Actor Donal Logue has an impressive resume of comic book films under his belt. From “Blade” and “Ghost Rider” to “American Splendor” and even “Starman” writer James Robinson’s own “Comic Book Villains,” Logue has fulfilled every fanboy’s dream. Now the successful performer is taking on a new challenge, joining the cast of an already successful TV show, NBC’s “Life.”
Airing Wednesday, “Life” stars Damian Lewis (“Band of Brothers,” “Dreamcatcher”) as Los Angeles police officer Charlie Crews, who’s recently been released from prison after serving a twelve-year sentence for a murder that he did not commit. Now free, thanks to new DNA technology, Crews is back on the force with a shiny new Detective badge and an undisclosed fortune awarded to him by the courts. With an all-new Zen attitude cultivated in years of solitary and a love for fresh fruit (which he couldn’t get on the inside), Crews is determined to find the people responsible for sending him to prison and destroying his life. Crews keeps a conspiracy wall hidden in a room in his empty, new mansion that maps out the progress on his own investigation.
Logue plays Captain Brian Tidwell, a womanizing, New York Police officer who’s transferred to Los Angeles and has his eye on Crews’ attractive female partner, Reese.
CBR News sat down with co-stars Damien Lewis and Donal Logue the about the current season of “Life,” the show’s conspiracies and mythology, comic books and Logue’s own comic book movie credentials.
CBR: Donal you’ve been involved with a lot of comic book based films including “Blade,” “Ghost Rider,” “American Splendor” and James Robinson’s “Comic Book Villains.” Are you a comic book fan?
Donal Logue: It’s interesting because I really wasn’t a big comic book guy and I think people assume I am. But I have a lot of respect for the genre and I have a lot of friends who were really into comic books. I kind of existed on the periphery of a scene of guys who were into fantasy, comic books, “Dungeons & Dragons” and things when I was in high school and college. I think just being in “Blade” and “Ghost Rider” put me in that comic book, Marvel world. But I love “Comic Book Villains” because, you know, this English comic book writer, James Robinson, wrote a script about the people who have given their lives to comic books and how there’s kind of a broader world out there.
But, you know, it’s really fun. I think that there’s a huge difference [between comic book films and “Life”]. But part of it is that there’s a real joy as an actor to be able to just give yourself to being a vampire. But one absurd thing, like on “Ghost Rider” for instance, a lot the fans came down hard on the film adaptation of the comic book. And part of me honestly has to say, “Look, you’ve got a guy on fire on a motorcycle. At what point do we really need to get too nitpicky about the criticism dramatically?” You know, I actually enjoy doing something like “Life” a lot more because it’s just realistic. It’s just, you know, there’s kind of this element of the real to it that I like.
“Life” has it’s own mythology, much like “Heroes” or “Lost,” involving the conspiracy that wrongfully put Charlie Crews in Prison. What would you say to fans of those shows or comic book fans in general to get them interested in watching “Life?”
Damian Lewis: I think there’s been a noticeable shift this season actually toward the mythology of comic book themes and certainly the way in which the show looks this season. I think the tone and the pallet of the show visually — costumes, sets and color that we’re using, have been really heightened to sort of comic book proportions.
You know, I mean more poppy comic books, the brighter color ones, not the darker ones. But you know our girls, they’re babes. They’re smoking and the bad guys are villains. They look that way. And the heroes look heroic, hopefully. You know, that’s the world in which comic books set themselves. I think our show has become increasingly like that, actually, in a way that I was suspicious of to start with, but I think it’s been a great shift actually.
Logue: Comic books I think lend themselves so fantastically to film because they’re visual stories. They’re all dialogue-driven. The subject has to be in the drawing or the writing as opposed to novels, which are so introspective. So it’s interesting to think about “Life” that way because it plays out neatly like a comic book that comes out in these weekly installments. You know, the more I become involved in comic books, the more I start to see them as a real genre of literature and start to appreciate them. But I hadn’t even thought about that. Damian do you know if [producers] Far [Shariat] and Rand [Ranvich] looked to comic books for a lot of direction with “Life” or are they fans of the genre?
