The AMC drama series The Killing, returning for its second season on April 1st, ties together three distinct stories around a single murder – the detectives assigned to the case, the victim’s grieving family, and the suspects. While Season 1 was all about questions and red herrings, Season 2 promises to start uncovering the answers while delving into and exploring the notion that everyone has past secrets that are now coming back to haunt them. And, the resolution of who killed Rosie Larson (Katie Findlay) will be answered at the conclusion of this season.
At a press day for the show, actor Billy Campbell (who plays Mayoral candidate Darren Richmond) talked about being surprised by the fan outcry after the Season 1 finale, that he finds out what’s going on with the show on a script by script basis, how not knowing informs his performance, that he sees this series as one continuous movie, and how much he enjoys being surrounded by such great actors. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
BILLY CAMPBELL: No, no I wasn’t.
Were you surprised by the fan outcry?
CAMPBELL: I think I was surprised by the fan outcry. I watched the Danish version, before I did this series, and they do the same thing. You don’t find out until the end of the second season, and there was no outcry over there. So, I’m thinking that the big difference must’ve been that the log line and slogan, “Who killed Rosie Larsen?,” must’ve built a certain expectation. Otherwise, the story’s being unfolded exactly as it was conceived to be unfolded. There’s not a real difference in the length of the season or in much of anything, except our story is slightly different because we can’t have the same killer. When you think about it, you shouldn’t have the same killer. So, yeah, I was a bit surprised, but I would be surprised, if those people who had difficulty with the ending don’t turn in again. That would be the really surprising thing. To me, if I’m reading a fantastic story or I go on a nice first date and I have a wonderful time, I’m not gonna complain because it didn’t work out. I’m gonna go on a second date.
How far ahead do they tell you what’s going on with your character? Do you literally just find out script by script?
CAMPBELL: I find out script by script. On the one hand, I don’t want to know, really. Some of the cast are more pro-active in wanting to know. They go to Veena [Sud] and say, “I need to know because I need to be able to play the character,” or “I need to be able to look for work after the second season.” But, I’m more zen about it. I don’t want to know. For me, the experience of making the show is very much like being in a novel. I enjoy getting the new script. I make a cup of tea and I read it the same way I would read a book, with the same amount of joy. And then after I read it a couple times I’ve had that enjoyment, then I don’t read it anymore. I read only my scenes, every morning, just to be familiar with the words, so by the time the show airs, I’ve forgotten everything that happened, so I get to enjoy it again for a second time.
CAMPBELL: I like what I think I know of him.
How does that inform your performance, as an actor, to not necessarily know the character?
CAMPBELL: That’s the single most interesting thing about working on the show. I don’t know if he might be an outright, absolute, horrible, heinous killer. He’s either this great guy who is a force for good in the world, or he sees himself that way. I don’t know. I have to play it as if I could be either thing. I can’t say that I haven’t done some bad acting in my time. I have. Usually that involves what we actors call indicating, when you twirl your mustache. But, in this, you can’t indicate anything because you don’t know, one way of the other. It’s a very interesting acting exercise to play right in the middle. That’s basically how I approach it.
Having been shot in last season’s finale and now stuck in a hospital bed, were there challenges specific to acting in such a confined space?
CAMPBELL: Everything about acting is a challenge. I’m self-conscious. You couldn’t do anything to cause me to be more self-conscious than to stick a camera in my face and have 60 people standing behind it, waiting for me to perform. It’s just naturally self-conscious to begin with. A great deal of my battle, as an actor, is to widdle away the things that make me self-conscious and try to trick myself into not being self-conscious. So, it’s always a challenge, whether I’m lying in a hospital bed or flying around with a rocket pack on my back, or what have you. On the best of days, it’s a challenge for me. So, lying in a hospital bed actually was kind of nice because we’d be working and it’d become lunch time and I would just say, “Okay, go away,” and they would all go off to lunch. I would go to sleep and then, 40 minutes later, I’d wake up because they were lighting the scene around me. They’d say, “You wanna wake up now? We’re getting ready to shoot.” I can’t tell you how many days I spent, just sleeping right through lunch.
Do you see this as one continuous movie, in a sense?
CAMPBELL: It is. This is going to be a show that will be a complete joy to watch on the DVD or Blu-ray, or whatever you happen to watch it on. It’s made that way. It’s like a long movie. It’s really exciting stuff. It’s the stuff that I always dreamed that television could be. I’ve spent most of my career in television and, honestly, a lot of times, it’s not all that satisfying ‘cause it’s so episodic. The network wants you to make a thing that’s just a stand-alone episode, so you never get any character or continuity. This is one of the ways in which television can actually be good, and even better than the movies, because it gives you a chance to tell a long story.
Are there not better opportunities in TV now, then there ever were before?
CAMPBELL: Yes. When I first came to Hollywood, I used to dream of doing films and escaping television. I’ve been very, very lucky. I’ve done some things that have been quite interesting, but as grateful as I am for having been on Dynasty, it was just so cheesy. That’s half the reason it was so much fun for people to watch, but it’s not so fun to have to say those lines. A series is potentially a novel. So many movies are so formulaic because you’ve got to get it done in an hour and a half. On a TV series, that’s where the really interesting stuff can happen. I think this show is phenomenal. I really, genuinely do.
CAMPBELL: Before we started filming.
What did you think of it?
CAMPBELL: It blew off the top of my skull. I was traveling east to Nova Scotia and I got stuck in Newark airport for 24 hours, between my flights. I didn’t have a hotel or anything, so I was just hanging around and I had all these DVDs, so I started watching them. I watched 10 episodes in a row and, for the last three of them, I had to pee so badly. I couldn’t even get up and ask somebody to watch my bags. I just put in the next disc. It was amazing, to me. It’s what I always dreamt television could be. More and more, we’re seeing great long-form storytelling on television.
What has your experience with AMC been like?
CAMPBELL: It’s phenomenal. I think AMC is the best little cable channel on television, and maybe the best any kind of outlet on television. I spent some time, during the first season, talking to the guys that were there from AMC. Some folks came to be on the set and just hang around. I was really curious about the network’s M.O., and they said, “The deal is that we just make stuff that we want to see.” I think they’ve had such phenomenal success because they’re excited about it. Look at who they were to begin with. They show film. They love cinema, and it’s obvious. This feels like being in an amazing movie, except it’s just ongoing. It’s fantastic.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, some people were like, “The finale just pissed me off!” And I would be like, “Oh, that’s too bad. You’re not gonna watch the second season?” They’d be like, “No, I’m gonna watch the second season!” I remember reading one thing from somebody online and they were like, “This was infuriating! I vow that I will never watch it again. I won’t touch it with a 10-foot stick!” I’m like, “You know you’re gonna watch! That’s bullshit!”
You’re surrounded by such a terrific cast on this show, but your character is isolated a lot from the rest of the cast. Do you ever regret not having scenes with too many of the other actors?
CAMPBELL: Yes, I do. Brent [Sexton] and I had a scene this season, and we were both so excited to work with each other. But, I have two fine actors (Kristin Lehman and Eric Ladin) that I work with regularly, and we have a great time, so I’m not complaining. Sure, I would love to have more to do with the rest of the cast. It’s a particularly brilliant cast, so I’ve been trying to keep my head above water and up my game.
The Killing airs on Sunday nights on AMC, starting with a two-hour premiere on April 1st.