Mark Valley Becomes a Human Target
"Human Target comes back with its first new episode in nearly a month on Wednesday, March 10 at 8 PM ET on Fox with the episode Salvage & Reclamation. The star of the new series, Mark Valley, recently held a conference call to discuss the return of this series to the lineup, and here's what he had to say.
It seems like the next couple of episodes deal with Christopher's history with women. Can you talk about that, and maybe since you've done so many awesome things so far this year, what do you have in store for the finale?
Mark Valley: Yes, the next episode you're going to see on the 10th is, yes, on de Salvage & Reclamation, Chance goes back to visit one of his old flames because he's got a case and someone he has to protect and some things they have to find, and that one's pretty fascinating. That's starring Leonor Varela, who's just a fantastic Chilean actress that came and did that. That episode is a little more of a stand-alone episode, and it does give you a glimpse into Chance's past, into his past with this particular woman. You get an idea of what his previous jobs might have been, but it doesn't really, it's more of a stand-alone episode than something that kind of ties all the rest of the characters together historically. The next episode after that is going to be a little more of, "Baptiste" is going to explain a little bit more about Chance's past. Not much about his past with women, but it's going to change more about his past.
So what's in store for the season finale?
Mark Valley: Well, in the season finale, Baptiste comes back. Amy Acker shows up and plays this one character who is very pivotal in Chance's past in that she was sort of the catalyst for his ultimate change into becoming Christopher Chance. Lee Majors is in that episode. Armand Assante plays Chance's old boss. There's a couple of major confrontations there. I think, what's fun, is Jackie Earle Haley and I have our first fight, even though it takes place in the past, but you can see the roots of their relationship and why they have such a trusting bond as well.
So, when did you realize that you had lightning in a bottle with the chemistry between you and Jackie Earle Haley and Chi McBride. When did they come into this project? I'm sure you probably got the script first and then they were added. I was wondering if you could explain that.
Mark Valley: Yes, I got the script first. I was the first one cast, I know that. I think we all realized that we had something pretty amazing when we were shooting in downtown Vancouver, the pilot scene, I think it was the very end of the episode, it wasn't the end of shooting but it was the end of the episode, and rarely are the three of us together in any episode, but in this instance we were. We were getting ready to set up a shot and we were sitting in the back, all sitting in our chairs, and the three of us started talking as actors do, and just realized, my God, we all come from completely different places in terms of parts of the country and experience in the industry and so forth, and the three of us just kind of clicked. The thing that I liked about both of them is that I was just really kind of curious about them and wanted to get to know them better and thought both of them were really kind of interesting. And I think that the three of us sort of had that feeling about each of us, which is kind of cool and rare as well. And I think that kind of shows up on the screen. And maybe viewers will also want to wonder, how did they meet up, or how did they come together, and what was their history?
What I love about it is that every show is a little bit different.
Mark Valley: Yes, they're like their own individual movies that are tied together somehow.
Yes, that's got to be part of what really did it for you originally, right? That every show is going to be a different kind of story, not the same story over in a new way.
Mark Valley: Yes, that's what attracted me about it. It was obvious that each episode was going to feel like a movie. It was going to be a lot of work with the director, putting a show together in pretty intense circumstances. And it's something that hasn't really been done in a while, if not ever before.
I know that you cannot possibly take risk taking and thrill seeking to the extreme that Chance does, otherwise they would, well, they wouldn't even let you do the show if you were that much of a daredevil, but how much of a daredevil do you ever allow yourself to be? What are some of the more outrageous adventures that you might have taken? Have you ever jumped out of planes for fun, or any of those things?
Mark Valley: Yes, I've done that. Well, I haven't quite done as much of that as I have. I'm a little more into now taking calculated risks. I like to mountain climb and that's really, the better prepared you are, the safer it is. I don't just run out and climb a mountain with a T-shirt on, you know? That would be kind of foolhardy. There are some inherent risks, you know, with mountaineering and stuff, but yes, I generally like to be well prepared. I have parachuted. I did it in the Army and I also did it trying to get my certification to parachute down in Paris Island. I did it a few times, and that was pretty exciting, but for the most part, I'd say now the biggest risk I take is probably every once in a while I forget to put my seatbelt on. That's about the limit of it right now.
