The actor talks about his hit new NBC drama and much more.
Christian Slater is back on the small screen with an interesting role in duality on NBC's My Own Worst Enemy. We were in on a conference call with Slater to talk about this new series and here's what he had to say.
Christian, this is quite an acting exercise because you get to do two very different characters. And what I was kind of wondering is there ever a point where they just jump together? Are you able to pretty much do - focus all day on Henry or focus all day on Edward, or are you jumping back and forth from one minute to another when you're shooting the scenes?
Christian Slater: Yeah, we are - you know, I think in the first episode it was pretty specific, you know, who I was playing on what particular day. But as we've moved on, you know, we've gotten to do a lot of fun things and the other personality starts coming on in the midst of being in the middle of like a fight or something like that - you know, having a hand-to-hand fist combat with a guy on a train and starting to feel the other character coming out who doesn't really know anything about fighting. So it's been - that's been challenging and fun.
That's cool. And are the two so embedded in you by now that you can easily jump from one to the other or is that still a hard thing to do - to...
Christian Slater: Well, you know, as, you know, we peel the layers of this onion and continue to delve deeper and deeper into these characters I think I'm going to continually be discovering new things. And the writers - it feels like they're just unleashed and coming up with a lot of interesting and creative scenarios and situations to put both of these characters into. So, you know, for me it's a continual process of discovery.
Were the dual personalities the aspect of this that made it irresistible to you? Which is to say if the show were only about Edward and not Henry would it have been - would it have done it for you?
Christian Slater: I think the dual personality aspect was certainly something that I enjoyed about this particular script. I thought the title was great fun. I thought, you know, taking the Jekyll and Hyde type of premise and, you know, of putting that sort of angel and devil on your shoulder sort of scenario - theme and blowing it out into such an extreme way was something that was very identifiable and very interesting.
Are you a fan of the genre of spy movies?
Christian Slater: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
And do you have a favorite?
Christian Slater: Well yeah, I love Sean Connery. I grew up watching all of, you know, his films as Bond and I love Daniel Craig and think he's a great Bond. So I have - yeah, I've traditionally always loved this genre.
You know, looking at all the shows that have premiered this season, I really thought that yours, you know, was sort of head and shoulders in terms of the production value, the action, the storyline. Is that sort of what you wanted or is that sort of what you needed if you were going to commit to a television series?
Christian Slater: Well, you know, it's always a risk and a gamble whatever project you get involved with. But I can honestly say - I mean, Ben Silverman and Terry Weinberg, and Katie O'Connell really kept up their end of the agreement. They told me that each week they were going to try and put a movie on TV every week and as far as I can tell the production value and the things we've been able to do have been extraordinary. And the crew and the team that is assembled is beyond first class. So it's like to show up to work everyday is a phenomenal pleasure.
I'm just wondering, you know, is it fun for you and how much do you think it sort of plays to your acting strengths?
Christian Slater: I mean is it fun for me? It's like I mean we were shooting stuff yesterday, you know, running through these dark corridors and, you know, having a gun battle. And it does go back a little bit to being a kid playing in my backyard, I'll be honest with you. And I enjoyed doing it then and I certainly enjoy doing it now. And this particular show certainly provides me the ability to, you know, do the two very distinct personalities. So on every level it's a unique and interesting challenge.
I know one of your characters, you know, is this intense operative and he speaks many, many languages.
Christian Slater: Yes.
So I am wondering, you know, how many languages you actually speak in real life and if you had to, you know, fake it until you made it as far as languages go on the series?
Christian Slater: Yeah, some - well, you know, they - as far as the series goes they, you know, have brought in dialect coaches and, you know, they give me - they record the stuff on CD and give it to me with enough time to sort of prepare and get ready. And the languages that we're tackling so far have been Russian and a little Chinese, and some German.
Is there one that's particularly hard?
Christian Slater: Well I guess it's all about listening. You know, I try and just listen to the specifics in what the teacher is telling me to do and get the details as much as possible. And so it's specifics and repetition. That is really the trick so far that I've discovered to kind of get a sense of what the languages are.
Your show is going to be running on Monday nights and you've got a great lead in with very popular (fan base) genre shows in Heroes and Chuck. And just wondering what would you say to that audience to convince them to stick around and check out your show? And what do you think your show offers to the comic book fans?
Christian Slater: Well this show has so many, I think, phenomenal twists and turns. I think we'll continue to keep audiences guessing. You know, we have continual storylines and I think some characters that are very well developed and are in the process of being developed, and some really great actors. I mean, James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard, and Saffron Burrows, and Madchen Amick - they're all just very, very interesting characters. And I hope people enjoy it as much as I'm enjoying making it.
