Clancy Brown Interview • February 3, 2005
Beth Blighton: Justin’s sermons seem to be slipping more and more into Father Coughlin territory. Will we see more of that, and will it become more overt?
Clancy Brown: Yes. There was a big debate about whether, about how overt it should be. And I was, I was coming down on the side of as much subtlety as they can muster. However, the writers really wanted… You know, they wanted to use the euphemisms, which now… You know, the money-changer euphemism, and all those euphemisms, are so obvious, that… It is obvious. But as long as he never went completely derogatory, saying ni**ers, and ki*es, and all that stuff… Using those international banker terms, for some reason, everybody thinks is subtle – but it isn’t.
The salt one, I thought… That was one of Dan’s. And I never knew what that was about, and had it pointed out that it was supposed to be a racist metaphor, and I never quite grasped that.
Beth: A few people landed on it, though.
Clancy: Yes, a few people did land on it. But it… I thought it was really forced. But now, that being said, I would rather do THAT than some of the ones that are coming up. I would rather do really obscure, kind of interpretive speeches. But that’s the way they wanted Justin to go. They wanted there to be no question about Justin. I guess they weren’t happy about the ambivalence – which I think is the thing that is interesting.
Beth: I think so, too!
Beth: That people were sitting there at the end of the first season going, “I dunno…” That the mystery is gone as to whether Justin is truly evil or not, I think, is kind of a disappointment to some people.
Clancy: Well, maybe. It’s certainly been a disappointment to some. It’s slightly disappointing to me. Where it gets real frustrating is, you know, okay, so… You’re gonna put out all this hateful rhetoric, and rhetoric of fear and everything, but to the point of what?
Beth: Yeah, what’s he trying to do?
Clancy: What is Justin’s mission? Because you have to be justified. Right now, I think Ben is far more justified than he ever was. And he’s really taken on faith that he has to save the human race. Which I think is kinda dumb, that he’s just kinda buying all that without really gettin’ it. He’s clearly – and this is not impugning Nick in any way, cuz I think he’s doing a great job – but I think in terms of character development, they made a real leap in the first two episodes, and really tried to jumpstart Ben Hawkins a little bit.
Beth: Yeah. Which maybe they needed to, just to move the story forward. But no, he’s not questioning a whole lot.
Clancy: Right. So, we’ve tried to… The way it always made sense to me is that he’s still very motivated by human reasons, by the reasons that are around him, by the people that he likes in the carnival, and people he doesn’t want to see get hurt, and so on and so forth. And I think that bears out as we go forward. It’s less of a cosmic thing to him. It’s more grounded in what he sees in front of his face.
Beth: Right, which is kind of the way they’ve been manipulating him, anyway.
Clancy: Right. And then Justin… Justin’s very cosmic. Justin gets more and more cosmic, to the point where he… He’s just so… I just think he’s completely over the top. But you can justify that. You can have a reasonable motivation to do that. But it’s sort of… like when we were doing that chat… It’s sort of what I was getting at when I was saying, “Can an Avatar have hubris?” Ya know?
Clancy: I mean, that’s sort of one of the things that HBO kept saying, “Well, we love his hubris!” And I would always ask back, saying, “Well, if he is the embodiment of God on Earth – if he IS, and that’s what we’re saying that he is – then there’s no such thing as hubris where he’s concerned.”
Clancy: Then there’s nothing hubristic about anything he does. It may appear in a human context as hubristic, but it isn’t because, we know, that he’s God on Earth!
Beth: Or at least that’s what he thinks! So yes, exactly. And that’s where I was going with this next question. Do you think hubris will actually come into play in this story, and will that theme pertain to BOTH sides of the story?
Clancy: Well, I don’t think… Ben, as I said, I don’t think Ben ever gets to the point of accepting the spiritual part of what the game is. And he’s got plenty of reasons to be motivated by what he sees around him. Ruthie is dead and he wants to bring her back to life… We’ll see more of how he’s motivated by earthly feelings and earthly things, and human things. But he’s not a human being, and he knows he’s not a human being.
Beth: He’s figured that part out, at least.
Clancy: At least he knows he’s special. He knows he’s more than human.
Beth: He “ain’t human.”
Clancy: But he has not, and he will not, because heroes can’t accept their super humanity, accept their divinity. Justin, on the other hand, as soon as it became clear to him, he goes right there. He’s going right there. He’s saying, “I’m a divine entity on a divine mission.”
Beth: So he plays by his own divine rules, not by the rules of humanity.
