The WE tv drama series The Divide follows Christine Rosa (Marin Ireland), a whip-smart caseworker with a knack for getting herself in and out of trouble, and Adam Page (Damon Gupton), the youngest DA in the history of Philadelphia, both on opposite sides of a case where the outcome could either protect or destroy their reputations. Created by Tony Goldwyn and Richard LaGravenese, the show also stars Nia Long, Paul Schneider, Joe Anderson and Clarke Peters.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, co-stars Marin Ireland and Damon Gupton talked about how they came to this show, auditioning for Tony Goldwyn, who is acclaimed as both an actor and director, what attracted them to these characters, shooting the first pilot about a year and a half ago, how things changed and evolved, the research they did for these roles, and where things are headed for the remainder of the season. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MARIN IRELAND: When we got the script, it was going to be shot for AMC, which is a whole other story. I knew Tony [Goldwyn] through the New York theater world for a long time, but I’d never worked with him. My first audition was with Tony, which was the biggest draw. I was like, “I’ll go audition for anything in a room with Tony. He is a charm bomb, and I love him.” For me, the story was exciting. I had seen the movie Conviction that he had made, so I was excited about that. And the character that I was auditioning for wasn’t just the girlfriend part, or somebody’s mom. She’s the person that’s doing a thing, and that was really exciting. And my sides were some of the big, intense, giant monologues, so I was like, “I get a chance to really work it out.” And then, he was so lovely at the audition. It was a really positive experience, which doesn’t always happen in audition rooms.
DAMON GUPTON: That’s the truth. He also takes time in the audition room. It was like a 50-minute audition. At first, I was terrified. I was like, “There’s no way I’m gonna get this thing. I’m not giving him what he wants.” But, he was just massaging things and allowing you to bring whatever you had to the table.
IRELAND: I feel like he really takes the time to know who you are, which a lot of people don’t do in auditions. Sometimes you just have three minutes, and they let you read and then walk away. But, he has a very generous attitude towards all of that.
It must be a huge advantage that one of the people who’s created this show and who directed the pilot has an acting background, knows what you’re going through and knows what needs to be gotten out of an actor.
GUPTON: It’s lovely. He had some new insights for me, and I could trust him. That’s not to say that I can’t trust other directors, but there’s a sense of safety that you feel, knowing that he knows exactly what you’re going through. If something doesn’t make sense, or you’re feeling less than happy or satisfied with something you just did, it’s nice. And he’s such a good actor, too. It’s really special.
What was it about these characters that attracted you to them and made you want to play them?
GUPTON: For me, it was the complexity. Some things aren’t as deep as they’ve allowed my Adam Page to go. I knew, from the first version of the pilot that we did, over a year and a half ago, that there were layers and complexities that I hadn’t been allowed to explore. I thought it would be exciting to play that and contribute, in that way. So, it was the complexity and the intelligence.
IRELAND: I felt like they made a character with Christine where I was really interested in her bad behavior and her really bad qualities. I just loved that. She so believes that she’s right that it very quickly tips into self-righteousness. She’s got these blinders on, and she isn’t afraid to let everybody know that they’re not doing it right. That gave me such a thrill. I was like, “Am I too excited about this?” Actors get asked a lot about playing someone who’s unlikeable, but I feel like it’s so stressful to play someone who has to be likeable. I would way rather be given the opportunity to play someone unlikeable. If you’re somebody who has to be likeable, then you have to be really careful with everything that you do in the series because people might get upset and turn on you. So, it was great to have that freedom, but I wasn’t sure how far I could push it. I was talking to someone at the Innocence Project and I said, “Does it ever happen in here that someone has a crusader righteousness?” And they were like, “Oh, yeah! All the time! Every day!” And I was like, “Okay, good. Hopefully, you’ll see a little bit of that in this character.” It’s easy for that to happen because you’re working so hard, and you’re working to save someone’s life. So, I was always really interested in that, and I thought that was a great little note for her because it gives her so far to fall. It’s such an immature feeling, and I loved that. I love setting up the beginning of a series with a girl who fundamentally has some major things that she needs to learn. I was looking forward to her having to learn those lessons, and hopefully, the hard way. She’s totally not qualified to deal with things, emotionally or legally, but she believes that she is. She’s gotta get in trouble for that, and hopefully, learn lessons. That’s a great story.
What did you do for research to get into the heads of characters like these, who are in these types of professions?
GUPTON: My character is based off of the actual real, living D.A. of Philadelphia, who’s the first black D.A. of Pennsylvania. He has a wealth of knowledge and anecdotes and wisdom. Not only do the stories blow my mind, but how quickly he’s able to turn the persona on and off. His quest for justice is so deep, and his sense of wanting to do the right thing in the right way, and that really helped inform me about my guy, as we moved forward.
