The American actor tells Jenny Hewett about the ins and outs of working on a cop show with a twist
If, like us, you were born in the ’80s and you heard the name ‘Dylan Walsh’ today, you might think you’d found the offspring of the most dedicated Beverly Hills 90210 fan ever. But the man in question is not the namesake of the two heartthrobs from the hit ’90s show (Dylan McKay and Brandon Walsh – remember?). Having landed his top role since Nip/Tuck, 48-year-old US actor Dylan Walsh stars in NYC-based cop drama Unforgettable, a show about a female officer with an abnormally detailed memory. We get the lowdown on the first series, screening now on OSN.
Could you tell us a little about your character, Al Burns? He’s a lieutenant and head of this homicide division. He has a past with the lead, Carrie. They use to be together and now they’re working together professionally, but of course there’s something heating up there. He’s the part of the show that holds up the cop show. She’s what’s different about it. She’s the hook. She’s the thing that hopefully sets us apart a little bit from the other 47 cop shows on TV.
Is this a new thing, the woman being the boss, compared with other characters you’ve played? This is kind of a TV trend now isn’t it? It’s about time. I think we’re going to look back on these past 20 years of TV as one of the great times in television – we’ve made so much headway in storytelling, and in so many other ways. I think it’s about time that some of the leads are women.
Can you tell us what makes Al different from other detectives? You mean what separates him from the other 47 detectives on TV? What I like about Al is that he has to deal with two worlds. One of them you’re familiar with from watching TV cop shows – it has to be realistic and he has to sound like a cop from New York. The other side is that he has this advantage thanks to Carrie’s memory skills, but dealing with who she is and how he manages it can be tricky.
Can you tell us about your process in preparing for the role? Did you have to do police training? About 14 years ago I did a show called Brooklyn South on CBS. I was lucky to drive around and do a lot of research then. We arrived here and got right into shooting. We have a technical advisor who talks to other cops, but most of the research I had already done on this other show. We’re using this memory gift that Carrie has and hopefully weaving it into the show in an interesting way.
These shows are always shot in New York. What’s the difference between NYC in the ’90s and now? I lived in New York 20 years ago. It was a lot rougher. It was dirtier. Now, on both the East and the West sides you have people jogging, riding bikes, exercising. In the ’90s it wasn’t so easy to do that.
Do you find this role came very naturally to you, or did it take a lot to get into the mindset of a detective? I’m not sure if one or the other comes more naturally. I did consciously have to go through the fact that this is the first major thing I’ve done since Nip/Tuck. So much of what you do, if you’re lucky enough to be on a show for many years, becomes automatic. It’s subconscious. You’re not even aware any more of what you’re doing, so I had to be conscious about who Al was to get away from my character on Nip/Tuck. The first thing I had to do was to get rid of Dr Sean McNamara. Poor guy. Unforgettable airs on OSN every Sunday at 9pm.