Clancy: There are divine rules, and those are the rules I play with. A little bit like the Kurgan – it’s like there’s a game afoot, and THAT’S what I’m on this Earth to accomplish. And I don’t really care if you humans accept the means by which I accomplish the ends that I have to achieve. Because it may be good for you or it may be bad for you. But in any event, it doesn’t matter, because it is a divine will.
Beth: So, there it is.
Beth: And I’m wondering, too, now… Is Iris becoming actually afraid of Justin? Or does she still think, somewhere in the back of her head, that she still has some control over him. Does she really know what he is?
Clancy: Oh, we had long… As we go on, and as kind of the Tommy mission/arson arc is resolved – to me, anyway… That’s sort of the last vestige of Justin giving a damn about anyone -- although, he will do other things that seem to betray some kind of interest in it. But it’s all to a different kind of end. At that point, it’ll be obvious – in episode six, I think, it resolves. After that, they kept trying to turn Iris a different direction, and it was never making sense, because it was so abrupt, and kind of in denial of what had gone before. So, you’re question is a question that we all raised. See, they gave us the answer, but they never posed the question. And we were, both of us, Amy & I were saying, “Ya know, it’s fine if you want to go this direction, but you gotta set it up. You can’t just kinda declare it. Cuz there’s way to much between the both of us, there’s way too much going on, and you can’t just turn a character – especially characters so symbiotic as we are – so abruptly without some kind of development, some kind of turn. And that was also coming from HBO. And it was really tough to argue these points.
It’s not like any of us had any debate over the ultimate direction, it was just in how to get there. And I think it’s better than it was, but it’s not really accomplished. And the problem is, of course, that nobody knows the character better than the actor who’s playing it. And we kept trying to insinuate ideas, directions, and that’s not really our place, either. But towards the end, we got a good dialog going about it. But by the end, it was almost too late. I still think it works, but Amy was having more trouble than anybody. I still think it works… Well, that’s not true. I was having a little trouble with it, as well. But that was really her ball to carry.
Beth: I thought it was interesting that so many people landed on the idea that Iris off-ed Celeste, and was out there burning up her clothes in the desert.
Clancy: Well, that’s okay. That’s a misdirection. That’s a reasonable conclusion to come to. And that question will be answered soon enough. But that’s sort of the beauty of the show is that maybe she didn’t directly off Celeste, but she certainly did by bringing her into the house.
Beth: She was the one who brought her in!
Clancy: Whatever motivated THAT results in… And I don’t think Celeste is off-ed. I think it becomes clear… Well, maybe not. I don’t know. But usually, if somebody is off-ed, we see them get off-ed. So, if you don’t see somebody’s dead body, then I wouldn’t presume that they’re dead.
Beth: And I think they’ve made it pretty clear, too, that Iris is worried that she’s going to get caught. And she’s sitting outside the door listening while Tommy and Justin are talking about how the waitress saw her. So. Iris may have evidence to get rid of.
Clancy: That’s all built beautifully, I think. That’s all really giving her stuff to play. And we’ll see how it pans out in the final six episodes, as well. It may be a lot gentler than I perceived it at the time, because we just kind of went at it so hard with them. But, who knows?
Beth: So, why do we think she brought Celeste into the house? What was Iris thinking?
Clancy: Hey, good question. I’m not really sure.
Beth: (laughing) I mean, is she just pimping for her brother now?
Clancy: Perhaps she’s trying to service his libido somehow? Somebody posited that she was trying to assert some kind of control over him, and that certainly makes sense. But she’s sort of getting out of her depth a little bit.
Beth: Oh, yeah!
Clancy: Justin’s definitely, since the end of last season, since his realization at the end of last season, he’s moving full steam ahead, and not a lot of people are keeping up.
Beth: Well, I think Iris is beginning to figure out that the Rottweiler puppy she though she was raising is really a werewolf.
Clancy: Right. I think that’s true. I think that’s true…
Beth: And speaking of the maids, do you think there will a series of these maids tromping through the house? And what purpose are they serving?
Clancy: That was certainly implied, wasn’t it?
Beth: Yeah, so do we see many more of them, or do we just need to see those two, and that’s enough for us to get it?
Clancy: Gosh… how many maids do we see? We see more.
Beth: We do see more?
Clancy: I think we see what happens to them – not graphically or anything. But the fate of Celeste is kind of the most ambiguous but, from what we learn later, we’ll know what her fate was.
Beth: So they’re there for a purpose, we think?
Clancy: Well, they’re there for a purpose to the narrative. I’m still not sure what their purpose is as far as character motivations and stuff. But there’s definitely a purpose to the narrative.