IRELAND: Me and Paul [Schneider] spent a lot of time at the Innocence Project in New York. They let me be an intern there, for four to six weeks. So, I had some real immersion into the universe of that, and of the drudgery of the day-to-day. It’s overwhelming. Reading what they call the murder book with the accounts of what happened, the whole thing was just so upsetting. I remember, at one point, I said to one of the interns, “How do you handle this? I’m having a panic attack.” She said, “Oh, yeah, your first two weeks is really hard. You’ve just gotta go outside and take a walk around the block. I did that a lot. That’s just what you’ve gotta do.” You can’t go home and tell anyone about it because it’s confidential. You can say, “I had a hard case,” but you can’t talk about it. They are all close, and they do bonding things together. They need to hang out together to be able to blow off steam and talk about a case. They can actually talk to people who understand. They’re very collegial and friendly.
How much has the show changed and evolved, since the first pilot that you did?
GUPTON: It’s night and day, in a good way. We were allow more breadth, once we were able to approach it again. We were lucky because a lot of things get one shot. It’s very hard to do a pilot because you’re trying to fit so much stuff in, but we were allowed a second shot where we could assemble new ideas and flesh things out.
IRELAND: Richard [LaGravenese] took the first one and fileted it. He split it open and made it into two. Originally, what was our first pilot was going to become Episodes 1 and 2, but then he took out stuff from both. So, it was like doing reshoots for a two-hour movie, when we came back. We shot Episodes 1 and 2, as if it was a long movie. There were some scenes where we’d walk out of a scene that we shot a year and a half earlier, and then walk right back into it now. So, we added all of this stuff that was life at home stuff and family stuff, and all of these other things, so that they weren’t just at work. In the original pilot, you only saw me at work. They added all that other stuff. And then, for various other reasons, they decided to then fuse it a little bit for the premiere. So, it was a totally revamped, cut apart, sewn back up, put back together pilot, which became two, and then became one again, for airing purposes.
GUPTON: It was awesome. It was nice to witness some of the changes we went through. As a performer, I feel like I’m a little better now. I could bring a whole different level of intelligence and energy to it, and it’s nice to be able to be proud of some of the work that you’ve done and the growth that you’ve had. But, that also goes back to such a generous creative team of people that allow you to bring ideas to the table.
The dynamic between Adam and his father is so interesting. What’s it been like to play that?
GUPTON: It’s an exciting dynamic to play, working with the venerable Clarke Peters, who has a wealth of experience, as a human being, which just elevates your game to another level.
What can you say about where things will all end up, by the end of the season?
GUPTON: The common thread on this show is that nothing is as it seems. People that you think are good may not be good, and the people you think are bad may not be bad. There’s a grey line. Everyone might be guilty of something, as we often are. You really have to stick with it to see where it goes. It may psyche you out a little bit.
Did you guys wish you’d gotten to work together more?
IRELAND: Because my character is not a lawyer, it made it a little bit tougher for us to find ways to have it make sense that they’d be in a room together, especially in the first few episodes when time was of the essence. I couldn’t just bang around with no point in being there. I always feel like, if there’s a time that you don’t see Christine make Clark bring her, that she probably begged him to bring her. She’s trying to learn how the adults do it. She’s always worrying that people are telling each other things that she’s not privy to, so she’s trying to prove that she deserves to be taken seriously by everybody else. It looks a little immature, so that’s something she’s gotta get better at. So, there was only one or two experiences that we have, during the season, where it could just be me and him, and they were less of the legal setting and more personal.
GUPTON: When we did get to see each other, it was exciting. It would literally be like, if she was showing up, then I would be finishing, or vice versa. So, it was exciting to actually be there together.
Christine has very challenging relationships with the men in her life, between her father, her boss and her boyfriend. What was all of that like to play out?
IRELAND: Not to minimize it, but obviously she has some really intense father issues, so we wanted that to play out in her life. We wanted to give her opportunities to play those things out with herself. With Clark, she challenges him, butts up against him, and treats him like her annoying dad sometimes. With her boyfriend, she’s reckless and careless, and she’s looking for something that she can’t get from one person, or she’s disdainful of somebody who wants to be intimate with her. She’s playing out those primary relationships, over and over again. We thought she had such great models, in the horrible way, with her mother, who abandoned them, and her father, who went to prison forever. So, this is an unparented child who’s basically been raised by wolves. She can only have insane interpersonal relationships. That was a fun way to see that this isn’t the girl who understands how to be intimate with anybody. She doesn’t understand how to share things with people. It makes her feel upset and guarded and pissed off. She has to learn how to try to behave like a person who was raised by parents. Initially, Tony was like, “We’re gonna give you a boyfriend, and we don’t think that relationship is going that well.” And I was like, “You think?!” And then, he decided to make him a cop, so she could be more pissed at him, all the time. Her attitude about him is, “He was only supposed to be a one night stand. What’s he still doing here?” We just wanted to let her be a person who wasn’t parented, and see where it would go from there.
The Divide airs on Wednesday nights on WE tv.