The producers of the show probably are happy about that because you'd be uninsurable otherwise, right?
Mark Valley: Right, or at least I don't tell them about it.
I want to know, how much has your military training helped you with acting, especially with Human Target?
Mark Valley: It's funny, because they lay out all these weapons and they talk about the ammunition and so forth and its effectiveness, and, you know, we worked with weapons obviously in the Army, and that made it, but it's actually something you can pick up pretty quickly. I'd say there are other aspects of it that are similar. The hand-to-hand fighting, I learned a little bit of that in the Army, and boxing and wrestling and that sort of thing. But I think for the most part it's working as team, working as a team under extraneous circumstances with a limited amount of time to get something done. That's probably the biggest experience I got from the Army that applies to this job because we're really making a movie in eight days, and that's an awful lot of work that has to be done. So, yes, it's sort of that kind of teamwork and camaraderie that I experienced in the Army that seems to be showing up again here in this show.
Now, so far, you've had cases in L.A., Canada, Russian Embassy, the airplane, and now South America. Is there anywhere in particular that you'd like to see Chance travel?
Mark Valley: I would like to see Chance go to Paris. I'd like to see him go to London. We do go to London in one episode. What else? Africa, I think, would be kind of an interesting place. There's all kinds of places he could go. Somewhere down south, maybe Texas. I'd love to do an episode that was sort of a quasi-Western in some way. That would be interesting. There's Vietnam and all these other places in Asia that he could go and there's things going on in China. That would be interesting. You name it. Well, there's the second season, there. And also the cool thing about this cast and the writers we have is, maybe we could even write an episode that takes place inside a contained area, like the airplane episode, for example. We really didn't go anywhere for that. That all took place inside the fuselage of an airplane, so maybe we'll be doing something like that as well.
Now you mentioned Lee Majors in the finale. I just want to know, what other guest stars can we expect to see in the second half of the season?
Mark Valley: Well, we're going to see - I'm pretty excited about Lee Majors - but you're going to see Armand Assante. He comes on as my old boss, that one that Chance is talking about - you never met my old boss. So, I finally met my old boss which was fascinating. He's an interesting guy, a wonderful actor and I'm just really excited that he's on the show. And then there's this litany of beautiful, talented women that have come on the show. Amy Ackers in the finale - she plays this really pivotal character in Chance's life. Grace Park is in an episode called "Corner Man." Moon Bloodgood is in one - I forget the name of the episode, they changed it. But Moon Bloodgood is showing up. Leonor Varela is in "Sanctuary," a beautiful and talented Chilean actress who really, just kind of, made this one episode look and feel like a movie. She just came in and completely took on this character of this ex-revolutionary who lives down in South America, an ex-lover of Chance. She was just fabulous. Lenny James from Jericho has come on and he's playing Chance's nemesis named Baptiste, who is probably the most talented assassin who's still out there working for hire, and he and Chance come to blows in the episode called "Baptiste" and also in the finale. And of course, Emmanuelle Vaugier comes back in another episode that I don't think you've seen yet. She's in the episode "Baptiste." She's still an FBI agent and Chance and Chi and Jackie kind of figure out a way to enlist her help. Also, Autumn Reeser comes back as well. She sort of has a recurring role on our show, and she was in the show about the building that blew up, I think, the kind of Die Hard-esque episode. And she's coming to help us out.
I wanted to find out if you could tell us what, perhaps, were some of the acting challenges you found first stepping into this role, and then how have you seen the "Chance" character grow and develop in the episodes you've shot so far?
