The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Billy Campbell (“Killing Lincoln”)

Billy Campbell got his initial break in Hollywood when he pulled a recurring role on “Dynasty” in 1984, started to escape from the small screen somewhat in 1991 by playing the title in Disney’s highly underrated “The Rocketeer,” and has since bounced back and forth between TV and film, most recently spending two seasons on AMC’s “The Killing.” This Sunday, however, Campbell can be seen in another “Killing,” when he steps back through the mists of time to play American’s 16th President in the National Geographic original movie, “Killing Lincoln,” based on the book by Bill O’Reilly.

During the Winter 2013 TCA Press Tour, Campbell took some time – more than his publicist was expectingly, frankly, not that we were complaining – to chat with Bullz-Eye about his surprise over being pitched the role of Lincoln, his strong views over Disney’s mishandling of “The Rocketeer,” his even stronger statements to the bloggers who bitched about the Season 1 finale of “The Killing,” and how he was only one audition away from getting the role of Commander William T. Riker on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

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Bullz-Eye: To begin at the beginning, how did you find your way into “Killing Lincoln” in the first place? Did you audition for the gig, or did they actually come looking for you?

Billy Campbell: I didn’t audition. They… [Hesitates.] What did they do? [Laughs.] They approached me months before this happened, and I…well, they didn’t approach me. My manager called me and said, “I got this weird sort of feeler: would you be interested in playing Lincoln?” And I burst into laughter, and I thought, “Ridiculous! I’m not Lincoln!” Nevertheless, we sent them a photo which I thought was Lincoln-esque—or a photo that I thought was the least non-Lincoln-esque—that I could find, and I forgot all about it. And then months later I got a call from my agent saying, “You’ve been offered Lincoln.” And I was…amused. But I accepted. And that was it.

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The Light from the TV Shows: On the Set with “Necessary Roughness”

Raise your hand if, when you first heard about the USA Network series “Necessary Roughness,” the first thought that came to mind was the 1991 film . . .

Uh-huh. That’s exactly what I thought.

Oh, fine, so I couldn’t see how many people raised their hands. I still refuse to believe that I’m the only one whose mind went down that road, though I admit that it’s possible I was the only one who was also thinking, “You might, I might actually watch that…” Not that it was a great film, but it had a pretty interesting cast (Scott Bakula, Jason Bateman, Hector Elizondo, Robert Loggia, Larry Miller, Sinbad, and Rob Schneider), and the college-football-team premise is one that would be easy to pick up 20 years after the fact.

But, no, USA’s “Necessary Roughness,” while also about football, instead revolves around Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne), a divorcée who reluctantly takes on a job as a therapist for a pro football team – the fictional New York Hawks – in an effort to keep herself and her children  afloat financially. After settling into the gig, Dani’s success with the Hawks combined with a significantly increased profile lead to a sudden influx of new and equally high-profile patients. In addition to Thorne, who you may remember from her roles on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Wire,” and “Rescue Me,” the show has several other familiar faces within its cast, including Marc Blucas (Riley Finn on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) as Hawks athletic trainer Matthew Donnally, Scott Cohen (Max Medina on “Gilmore Girls”) as Nico Careles, the team’s ex-SEAL head of security, and Mehcad Brooks (Eggs on “True Blood”) as T.K. King, the Hawks’ star player.

What’s that? You say you’re intrigued and want to know what you missed during the show’s first season? Wow, good thing USA thought ahead and put together the perfect collection of clips to summarize the first 12 episodes for you…

A few weeks back, USA was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to head down to the “Necessary Roughness” set, tour the facility, and meet with Thorne, Cohen, and Brooks. Each of these fine folks sat down with myself and my fellow TV critics, bloggers, and interviewers (I’m just trying to cover all the bases to avoid missing out on someone’s favorite term for themselves) and chatted about their work on the series thus far and what viewers can expect from the second season of “Necessary Roughness,” which premieres – yikes! – tonight at 10 PM.

