Dark Blue Persuasion
by Jay S. Jacobs
It’s not easy going undercover after you spent six years in one of the biggest hit series on television. That blend ability is even tougher when you have been named one of People magazine’s sexiest men twice in the past decade.
Dylan McDermott doesn’t care. He’s an actor, and to him it’s all about blending. He enjoys putting on different outfits and characters and disappearing into them. So, whether you see him as crusading lawyer Bobby Donnell of The Practice or Secret Service Agent Al D’Andrea in In the Line of Fire or even as the cute lawyer next door Bryan Bedford in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street – McDermott is always bringing surprises to the table.
His latest role fits straight into that – as an undercover cop in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced TNT action drama Dark Blue. The series is coming back for a second season with actress Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice) as a new regular and a new outlook on fighting crime.
A couple of weeks before the second season premiere, McDermott sat down with us and some other website to discuss the new season and his career.
My first question is just very basic. How do you feel going into the second season?
I feel good. We looked back on season one and decided what worked and what didn’t work. We wanted to make this show lighter and a little bit more humorous. We brought in Tricia Helfer as the romantic interest for Carter Shaw and that opened up the show a great deal. Looking at the show for season two, it’s much more dynamic than it was in season one. Also, just selfishly for my character, I think it’s so much more interesting to have and do police work and be in a relationship at the same time.
I know you’ve mentioned the new changes to the show, and I’m wondering what is it about the show that continues to challenge you in your role as well.
Well anytime you do acting in a police role or undercover role, to me it’s fascinating. I love that world. I’ve always been fascinated by Baretta and Donnie Brasco and other undercover cops in movies. It’s just always been something that’s interested me. So, I think this is a show if we gather an audience this year that can be on for many years. With the addition of Tricia, I think that we have the whole package now. I just love this character. I love playing him and I love the cases and the danger that the show brings to television.
Now at this point, you’ve played both sides of law and order in a TV series – both as a police officer and a lawyer. Which do you think you’d be better at in real life and which one fits your own personality more?
Oh, man. I don’t know if I could play any of these guys really. To be a lawyer, it is such difficult work and taking on cases. To be a cop, to do the hours they do and deal with the criminal aspect. I’m so happy I’m an actor to tell you the truth because I don’t know if I would want to climb inside their shoes for 20, 30 years and do this type of work. It must be so harrowing after a while. I’m grateful that I’m an actor and I can just step into shoes and get out after a while.
Now I know that in your initial research with this that you did a lot of drive-alongs with the LAPD. What were some of the more interesting things that you noticed on those drive-alongs? And is it true that some people recognized you as Bobby Donnell?
Yeah, they did. Some of them wanted me to represent them, which was strange of course. Going into south central Los Angeles or Compton, these are worlds that you don’t normally go into, so I love this type of work. I love where I can do research, and interview people. Get inside peoples’ heads and look at their behavior and what they don’t tell me. Those things are all fascinating to me. When I get to do that and have a bird’s eye view into different worlds, that’s the most exciting thing for me as an actor. But when you are doing that, I never think that anybody is going to recognize me. And they did. That’s when my cover as a person is blown. That’s not always fun because I want to be anonymous when I’m doing research. I don’t want anybody to recognize me. I want to be the character. Going into these worlds is pulling over gangbangers, or going into the projects, or them showing me photos of murder scenes. All of that stuff is just gold for an actor. It’s horrible for life, but especially for me when I get to see stuff like that; I get to use it for my character and dive deeper into this world.
It is tough being an icon I guess.
(scoffs) I don’t think so.
Since you worked for network television and now you’re on cable, what are the biggest differences for you?
Well you know what? It has changed so radically. I mean network television – I think with the rise of cable, network is clearly floundering because the characters on cable are far more fascinating than they are on network. Network television is trying to figure it out, but network television really relies on story rather than character and I think that cable relies on character. I think that’s the biggest difference. You don’t have to have a huge number on cable to stay on. Damages had like 600,000 people watching it and it was a great show. Character is key, and character is king on cable and on network it’s really more about franchise and story.
