An exclusive chat with the man who plays Broyles. Oh, and Broyles. He’s not always so intense as his character
Lance Reddick rolls his eyes like a ’30 cartoon pastiche of himself, and in a mock hillbilly hick accent blurts out, “Oh Walter, yer so ker-azy! Uh-huh! Uh-huh!”
It’s a sudden unexpected outburst from an interviewee who, up until this point, has been softly spoken, thoughtful and unassuming while chatting about his character, the ever-intense Agent Phillip Broyles in Fringe (which returns to Sky One next Tuesday for its third season). One moment his impossibly lanky frame is casually lounging in a plush seat in the opulent London hotel room where the interview’s taking place, the next he’s sitting bolt upright, waving his arm about like an umbrella that’s just been opened in howling gale. Or maybe he’s been possessed by the spirit of Animal from The Muppets .
What’s instigated this sudden outburst is a fairly innocent question about who’s the biggest joker on set. “My gut response is John Noble – he’s a practical joker. And Jasika [Nicole, Astrid] isn’t far behind,” he says, before adding conspiratorially. “But I’ve done my fair share.”
Cue the bizarre outburst as he recounts a tale of getting revenge on Noble, trying to put the Walter Bishop off his lines. Reddick is on a role now.
“In the first part of the season two finale, there’s a scene where I’m taking Olivia to the three Cortexiphan cases, and one of them can control other people's emotions. When he sees Olivia he smiles and that makes everyone else laugh. We did one take then I said, ‘Can I do one more?’ And I did a take where I fell on the floor, rolling around, then ran out of the door screaming.”
For a second, it seems like he’s going to re-enact the entire scene. Instead he just relaxes back into his chair, with a big grin on his face. But the composure is back. This is more like the Broyles we know from the TV show. That other Reddick, that was culture shock.
Did you ever see yourself as a CIA type?
“Well, you know, it’s funny, when I first thought about maybe doing television I thought about it. But when I first got out of school, I just did so many different types of character roles, ironically it seemed like that was type that I would cast in forever more. Everything from, like, street kids, a drug addict, a murder victim…”
Was it your role on Lost , another JJ Abrams show, that helped you get the role in Fringe ?
“Well, it was kinda a spiral effect. The Wire helped me get Lost and Lost helped me get Fringe .”
Was true that you were originally offered the role of Mr Eko in Lost ?
“Yeah, I kept hearing that. At the time I remember hearing something about that, but I was still on The Wire . And then, after I was cast as Abaddon [in Lost ] either Damon [Lindelof] or Carlton [Cuse, Lost showrunners] mentioned that was the case, but I had completely forgotten about it.”
Is science fiction in your DNA or was it completely new to you?
“I’d never done science fiction before, but I was a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan. I have all seven seasons of Star Trek Voyager .”
Blimey, so were you begging JJ to let you have a role in Star Trek , then?
“Oh, man, was I!? The first time I met him was right before he went off to shoot it. A bunch of the Fringe cast members went on the set of Star Trek to meet him. The first thing I said to him was, ‘Get me role in this.’ I got to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair.”
The musical episode of Fringe caused some raised eyebrows. You had a great singing voice. Were you disappointed you didn’t get to sing more?
“I was so nerve-wracked about what I had to do that no, I wasn’t disappointed.”
But you have a singing background, don’t you?
“I grew up singing, I was in the choir when I was a kid. I actually went to a conservatoire of music. But I’ve never been in a musical. No, actually, I have been in two musicals, but I’ve never sung in a musical. My first year in College was Guys and Dolls , my last year was West Side Story . It was all just acting stuff.”
Is there a different feel on set on the various shows you’ve been on, or is filming all US TV pretty much the same?
“Every show I’ve worked on has been a different experience. Network is different to cable. But even on the network shows… Well, working on Lost , oh man, Lost is its own kind of experience. And then the CSI stuff that I did, even though that's procedural, and Law And Order ’s procedural, my experience on those two shows was different too. CSI is much more out-in-the-field stuff, shot in LA – even though it was supposed to be Miami – while the Law And Order stuff was all New York, and the city itself makes the experience different. And it’s all New York theatre actors – that gives it a different feel as well.”
Now you’re playing two Broyleses in Fringe do you get paid twice?
“I should, but I don’t.”
How do you see the differences between the Broyleses?
“They’re both intense, but alternate universe Broyles is intense in a different way. He is looser. Basically alternate Broyles is basically a foot soldier. Even though he’s still colonel and he’s still head of the Fringe division, he’s out in the film with the guys. As opposed to being a paramilitary organisation that’s basically a branch of the FBI, Fringe over in the alternate universe is more straightforward military. Also, Broyles in the alternate universe is still married. So he’s a looser happier guy. Even though that universe is actually grimmer, the people are better adjusted there.”
It’s probably the weirdest show on TV at the moment, but what’s it like on set when all this mad stuff is happening? Does it become just another day at he office?
“No, it’s weird. When you discover a guy with a second head in his stomach that’s weird.”
Do you ever wonder if the audience is going to have trouble accepting the more out there concepts, though?
“Actually, I think I was more concerned about it being cheesy when we were doing the more procedural-type episodes early on, when it was more ‘monster of the week’ episodes. As the show has become more serialised that stuff makes more sense. The more procedural episodes – I just felt that wasn’t where the show was going to find its uniqueness. It’s uniqueness was in the serialisation of the relationships.
“I just accept that they can make it look cool. I mean technology is just soooo amazing now… The best example was the episode where they went back in time with Walternate. Between the make-up and the special effects, it was totally convincing.”
When did you first realise there was going to be this whole bigger arc?
“I kinda knew they were trying to do both at the same time right at the start. I wondered if it would work. I was hoping that it would. I had a mixed feeling about it as an actor because on the one hand I had all these speeches, all this exposition. On the other hand, it was all exposition. I remember, we were told – I can’t remember quite when – but we were told that episodes 10 and 11 off season one were going to be treated as new pilot, to launch the show in a different direction and have the serialised element of the show take over.”
Would you like a Broyles on Broyles fight in season three?
“Wow. That didn’t occur to me. Olivia has fought herself, of course. With Broyles, I don’t think it would come to that. I would like to have a Broyles versus Broyles confrontation, though, yeah.”
Fringe season three begins airing in the UK on Tuesday next week.