Russell Hornsby talks about playing Hank Griffin in Grimm Season One, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD August 7
When Grimm was picked up by NBC last year, some thought it was in trouble before it even started, with the network deciding to air the show on Friday nights, a time slot where most shows go to die. Instead, Grimm made it self right at home, pulling in solid numbers all year long and getting a Season 2 renewal. The show centers on a Portland detective (David Giuntoli), who discovers he comes from a long line of Grimm's, descendants of the Brothers Grimm, who are tasked with ridding the world of evil creatures. I recently had the chance to speak with Russell Hornsby, who stars as Nick's partner, Hank, for Grimm: Season One, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD August 7. We also spoke about Grimm Season 2 debuting Monday, August 13 at 10 PM ET with "Bad Teeth". Take a look at what he had to say.
I was wondering if you could start by talking about your initial involvement with the show. Were you familiar with the Grimm tales?
Russell Hornsby: I wasn't very familiar with it, besides the Disney version of everything, as they do, but not with the true nature of the Grimm fairy tales, and them being dark and cautionary tales for children. You get a job, and you say you're happy to have a job, you know. But then, I read a little more in-depth and did some more research, and it's a lot more interesting than I anticipated it being. Obviously, a lot of the stories, draw parallels from our lives today, which is why I think the show has become so interesting, and so successful, because they do parallel everyday lives. We've been able to adapt the stories, and put them to what's happening in the present.
I really enjoyed the rapport that not only Nick and Hank have throughout the season, but also with Sergeant Wu (Reggie Lee). He seems more ambitious than your normal beat cop. Do you think we may see him elevated to detective at some point during the series?
Russell Hornsby: You know what, it's possible, but probably not. The reality of it is, the reason the show is so successful, is they do have these archetypal characters, with Sergeant Wu being the funny, witty, subject of exposition. It really helps the show, and he found a wonderful, lovely character that he's been able to add some wonderful Wu-isms, if you will. I think that really works. Everybody has their place, and all the actors themselves are finding their swagger, within the characters. I feel that the writers have seen that. They know the actors themselves, as people, and they're starting to add some wonderful, specific, personality traits into the characters. That's why it's become so much more interesting for audiences, but also so much more fun for us to play.
There is a featurette on the Blu-ray, about how they make the monsters on the show. Hank has only had limited experience with the monsters, but, for you, is it cool for you to see these guys walking around on set with these crazy masks on?
Russell Hornsby: It's cool and it's fun because it reminds me why I got into this business in the first place. I got into the show part, you know what I mean? I didn't get into it for the business aspect, I didn't get into it to be a reality star or anything like that, I got into it to tell stories, and to be a part of storytelling. I got into it to let my imagination run wild, to imagine far out things. It reminds me that I'm still young at heart, and that I can still be a kid again. You can be an adult, but remain young at heart. That's why I love the show, and seeing the creatures walking around just reminds me of that. It reminds me of times when I had to sleep with the light on (Laughs). Here it is now, living it out as an adult. There are times at night, where you don't have these recurring dreams, but you recall what you dreamed about as a kid. I'm able to tap into that as an adult, and as an actor, as Hank, and remember and envision those moments when I was laying in bed, dreaming about scary creatures from a movie I saw, or from Halloween costumes. It's great. We get to be kids. Nobody wants to grow up. Everybody wants to be Peter Pan.
Can you talk a bit about shooting the show in Portland? It's one of the few shows that is actually set where it is shot. Can you talk about your experiences in the city in general, and what shooting it there really adds to Grimm?
