A chat with Donal Logue, Donal Logue interview, Terriers, Grounded for Life
Donal Logue

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Although he’s proven himself a more than serviceable dramatic actor over the years, thanks to films like “The Patriot” and “Zodiac,” when I think of Donal Logue, I immediately think of two fantastic, underrated sitcoms: “Grounded for Life” and “The Knights of Prosperity.” Fortunately, with his new FX series, “Terriers,” it looks like Logue will be getting the opportunity to offer up both drama and comedy, thanks to executive producers Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), Ted Griffin (“Ocean’s Eleven”), and Tim Minear (“Dollhouse”).

Bullz-Eye had a chance to sit down with Donal Logue immediately after his panel for “Terriers” at the TCA tour, and we had a chance to ask him about what we can expect from this new series, got some details about how he and co-star Michael Raymond-James first crossed paths, and heard his thoughts on the aforementioned sitcoms. When we first started talking, though, it was about a mutual acquaintance of ours: musician Eytan Mirsky, who not only wrote the theme song for “American Splendor” but, indeed, made a cameo in the film alongside Logue.

Donal Logue: “American Splendor” was so good.

Bullz-Eye: Yeah, and Eytan mentioned that he’s actually in a scene with you.

DL: Yeah, it’s me and him and…Molly Shannon, too, I think. That was great. I remember him playing his guitar on the set. (Looks around the FX green room) You want to go outside and do this?

BE: Sure. Whatever’s good for you.

DL: Yeah, let’s do that.

(We take a quick stroll out of the room, around the corner, and onto the patio, where we take our seats. Donal glances over the railing at the pool below.)

DL: They should do all the inter views down by the pool. With everyone wearing Speedos. (Laughs)

BE: If you want to take the Speedo bullet, have at it, but I’m pretty sure I can’t pull it off.

DL: (Laughs) No, I can’t, either. Very few can.

BE: Well, I have to admit that I’ve only seen two-thirds of the pilot for “Terriers” – it had already started when I got back to the hotel after the Fox / FX party – but I really enjoyed what I saw of it.

DL: Oh, good!

BE: The only thing, though, was that I couldn’t entirely get a feel for the vibe of the show, and I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t see the whole thing, or…

"I’ve always had this feeling (with 'Terriers') where it’s, like, 'Look, if you’re on a show and you’re in a dangerous situation, it’s better to be frigging dangerous. It ain’t time to say cute, funny-ass things for the benefit of an audience to chuckle for a second. Let’s suspend that.' And I thought we fought hard…and Shawn (Ryan) and Ted (Griffin) and Tim (Minear) fought really hard…to make sure that everything felt poignant."

DL: It starts to kind of hone in on more of its tone over the course of… (Hesitates) Once it finds this comfortable train…and it’s there by the end of the first episode…you’re seeing the cruising speed of the show. I’m not trying to say that it gets super-heavy, but the stakes get high, and it feels pretty real. I’ve always had this feeling where it’s, like, “Look, if you’re on a show and you’re in a dangerous situation, it’s better to be frigging dangerous. It ain’t time to say cute, funny-ass things for the benefit of an audience to chuckle for a second. Let’s suspend that.” And I thought we fought hard…and Shawn and Ted and Tim fought really hard…to make sure that everything felt poignant. Like, if your wife leaves you, it hurts really bad. These things were all pretty real, and it felt like an adult-like, human show. The tone defines itself over the course of time. In the pilot, I think we are searching for the tone a little bit, but just like in “Life,” I think it hits its stride pretty deeply. If they send you the first five episodes, if you have time, check ‘em out.

BE: They’re supposed to be sending them out soon, I think. (Writer’s note: And they have since done so.) I enjoyed what I saw, so I’m looking forward to checking them out.

DL: I think you’ll like it. I think you’ll be along for the ride.

BE: Yeah, my only thing was…well, like, in the trailer, there’s action, there’s drama, there’s punchlines, and it was just hard to get a read on it.