Lewis: I don’t know whether they are personally, but I know that “Life,” as you were saying, has realistic elements. And certainly compared to doing something like “Blade,” it does. It’s rooted in our every day kind of reality, but it’s heightened. “Life” is heightened in a way that comic books are. I think that’s what makes it look visually different from other shows on TV and what gives us more scope in the playing of it. We can be a little bit more out there, a little bit more outrageous with it.
Damian, how much do you know about the overall conspiracy-plot of the show?
Lewis: Well, actually, as time has gone by I’ve wanted to know less and less. I’ve enjoyed the novel aspect of doing serious TV. You know, each week you read a new chapter and much like reading a novel it unfolds for you. There are times when it’s important, when I know what might be about to happen could relate to something in my past. But on the whole, I’m happy to discover it each week. I think it’s why the show is loved by people because of the series and serial elements that the show has. We’re able to run these two things concurrently. People can come, watch one hour, come away with something and have a story with a beginning, middle and an end as the crime is solved. But also constantly dipping into this ongoing mystery, which is the biggest crime in Crews’ life. This is the biggest investigation of his life, you know, why did he go to prison? So yes, it’s fun. I think it’s really working on those two levels.
Is it safe to say that the conspiracy will last throughout the run of the series?
Lewis: Well you know, this may sound cynical but you never know in network TV, so I think the writers work as well as they can to tie up some loose ends at potential stopping points for the show; when the TV show might just be no more. So there will be some kind of answer given at the end of this season. But it’ll also be left open in anticipation that we’ll get a third season. And if we get a third season, you know, you’ve seen Crews’ conspiracy board in Crews’ closet. There were six conspirators. Now, maybe I’m reading too much into this but that sounds like six seasons to me.
Donal, was it the conspiracy aspect of “Life” that attracted you to the show and joining the cast?
Logue: I was more drawn to it because I didn’t know who my character of Tidwell would be, exactly. I was more drawn to Rand Ravich and Far Shariat, who I had met because I had discussed with them the possibility of doing another show called “N.Y.-70.” So I liked those guys and I was always a fan of Damian’s work. It was more just talking to them about what the possibilities could be because I didn’t know exactly who Tidwell was, how bombastic or how crude he’d be. I’m not saying he’s really any of those things as much as I thought he might be in that way, but it was interesting. It was really very different from stuff I had been doing kind of immediately before it, so I think the juxtaposition felt even more severe.
You know, it is interesting because this Tidwell is a character that I probably understood least of any character I’ve ever played. I think that there was a broader kind of antagonism that I was supposed to show either towards the city of Los Angeles, the department or the character of Charlie Crews. But at the same time, I can’t help but throw myself into the character having a lot of respect for Charlie Crews, liking him, liking his quirkiness, and liking his sense of humor.
But I just really kind of love the dynamic. You know, I get to be this like free-floating satellite that isn’t tied to some of the broader conspiracy things. But I find myself every so often asking the big bosses like, “Is it possible that Tidwell has something really monumental to do with the conspiracy as to why Crews was behind bars for so long?” But they just kind of laugh it off.
Finally, several primetime police dramas have been adapted into comic books in recent years. “24,” “The Shield” and “CSI” just to name a few. Could you ever see “Life” being adapted into a comic book?
Lewis: Yes. Why not? Sounds fun.
Logue: You know, the comic book movie that I had a thumbprint on that was my favorite was “American Splendor.” Maybe that’s the way the Charlie Crews stuff could play out, like more viciously day-to-day life-like experience. But you know, it’s a good world and it’s growing. The show’s mythology has just grown so important that it’s just been unbelievable.
“Life” makes house arrests Wednesday nights on NBC.