Beth: And will we be seeing the tattoo again?
Clancy: Oh, yeah!
Beth: Am I crazy to be wondering if maybe the tattoo could be getting more and more elaborate as time passes here?
Clancy: Yeah, you are. (laughing)
Beth: Cuz I was just waiting… I thought, now, he can’t be done with that already. He’s enjoying this too much! But oh, well… nevermind.
So, how important is free will going to be to Justin’s end of the story?
Clancy: Ah, the free will debate! Depends on your particular view, I think. It’s never really addressed. It’s such a good point that you raised, and it kind of goes to everybody’s particular view. But I don’t think it was ever addressed. The whole idea that Justin is some kind of super hero with mind control powers, I don’t particularly subscribe to. Because, what that does is diminish everyone.
Beth: Yeah, I get that.
Clancy: So, I never operated… And I don’t know what the thinking is in the writer’s room, and I don’t know what the thinking is in Dan’s head. And I don’t know what the thinking is in the HBO execs’ heads – though, I don’t wanna know. But in my head it was always -- these are flawed people. These are people that have… These are victims. These are people who need to be taken care of and are willing to sublimate their own selves, sublimate their own humanity, really, to something else, for whatever reason. In the past, in the first season, it was because of some kind of shame, some kind of sin, some kind of awful event. You know, the gluttony of Val Templeton and the prurience of Carol Templeton, so those are the weaknesses that are exploited by Justin. But I like to think that Justin is exploiting weaknesses. He’s not controlling anybody. He’s just giving rein to the darker instincts.
Clancy: That’s what I think. And only when he needs to. He doesn’t really care what they do one their own time.
Beth: Yeah! He can’t be bothered with all those little details.
Clancy: Right. You know, Eleanor’s living a very… She’s as happy as she can be. And she’s useful. But I’m not mind-controlling her to clean up the kitchen.
Beth: You’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Clancy: She’s just as happy as she could possibly be, being one of the in-crowd.
Beth: And that’s kind of the way it works in cults, anyway. You have to decide to give yourself over to it.
Clancy: Right. Then you’re used according to your particular talents and gifts. So, in terms of Celeste… Is it a rape? Absolutely not! Absolutely not! It’s not even a mental rape. I mean, she came damaged. And now she’s in service as a maid, and then she’s in service as a concubine. And I don’t know if that wild animal biting event was something that had happened several times, or if that was the only time it happened. But I’m convinced it’s not a rape.
I mean, if it is, then it’s not interesting. Then it’s just he’s an asshole, and when is the good guy going to catch him? And it also says that everybody around him are just weak victims – but they’re not!
Beth: And that nobody has any control when it comes to Justin. So, he could be doing anything to anybody, at any time, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Clancy: And humanity is at the mercy of powers greater… And I don’t believe that. I think that’s really what Management is getting at when he’s talking to Ben that, you know, this is a species, this is a society worth saving. And you have to appeal to the best in all of them. That’s why I love the scene when he makes the old guy feel bad about pimping his retarded daughter.
Beth: Yeah… The Crooked Man.
Clancy: I love that scene, because it really is… It’s not about punishing, it’s not about whipping somebody into shape. It’s about allowing his better nature to flow through.
Beth: Right. Here’s your better way, now take it.
Clancy: And Justin is about letting the darker nature flow through.
Beth: Right. Here’s the path I’m laying out in front of you, now what are you going to do?
Clancy: Right, and as innocent and wonderful as Celeste is, there is a part of her that is a whore that was there before.
Beth: That he saw… Because people have debated whether he was putting that thought into her mind, or whether that thought was already there about him, and he just saw it.
Clancy: Well, why else would he pay her any attention, if he wasn’t getting some kind of vibe that she had some shame to exploit?
Beth: Well, that’s true. Because if he had that kind of power, then he could just put that thought into ANYBODY’S head. So, why her?
Clancy: Right, I mean, it wouldn’t matter.
Beth: I mean, if he wanted to just drop that thought into his own sister’s head, then he could, so…
Clancy: I mean, was she the cutest babe at the party? Really, I mean, what difference would that make to him?
Beth: Because it’s about control and power, anyway. It’s not about who’s cute.
Clancy: Right. And HE’S not the one who brought her into the house!
Clancy: In fact, in that moment, he went over and comforted her. And then looked at Iris. But I don’t know what THAT look was about.
