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Arts and Entertainment

TV Junkie: Interview with Donal Logue of FX's 'Terriers'

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Donal Logue stars as Hank Dolworth in FX's "Terriers" - FX at 10pm tonight

Donal Logue stars as Hank Dolworth in FX's "Terriers" - FX at 10pm tonight
Back at the beginning of September we grabbed a couple minutes with Donal Logue, star of one of our favorite shows, "Terriers", which is on FX tonight at 10pm. A few minutes weren't enough for us and Logue kindly granted us the following interview. Last week I railed against the bizarre viewing tendencies of the Nielsen-monitored public, who were watching "Steven Seagal: Lawman" in greater numbers than "Terriers". I still don't get it - I guess the majority of people are really that stupid as they elected George W. Bush not once but twice. As Logue explains below, "Terriers" isn't for the Ivory Tower crowd - it's about real guys having real conversations and emotions. We're hoping that more people are able to connect with this show - it's OnDemand and otherwise available. There's still time to catch up and enjoy this great story of two erstwhile private investigators who can get in and out of situations on their own. Because they're not the big dogs, they don't get noticed. Last week's episode took the boys to Mexico, to an underground network of drug dealers with tentacles in the US - we can't wait for the continuation of the story tonight. In the meantime, please read the interview in which Donal Logue provides incredible insight into why he got involved with "Terriers" and what continues to motivate him as an actor and creator.

LAist: How did the "Terriers" tour go?

Donal Logue: It was great, we're done now unless we do a West Coast leg, but it was really good, really fun.

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LAist: What kind of reception did you get? Have you done something like this before?

Donal Logue: I did something like this on a much smaller scale when I had directed an independent feature called Tennis Anyone. It played in Landmark Theatres and we would go to a lot of cities like Berkeley, Dallas, or Boston and do a screening and then a Question and Answer and we'd tie it in with a a visit to a local college - talking to students who would be interested in what I'm doing now, helping demystify the process, to help people learn from the mistakes I've made. so this grew out of that experience.

LAist: On this tour, what have people been telling you about "Terriers"?

Donal Logue: It's interesting, there's a lot more people watching the show in places like Tulsa, Oklahoma, than I thought. Maybe even more people than are represented in ratings. I was kind of blown away by how many people love the show. I think what's odd is that I was in "Damages" one and it was kind of a similar experience because, even though I've been "ER" and big [network] TV shows and a bunch of big studio movies, I was surprised by how many people singled me out on the street for one appearance in one episode of "Damages". So I've always felt that there's been a weird kind of disconnect between shows like that and the ratings, just in terms of the street-level love that you get. I think that "Damages" was in the same kind of situation as "Terriers" in that regard.

LAist: You mentioned people in places like Tulsa loving the show. It's evident in watching "Terriers" that the characters that you and Michael Raymond James play are guys that have a universal appeal to them. These are guys that are not specific to San Diego or coastal California.

Donal Logue: Yeah, hopefully! [For example, as my character] I'm holding onto the hope that my wife who's left me will come back to me and won't make some move that will make that an impossibility. The sense of loss and heartbreak and fear when that becomes a reality, the hope is that even without any dialogue, if you can play those moments clearly, someone in China would understand those feelings. What's surprised people about "Terriers" a lot too, is that there is this sense of freewheeling adventure and danger out there on the beach but it's been these really poignant moments in personal relationships that have struck a chord most deeply with the viewers who are passionate about the show.

LAist: What really got to me most recently is the plotline that your character knows a horrible secret about his partner's girlfriend.

Donal Logue: It's a horrible truth to be burdened with. I am, of course, protective of my friend but I have feelings for everybody in the situation. Things are much more complicated than: someone does someone wrong and someone is bad and someone is good. People also, when they love something an awful lot but they do what they can to sabotage it if they are dealing with their own feelings of self-worth and esteem. What I love about our show is that it's layered in that regard. I think that people play these moments that convey the messiness and complications and emotional difficulties of real life.

LAist: What was interesting about the scene we're discussing is that your character moves to share the burden with her.

Donal Logue: Those are the conundrums, the fun things to get into as an actor. Even to make the snap judgement of what to do when someone unloads a grenade like that in your lap is what drew me to the show. There could have been 70 or 75 scenes that I was in in that particular episode, and so when you get to carry the ball a lot you get to do it in a lot of different ways and you get to do it in a lot of different dramatic situations. The nature of the subject matter and how human everything was is why doing this is such a blast, I had never had an opportunity like that before.

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LAist: We talked about universality and that scene, you could have been done it in a World War II bunker or on a space ship.

Donal Logue: She's [Laura Allen as Katie Nichols] so fantastic too. For instance, there is something earlier in the season, Michael revealed to her how he knew her, from this nefarious thing that he used to be involved in, and she reacted strongly by kicking him out, but then she invites him in again and it becomes this kind of slightly twisted sexual fantasy thing. It could have been made funny in a way, but the way she did it revealed this darker side to her character that left the door open for things like this to happen.

And I think because of the strength of her acting and how she played that scene it opened up all these doors for the writers to say "Oh wow! We hadn't anticipated this interior life in this character!" And that's what is so interesting about 1 hour television, a performance in one scene can open up all these avenues, unlike a movie which is kind of complete, before you start you know where the end is, this show constantly evolves and changes.