Russell Hornsby: I don't mean this perjoratively, and I don't mean to cast aspersions on the city, but Portland is weird. I mean that with all due respect to the city, and it's the perfect setting for the show. It has become a secondary character of the show, and it's a perfect backdrop. I had no idea what Portland was about. I was just excited that we weren't shooting in Vancouver. Once I got here, it took awhile to know the city. It's a wonderful, progressive, earthy, weird city. It's not a small town, but not a huge city, it's right there in the middle. The city itself has a lot to offer, and the atmosphere just serves as a wonderful backdrop. The show just nestles right into it. I'm having a ball, to be honest with you. My wife and family come up to visit me, and they really enjoy the city. It's one of those diamonds in the rough that people, within the last five years, are starting to become hip to. It's funny because people really think it is a hidden gem, and they don't want too many people knowing about it, but it's fun.
With Season 2 starting so early this year, did you have that long of a break between Season 1 and Season 2?
Russell Hornsby: Officially, on the books, we had a five-week hiatus, which is not a lot of time, especially because David and I had to do a lot of interviews and what not. It was probably cut down to about two and a half weeks, where I was able to just sit on my rump and do nothing. That's the nature of the beast, though. My wife reminded me, 'Don't cry for you, Argentina. Do you know how many people would love to have five weeks off?' She's right. Sometimes, you forget how good you really have it. It's not something that we were complaining about. We were happy that NBC is enthusiastic of the show, and really wanted to support it and push it during the Olympics. We feel this early launch will serve as a lovely jumping off point for the second season, to build our fanbase that we have right now, get more casual fans into the show.
Hank is in a rather bizarre place when Season 1 ends. We've seen the consequences of Nick trying to tell Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) the truth. Do you think Season 2 will get to a point where Nick is forced to tell Hank the truth about who he really is?
Russell Hornsby: We haven't gotten to that point yet, and I'm sure if we had, I wouldn't tell you anyway. I know it's going to be a wild and crazy journey. Honestly, I don't even know whether Hank should know this early or not. There's just something interesting about secrets too, and finding other creative ways to tell the story, with Nick having to go behind Hank's back. In life, we all have a lot of secrets. We all walk around carrying a ton of secrets. That's just true to life. Only on TV you'll see, 'I'm just mad that you lied to me. Why didn't you tell me?' Bullshit (Laughs). Only on television is where they go, 'It's just the fact that you didn't tell me.' Really, dude?
I am also intrigued with how Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) will play into the story this season. We still don't really know a whole lot about where he comes from in this whole 'Wesen' world. Do we see more of that this season?
Russell Hornsby: Oh yeah. You'll come to see that Captain Renard is a part of this familial order from another country. He's a part of this whole royal family, that is a little bit more involved in this Grimm world than we were lead to believe. You come to know that he has a brother on the dark side, if you will, in Germany. They're on opposite ends of the spectrum, and they have to match wits and go up against each other.
Hank had a small bit of a love life last year with Adalind (Claire Coffee). Are there any new love interests on the horizon for Hank?
Russell Hornsby: You know, I don't know if he can handle it. First of all, he's been married and divorced three times, then he has a woman put something in his cookies. He might just have to abstain, for a moment.
There is always a stigma about TV shows that air on Friday's. It's where a lot of shows go to die, but with your show starting off on a Friday night, were you worried about the show's chances, before it started, just knowing that it was airing on Fridays?
Russell Hornsby: Honestly, I didn't care. The truth of the matter is, that's above my pay grade. What am I going to do about it? What you come to find out is, what my theory is, if something is good, people will watch it. Period. It just let us know how good the show really is, and that's why I think NBC has put its support behind it. It has risen and succeeded, despite being on Friday nights. We have a winner here. The truth is, I don't burden myself with any of that. My job is to do the best I can, with what I have control over, serving the words, serving the work, and serving the material.
Finally, what would you like to say to those who didn't get a chance to see the first season, about why they should pick up the Blu-ray or DVD set?
Russell Hornsby: Just buy it and enjoy it. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes materials, gag reels, I think they show everyone's audition tapes from before the pilot. There are a lot of special features for the audience.
That's about all I have. Thanks so much for your time. It was great talking to you, Russell.
Russell Hornsby: You too. Thank you.