Beth: I kind of interpreted it as a “Look what I have. Now what are YOU gonna do about it?” There was a bit of that Wednesday & Pugsley, “Nyah-nyah…” tongue-poking factor in it. But Iris certainly looked disturbed by that little display. And I think she’s just so desperate to try to keep that hold on him that she hasn’t got anymore.
Clancy: That might be. That’s certainly valid. That’s certainly a more interesting conclusion than everybody’s just running scared from the Frankenstein Monster.
Beth: I’d hate to see it go that way, myself.
Clancy: I would, too.
Beth: So, where do you think the theme of sacrifice is going to come into play in any of this? Because people are certainly sacrificing… or FAILING to sacrifice when they were supposed to.
Clancy: Yeah… Justin talks a lot about that. At least it crosses his lips every now and then. And that whole thing about the lambs and stuff, I’m not really sure about that. That was actually added later. I can’t remember what the original speech was, but they put something in and it was… They are constantly doing this. They find that they have holes in the speeches, especially, the radio addresses. And they want them to play longer or there’s not enough there to begin with, which is often the case. So they add the stuff in later. And sometimes it goes together and sometimes it doesn’t. And that was one I don’t quite know what it means. I don’t think it really goes, but that’s what everybody decided upon. It must mean sumthin’! That’s really a question for Dan…
There are subsequent scenes that can be interpreted as sacrifice as far as Justin’s side. And I’m trying to think if there are any on Ben’s side. Not really. They had a couple of subplots and a couple of scenes that actually did imply that, but they were cut.
Beth: That’s too bad.
Clancy: Yeah, it is too bad. There was a whole sort of other drama going on with the carnival that really got marginalized because there wasn’t time to service it. I don’t know exactly why. The powers-that-be sometimes… it’s just the stupidest reasons. Just weird… Like we have to have a day shoot instead of a night shoot, something like that.
Beth: Well, ya know, I caught the repeat of the last episode and the thing you were pointing out about the change in your voice during Justin’s sermon, I think you’re right about that.
Clancy: Did you notice that?
Beth: Yeah. I think what they may have been trying to do is they were trying to make it sound like his voice was coming over the radio at certain points. It seemed like every time he was standing directly in front of the microphone, the voice changed just slightly, as if the voice was going out over the airwaves or something.
Clancy: I don’t know what it was, but to me it was pretty obvious. It seemed thinner at the top, and suddenly got really rich.
Beth: That was the only thing I could interpret from that change in sound – that when he’s talking to the congregation, you hear his regular voice, but when he steps in front of the microphone, it changes slightly to indicate it’s going out over the radio.
Clancy: Well, I thought it was a pretty cool sound design. I think that’s neat if, at certain points, it’s not just the rhetoric, it’s not just the power of Justin’s oratory or whatever, it’s an actual, ya know, psycho-physiological thing that happens.
Beth: It’s actually a different thing you’re hearing.
Clancy: Right. You’re actually hearing it in a different wavelength. So, I thought that was pretty cool. I thought that was a neat little trick, if that’s what actually happened. Maybe it’s not what actually happened, but it sure seemed like that’s what happened.
Beth: Now we’ll have to wait and see if they do it again.
Beth: Justin seems to be playing everybody against one another. Do you think he’s really trying to sacrifice Iris, or is he trying to kill two birds with one stone and turn against Tommy, too?
Clancy: Well, I know exactly what’s going on, so that’s not a fair question.
Beth: So, you can’t tell me anything…
Clancy: I can’t tell you. Otherwise it will spoil it.
Beth: Aw… okay. I won’t ask you that one… So, do you think Justin is punishing Norman for Norman’s failure to act when it came to killing him, or is there something different going on there?
Clancy: If Justin has any vestige of human motivation and psychology, it is all in regards to Iris and Balthus – those bonds. I think it’s safe to say Balthus and Iris are the only two creatures on the Earth that he loves.
Beth: Mm-hmm. I’d say that, too.
Clancy: Yeah, so… Somebody, maybe it was you, said the whole thing in the dining room with Celeste was payback for spitting in his face, and I’ve got no problem with that. That makes much more sense than they told me about it.
Beth: Well, it was another demonstration of power. Though my whole tangent about this thing is that it all seems to keep coming back to the sacrifice theme, and the Abraham and Isaac theme, where the person who’s going to have to really take Justin out is his own father, or fathers, or the people who love him. Just having somebody else, like Ben, do him in would seem a little empty, in my opinion.
Clancy: I’m not really sure. Initially, he certainly keeps Norman around because he loves Norman. That scene in the hospital, I think, was sincere. Even though it was very scary, I think it was sincere. Ya know, “It never should have come to this.” He wants the approval of his father.
