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Everything Else Is Just Business: Lance Reddick on the Fringe of Primetime

Viewers of The Wire know him only as Cedric Daniels, last seen beginning his career as a lawyer after resigning his position as Baltimore's police commissioner. Lost followers puzzle over his appearances as the mysterious "recruiter" Matthew Abaddon, seen intersecting with major characters at key moments in both flashbacks and fast-forwards. But this fall, Lance Reddick hopes fans of both shows rediscover him as yet another complex character: Agent Phillip Broyles of the Dept. of Homeland Security on Fringe, the new J.J. Abrams series airing on Fox. We caught up with the straight-shooting actor earlier this week at the New York premiere party for the show, where he spoke his mind about his past, present and future.

TWoP: It's not possible for any television show to be more critically acclaimed than The Wire, and yet it was almost entirely overlooked by the Emmys throughout its five seasons. How much does that bother you and your castmates?

Reddick: We're all of two minds about it. On the one hand, we get upset when we see other shows -- especially on our own network -- that after just one season or two seasons get huge accolades when we feel [our] quality is just as high. Because the popular fan base just kind of exploded this year, I thought this year was going to be our year and to be completely snubbed again -- I was really stunned. But at the same time, I keep coming back to this comment that Duke Ellington once made, even though I don't necessarily agree with the letter of what he said, I agree with the spirit of it. He said, "Jazz is music; swing is business." And I feel like what we did is art; awards are business. I feel The Wire, even more than in television history -- in artistic history, in literary history -- will live on for a long time.

TWoP: Was The Wire simply too real for certain people to be able to handle? Perhaps it's easier for Emmy voters to deal with life at an ad agency in the '60s than what's happening on street corners in our cities today?

Reddick: How do I put this? I think it's twofold: I think it's politics; I think it's demographics. I think it's very difficult for a society that is so Eurocentrically based and oriented to rally around a show where not just all the criminals are black, but most of the cops are black, most of the people running city hall are black -- it's just not in their reality. Given how universally acclaimed it's been and how the fan base has spread by word of mouth, I think a lot, lot, lot more people, if they were exposed to The Wire, would love it.

TWoP: What attracted you to Fringe in general and the character of Agent Broyles in particular?

Reddick: Two things attracted me to the show: One was that I just thought it was really cool. I tend to like sci-fi and action-adventure anyway, but it was so well-written. And then the fact that it was J.J. I just thought, "Wow, man, I really want to be part of this." And when I read the script, to be honest, this was the only character that I thought I was right for.

TWoP: Why was that?

Reddick: It was interesting: On the one hand, I was a little hesitant to play a role that seemed so similar to the role I played in The Wire, because over the course of my career I've been very fortunate that I've been able to play very different kinds of roles -- even when I played other cops, they were very different kinds of human beings. But at the same time, I thought, "Wow, this could be two history-making shows in a row." And if nothing else, I'd be able to have a lot of fun because it's a completely different kind of genre and the exposure would possibly allow me to do different kinds of stuff.

TWoP: If Fringe takes off, if it becomes this generation's X-Files, you could become a sci-fi icon, making appearances at conventions and everything else that comes along with that. Are you ready for it?

Reddick: I think eventually, yeah, I will go to conventions. [Pause.] You know, it's funny, until you asked me that question, I never thought about that. I guess if I'm not prepared, I better start preparing.

TWoP: Finally, will we see you on Lost again this season?

Reddick: I will be on Lost this season, unfortunately I don't know when.

TWoP: Because you have so little advance information about what's going to happen next on Lost, when you get your scripts, do you react the way viewers do -- are you surprised or amazed the way fans are when they watch?

Reddick: Well, it's a funny thing. I'd never seen the show until I was cast, so I watched the first two seasons back to back just to do my homework, and I got hooked. But the third season wasn't out at the time, so I just haven't caught up. So when I read a script, quite frankly, no pun intended, I'm lost [laughs].

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