Is there a key to - are there different keys to playing Henry and to playing Edward for you? Is there something different you're tapping into to get those two to be separate?
Christian Slater: Yeah I mean, there are subtle differences and I think, you know, certainly some specific emotional differences between the characters. As we've gone along we've discovered a lot of ways, I think, to -- in a very subtle fashion -- make some clear distinctions between the two characters. But, you know, I think Henry is certainly a character who is much more in touch with his heart and certainly a much more compassionate character. I mean, Edward is without a doubt, the opposite end of that spectrum. And, you know, we come to discover Henry is in a way specifically created - not that I want to give anything away really why he was specifically created, but as we delve deeper into the story, you will see what the purpose and reasoning for Henry's existence is. I don't know if I answered that question. It's a hard...
You get in touch with the warmer parts of yourself to play Henry and the colder parts of yourself to play Edward?
Christian Slater: Absolutely, yeah.
Grossly oversimplifying it.
Christian Slater: Yeah, but that would be in the easiest, simplest fashion to say that would be the case, yes.
You've done guest starring spots on other television shows but now you're not just the star of this show, you're actually two stars of this show. So how has that been for your work life and to that life balance that you've got?
Christian Slater: Well I mean for me, I love to - when I go to work I love to work. I don't - I always - it's difficult when you show up to work and you end up sitting in a trailer all day and you feel like wow, you know, what was the point of this, you know? So for this I can honestly say I haven't spent a lot of time hanging out, sitting still. It's been like jumping on board of a very fast-moving train and, you know, just hanging on and keeping up, and enjoying the ride as much as possible. And it - there is a lot of bouncing back and forth and a lot of twists and turns. And it just - it never stops moving. And I seem to really respond to that kind of atmosphere.
I was wondering who you're most like, who you'd probably be friends with, who you like to play the most or who is easier to play?
Christian Slater: Well it's been interesting as we've gone along. I think in the beginning when I first, you know, read the pilot and we were - we started filming, you know, I thought gosh you know, I really want to be Edward. You know, Edward is this, you know, "cool guy," tough guy. And as we've gone along, I've discovered that I really like Henry and find him to be, you know, a very relatable character, a very human guy. And I'm certainly enjoying, as we go along, discovering more and more things about that particular character. And for me, hopefully I'm - well I don't ever want to be the extreme of Edward so I'm somewhere in the middle between the two. But if I could hang out with on in particular I'd probably feel a lot safer with Henry.
As a long time move actor what do you like or dislike about the storytelling differences with working in television?
Christian Slater: Well I mean, it's a phenomenal experience to come in every eight days and, you know, be handed a new script and, you know, see the direction that things are going and the questions that are being answered. You know, for me as an actor having done theater and having done movies, it's like you show up and you get to tell that one whole complete story within two hours that night or over a certain period of time - 30 days or however many days it takes to make the movie. You know, with this it is a continual unfolding journey and it really is up to the writers and how creative and clever, and interesting they're feeling and willing to be. And I can honestly say I mean, John Eisendrath and the direction he's been taking the show, I couldn't be more excited or - you know, it makes me laugh. It makes me - it's fun to sit in the read-through's and hear the other actors go oh my goodness, you know, because they haven't read the scripts yet. So it's fun to hear that they're genuinely surprised.
I was just wondering are you going to cover all of those 13 languagues during the season?
Christian Slater: I can imagine that there will be hints and glimpses of the languages that he speaks. I mean obviously, you know, I will do my best to the best of my ability to give the writers specifically what they want. And I will work as hard as I possibly can to achieve and make Edward as believable and realistic as possible. But, you know, it's going to be a challenge. And I think I wouldn't have responded to the material if it weren't going to be as challenging as it is.
So do you think we could see some arguing with one of them speaking not English?
Christian Slater: I think it's a possibility, sure.
How much creative input do you have into Edward and Henry?
Christian Slater: As we've gone along and I've worked with the directors and with John Eisendrath, it's been great. The relationship - if I have a question about a particular moment or a particular scene, or feel like a particular action would be more Edwardian -- that's kind of the word that we've come up with now -- or Henry-esque, the directors and John have been very, very happy to hear the suggestion. And often at times have incorporated it into the script.
Just story wise, is your home life going to get pulled into more of the spy world or the, you know, the other side because I just assume these images of Madchen Amick, you know, doing these kind of adventure-esque scenes, you know - like she gets pulled into things where she doesn't know what she's doing either.