Clancy: As the season goes on, that becomes less and less important to him.
Beth: Also, when you’re searching for approval from a parent, you get to a point, if you’re not getting it, when you’re going to just throw it back in their face, I think. So Justin’s certainly not going to get that approval from Norman, and that’s gotta get frustrating.
Clancy: But it’s also useful to his ministry, ya know? To have an invalid in the house… To be taking care of him. To have, somewhat, as the symbolic… It’s another symbol of compassion.
Beth: And wheeling him out… Look at the weak man who needs protecting, and this is me doing that.
Clancy: Right. So Balthus’s sort of PR value is huge, and will get even huger.
Beth: I’m really getting a kick out of Ralph Waites’s performance.
Clancy: Oh, he’s so much fun! He’s so funny, cuz he’d come in with all these ideas of how to be paralyzed. And he’s really done a great job! I mean, it’s one of those things where you don’t even see it until it’s filmed. It’s not obvious in front of your face. But he’s really… It’s so good!
Beth: The outrage! He’s just… There’s so much there.
Clancy: And that’s not an easy trick to do.
Beth: No! And you see it. It’s very subtle, when Justin is sitting there just feeding him the applesauce, like the serpent, “Here ya go…” And you just see it start to click with Balthus and just turn to rage.
Clancy: Yeah, it’s a great performance. It’s a really great performance.
Beth: I thought that whole scene there was kinda interesting. But boy, did that applesauce look green!
Clancy: I don’t know what it was, really. I think it was… Oh! We had to darken it up because the real applesauce was too pale. It was too fleshy colored.
Beth: Ah, that makes sense.
Clancy: And we couldn’t see it. Of course, what he spit was not what I was hit with. When they turned it around it wasn’t actually coming out of his mouth.
Beth: Right. What do they do? Do they just whip it at you… with what?
Clancy: It was in like some little air gun or something, and they just load it up with a wad of applesauce (laughing) and just shot it at me.
Beth: I think that you, admirably, did not flinch as much as I would have!
Clancy: Well, there was a few takes…
Beth: Just SPLAT! But Justin never misses a beat. He takes the little glasses off and starts wiping the applesauce away, and just keeps talking… Now, the one thing I keep landing on, and maybe I’m just full of it, is that Justin never speaks of Jesus. Never. At least not directly by name, which is bizarre for a minister of the Methodist faith.
Clancy: Yeah, well, and I think the only time he did it, at least so far, was when he said, “I’ll speak to more people than our Lord did…”
Clancy: Which was interesting.
Beth: Exactly… The one time he brings Him up, he’s comparing himself favorably!
Beth: With this kind of competitive attitude of, “I’ll do better!”
Clancy: But I don’t… Dan said that he wants to make sure that, and I was arguing with him on this… He wants to make sure that he never quotes the Bible.
Clancy: Justin always has Biblical-sounding things to say, but he never quotes the Bible.
Clancy: Well, ya know, after awhile, if you look through the Bible, there’s just too much good stuff! And useful, I mean. So, right around episode eight, I would say, maybe… Yeah, right around seven or eight, then everybody stopped being afraid of the Bible. And we started to really use it in an obviously perverse way.
Beth: Well, yeah, at a certain point, if Justin is the anti-Christ or whatever, then he WOULD probably do that. That would be like his final step into blasphemy and everything.
Clancy: Right. Right. But we had this conceit for a while, and it just became too forced. And, I mean, the Bible is a great book and very interesting. But it completely contradicts itself, over and over, depending on what book of the Bible you’re reading. You know, and Old Testament to New Testament are like completely different philosophies. So, I think what finally won the day was sticking with the more outrageous, angry, ferocious, Old Testament books…
Beth: Which makes sense, too.
Clancy: Right, and then somehow layering them onto New Testament images. We start to bring up New Testament images, but just sort of for our own purposes.
Beth: But that would make sense, though. It seems like he is avoiding talking about the Competition, as it were. Which I think is something an anti-Christ would do, and then trying to pervert those images for his own purposes.
Clancy: Right. But Justin is gaining confidence along the way. Plus, I think with what happens in the second season, you just can’t maintain that conceit. And it has to be about your free will. This is the language of these people, this is the spiritual language of the people that he’s supposedly subjugating.
Beth: Right, so he does have to take that language and really pervert it.
Clancy: Right, and he has to take that framing and twist it around to his own point of view. Which is also what we see happening in everyday politics and religion, anyway.