Mark Valley: It's funny, when I first read the script, it is based on a comic book character, and there are certain things that comic book characters can get away with that regular actors can't really do that's that believable. One is to hold a pose for a long period of time. Like, to look concerned like you're in a comic book. So, there was that. It sort of had a feel of a comic book so there was a challenge of trying to find a way to bring a real person into this. It wasn't written in any sort of hyper reality. I mean, John's writing is very, sort of, there is like a kind of casual thing that can exist in it, so it's not that hard to kind of do it, it's not complete melodrama or anything. That was the biggest challenge. Reading it and enjoying it like it could have been a comic book and then thinking, okay, wait a second, this is me now. How am I going to do this? It's kind of hard to explain but that was the biggest one. And maybe picturing all the other people who could do better at it and thinking, okay, I'm going to do this? Wait a second. I think the guy in the comic book looks better. Thanks, though, I'm enjoying it.
As far as the development of Chance, how have you seen your character grow and develop in the episodes you've shot so far?
Mark Valley: Well, personally, just me, the way I've grown is that I've become much more comfortable with some of the action and fighting scenes and the way Chance's relationship with the other characters is starting to become a little bit more clear. His relationship with Jackie and with Chi is becoming a little big more clear to me. The way Chance is developing? I'd say that he is starting to come to terms with his past. He made a big change in his life about 6-8 years prior to the present that we have now on the show. And I think the reality of why he made that choice and the repercussions that it's going to have is starting to come back to him, so essentially his baggage is starting to arrive. I think he did about six years ago and Chance is having to open up some old wounds and some old changes that he went through and just to see exactly how that affects him now.
Well, a lot of shows spend their first season throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Do you feel like Human Target has found its groove, and if so, was there a particular moment for you when you felt like it really clicked?
Mark Valley: I think they've been throwing me against a wall for 11 episodes. I'm just joking, it's a joke actually. I think I've been throwing all of Vancouver's stuntmen against the wall to see what sticks. What was the question again?
Do you think Human Target has found its groove and if so, was there a particular moment when you felt like it really clicked for you?
Mark Valley: I think when it really clicked for me was probably the episode "Rewind" where we didn't have a lot of locations and didn't have a lot of big set pieces going on. It all took place in an airplane and you got an idea of, okay, very simply, this is something that has to get done in this plane. And it was broken down and all our characters were - well, Chi and I were in the same location shooting as well, which is kind of cool. I think that episode ended the pace that we came up with and that we realized we could work at. I think it was the second or third episode we did. The pace that we came up with and the shorthand that we all developed with the crew and with the cameras and with the actors - it was pretty amazing the result that came out of that. And then we realized oh, wow, this is what we can do. We can make a movie in eight days. Uh-oh, we have ten more to do. That was probably the one point where I realized, oh wow, we've got something here.
Did you have a vision for what you expected the show to be when you first came on board, and has it lived up to that?
Mark Valley: I didn't have a pretty clear vision of how it would be. I'd been on shows before that have been new and with this one, not only is the show new and Chi is kind of new to the - I'm new to this genre - even the show runners are sort of new to this, so I went into it with an open mind thinking this is going to be exciting as to how it's going to come together. And it has, and in the best of ... it is sort of a collaboration in some ways where everybody's influence is, kind of, if not heard, then it's felt and it's reacted to and the end product is something that everybody feels a part of. So, that's kind of what I went into. I think it's exceeded - it's a little more tiring than I thought it would be. Actually, no, it's the other way around. I'm not quite as exhausted as I thought I would be. Does that make any sense?
I wanted to ask, how do you balance comedy and drama on the show? Particularly in your performance as well, you always seem to bring the humor to parts where other people wouldn't, but it doesn't get too serious either. How do you guys manage that?
Mark Valley: That's something that I really love to do is to find the light moments. A lot of it depends on the scene and the person you're working with and where the jokes can come in or where it seems appropriate, where it doesn't seem appropriate. There's a few elements that come into that. And, of course, there's the way the scene is written as well. I generally prefer to - maybe it's my background on a soap opera where there were no jokes at all. It was all just complete melodrama and I wanted parts of it to be funny so I just remember searching and combing through it and saying, "well, there's this moment or that moment." It might have been my experience on a soap where I was just so hungry for something to be funny that I developed, maybe, a perceptive eye for it.