Christian Slater: She's - I mean, working with her I tell you it's one of the greatest experiences of my life. She is just - I don't know - I love her. I mean the chemistry that I feel with her is just - it's very special. And I certainly look forward to whatever the writers do have in mind. I mean, I can tell you yes I mean, of course there are going to be some very interesting things and scenarios for her to have to deal with and for me to have to deal with as far as relationships go and, you know, dealing with a marriage and this kind of extreme circumstance.
I was struck by the fact that both Edward and Henry seem to be surrounded by a group of women who take care of him. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about working with the women in the cast, specifically Alfre Woodard, but also the woman who plays your assistant and your wife, obviously - Henry's wife?
Christian Slater: Yeah. Well Alfre is - she's certainly a phenomenally strong actress and is great, and is I think, a perfect matriarch for this, you know, for this kind of environment. And she carries herself with great authority. And what can I say? I mean, she's just - she's a powerful actress so I'm glad that she's kind of the one holding the leash on Edward and Henry. And Saffron Burrows is - couldn't be a better therapist. She's intelligent and sharp, and I think emotionally a very, very strongly developed character. And Madchen is just full of life and I think really represents a great deal of the heart and soul of the story, and what keeps Henry and Edward grounded.
I'm curious if you do anything physically different when you're playing the two characters, just either in the way you carry yourself or the sort of look you try and adopt, or anything like that?
Christian Slater: I mean there's nothing specifically that I try to do with the look unless it is more - I think it's more in my emotional state. Hopefully it's more in my eyes. I can tell you that Edward prefers to have his suit jacket buttoned and Henry is open.
Can you say anymore about James Cromwell's role?
Christian Slater: Yeah. James Cromwell plays a character called (Trumble) who really is, I would say, the head of the organization. He is the big boss of the organization, kind of overseeing everything.
I was wondering, obviously Henry and Edward don't really know that one another exists. Do you think there are going to be clues along the way that they find that kind of gives them a heads-up that something is not quite right?
Christian Slater: Well yeah, I think in the - in this first episode it's called Breakdown and the microchip that is implanted into Edward's brain has started to break down. And the two personalities are beginning to merge and a lot of chaos starts to ensue. And, you know, they do find different ways to communicate with each other and, you know, writing signs on each other's hands so when they do come to they can see what they've been up to. And as the show develops they find much more technological ways to stay informed.
Do you think if this show is a hit that either Henry or Edward will get their own show?
Christian Slater: That would be interesting to see a spin-off. Yeah, in (unintelligible) or direction. We'll see what happens.
Was there something outside of the quality of the script that kind of made you think this would be a good time to kind of plant my feet in TV for a couple of years or hopefully many years?
Christian Slater: I think it was the enthusiasm and passion initially displayed by Ben Silverman and Terry Weinberg, and Katie O'Connell that got me so excited about this particular opportunity. And also the people on my team, (Tracy Brennan) and a whole - (Michael Catcher), everybody was very, very enthusiastic.
I wanted to ask about the stunt work. Are you doing a lot of the stunt work and have you been training with weapons and stuff like that?
Christian Slater: Yeah, yeah, they've been great about getting me involved. We've got a great stuntman, (Ian) - I wish I could give you his last name right now. I can't think of it. But he's fantastic. I've got a great stunt double who's fantastic. But for me I enjoy getting involved in the fights. I love doing it. I, you know, took Kempo Karate for two and a half years and I just started to go back again because I would like to get my black belt. I'm two belts away from getting my black belt personally. So I'd like to continue to do that and incorporate as much of what I know into the movements that Edward is capable of doing.
And also weapons training, have you been doing that kind of stuff, too?
Christian Slater: Yeah, yeah, we've been working with the guns and a lot of - yeah. I mean, they - we've went in and ran around with the guns and we haven't done so many things with like weapons or swords although I did have a good fight the other day with a pair of handcuffs that went well.
Christian, let me ask you this - what's been your biggest challenge handling two characters that are so diverse?
Christian Slater: It is, you know, it has been an interesting process I think for everybody discovering how to make the characters transition and how to make them switch. And, you know, I've done and continue to do my part in trying to make it as clear and distinctive, and relatable as possible. So - but it's a challenge, you know. It's a challenge to be coming into a scene one way and exiting another, and seeing the differences in, you know, in how I carry myself and how I behave, and how I identify with things emotionally.
My Own Worst Enemy airs Monday nights at 10 PM ET on NBC.