Beth: And I think that’s the only way you can get away with it, is if you pervert it. If he was really preaching the actual philosophy as it was MEANT to be preached, while continuing to build this evil, and making the actual philosophy seem evil, then you’d offend some people.
Clancy: Right. Scripture said the Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, and that’s really the point.
Beth: Right, and it will be really interesting to see if people start to cotton on to what he really is. Now do you think that Justin understand Ben’s role in all of this, or is he just hyper-focused on finding Scudder at this point? And will that change?
Clancy: What’s really interesting about the story, that nobody really… I’ve seen a couple people sort of approach it, is that Ben has SO MUCH more information than Justin.
Beth: Yes! He’s got a guide… or two!
Clancy: Yeah, he has a LOT of information. And when he has a question, he has someone giving him an answer, or at least pointing him in the right direction. Justin doesn’t have this. Justin is operating from what he comes up with. So, he knows that he has to become the Usher. Or he is the Usher and he has to become the Prophet, or whatever that is. But all he really knows for sure is that he’s gotta get Scudder, and he’s gotta kill him, in order… That’s the next step.
Beth: He must do that.
Clancy: Anything else, he’s kind of built. It’s his best guess. It’s his instinct, and it’s very much based in what he has been trained as a clergyman to do. It’s all perverted, it’s all stuck on it’s ear, and stuff. But it’s very much about that training. Given this information, what you do with that information, in the absence of any other information, is really gonna be determined by what your worldview is, and what your spiritual view is, and all the rest of that. So, he’s just trying to do what he thinks is right. And then, once he’s made the decision, he’s sure he IS right.
But Ben is getting very specific information, and very specific tools, and very specific direction, and to a very specific purpose, but still doesn’t quite… He’s embraced it, but he doesn’t get it on the level that Justin gets it. Justin gets it on a far more instinctive level than Ben. Ben is really being directed, and pushed, and guided, and told what to do. Justin is really sort of saying, “If this, then that… This is what I think I have to do. This is the conclusion I have to make now, in order for this to happen.” And maybe he doesn’t know exactly, he doesn’t know specifically why, because he doesn’t have Management or Scudder or anybody else telling him anything. The only one who has information that he doesn’t have is the Wilfred character, who he scared away.
Beth: Who he sent running… Yeah! You’d think he would have wanted to hang onto that little rat awhile longer.
Clancy: And we will see him again.
Beth: Oh, good.
Clancy: But Justin is not going to serve anyone else’s purpose. Justin is not going to be the tool of anyone except Justin. And that’s not necessarily an ego thing, it’s just… If this is the way it is, then this is what’s going to happen. If you’re putting me in charge, then this is how I’m going to run things.
Beth: He’s in charge, and nobody else is going to be in charge before him. Now, speaking of ego… What’s with the mirror? I mean, he’s lovin’ that mirror this season.
Clancy: Yeah, I think perhaps… There’s an episode with LOTS of mirrors in it. And I don’t know when that is. It’s coming up, but I’m not sure whether it’s coming up right away or not. I don’t remember much about it.
Beth: You seem to be having lots of encounters with your mirror.
Clancy: Yeah, I mean, if you’re in charge, you have to LOOK like you’re in charge. (laughing)
Clancy: And he is vain. We know that from last season. There’s a streak of vanity, and he likes to be put together. And, to me, that doesn’t indicate anything. You know, given the choice between someone who wears a bloody shirt through the entire first season, and somebody who actually takes a bath and combs his hair (laughing), I’d definitely take the guy who puts on new clothes.
Beth: Yeah, definitely play that guy.
Clancy: I guess you could say that Justin is vain and that motivates a lot of his shit. But it doesn’t. I just think Justin is… If it has anything to do with the show, it’s that Ben is a filthy dirty, common guy, and Justin is an aristocrat, he’s part of the priesthood, he’s part of the elite. That’s true.
Beth: I was wondering if maybe he wasn’t busy telling himself things in that mirror, kind of giving himself a look and confirming that he’s still right about everything. When he looks at himself, he’s kind of wondering, “Am I on the right path still?” And of course, seeing himself, he thinks, “Yeah, I am!” Just bolstering himself up every day.
Clancy: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” that was the last mirror thing.
Beth: Yeah, that was great. We were there when you filmed that, and just the sound of your voice over those headphones singing that song was chilling. I don’t think what we heard in the actual episode did it justice. It just totally turned the lyrics of that song upside down. I had that song stuck in my head for weeks afterward. It was just the combo of the song and the looking in the mirror. It was great.
Now, some people have landed on the idea that he’s not wearing his minister’s collar anymore, but I think you’ve just changed the color of the collar, haven’t you?
