William Fichtner is used to playing the bad guy -- and he wouldn't have it other way. Moviegoers will be seeing a lot of the veteran character actor this summer through his turns in "The Lone Ranger" and "Elysium," but he'll also be on the small screen, lighting it up as Carl Hickman in NBC's new global crime-drama, "Crossing Lines."
The series, which also stars Donald Sutherland ("The Hunger Games") and Marc Lavoine ("The Good Thief"), and is created and executive-produced by Edward Allen Bernero ("Criminal Minds"), follows a specialized unit of elite cops who investigates cross-border crimes and brings down the most notorious international criminals.
HuffPost TV spoke with Fichtner over the phone and not only were we able to gush about his turn as William Mahone on "Prison Break," but he also revealed how he managed to line up a certain Canadian "Sons of Anarchy" star for a integral part in his own series.
HuffPost TV: You've got quite a few big things coming up: this series, "Elysium," "The Lone Ranger," you're filming "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Congratulations. That's a lot to be pleased with.
William Fichtner: It's good. It's all good. Not only a bunch of things coming but they're all great experiences and really different characters and all the stuff I, quite honestly, really love to do.
What are you doing in "Ninja Turtles"?
I play Shredder. It is cool. It's one of those things that came along where I thought, "Really? Let me think about this for a minute." [Laughs] Then I was like, "Yeah, OK, this sounds like a journey." I'm very glad that it worked out, I'm really glad that I'm doing it.
NBC describes your "Crossing Lines" character, Carl Hickman, as a wounded New York cop, pulled from the edge by a group of unlikely saviours. Is that accurate?
Yeah, that's not bad. I'd probably change a few words in there, but that's not bad. It's the beginning of a new kind of policing, similar to what the FBI was decades ago in America when, all of a sudden, they needed some kind of police force that could cross state lines. The idea behind "Crossing Lines" is to do something similar towards the new EU, the European Union. That's the roots of what "Crossing Lines" is and where it began. And while [countries like] France and Ireland and Germany and Italy are forming this group, the French gentleman, played by actor Marc Lavoine, you discover in the story and as the season unravels, what he's looking for.
He knew of an old friend who is now living in Amsterdam that has fallen on hard times, who's my character, Carl Hickman, a gentleman who is forcibly retired due to an injury with the NYPD. But also, too, Louis (Lavoine's character) also knows Hickman is about as good as it gets and pulls him back into the work. What we realize as the season goes on is there is more than one place for Hickman. That's what I loved about it from the beginning. The first two episodes that I read last year is when I decided to do the show. And I do think that the show, like any new show, takes time to find its way. And I think we really started to find it and in a very short arc, the 10 episodes we did in the first season, I feel like where we started off, was very good, and where we ended was extremely good. I was really pleased with it. Really pleased.
Ten episodes. Does that make it a miniseries? Is there closure, or is there potential for more seasons?
Well, I gotta tell you something. I don't know what the plans are for everybody, but I certainly would do it again. Let's see what happens.
If you're not working on 50 blockbuster movies.
You know what, it's the sort of thing where I made a commitment to this project. I would do this for the first season. It's a big thing, it's not like working somewhere else, like a weekend job, the family visits or I go home. Which is basically what I did for "The Lone Ranger" for seven months. I'd work a couple weeks then I had a couple off and go home. This was living in Prague with my wife and my kids. It was great. As much as I enjoy the work, I equally enjoy, maybe a little bit more, the personal journey that we took as a family, which was great. I'll bet that this part of my life isn't over.
Is this going to be like a crime-drama procedural-type show or will we see their personal and professional lives intersecting?
[Groans] God, if it ends up being a procedural show ... I think we've established from Season 1 that, sure, we're cops, there's a crime, there are bad people we're going after, we're trying to solve something. But also in our first season of only 10 shows, any time you get a debut on a two-parter episode, you have the room to go deeper. I also think there are things about the characters, in particular Carl, that you continue to discover as the season goes on. There are things that he is looking for, there are things that he wants and to me, that's the most interesting.
God bless 'em, I know a lot of people love procedurals but I can't watch them. It's like Ambien. If I want to go to sleep, click on a procedural, put me right out. But I don't think that's what we have here. I think it continues on. There are through-lines throughout. The bottom line is by the time we get to episode seven and eight, I don't think people who are tuning in to the show are tuning in because of the crime of the week. They're tuning in because they want to see how the characters are reacting to the crime of the week. That's when it gets interesting. And in the first 10 episodes, which is a short season for any show, I really feel like we made strides in that direction.
Do you know who the Canadian actor Kim Coates is?
Well, Kim's my best friend. Kim and I met on "Black Hawk Down." Coates is my bro and when I went over to work on this show last year, they were telling me the arc and what it would built up to, I said to [executive producers] Ed Bernero and Rola Bauer, "Listen, who is going to play that very key part at the end of this season? I'm telling you right now, hire Kim Coates, just get him right now. And I'm telling you something, we're going to finish up this season like you're not going to believe." And you know what? They did get him. They went to L.A. and I said, "Just go meet him! You're gonna want him over here." So Coatsey came over in January last year. I think his two shows, in particular, are not only the strongest of our entire season but definitely the strongest television I've ever worked on. I'm a huge fan of Kim's, he's a dear friend but he's also an amazing actor, just one more element in the journey of "Crossing Lines" that made it better.
That's amazing. OK, it's time for me to gush. I loved you in "Invasion" -- yes, I watched it -- and "Prison Break." OK, well not right in the beginning, but I grew to love the very misunderstood Alex Mahone. Your voice, you have this great, expressive face, that, I think, allows you to easily pull off the villain bad-guy role, but instead you tend to play characters who seem bad but are really just flawed and there's more to them. Why do you think that is? Why do you get the deeper characters?
Thank you. There are not too many people that actually say that, exactly what you said, and I appreciate that because I live by that. And I don't say that lightly. I'll tell you why that is, it's because I get roles that come to me that are the bad guy in nature. Let me tell you something: the fun guy to play in "The Lone Ranger" is Butch Cavendish. Believe me, driving those horses as a gunslinger is mighty, mighty cool.
But flawed characters are fascinating. When I first looked at "Prison Break" and I read those first few episodes, that guy, trying to figure out a crime, then turns around and pops a pill? To me, I wanna know what that's about. And it's a similar thing with "Crossing Lines." Carl Hickman is not a bad guy, he's a very fractured human being but I love that thing, I love the fact that this is a life that has problems. But I do try to find that thing. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," a live-action remake from Paramount that's filmed in New York, or "The Lone Ranger," these are slightly different because they're big freakin' popcorn movies. You love the roles for what they are.
For me, for "The Lone Ranger," Butch Cavendish the gunslinger -- I'm looking for that guy. There are things that come along, I don't wear this as a badge of honour, believe me, there have been times in my life where I've been offered roles in films when I really needed the money [Laughs]. I read it and think, "I can't do it. There are no redeeming qualities whatsoever about the guy." I like to find something ... if a character cares about something, that's a real guy. You may not like that guy, but he's a real guy. There's a journey and something's going on and he's human in his own way. You may not like him, but then there are many things that I read where there are no redeeming qualities whatsoever, it's Snidely Whiplash twirling that moustache. I can't do that, I don't know what to do with that. So I really try to avoid that. I do like to find these roles that have a real journey. It might be a rough one, but it's a real one.
"Crossing Lines" two-hour premiere airs Sunday, June 23 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC and begins in its regular timeslot on Sunday, June 30 at 10 p.m. ET. It will air on CBC in the fall in Canada.
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