One of my favorite new shows last year was Life, starring Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) as an L.A. cop who was wrongfully imprisoned for 12 years, and upon his release won the right to rejoin the force (as well as a big cash settlement). So when I had the opportunity to jump in on a conference call with Lewis, Sarah Shahi (who plays his recovering alcoholic partner) and show creator/writer Rand Ravich, I jumped at the chance, and learned some interesting things about Season 2... and about the actors themselves. For instance, Shahi used to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, and Lewis used to be British! Who'da thunk it!
So where are Charlie Crews and Dani Reese at the start of the season?
Sarah Shahi: When we first see Dani, she's just a little bit better in terms of her sobriety this year. On a scale of one to ten, she's maybe like at a seven or so. But physically, she's a little different. You know, her hair is down. Her wardrobe got a bit flashier. But I think she's going to be challenged at some point with her sobriety and possibly relapse. But she also gets a love interest, which is different for her. She can't feel love, and he's the first person that her guard has come down with, and she becomes vulnerable.
Damian Lewis: I think Crews will continue to bounce back between the kind of pick-and-mix candy store girls that keep falling in his lap, metaphorically -- and literally, actually, in one episode -- and the ongoing heartache with his ex-wife. And then, you know, his relationships at the police station are very bizarre. His relationship with Dani Reese improves steadily, weekly. They seem to have a good, solid respect for each other and accept one another's differences. There's a new Captain at the station, and he's a little bit of a ripple in the pond, but, Crews learns to negotiate him as well, and I think they have a weird sort of respect for each other, as well, being very different.
So what happens when Crews solves the case?
Lewis: He's just going to go guest-starring in all the other TV series. You know, if he finds out finally who did it, who set him up for the triple murder, I think that'll be some kind of closure and he'll be able to carry on with his life as normal. But I don't think he's that close to finding where they are. Something he's established early on in this season is that there's more than just one person who's been operating this thing. There are five or six of them, and he's going to systematically work his way through them and find out exactly where that leads him. We don't know how deep, how high up this corruption will go, who's behind the whole conspiracy. Why was he set up? Was it something personal, vindictive or was he just a fall guy? Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Rand Ravich: But also, at any moment he could decide he's had enough and he can walk away. Vengeance is very un-Zen, so at some point, the question has to be asked: "Is this enough? Have I gained enough vengeance?" Prison is such a powerful experience that every day out of prison is like your first day out, so hopefully he will always be battling with transcendence and vengeance. You know, he wants to let go. He wants to forgive. But he wants to find as many people responsible and shove a pistol down their throat. Those two forces pitted against each other are enough to keep a character going forever. And in a strictly realistic human way, I don't think you ever really get over that. I mean, I know I didn't.
Do you have an endgame in place for Crews?
Ravich: We're playing to get to another level. We know the next few levels of where it's going, and the most interesting parts of that are how they relate to him personally. Not just faces on a board, but the characters that he will be encountering and enfolding into his life as he moves up the ladder. So we do know the next few levels of where he'll be going to, character-wise.
Sarah, it looks in the first episode that the new Captain, played by Donal Logue, has kind of a creepy infatuation with you. Is that going to continue throughout the season?
Shahi: Yeah, it is, actually. It is going to continue. It's going to develop, as well, into something else.
Lewis: A creepy fascination for Crews.
Maybe it's just your incredible acting, Damian, but Crews looks like a really fun character to play. Is that the case?
Lewis: I have enormous fun. I only took this role because I enjoyed the script so much, and I hopefully will always maintain that standard. But Rand wrote a fantastic canvas, on which this character can do almost anything. That's what's so much fun about it. This guy is a sort of Christ-like figure. He goes through a hellish experience and is born again -- literally born afresh, into an alien world that's moved on in the 12 years that he's been in prison. And so, with the quirks and characteristics, the slightly cracked maverick personality that he now has as a result of his time in prison, coupled with his underlying darkness, his need for vengeance, his constant conflict in him not to engage in the dark anger, this vengeful side of his character, but trying to embrace the positive in his life makes for just constant fun.
Ravich: Plus there's a lot of drinking on set.
Season 2 of Life premieres Sept. 29 on NBC at 10:00, right after Heroes. Watch the whole first season on Hulu.com!
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