MBC’s latest police drama is a little out of the ordinary. The premise is that a psychic, by chance, becomes a consultant for the California Bureau in an aim to find the killer of his wife and daughter. Yet he’s not really psychic, just very observant, and the cops don’t seem to mind as long as he keeps solving cases. Aussie actor Simon Baker, who plays frontman Patrick Jane, dishes the dirt.
What appealed to you about the show?
It’s a procedural show that has a bit of a wink at itself. I’m Australian, so I grew up watching US and English crime TV shows such as Prime Suspect and Cracker. They were superior because they were about characters. American TV series such as Columbo and Kojak and The Streets of San Fransisco were procedural shows, but character-based. You remembered the characters and you identified with them, and you wanted to see the characters in these procedures. I was reluctant going in to The Mentalist because I didn’t want to end up on a show that was reduced to procedure and no character – it’s death to anything creative for me. But as soon as I spoke to [creator] Bruno Heller, we hit common ground. We have a very similar sensibility and sense of humour.
Why are procedural dramas so successful at the moment?
I think people like the idea of watching an hour of television and getting that closure.
What was it like building the character of Patrick Jane?
It’s very tricky when you’re establishing a character on a TV show that is potentially going to run for five years. You want to approach it by asking how the character identifies himself in an immediate way, how he’s going to be different from the other characters on the show how you keep him that way without limiting the possibilities, both dramatically and comedically while you’re playing him. I did a show called The Guardian for three years – it was a very complex character and I really like that. I don’t believe that just because it’s TV you have to play one-dimensional characters. So I fiddled with Bruno with my ideas of how to play things. By the end of the pilot this character can go in so many different directions in so many different circumstances, so I don’t get bored as an actor.
We hear that your wife, Rebecca Rigg, guest-stars in one of the episodes…
She plays a wacky actress. It’s a fun little role and we haven’t worked together since just after we first met. We’ve done scenes together and it’s good, although the first day was a little weird.
The Mentalist airs on Saturdays at 10pm on MBC Action