DL: I think a lot of it…and it’s a horrible thing to hang your hat on, but I think I would do it proudly on this one…depends on the friendship of these two guys and their relationship. And the chemistry between me and Michael, which is pretty thick. Because people like gadgetry and these kind of... (Hesitates) Ah, I was going to say “formulaic storylines,” like some other shows employ, but there’s a value in all kinds of show, so I don’t fault anybody. But sometimes you just want to be, like, “Wow, these guys really remind me of guys I hung out with,” or see things that really make you feel, like, “Wow, it’s refreshing to see people that you see all the time or that you’ve known from high school or wherever but that you don’t really see represented on television.” I don’t know if that makes any sense…

BE: No, I get what you’re saying.

Donal LogueDL: And I think that, in a weird way, “Terriers” is feathered in a way that might be a little different. I mean, it seems pretty clear-cut. You have these really handsome, smart hipster lead characters who just have the right thing to say or can always figure it out, or they’re incredibly working class, or... (Trails off) I don’t know, man. It’s just, like, whenever I see a fully realized character on television, like Tony Soprano or someone, I’m always just blown away, so I’m hoping that we find a way to do that. I’m not saying that our characters have to exist in the parameters of that world, but my character’s a person you can empathize with, regardless of the situation and if it’s something you’re not familiar with yourself or if the stakes go up or down. I hope that we find this weird balance, and I hate that…I mean, it feels so weird talking about something until it’s a shared experience. When people see it, they’ll understand why the name is kind of weird but kind of fits. They’ll go, “Oh, I get it! I get what you’re talking about!” Because you can talk ad nauseum about all this shit, about your show, but until people see it, they can’t really say, “Oh, I’m on for that ride! That’s cool!” I just think it’s a little bit of an adventure between these two guys who are in over their heads, and they’re just shucking and jiving to survive, and then within that they kind of do the right thing, but I think it’s just fun to watch them figure their way out of these situations they get themselves into.

BE: It sounds like it’s as much of a character study as it is a traditional drama.

DL: Absolutely. For sure.

BE: I’m always down with a good character study.

DL: I think you’ll like it, then, because it really depends heavily on that. To me, it feels like it has a little bit of a vibe of those early ‘70s indie movies. It just depends on this relationship between two men. (Long pause, followed by a smirk) You know, sometimes, things come out, they don’t succeed at all artistically with whatever it is they’re trying to say, and all the self-aggrandizing shit you talk about beforehand just looks so absurd. “We’re going to change the way America sees itself!” (Laughs)

BE: Hey, at least you didn’t use the word “bro-mance” to describe it.

DL: You know, the first time I heard “bro-mance,” I thought it was fucking fantastic. But that was so long ago…

BE: …and you’ve heard it 500,000 times, often to describe things that aren’t even true “bro-mances.”

DL: Exactly.

BE: Well, as somebody who has both seasons of “Life” on his DVD shelf, I think it’s awesome that you and Michael met on that show.

"('Grounded for Life') had this kind of halcyon period where I thought, 'This is a unique show, and I’m really proud of this show.' I loved what we made, and it’s still on ten times a day in a bunch of different places, so this whole new audience is rediscovering that show. I think as time goes on, it’ll show itself to be this kind of quality thing that didn’t get its full respect."

DL: Oh, yeah, man, he played Tex, the guy that…he and Rachel Minor, who’s actually in the pilot for “Terriers” as well, played that couple that had the museum of the macabre, with the serial killers and all that stuff. So, yeah, we became friends on “Life.” He’s a really good actor. (Gestures all around him) This is the kind of world he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like talking about shit. He just likes doing what he does and being as low-profile as humanly possible. That’s the way Michael likes to play it. But he’s a really great actor, and it was kind of good to be around him, because he fortified my belief in this thing, and he’s serious about it and what we do.

BE: Had you guys kept in touch since working together on “Life”?

DL: Uh, a little bit, but not really. Not ‘til we saw each other at this thing. But that happens. You have these really heavy bonding experiences with people, then you float off on your own adventures. He was doing “True Blood,” so he was gone and busy, and I was gone. But if nothing else, I’ve got a best friend for life out of this thing with Michael.

BE: Well, I know you don’t want to talk too much about what’s coming up, but can you give kind of a nutshell synopsis about Hank and what kind of guy he is?

