I had the opportunity to participate in a media conference call with the stars of Law & Order Criminal Intent (USA), Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe. The group asked both of them quite a few good questions. Both Vincent and Kathryn were very gracious and very open with their answers, and I believe that everyone was very appreciative of both of them taking the time for the conference call.
(Don’t forget, the season premiere ”Playing Dead” airs this Sunday at 9:00 PM on USA.)
I listed my specific questions first; there were quite a few other people ahead of me that asked some of the same questions I had on my list. I guess Law & Order Criminal Intent fans are all on the same page.
I asked, outside their roles of Law & Order Criminal Intent, in all the work they’ve done, which do they want to be remembered for, and which ones would they rather forget? Vincent said a lot of them, but he didn’t want to name one, he asked if he could just say most of them. He didn't want to insult anyone. Kathryn did name a movie but I promised her I would delete her answer from my “memory banks.” (I bet you can all guess it anyway because it was the first one that came to my mind. )
I also asked Kathryn that since Goren is always portrayed as the unstable genius and the brains of the partnership, and she is there as the dry wit and his conscience, is she OK with this role, and does Eames deserve more respect? Kathryn said that sometimes Eames gets a lot to do and sometimes she doesn’t. She’s fought for her to have more of an impact on the work that they are doing. It’s gone up and down. She likes being the dry wit and she wishes she could do more of that, they humor has gone out of the show. (I told her they needed more episodes like Vanishing Act. )
I also commented that the show seems to have completely dropped the “law” end of the show once Courtney Vance (ADA Carver) left the show, and I asked if that is ever coming back or has that gone by the wayside. Kathryn responded that they miss Courtney - and they haven’t been in court at all this year. Vincent added that it’s been straight out “catch the bad guy” and politics of big corporations and things like that. He said “It never really…as you know it never really focused on that very much anyway, but one of the cool things about having a ADA in the show is that you have to actually answer to somebody. Because there’s this kind of a tension between the captain and the two detectives but there’s a certain kind of tension between the detectives and the assistant district attorney, and that’s fun to play, so we don’t get to do that often any more.”
Here are some of the high points and some interesting tidbits from both Kathryn and Vincent from the entire Q&A session: (By the way, if I am allowed to publish some of the actual call transcript, I will do so when it's completed.)
Nicole Wallace is DEAD. Repeat: DEAD. It’s over. (Kathryn said, “They killed her.”) There seem to be no plans for this story line to continue.
Question: What kind of role does Vincent enjoy the most? He seems to like anything that is interesting – he doesn’t have a dream role, he goes script by script.
With the last season finale, what is Goren’s mental state? Are all his loose ends tied up? Vincent says they never really tie everything up with his and Kathryn’s characters, but they won’t ever shut a story line down completely. Last season was an extreme, this season he’s trying to be a cop, doing the best he can.
It was mentioned that Vincent’s characters goes to some very dark places, and there have been many changes with him since the beginning of the show - what toll does this take on him as a person in his real life? Vincent says it takes a lot of time; it used to take more time before they started sharing episodes with another detective. But Vincent said that the first three years of the show, when they were trying to make the show distinct from the other Law & Orders, that was hard and it was 24-hour job, and it was with him all the time. But they all know how to do it now and it is not as exhausting any more. The hours are long and when they are working they don’t see their families as much as they want, but that’s the job. But he’s been playing Goren too long that it’s not something that stays with him.
What do they do during down time on the set? Kathryn said they eat, read, and she walks her dog. Vincent says they sometimes run their families over the phone, and they try to participate in their lives out of their dressing room.
They have some interesting guest stars this season – Lynn Redgrave, Scott Cohen, Kathy Baker. Vincent says they are very lucky that they get very good actors, whether they are known actors or not. Kathryn added later that they both enjoyed doing a scene in the season premier “Playing Dead” with Scott Cohen and Kathy Baker. It's when when they were in the interrogation room, and Kathy Baker grabbed Scott and pressed him to her chest and tried to comfort him after screaming at him. Kathryn said they were fantastic and it was very twisted. (They both indicated they really enjoyed this scene, so it sounds like we will have an interesting season premiere!)
Vincent said when they started the show, the first 13 scripts were very good, but things were just a blur at that time. He never knew that the show would run this long.
Kathryn was asked what she liked best about her character. She says Eames usually has the right thing to say, she’s straightforward, and doesn’t seem to have difficulty making choices – nothing like herself in real life. She rarely knows the right thing to say. Eames seems to have infinite courage and she’s strong all the item, and knows what to do all the time. Eames is a strong woman in a tough and scary job.
What got them started in acting? Vincent said his dad introduced him to acting at a young age as he belonged to a community theatre and Vincent use to run lights and sound there. He didn’t think of acting until he was about 18, and he just thought he’d try it out. It was just in his life. He’s glad he gave acting school in Manhattan a try and caught the bug.
How did they manage to stay interested and stay on the show so long? Is it the characters, the comfort zone, or the big checks? They both said it’s the combination of all three. Vincent says he has a lot of creative freedom because of Law & Order, on the show and with this own time to do other films and anything he wants. Kathryn says it gives them structure for their lives. Kathryn said she was ready to give up acting because she couldn’t handle never knowing when she would have a paycheck or where the job would take her, and with children it that would be too hard a life. She said it’s an amazing experience to now work with the same people for that length of time, and knowing their families. It’s different than the "crash and burn" going from one job to another and never knowing where you are going to be when. It’s much more stable.
When they were asked about Eric Bogosian this season, they responded that he is doing a lot this season. Kathryn said they just found him in the woods with a girl in the rain last night. (They are talking about a case, of course!) Vincent Kathryn added that he will come out a lot more this season that he has in the past.
What would Vincent and Kathryn like to have happen between their characters this season? Kathryn is happy because this season they are back on the same page and the same team, and she really likes that, although it does make for a more interesting show when they are at odds or going in a different direction. Vincent agreed – and said there really is nothing left to argue about but if the writers can come up with another conflict it would be cool to do.
When asked if either of them would be interested in writing or directing for the show, Vincent quickly answered no, and Kathryn added she doesn’t think she would either - "not writing, definitely not writing.” When asked if they had anything coming up, Kathryn commented that Vincent did “like 17 movies during the hiatus” (directed, starred). Vincent spoke about starting a new genre, a “Slasher Musical” film that he just finished and he’s taking to LA in a week to find a new distributor. This movie is titled “Don’t Go In The Woods.” Vincent also mentioned his recent movies “The Narrows” and “Staten Island” where he acted. Kathryn also has a movie with Edie Falco and Elias Koteas titled “Three Back Yards.”
They were asked about the end of the last season in the scene where Declan Gage said he murdered Nicole to free Goren, and Goren had a look on his face that he got it. Will this really free the character because of his action? Vincent was glad that the person saw it that way, because that’s how he wanted it to be viewed, as a freeing thing to treat this new season as fresh. He said that was what was interesting about this kind of storytelling is the audience and fans of the show will know this and other things that happened to Goren in previous seasons. It is a part of Goren, and even if they don’t mention it going forward, it is still present, and that’s the guy that they are watching that went through all these things.
They were asked about the writing switch. Vincent says it is always tough when they switch writers, it’s a learning experience. They do their best to contribute and make sure it’s the best show they can, but they get thrown curve balls like a new writing crew and the writers have to get it right and get it right fairly quickly. It’s tough and it takes a while, but they are all talented people and everybody’s scripts are getting better and better, and there are great things about this season already and it looks like a good season so far.