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Watchmen Actor Talks Red Scare and His 'Schlubby Gangster Persona'

HBO's Watchmen is a show shrouded in mysterious characters, many of whom wear literal shrouds in the form of masks. Some, like Tim Blake Nelson's Looking Glass, have had their secrets revealed throughout the first season. Others, like Andrew Howard's Red Scare, remain a secret.

Red Scare sticks out for a number of reasons in comparison to the other officers at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Police Department. His uniform consists of a red track suit, and a red ski mask, through which he's still able to eat. He speaks with a Russian accent, making him stick out among the Americana around him. And he's perhaps the most outspoken and hotheaded member of the department, a violent, tempestuous man who will stop at nothing to get his perp.

Howard (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hell on Wheels) spoke with CBR about Red Scare, as well as his thoughts on Watchmen in general.

CBR: What was your initial approach to Red Scare?

Andrew Howard: It was always my dream and vision to book an HBO show. It happened very quickly. As a matter of fact, I was one of the first cast in the show, apart from obviously the brilliant genius that is Regina King. I was out of the block fairly soon with it.

With Red being such an enigmatic character, there were very small tidbits of information that Mr. [Damon] Lindelof would deliver to me. I knew it was going to be a marathon rather than a sprint and the character would be developed as the show as running. It was about picking up little pieces and clues, as well as going to the original subject material in the graphic novel. Then I would build small blocks. Once I started getting into that costume, that helped build a likeness.

Speaking of that costume, it sticks out against the rest of the Tulsa Police Department. While Sister Night has an eye mask and a black cowl, you get a track suit and a ski mask. What does that say about his character?

[Laughs.] He can appear quite schlubby. He eats through that ski mask; we put that into the script because we thought it was funny. He's hiding a lot of secrets. I can't say too much, but what you see in front of you begs the question if he's the same guy when the track suit and mask are off. I think they are two very, very different characters. He's created a schlubby gangster persona, which maybe isn't necessarily who he truly is underneath.

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It's interesting you call him a gangster, because Red Scare definitely seems like the "loose cannon" of the TPD. What do you make of that role he plays in the precinct?

On the surface, he is the "muscle." But I think there's something fiercely loyal. There's something in his past that's brought him to Tulsa and put him in this situation. Yeah, he may seem like a loose cannon, and at times he is. But my M.O. with it was that he's very protective of the people he works with. There's definitely tension between him and Looking Glass, and he really looks up to and respects Sister Night. But ultimately, he's all about loyalty and injustice.

The show is primarily about injustice and race. The Watchmen world is fiercely divided in a parallel as to what we're going through today. He's a fatalistic individual, and I think he sees the characters and people that surround him and he will defend to the hilt. His fatalism makes him feel like we're just bugs on this planet. We're trying to get through it. Religion, race, and all that other stuff that makes us fight, sweat, and combust in this world has gotten in the way of that.

Red Scare appears to be a Russian character. I find that very interesting, considering how the graphic novel focused on a time when the U.S. and Russia were at each other's throats.

I did a lot of research about the Cold War, and about Russia and the U.S. As a naive young man from Wales, you can't believe the corruption that gets to the very top of society. Back then, times were very dangerous and fraught. People are saying that now too, which is a big reason why our show mirrors the graphic novel. I find it fascinating. Coming out of the Cold War, our story has Russia and the U.S. as allies against a squid attack. It was a very interesting process, something I'm still discovering and still working on.

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You've mentioned before about what Watchmen is saying about the day and age we live in. What's been your take on the show as a whole?

I feel it's breaking new ground. My folks knew nothing about the graphic novel, and they weren't versed in any Watchmen universe. They watched the show and they were immediately hooked. My mother said, "This seems like a really important show."

I remember watching the premiere and trying to gauge what America would think about the show. The Tulsa race riot had never been filmed before, so that was an extraordinary thing. It was extremely emotional for people to watch that. Lots of people came to me after watching the show and saying, "I had no idea about this part of history." It has a universal theme, a very important thing to say about what's going on with America today. It's more than a comic book presentation.

Developed by Damon Lindelof, HBO's Watchmen stars Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, James Wolk, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon. The series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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