On the popular CW drama The Secret Circle, actor Gale Harold plays Charles Meade, a powerful lawyer who lives in the small town of Chance Harbor, Washington. His daughter is the sweet-natured teenager Diana (Shelley Hennig), who happens to be a witch, just like her mysterious and often sinister father.
During an interview to promote the mid-season finale on November 10th (the show will return on January 5, 2012), Gale Harold talked about the appeal of this role, the appearance of Charles’ mother on the show (played by Stepfanie Kramer), the continued power-play between Charles and Dawn (Natasha Henstridge), and how his character would like to be in charge of his own actions and decisions. He also talked about how he would love to try a comedy role, at some point. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Here’s the show’s synopsis:
Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) was a happy, normal teenage girl, until her mother Amelia died in what appeared to be a tragic accidental fire. Orphaned and deeply saddened, Cassie moved in with her warm and loving grandmother, Jane (Ashley Crow), in the beautiful small town of Chance Harbor, Washington, the town her mother left so many years before and where the residents seem to know more about Cassie than she does about herself. As Cassie gets to know her high school classmates, including Diana (Shelley Hennig) and her boyfriend Adam (Thomas Dekker), Nick (Louis Hunter), Faye (Phoebe Tonkin) and Melissa (Jessica Parker Kennedy), strange and frightening things begin to happen. When her new friends explain that they are all descended from powerful witches, and that they’ve been waiting for Cassie to join them and complete a new generation of the Secret Circle, Cassie refuses to believe them, until Adam shows her how to unlock her incredible magical powers. It’s not until Cassie discovers a message from her mother in an old leather-bound book of spells, hidden in her mother’s childhood bedroom, that she understands her true and dangerous destiny. What Cassie and the others don’t yet know is that darker powers are at play, that might be linked to the adults in the town, including Diana’s father and Faye’s mother, and that Cassie’s mother’s death might not have been an accident.
Question: Because this is different from the other roles you’ve done, what was the appeal of this for you?
GALE HAROLD: It’s not the witch aspect that’s interesting. What’s interesting is the cover, and not being who you really are and trying to get away with it, with the repercussions primarily being a long sentence in the penitentiary. In terms of drama and something to play against, that’s what’s compelling. That’s the first step. The context is interesting because it’s not common, at all. It’s something that you maybe don’t believe in. I don’t know if I believe in witchcraft. Maybe I do. I don’t know. But, I do believe that, if I go to someone’s house and burn them down and the state patrol finds out, I’m going away for a long time and my daughter is going to be orphaned, and all of that. Meanwhile, I have to do so much work to cover that and be good at it. In talking about why he didn’t seem to have any remorse for burning Amelia alive, I think there’s a real addictive quality to those moments. That overload of power sends it all home, for me. It’s just a person walking down the street, doing some very strange things, and fighting their own mainline addiction to it. That’s not a very common position to be in.
Can you talk about the addition of more elders into the story?
HAROLD: Charles’ mother is on the way, and she’s got some issues to resolve, or to start, so that she can resolve them later. We’ll slap each other around for 35 seconds, and then she’s gonna leave. So, yeah, she’s coming and she’s pissed, and she’s very good at covering that. As far as how that relates to the other elders, I’m not sure, but I know that it makes Charles very nervous. In an existential way, he really wants to be in possession of the kind of power that he imagines the elders have, but doesn’t know how to access. In a weird way, it’s Oedipal because there’s Dawn (Natasha Henstridge), and then mom comes around. Charles doesn’t have a woman in his life except for his daughter, which is a totally other kind of relationship, but it puts him in a weird position and then you’re back in that Greek stuff, which is always good.
Will the power-play between Charles and Dawn continue?
HAROLD: It feels to me like it’s such a classic thing. Lord forgive me for even saying these two names, but it’s that sexual attraction to stay alive and also to take power, like Bonnie and Clyde had, and the feeding off of that. It could be a screw up, or it could be something that works. There’s a whole post-human side to it, which is the supernatural side, and being able to spell people and control what they may say or do or think. That, to me, is very interesting. It’s not only about, “Do they trust each other?,” but “Do they trust the potential of trusting each other?” Now, it’s becoming like a card game. “How much do I like you? I don’t know. How much do I want you? I don’t know. I know I want most of what you’ve got, and probably more of it, and I’ll take all of it, if I can get it. But, I have to keep making you think that I just want to give you want I have.” It’s always giving you this while stabbing you in the back.
