The stars of this new spy show discuss the interesting relationship between their characters
When spies get fired, they don't get a letter from human resources, they get BURNED.
Blacklisted spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) doesn't plan to take being "burned" lying down. He wants to find out why he's been terminated and by whom. Meanwhile, Westen puts his Special Ops training to use, helping those who the police can't or won't, in order to fund his ongoing personal investigation. Madeline (Sharon Gless) is Westen's colorful hypochondriac mother.
Donovan and Gless recently sat down for a conference call to discuss their new show, Burn Notice.
Jeffrey, how did you get the character of Michael Westen?
Jeffrey Donovan: My agency and USA have always been talking about working together again. I'm a huge fan of USA Network. They liked what I did with Touching Evil, so they were just trying to find the right match. They came across this script written by Matt Nix and they thought it might be a perfect fit for me. I sat down, read through it, and I jumped through only a few hoops this time. (Laughs) Not as many as the last time. They all seemed to like my angle on it and Matt seemed to think I found his voice.
In future episodes does Michael still narrate?
Jeffrey Donovan: Yeah, Michael narrates every episode so far. We're shooting now our 6th one with 5 more to go. It seems like the narration will always be the way into Michael's head.
Sharon, was this fun for you to do something so different from who you are?
Sharon Gless: It's been very fun. I've had a wonderful time. My father was a hypochondriac so it wasn't a big stretch. Yes, it's been wonderful for me. I'm finding my way, like I've had to do with every character. The longer I play her the more fun I'm having with her. She sort of changes as she goes. She's growing.
Sharon, are you finding any connections between the gay community that you explored with Queer as Folk, and now the spy community with Burn Notice?
Sharon Gless: No. Not so far. The only similarity is that both my sons were named Michael. So I find different ways to say the word Michael so that nobody gets confused. They couldn't be more different. They're as different as night and day. There's a very, very different energy. In character, I'm trying to get my son hooked up with some wonderful woman. Somebody that will stay...
Jeffrey Donovan: She's a terrorist! How can you want to hook me up with an IRA Terrorist?
Sharon Gless: This will keep you in Miami, baby.
How violent will this show become in terms of effecting the tone of this show? I'm talking about when we hear but don't see you shoot people.
Jeffrey Donovan: I think it makes you wonder what I do behind closed doors. Which I think is a great device for the audience. If we are to keep a light tone with humor, set against a backdrop of international espionage, it's a fine line that we walk everyday. How do we make a vicious, knife fight funny? That's a tough thing to do. Either we're trying to create a new genre or repeat a genre that has long since gone; a funny, action adventure on television. So when you don't see me shoot them, you just hear a shot, I think it's a pretty good guess that I had to take them out or I would be killed. Since you never see it, I think it plays into the idea that you never really know what Michael is capable of behind closed doors and I like that.
Sharon, are you just a hypochondriac in this or do you have any physical ills?
Sharon Gless: Well, I believe she does. Hypochondriacs really do believe that they have things wrong with them. I personally feel that it's an attention getter and I don't think she's ill. Hypochondriacs really do believe it. Do I think she's ill? No.
Jeffrey, does your mother realize what you've been doing for the last 10 years?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well, that's debatable. It depends on what time of the morning you get her.
Sharon Gless: Yup.
Jeffrey Donovan: I think that she knows something. It's like how do you learn to live in this life? You learn from your parents and I've learned to be an incredible spy. Where did I learn that from? I had to have learned it somehow from my parents.
Sharon Gless: I don't know if she knows he's a spy. She doesn't know quite what it is that he does. It's obviously highly secretive. He can never tell her where he was when he did write, which was like, never!
Jeffrey Donovan: It's like when a mother suspects that her child is on drugs. I don't think they ever believe they're on drugs. They go, "I wonder if he's using and if he is I'm sure it's occasional."
Burn Notice will premiere on USA Network on Thursday, June 28 from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. ET.
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