Is there is a difference for you personally? Like do they give you more time off to do other projects?
Well, yeah. On cable, we’re only doing ten episodes a year. On The Practice, we used to do like 22, 24 episodes, which would take up ten months of the year where doing ten episodes is like three, four months at the most. So, I get to do other things and it frees me up. I like that aspect because when you’re doing 22, 24 episodes, it is grueling. You are there for sixteen hours a day sometimes for ten months of the year. It really you know takes a big toll on you.
What is Jerry Bruckheimer’s involvement in the day-to-day aspect? Do you have any experiences working with him that you could describe?
Jerry thought of me initially for the role, so I thank him dearly for that. I had known Jerry over the years and it was his idea to bring me in for the show. Jerry is obviously a very busy man and he’s got 1,000 projects going at once. I’m always surprised how interested he is. He watches the dailies and he reads the scripts and he’s completely involved in the show. That’s why he is the mega success that he is because he really pays attention still when he doesn’t really have to. I’m really impressed by his work ethic and that he really thought of me for this. I’m forever grateful for that.
I would like to hear your take on Dark Blue. How would you describe it to someone that has never seen it?
Dark Blue is a gritty crime drama ultimately at its core. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. It’s an undercover cop show with fascinating characters and – especially in this particular season, there is a lot of humor and a lot of care between the characters. These characters really care for each other and are worried about each and have each other’s backs. I think Dark Blue looks like a movie. Every episode that I’ve seen looks like a little mini movie, and again I go back to character. It has fascinating characters. In season two, you’re going to see every character have their shining moment.
Could you talk a little bit about your working dynamic with Tricia and what her character will bring to challenge Carter this season?
This is exactly what I thought this show should have – a love interest for Carter. It’s just much more dynamic to have him in a relationship. Tricia is a beautiful woman, and she’s really talented. She can stand toe to toe with Carter, which is not an easy thing because he is brooding at times. He is difficult, and you need someone who can come in and go toe to toe with him. I think that she’s going to challenge him in ways that I don’t think he was actually prepared for. In season one, he was sort of closed down and not willing. We find him in season two in a garden, which is really a metaphor for him that he is attempting to change, and he is attempting grow, and she is a big part of that. She is going to open him up in ways. Something had died in him long ago and he had given up on himself somewhere, and she brings all of that back to life.
You’ve been talking about how important the characters are. I was wondering how much input you have with the writers about Carter as a character. Also, do you have an ideal storyline that you’d love to see Carter involved in?
Well yeah. In the first season, I trusted the writers to take me on this little journey. Then luckily, we had the luxury to look back on season one and say, “Well okay, what worked and what didn’t work?” I sat down with them and told them what I thought. Certainly, the number one thing was to have a love interest because you forgive a character a lot more when he can you know go home and talk to someone. In terms of a storyline, season two accomplishes a lot of what I dreamt for the character. We’re going to see him go through everything he can possibly go through. He’s going to be a character within a character at times. He’s going to be undercover in really dangerous situations. He’s going to fall in love. There’s going to be a cliffhanger at the end in the finale, so everything I thought that the show should be – it finds its voice in this season. I was really pleased that the show just graduated to a whole different level this year. I was more pleased by that than anything else.
What drives you to succeed, and literally what kind of car do you drive?
What drives me to succeed? I don’t know. I suppose that I still love it. I still love acting. I loved it when I began when I was fifteen years old with HB Studios in New York. When I first walked on that stage, there was something about it that I felt like I needed to do. I always felt like I needed to act. Not that I wanted to act, but I needed to. I feel that same way. There’s an expression that I get to have in acting that I don’t normally have in my life – that I can’t consciously express in my life. So, I use that somewhere. It has always defined me, and it always will. In terms of cars that I drive, I have a 1988 911 – a classic – black.
That’s hung in there.
Yeah, I love that car. It’s still the car I drive all the time.
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Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 3, 2010.