The actor talks about working on the show, plus his new roles in Ghost Rider and David Fincher's Zodiac

Donal Logue is one of those actors that you've seen in a bevy of movies, you love his work and yet you have a hard time remembering who is. This isn't because Mr. Logue is forgettable it's just that he plays his roles in such a convincing fashion, it's seems almost hard to separate the man from his characters. With upcoming parts in the Nicolas Cage starrer Ghost Rider, and David Fincher's highly anticipated Zodiac, Logue seems poised to break out yet again.

Recently, we had a chance to talk with Donal about one of the roles he had that really introduced him to the public at large. As Sean Finnerty on Grounded For Life, Logue broke ground portraying a father for the new millennium. Aided by a terrific cast, this show was a hit and ran for four years. With the recent release of the season one set on DVD, Logue reflected on not only the show but on his career as a whole.

Who were some of the influences that you brought to the Sean Finnerty character in Grounded For Life?

Me, myself and I. Well, I would have to say that Sean really was a lot of me. There were times when I felt that for the purposes of comedy, Sean's reactions to things would be a lot different than mine. For instance, a real Irish Catholic wouldn' t find it cute or funny that his wife had had a relationship with his best friend in high school who had since become a priest. I think the writers underestimated the depth and depravity of Catholic jealousy and possesiveness. Since my parents were right off the boat Irish people, Sean and Claudia were more the American version, three generations removed.

As probably the first new millennium father that I can remember being on TV (who wasn't a baby boomer and who himself was very much a kid), did you realize you were putting something across on TV that hadn't been seen before?

I think that we intentionally went out and wanted to make something that was unique, and unique in the sense that it didn't find its humor in the parents being intentionally bad or neglectful, but the contrary, parents who really tried to do the right thing (whether they did or not is anther story). My older sister had a child when she was at the end of high school, as did many of my friends, so I thought it was absurd that people thought a thirtysomething with teenagers was Hollywood fantasy.

I have read that you really love writing, how much input did you have with the direction that the show's creators wanted to go with the Sean Finnerty character?

I had a tremendous amount of influence and that isn't because I am necessarily that creative, I just think that Mike Schiif, Bill Martin, Jim O'Doherty and David Israel (and the other writers, for that matter) really just wanted me to be comfortable and never were so controlling that they weren't collaborative. It couldn't have been a better opportunity from my perspective.

Where do you think Sean Finnerty falls in the lexicon of TV Dads? How would you describe him to someone using that language? Is he more Archie Bunker than Ward Cleaver? More Cliff Huxtable than Mike Brady?

He is definitely more of me than any of those dads. I get frustrated with my kids, I screw up, I get pissed off at them because I am actually pissed at myself for some reason and I find myself talking to them about things like that. I don't know if any of those other TV dads felt that realistic to me, they kept their cool or always had the clear cut answer and in truth parenting is a river ride that the parents and kids go on together, us learning to parent as they learn to be kids. We help each other. One thing is important (and Sean did this) and that is it is more crucial to be your child's father than their friend.

Movie PictureI'm excited that this show is finally coming to DVD. How do you feel about it's upcoming release?

I think it is so fantastic that we live in an age in which shows get to have a bigger second and third life on syndication and in DVD release. A lot of people really, really loved Grounded For Life, even though it wasn't necessarily a big Nielsen hit. I imagine it would have been bigger if the ratings took into account college dorms, etc... like it will now. My kids have been watching Grounded For Life and it is hilarious to me to see them watching it and cracking up (and they are five and seven). I am glad we made a run as long as we did, that we have a pretty cool body of episodes, none of which I ever felt were weak.

Can you tell us about your role of Mack in the film Ghost Rider? What was it like working with Nicolas Cage?

Nicolas Cage is far funnier and smarter than I even anticipated (and I thought he would be - based on his performances). We had a ton of laughs, just goofball shit, Tom Jones impressions and stuff. We really hit it off, I think the film will be really cool. I wish we had more to do together, but it was a great experience. It is cool after doing so many small, indie flicks to show up on the set and see fifty brand new eighteen wheelers in a line that Nic (as Johnny Blaze) is supposed to jump. We would have full stadiums hooked up, I thought "Wow, it is cool what you can do wih a massive budget."

What about the character of Ken Narlow in the upcoming Zodiac movie directed by David Fincher? Is there one specific thing that you learned as an actor, that you think you'll carry with you for the rest of your career, having worked with him?

David Fincher is a perfectionist and perhaps the smartest director (or I should say, the most intelligent and intellectual in a John Frankenheimer kind of way) that I have ever worked with. What is great about him is that he surrounds you with things, from the furniture you are sitting on, to the crime report in the folder in front of you, that is exactly like it would have been if you were actually back in the investigation itself. It is hard to describe, but if you open your prop briefcase and the crime photos are real - you just can't help but be the person you are supposed to be, in my case, Ken Narlow, the Sheriff in Napa who handled he Zodiac Lake Barryessa murders. He is a bit of a celluloid idol of mine and not to say that John Schlesinger, Mike Newell, Oliver Stone, Wim Wenders and Terrence Malick aren't (and I loved working with them), there is something about David that is as amazing as those men artistically, but he also feels like your best friend from college in a way.

Lastly, can you describe the concept for your new TV show, Steal Jeff Goldblum's Money? It sounds hilarious!

It probably won't be the great Jeff Goldblum (we shall see who it ends up being) but the concept is basically a guy who is a janitor, is fed up busting his ass, cleaning floors for other people and living a life that clearly will never pay dividends. The straw that breaks the camel's back is when he watches a celebrity on Cribs talk about his seven thousand dollar pair of shoes. He decides to do something with his life and it entails stealing from this materialistic celebrity. He gets together a gang of like- minded men, guys who are janitors, doormen, cab drivers, the people that most people look past everyday, except we are plotting serious crime (well as serious as us bumblers can be). It was developed by Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman (from the Late Show and Ed) and Dave Letterman is executive producing. It is going to be hysterical because of Rob and Jon's writing and comic sensibilities. I used to do comedy bits on Letterman ten years ago and we were always trying to find something to do together and this is finally it.

Did you have any idea when you attended Harvard that you would end up where you are today in the world of Film and Television?

I thought I would be doing something with my life that would be of some service to other people. I thought it would be in the field of diplomacy, but if goofball comedy is of any value, than I am glad. I actually didn't start acting until half way through college and was a History major, so I never really thought about acting as a career until I think I was deep into my twenties and I thought, "Well, I guess this is what I do now." I want to retire in a few years and teach history or write or something though.

Grounded For Life: Season 1 is on DVD shelves everywhere right now! CLICK HERE to read our review!

Cinemark Movie Club
Evan Jacobs