What's it like to play a lead character when you don't have all the pieces of the background? Is that more difficult for you at all?
Mark Valley: Well, it's definitely easier to have some of the pieces. It's definitely somewhat of an advantage to have a little more of an idea because as actors, we do create characters and create things and create things in our imagination but ultimately we're an interpretive artist and we're interpreting what the writers have created. Some people will say that doesn't matter. If it's not in the script, it doesn't really exist so don't make a big deal about it, but I think in television it's a little bit different. Yes, it would be nice to know - there's two sides of that. It would be nice to know it ahead of time because then, maybe I could plan a scene or have that in mind if this might have happened before, but it's pretty exciting to find it out as you go along with the rest of the viewers. So, not only are you working on a show and acting in it, but it's also fun to be experiencing it as a viewer as well and finding out things as they reveal themselves.
I was wondering, was there any particular scene that didn't come across quite the way you thought it would?
Mark Valley: I have to say that the - let's see, no, but there was a scene that did probably come off the way I thought it would, which is the one with the spider in the back of the wagon. I didn't think it was funny when we did it, and I don't think it's funny now. The spider gag, I just don't think it worked, I hate to break it to you. Other scenes that have turned out differently? I think there was one with Jackie Earle Haley that I had the other night, where Chance decides not to - well, I don't want to spoil anything for anybody, but there's a real important, kind of flashback to a scene between Chance and Guerrero where they're fighting each other to the death, almost, and you find out a lot about their past and that relationship. That scene ended up being much more intense but moving as well than I imagined it to be.
You may have already answered this but, I was just wondering, how much of the comics did you actually read in preparing for the role because, obviously, the show is very different?
Mark Valley: Yes, yes. I read about four or five of the previous comics, the original DC comics, and then I read all of the Vertigo ones, the graphic novel ones.
Okay, and obviously the difference is, sort of, the loss of the master of disguise thing. Is that ever going to make an appearance, do you think?
Mark Valley: Nobody's ruled it out. Nobody's left it out there. I know John's attitude was like, let's start the show where you get to know the central character before we start dressing him up and having him come out as Dabney Coleman. So, that was his idea. Chance does have an aptitude with languages and my theory with that is he doesn't use any more than is necessary. I mean, he doesn't wear a mustache or wear glasses or anything if it's not really necessary, or really become that other person unless it's absolutely necessary to do that. He's been able to get away with it by playing somebody close to them or somebody near them or so forth, because those rubber masks can get really warm. Yes, that was an adaptation, I think, but that's not to rule that out. I look sort of like Thomas Jane. If that show on HBO doesn't work ... episode, I could be him from a distance, you know.
I was wondering if you'd modeled Chance at all on any particular character, actor, seems like almost a throwback to the old '60s,'70s, like Clint Eastwood - the strong, silent type.
Mark Valley: You know, it's funny, with Chance as a lawyer, I sort of feel like he could be Brad Chase. There's sort of this coterie of actors' characters that I've played that I could draw on for Chance to use. Sometimes I have, and sometimes I haven't, to any meaningful effect, done that. But, yes, I've sort of based him on - sometimes I think, how would I act if I were in these circumstances and if I could be whoever I wanted to be? How would I deal with it? And I use that. I don't know how much those kind of stars influence me. It's amazing. I could go back and watch Die Hard or Indiana Jones and you see certain moments that these guys did, and you realize, oh my God, that was something. Or watching Lee Majors on the Six Million Dollar Man I think, oh wow, that's where I get that little thing. You never really know, there's so many different influences, I guess. I base it in some ways by a friend of mine that I knew when I was in the Army, in some ways. I knew one guy who kind of had this sort of attitude. And those are things that go into the mix when I first start building a character and then it kind of gets on its own feet and it's moving along. But those have been my influences, I suppose.
You can watch Mark Valley as the Human Target when the show returns to Fox this Wednesday, March 10 at 8 PM ET on Fox.