DL: I think he’s a really good guy. I think he’s brighter than people would give him credit for. I think he’s surprising. His interior and his exterior don’t really match each other that well. Part of what I wanted to do, too, was…like, I’ve tried to bring that guy as close to me as possible, just so it made everything really easy. So whatever people think of him, I think he’s a nice guy, pretty bright, he wants to do the right thing, and even when he made mistakes, he was trying to better himself. I think the most important thing in his life is his friendship with this guy, and…it’s so complex, because the only element that he doesn’t really have that I have is children, which is another wrinkle in his world. But that frees him, too, in a way. When you don’t have kids, then nothing really matters anymore. You have no responsibility. Even suicide doesn’t become so selfish an act when you’ve got no family. You know what I mean? So he’s pretty free, but... (Trails off) Probably if you don’t like me and Michael, you’re not really going to like the show. If you like us, I think you’ll think it’s cool, because I think a lot of our own personalities come out through these characters.

Donal Logue

BE: Since you guys have already finished the whole season, can you speak to whether or not our perceptions of Hank will change dramatically from the pilot to the season finale?

DL: Not dramatically. But I think it’ll confirm suspicions you have about him, in one way or the other. So rarely do they have a central protagonist who wouldn’t do something so shockingly egregious that… (Starts to laugh) I mean, you become heroic by nature of the writers doing stuff for you. Challenges present themselves, and I’ll say that he’s up to them. He digs deep and he’s up to them. Jon Landgraf (President of FX) always talks about morality, and it’s interesting, because people who are into really quantified religious morality, sometimes in their own lives there’s a lot of judgment, but then there are people that those people might define as bad because they break the rules of the book, but they break rules for the greater good, or there’s a bigger morality at play. I think Hank answers to that kind of thing. I don’t feel like I do anything morally objectionable in this thing, at least from my perspective. I hope you just enjoy it. (Pauses) I hate it when I have to talk about that’s not really easy to talk about, because…this is a character study of these two guys. It’s not much of an ensemble, although there are some other great people in it. There’s this guy Rockmond Dunbar who’s really awesome.

BE: Excellent.

DL: So when you do head home from this thing?

BE: Not ‘til the 9th.

DL: Man, what’s today? The 3rd?

BE: Yep. And I’ve been here since the 26th. I’m dragging.

DL: And, what, it’s just show after show after show? Geez, it must be hard just to do the homework and all that shit.

BE: Yeah, we get some of the screeners in advance, which is immensely helpful, but if it’s something that they don’t get to us until we arrive here, it’s all but useless, because there’s just no time to watch stuff. That, and you’re exhausted. Basically, if it isn’t being spoon-fed to us through the hotel’s TCA channel, I don’t watch it. There’s just too much else going on.

DL: I’m impressed that you caught any of it last night, man. Fuck, that’s a lot to cover, man.

BE: Well, since I knew I was going to talk to you, I wanted to make sure I caught as much of it as I could. Not that I didn’t have other stuff to ask you about. For one thing, I’m still hoping against hope that we’ll see “The Knights of Prosperity: The Complete Series” on DVD someday.

DL: I know! Why is it not available even to watch?

Donal Logue

BE: I don’t know why the cult of that show isn’t huge. It was my favorite sitcom that season.

DL: There are just so many funny-ass things. I actually saw Kevin Michael Richardson last night at the Fox party.

BE: I saw him, too, and wondered if you had.

DL: I miss him, man. And Maz Jobrani…? You know, what was weird was doing a comedy where standing by the craft services table was the only time you got big laughs. While we were doing scenes, I was just, like, “This is joyous.” Those guys were hysterical. And Sofia (Vergara) is doing good, huh?

BE: Absolutely. She was here the other day for our “Modern Family” coffee break, in fact Oh, and “Grounded for Life” is another show that I always thought was underrated, and I saw Megyn (Pryce) at the CBS party the other night.

DL: I’m super proud of that show…and I love Megyn!

BE: What was the transition like when you guys moved from Fox to The WB?

DL: It was a little rough, because it coincided with some weird decisions, like to let go of the dad on the show (Richard Riehle). There was such a balance when I had Dad. And then the youngest kid (Jake Burbage) left in the last season. It was still good, but…oh, and then Bill Martin and Mike Schiff left the show, who created it. It was still always great, but it had this kind of halcyon period where I thought, “This is a unique show, and I’m really proud of this show.” I loved what we made, and it’s still on ten times a day in a bunch of different places, so this whole new audience is rediscovering that show. I think as time goes on, it’ll show itself to be this kind of quality thing that didn’t get its full respect when it was on Fox.

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