doing good stuff.  If we don’t get people to see it then we won’t be back next year, and I think we want to come back.  Is that whorey [ph]?  That’s not whorey, right?

Roslyn: No, that’s not whorey.

ML: Okay, good.  Thank you, guys.


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  1. Bianca Allaine February 17, 2015 Reply

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