That’s fine, go ahead and run set your DVR now, so you don’t forget. But rush right back, because the highlights of those on-set conversations are coming right up…

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The Light from the TV Shows: At long last, “Common Law”

You may remember – or you may not, given how long it’s been – that way back in December I offered a sneak preview of an upcoming USA Network series called “Common Law,” the set of which I’d just returned from. Almost immediately after posting the story, however, I was forced to add the following post-script:

I’ve just gotten word that the show’s premiere date is being shifted. Instead of January 26th, USA has decided to hold off the premiere of “Common Law” until the summer, as they believe it’ll draw a bigger audience then. Sometimes you get skeptical about the reasons behind schedule changes like these, but given that everyone on the junket seemed to enjoy the pilot, I’ll buy what they’re selling as the real deal. Sorry about the additional wait. Let’s hope it’s worth it.

Well, the time has finally come for the show’s premiere. “Common Law” arrives this Friday night, which makes this a perfect time to revisit that trip to New Orleans and give you a few comments offered up to us at the time from the show’s stars about their characters and the show itself.

Michael Ealy (Travis Marks) and Warren Kole (Wes Mitchell)

Michael Ealy: I think we definitely try to keep up the energy off-camera similar to the energy that’s on camera.  Like, just today we were about to do a scene, and we like to pencil-fight in between takes, so we tried to incorporate that into the scene because it’s something that we do. And now it’s something Travis and Wes. We can’t help it. We spend every day together, every day.

Warren Kole:  I’m very thankful that I’m working with an actor like Michael. He’s easy to work with every day. So we don’t end up killing each other.

ME:  I think, this whole process has felt completely unique because of the therapy component of the show.  When you get into therapy and you start talking about how we make each other feel and stuff like that…I mean, I’ve just never seen that before. Yes, we are a buddy/cop show.  That’s a component, as you can tell. That’s because we’re buddies and we’re cops. But the minute we get into therapy, I think we’re going into uncharted waters in terms of the buddy/cop dynamic.

WK: The dynamic in couples therapy, not that I’m speaking from experience, is often “I’m okay, but he or she has issues. “ There’s that, but there’s often a recognition of, y’know, “Maybe I have something to work on…”

ME:  That’s coming slowly. We’re starting to identify with our own flaws, if you want to call them that.

WK:  It’s like a sibling relationship in that way, because there’s a feeling of you’ve been so together with someone for so long and they don’t appreciate what you do and it’s their fault that they don’t appreciate what you’re doing for them. “And if you’d just respect me and recognize how much I do for you, then maybe I would swallow my pride and say the same thing back.” But we never really get there. Yet.  Haven’t got there yet.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Sneaking a Look at USA’s “Common Law”

When you’re a TV critic, sometimes the coolest opportunities come up at the very last second, and you’re put in a position where you have to scramble to take advantage of them. Such was the case on Monday of last week, when the boss-man of Bullz-Eye forwarded me an email and asked, “Is this something you would be interested in?”

In this instance, I was being offered the opportunity to fly to New Orleans, visit the set of the upcoming new USA series, “Common Law,” be among the first people to view the pilot for the series, and meet and participate in roundtable interviews with a few of the cast members. The only catch: the trip was taking place on Thursday.

Rationalizing that I could surely finish up all of the assignments on my plate before my departure, I said, “Sign me up!”

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As it turned out, I could not finish up all of the assignments on my plate before my departure. In fact, I didn’t even come close. I ended up having to finish one of them late on Thursday night, after having had a couple of Abitas, a couple of glasses of wine, a bourbon and ginger ale, and a Pimm’s Cup. That was possibly not my best work. Then I woke up Friday morning and finished two more assignments. And in the midst of the set visit, between roundtable interviews, I finished the last of the deadlines that had to be completed before the weekend. Of course, I still had two more that had to be finished by Sunday night, but I finally just had to say, “Screw it, I’m in New Orleans, that shit’s gonna have to wait ‘til I get home on Saturday.”

But I digress.

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