Clancy: I don’t think he ever actually wore one of those classic reverend collars where it’s got a white band.
Beth: It looks like it’s just a really narrow white band, but it’s mostly black, isn’t it?
Clancy: Yeah. There was only one episode where it was white, and it got a white band for a stupid reason. It was last episode. It was a dumb-ass reason. And Chrissy, who designed the costumes, was really pissed off that it became an issue. Because it was one of those issues that everybody discussed, but then somebody sort of said, “Well, what about…?” and nobody came to her defense. Well, I did, sort of. But we aren’t the people that make the final decision, so we said, “You don’t need it. You never need it. That’s what we decided.” But there was some pragmatic reason why they needed a little white… to show some blood or something. So the compromise was to do that namby-pamby little white band, and it was just one of those moments that was just so… It was just a waste of time -- a complete waste of time.
Beth: So we’re killin’ ourselves out here wondering about that for nothing, huh? (laughter)
Clancy: He’s never worn a priest’s collar, and in the one episode that he did, it’s a political mistake.
Beth: Because people are constantly thinking he’s a Catholic priest. But no, he’s not a Catholic priest, he’s a Methodist minister.
Clancy: It’s because he wears that cassock. Well, he’s certainly trained Methodist. That was the structure he was in. But he does have pretenses to priestliness.
Beth: Yes, he does. He’s redefining priestliness for himself, I think. So, is there any chance we’ll get to see any of the Irina/Alexei/Plemina back-story?
Clancy: Um… Do we get to see it?
Beth: Or do they expound upon it any more? Do we hear any more about it?
Clancy: We do, but not in any satisfactory way. I think some of the theories I’ve read are really great, and I would hope that something like that would be clarified. But it really didn’t get addressed very much. There is one big moment where you hear about as much as you’re gonna hear about it, then that’s the end. It would be good though…
Beth: It would be fascinating, because I think you’re gonna know a lot more about who’s on what side, if you know more about that back-story.
Clancy: That would be a much subtler way to build it, but this season is not about subtlety. LAST season was all about subtlety, and we got the crap beat out of us for it. So, I think they got scared of it and went right to paint-by-numbers.
Beth: Aw, bummer.
Clancy: And now that’s not even good enough! (laughing)
Beth: So, how fun was the tattoo scene?
Clancy: Which one?
Beth: The first one, the “big reveal” scene.
Clancy: Those aren’t fun.
Beth: And what is it with them always casting the tiniest women on the planet opposite you?
Clancy: I dunno… Well, Jaime’s not tiny. I mean, she’s smaller than me. Maybe all women look tiny with me me, I dunno. And Kirstie’s certainly not tiny.
Beth: Well, yeah, Jaime and Kirstie held their own standing next to you. But Laura Innes? Good grief!
Beth: When I saw that pairing, all I could think was, “No…. Surely not.” And that poor little Japanese lady in the tattoo parlor is on tippy-toe trying to slide that kimono off your shoulders.
Clancy: She was lovely. She was very game. The one thing that got cut from that, that I’m sorry about, was they did the whole tea ceremony. They shot the entire tea ceremony, and they cut that. And really, it goes on and on and on…I had no idea how long and involved it was. And she knows all about that stuff, so we did the entire tea ceremony. And I think they figured that it was supposed to be like a sexy kind of thing, to build up the tension, and then drop the robe and everybody sees it’s got nothing to do with that. So they axed that tea ceremony. Either it wasn’t sexy enough, or they didn’t have time.
Beth: It looks like they had to fill that tattoo in a little bit so it would fit you.
Clancy: Yeah, because it was a Don-sized tattoo.
Beth: The one on the back looked especially small. Not so much on the front, but on the back, cuz you’ve got some shoulders! But there was definitely something different about the way that tattoo looked. I was thinking, maybe it just looks small or something.
Clancy: It’s not smaller, it’s just that I’m bigger. And Don’s a good-sized guy, but he’s not my size, so…
Beth: It looked short.
Clancy: Yeah, it was short, and I think it took everybody kinda by surprise, and they tried to fix it as quickly as they could. And once they got into that, for the sake of continuity, they had to keep it that way.
Beth: Yeah, you’ve got the root cummerbund going! (laughing)
Clancy: (laughing) Yeah, exactly. At least it’s very slimming…
Beth: I was gonna ask… Do you think…? No, you probably can’t tell me that. But let’s just say I’m looking forward to the day Iris sees that tattoo for the first time.