LAist: Is that your most favorite thing about working on the show?

Donal Logue: I think so, you always have a chance for redemption. We're proud of the work and we worked hard but there's always these misgivings, "we could have done this better". But with one-hour TV, if I'm down on myself I feel like we have somewhere to go, the game's not over, and it's changing, and there's always the possibilities for these new scenarios. That's why this is the best medium for actors, writers, and directors.

LAist: Can you tell me where things are going with the network?

Donal Logue: The network is the best place to work for what we do. The smartest group of executives I've ever encountered in my life. They love the show, they're the ones who put it on, and they've always backed it. They're baffled as to why the content is so good and the response, ratings-wise, has been so small. It puts them in a difficult position to try to get away with putting as much art on the air as they can while still satisfying the requirements that they're in a business. I know that they root for this show and that every episode will air before a decision is made, unlike somewhere like Fox, which might say "we love 'Lone Star' but unfortunately we have to jump off". We're lucky in that regard.

They've been very helpful, they wanted to put this tour together, they were generous and helpful in doing that, and they're excited that we wanted to be proactive about marketing and promoting the show. I certainly don't feel like there's a cold wind blowing from the castle with no communication. We're hoping our fortunes will turn around and that all the bloggers and critics who were enthusiastic about the show stay with us as the season continues and that the enthusiasm spills over into something broader. I don't know that this will be enough for this to affect how it's doing on the business side.

LAist: FX is a brave network which is reassuring.

Donal Logue: They're fantastic! They've hung onto things like "Damages" which was in a similar predicament, because they love the content. They're supernice people, and as much as all this is a business, it doesn't feel like it is a business when dealing with FX. We want to do well for them, they probably want this show to be a huge hit more than any of us do.

LAist: I look at Wednesdays, at the 10pm slot, and I don't understand what people are watching, particularly on cable.

Donal Logue: I'd say the one thing I'd watch on Wednesdays at 10, if I weren't watching my show, would be "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike. It's the only reality show I've ever watched and I have friends in the UFC and I'm a fan of that world. I was overly confident with "Terriers", yeah I know that there's a problem with the name, but I was hoping that once people got past that they'd see it was this show about these guys who were recognizable in a way that feels real, and that the emotions feel real. These guys are men that talk to women, even though they struggle with things, even though they don't have a master plan, they put together things as fast as they come at them. It's funny in a way that things should be funny, we say things to crack each other up in stressful situations, but it's not written as a comedy.

I was hoping that people would think that this was something like a breath of fresh air - but now I think I'm wrong. If I was in a TV series where Brit was a robot and we were tight, and we're friends, and he had human characteristics, but I had to go program him every night, I guarantee you it would be a huge success. Even if there were absurd scenes of me trying to find batteries for him in Mexico. This is just the way it is but I don't understand it.

I don't think we're making erudite television - I think we're making TV so that people in my hometown of El Centro tell me "That was intense!" It's not made for an elitist audience. We'll keep trying.

LAist: Were there tough moments and commitments in creating "Terriers"?

Donal Logue: I broke my shoulder during the year. I had a useless arm from the first episode on. Michael and I shared a house while we filmed and that guy would help me put my shirt on in the morning. But you feel like you put everything into it, how close we were with the crew, and all these people who worked on it, but when it looks like it's going under, you really start to think "I've lost my mind". Because, I was convinced the work was good, I was so excited at how good the work was, and how the people on the crew would be teary-eyed after shooting a scene. But then it comes out to the sound of crickets, it's only because of the love we got from people who have been vocal about the show and can communicate that in a way that I can't even articulate - that I can get confirmation that I'm not crazy, and that me and these other great people worked on something that was great.

Last night I did a screening at CAA of a movie I did with Molly Parker andGarret Dillahunt, it's called Oliver Sherman, and it's about these two vets. But there weren't a ton of people were there which is fine because it was a bit of an uberhip cast for people in the know. After the screening this vet came up to us, superemotional, saying that the film was a bit hard to take because it was so accurate as to what he felt, and that this film should be shown to veterans groups. I think if we had done a screening to 1800 hipsters at the Angelika who were screaming about it, I think that it wouldn't have felt as strong as the reaction from 1 person to whom we were trying to communicate. I think we're on the right track with that film similarly, and I think that we've made great connections with people who love "Terriers".

LAist: Tell us a bit more about what it's like working with Michael Raymond-James, since the relationship between your characters is what the show is all about.

Donal Logue: Hangin' with him, working with him, living with him, and doing a 3-week bus tour with him, only brings us closer. I feel very strongly about him and about us. If people are playing romantics, it's always kind of difficult as there's always an element of artifice to it, even if they are romantically linked off-screen. But if you play buddies, working with someone who is a buddy of yours, where there is genuine affection, it doesn't suffer from awkwardness. In a weird way, two guys are free to have that bond with out competing relationships. It's about these guys, these two men who would take a bullet for the other, because when push comes to shove they realize that they have each other.

I knew from the second that I met that guy on the TV show "Life", that he was a special person, an amazing person. He's the easiest human being to just roll with that you can imagine. Big heart, incredibly generous, never gets caught up on small shit, awesome to be around. We don't want to stop making this show, selfishly for myself, because I just don't want to stop working with Michael.


"Terriers" airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FX