When you first read the script for The Mentalist what did you think?
I spoke to Bruno Heller [show creator] and he had a good wit about him. He was self deprecating and I identified with that immediately. He was willing to let me have some wiggle room within the script and I don’t mean changing things.
I mean he left bits and pieces for the character off the page so that I could play around with it. And that was kind of an invitation to have a good time. Obviously, with the character, the set of circumstances behind him gave me a lot to work with to try to play a fun character that has a very troubled past.
What about the cast you’re with? As you said, on the page it’s one thing but when you get the people in there, it’s different.
Yeah, it all starts to come to life. And when we were shooting the pilot and the casting was taking place, I landed from Australia in the States two days before we started shooting. So it was quite a quick procedure. And then I was on the set. So you’re just diving in.
But this isn’t really like anything we’ve seen.
No. Well, I personally think that it offers a familiarity for the audience because it deals with all the classic bits of a detective story. It is in the same vein as Sherlock Holmes. But we have a guy that has incredible techniques as a mentalist to be able to observe. And a good sense of humour as well and a lack of regard when it comes to authority. It’s definitely a combination and I think more of a throwback to shows like Columbo and Kojak and the Rockford Files or Quincy, where they’re procedural shows but with really strong characters as well.
It seems like there are endless opportunities for storylines to take you through multiple seasons. Yes. Well, with the crime drama there’s always crimes. So we can carry on and with our show, it presents the crime in a box that we’re all familiar with but you watch the character step outside of that box. So we can’t go anywhere because the character is an un-procedural sort of character in a procedural world of crime fighting.
He is unpredictable. And that’s part of the joy of playing the character. Every time we have a scene, just an interrogation room scene, which the audience has seen for years and years. It’s a desk with one guy in one side and another guy in the other. I can play around and the writers can invent different stuff to throw it into another arena.
What’s the difference between a mentalist and a psychic?
A psychic allegedly has ‘powers’ and a mentalist has honed skills and certain techniques.
Do you believe psychics exist?
Do I believe psychics exist? Well, they’re out there. Is what they’re doing genuine or fraud? All I can say is buyer beware. I’m not here to comment on that.
Did you do any research for this kind of a thing?
You know I spent a lot of time on YouTube. I was pointed in a few different directions by Bruno and he said, ‘Check this guy out, check that guy out. Have a look at this.’ And that opened up a can of worms for me. I wound up doing most of my research with my family because after the first Mentalist clip, I was like, ‘Hey, guys come and look at this.’ And then we sat there just searching for pretty much a day looking at different stuff.
I learned pretty quickly that the key in the research is not necessarily the tricks that they do, but how they perform the tricks. It’s all about the performance. There is an element of showbiz to it. You look like you’re enjoying it. I am!
The Mentalist airs every Friday on MBC Action at 10pm from April 24.