How do you see the relationship between Charles and Dawn? Is it just out of necessity?
HAROLD: As its grown, and as I’ve done the work, and Natasha and I have talked this through and played these scenes, it seems like it’s unknown. Charles is a bit of a novice. I think he has real potential, but he’s never done it. The first big attempt really ended up in a horrible disaster. I think he’s afraid, but he’s really, really seduced by it. She means that to him. There’s a line that never has the same position. It’s always changing. For him, he’s just juggling and trying to stay on his feet while appearing to be in control, or act as if he’s in control. Also, what Dawn motivated Charles to do, in killing Nick (Louis Hunter), just from a human nature point of view, I think he holds that as a real betrayal. It’s a mind f-u-c-k. It’s the worst that you can get. He killed this kid. He has a child who’s is the same age, and he stood there in the water and strangled a kid to death and watched him die. He’s always going to see Nick’s face when he sees Dawn’s face. That’s a whole other trip that’s coming out.
What sort of repercussions are going to happen from what Charles did to Jane (Ashley Crow)?
HAROLD: Jane knows that Charles is up to something inside of her brain, and that he’s in her mind somewhere. Either she’s clever enough or just strong enough to use that against him. Charles made a mistake and he thinks this is the result, but the result is being manipulated by the person that’s experiencing it. It’s like, “Yeah, I’m acting weird. It’s not exactly how you thought I was gonna act. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? Am I making you uptight, right now? Can you figure out what’s going on?” And Charles is like, “I’m not really that smart. I can’t do all of this, at the same time.” It’s an interesting thing because it opens these other doors, at least for Dawn and Charles to be somewhat panicked and chaotic, which is always good. When they drop the ball, a lot of weird things happen.
Why was Charles able to kill Amelia with such little regard and no guilt, whatsoever?
HAROLD: It’s a really interesting question, and I think about that, too. Perhaps that will be elucidated, in the future. It has something to do with his relationship with Dawn. That’s one aspect of what he did to Nick. Doing that to Amelia was not as brutal as drowning a child in the water, right in front of you, but it’s kind of the same. Somehow he did that, not just because he wanted to go burn somebody to death, but because there was some sort of pact between Dawn and Charles that led to that. She was the driving force. It seems to be that she was the one in the driver’s seat, propelling him to do that. That’s not to say that he didn’t enjoy it, in some weird way. That was the beginning of forcing Cassie (Britt Robertson) into the place that they need her to be. That’s all that was about. The fact that he did it, goes to Dawn’s power over him, as it was with that point. By the time it got to what we saw with Nick, that’s when it started cracking for Charles. It’s like, “I can’t go on being a homicidal manic. Or maybe I can, but I’ve got to be in charge, if I’m going to do that. I’ve got to pick the time and the place, and the way that people are killed. I can’t just say, ‘Okay, I’m going to kill that person because you told me to.’”
Do you think Charles would ever use magic on Diana (Shelley Hennig)?
HAROLD: I think the only way that Charles would do anything to put her in harm’s way is if that was the only choice and the only solution. It’s a really interesting dilemma. He probably thinks that what he’s doing is already too much, just as any father would. It would either be something that happened as an instant reaction that was unplanned, or it would be very, very unfriendly for him. It would be if she gets hurt, she gets damaged, she gets killed, or she finds out and she’s disgusted. To me, if a father and a daughter who are both witches, are then confronted with the reality of being a witch, while still having people drive by them in cars, going to McDonald’s, keeps it based in reality. That moment of, “I know that I am. I know that you are. But, now that we’re talking about it together, what happens? You still have to go to school in the morning.” That may shine a light on everything that’s unmanageable.
Do you ever feel distanced from the main cast, since your character’s actions tend to happen outside of them?
HAROLD: No, not at all. As long as it ratchets the stakes up, anything that’s complicated is attractive. There’s that whole aspect of the pulling character, who’s understated and peripheral on the outside. Their inclusion is always loaded by their distance.
You’ve become known for your drama work, but would you ever like to do a comedy?
HAROLD: Of course, I would. I would love to. It’s definitely not considered my style, and a lot of the whole journey is trying to break those constructions, so we’ll find out. I did something really funny last night, but I can’t tell you what it was.