Clancy: Yeah. That’s a big moment. The big moment that was in it the way it was originally scripted was even bigger. But they took out some elements that I wish they didn’t. (chuckling) Ya know? Some… Well, ya know, just like touches that made it even wilder.
Beth: I’m just looking at that little Judas kiss you seem to be giving her in this last preview. Which we will have seen by the time this interview is published…
Clancy: That was… That scene was tough to play because, and I’ll tell you now that it’s her confession, and Tommy’s writing it down.
Clancy: And the kiss is me telling her that she’s done the right thing.
Beth: Aw, how sweet of him…
Clancy: The kisses between Iris and me… Ya know, Amy and I always had an idea of what we wanted to do. We always wanted to keep the idea, keep the line a little muddy between whether they’re still lovers or not, or whether they EVER were! But make it a little bit more intimate a kiss and more familiar a kiss than anybody’s comfortable with.
Beth: Right. Like when he’s leaving to go to the little Japanese lady, it was like, “Whoa… That’s the way you kiss your sister goodbye?”
Clancy: Yeah, exactly. And we just loved doing that. That was just sort of our little add-on, and everyone would try to calm us down from that. But we’d say, oh man, that’s… THAT’S the moment! I mean, kissing your sister, first of all, grosses most people out anyway. But kissing your sister like she’s not your sister? Like she’s your wife, and to push it further, like she’s your lover… Though we never really went that far. We just tried to keep it as familiar as possible. But we tried to imbue many of these kisses with something more than was there. I don’t even think that kiss was actually scripted. And at the end of the last episode, where she’s trying to say, “You don’t talk to me anymore.” We tried to insert one in there, too. But we got talked out of that one. When I see it now, I think, well, maybe a kiss wouldn’t have been right. But something more intimate would have been better.
Beth: Yeah, because she just looked scared and pissed and, “Don’t you do this to me or I’ll do it to you, too.”
Clancy: There’s a couple scenes I’d like to have back, but not in any big way. Just to make adjustments. I wouldn’t change what they’re about or anything. I would just punch up this or cut that back, or something.
Beth: Well, the kisses have always been sort of a husband/wife thing. The only time it went into lover territory was when she confessed to burning down the orphanage.
Clancy: So that’s kind of what I was trying to echo, and it wasn’t in there. It was not… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t scripted.
Beth: Well, I think we’ve managed to talk about this season without revealing too many secrets or getting into too much trouble here.
Clancy: Well, there’s nothing to get in trouble about. Like you said online, they’re spoiling their own show.
Beth: Yeah, it’s not like HBO isn’t putting up plenty of spoilers all on their own.
Clancy: After a while, it’s kinda like the Bible. Everybody knows what’s going to happen, and it’s becoming kind of obvious, I think. And it will get more and more obvious what the thing is. And some of these questions, they’re not going to be important because the answers will be obvious -- who’s light and who’s dark, and all that stuff. But the drama lives in another thing, in what the bigger question is. And it’s the first question of wonder and reason. That’s the point, I think.
The Ben story is really kicking up. And he’s… It’s a lot of fun to watch now. It’s a lot of fun to watch Ben’s story. And probably, if they’d have approached Ben’s story with this amount of energy the first season, it would have been a lot clearer as we went. People wouldn’t be bitching so much. But there was just certain information that you couldn’t reveal to your hero without compromising so much. So now, they’ve revealed everything to the hero that they’re going to reveal, just yet. They have a plan for that. And so, it’s kicked it up another… But you know, he has very specific things he’s trying to accomplish, and that helps a lot, I think. And he’s really going to town with it, which is so good to see.
Beth: Yeah, they’ve given Nick some room to shine.
Clancy: Yeah, and he’s taken it. He’s doing great. I knew it!
Beth: It’s just nice that they’re letting him now.
Clancy: In the first season, I talked to a couple of the writers and I said, “Don’t worry about Nick. Whatever you give him, he can deliver. But you gotta give him a story!”
Beth: Something other than him standing there looking confused or pissed off.
Clancy: Yeah, you gotta give him something to do other than being confused. The AUDIENCE is confused. Forget that! We don’t need a surrogate for that.
Clancy: I don’t know why they were so hesitant in the first season. I still think they knew what they were doing, and they knew what the plan was, but they were worried about revealing too much too soon, I think. And that was their excuse for not making Ben as active as he should have been. And you could still keep that ambiguity, but still keep that character active. And now they’ve sort of tied it all together and made him active, AND revealed a lot of stuff. Which, as I said before, you don’t necessarily have to do, but it’s so good to see him active and rockin’. I think he’s just great!