Alex Cross follows the homicide detective/psychologist from the best-selling novels by James Patterson, as he comes up against psychopathic serial killer Picasso (Matthew Fox). This time, the story takes a younger version of Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) back to the origins of the character while the two men face off in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse that will push Cross to this edge of his moral limits. From director Rob Cohen (The Fast and The Furious, xXx), the film also stars Edward Burns, Cicely Tyson, Carmen Ejogo, Giancarlo Esposito, John C. McGinley and Jean Reno.
At the film’s press day, actress Rachel Nichols – who plays Monica Ashe, one of Cross’ co-workers at the Detroit P.D. – spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how she came to be a part of the film, why she loves playing strong women, going through training with Tyler Perry and Ed Burns, how natural the chemistry with her co-stars was, and how intense Matthew Fox’s transformation for his role was. She also talked about her Canadian TV show Continuum, which will be airing on Syfy, that they start shooting Season 2 in January 2013, how she’d like to squeeze in another film first, and how she hopes her 2005 Fox TV show The Inside will be made available on DVD. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
RACHEL NICHOLS: I met (director) Rob [Cohen] years ago, in a general meeting in his office, because he was going to do this other film that never ended up happening. It was one of those meetings where we sat down and got on so well. We just immediately liked each other, and had the same sense of humor and same say anything attitude. When I went to leave, he said, “We’re working together. At some point in time, you and I are going to work together.” So, when I got the script, I knew that it was him. I went in and met casting and auditioned for it, and then I got a call that said, “Rob wants you to fly to New York and test with Ed [Burns] for the role,” and I said, “Fantastic!” So, I went to New York, probably last summer, tested with Ed and loved him. I’d never met him before, but he was just as sweet and lovely as I thought he would be. I left the room thinking, “I really hope that I’m their choice ‘cause this is a good group of people, I can tell.” And as luck would have it, I was and I ended up doing it. And then, I was in lovely Cleveland and Detroit.
Has it been an intentional effort, on your part, to play such strong women, or has it been accidental?
NICHOLS: Yeah! I’ve never said, “I want to play all these strong women,” or “I don’t want to play not so strong women.” I love it! I think it’s great. I love the action that I’m able to do. I grew up in Maine, outdoors and playing with the boys and shooting skeet. I have my girly side, too. But, I do like playing the strong female roles, especially now with something as simple as Twitter, where you’ve got young women following you. I have a lot of Twitter rules. I never swear on Twitter, and if anybody’s inappropriate, I block them. I have young followers. The only real young movie I did was The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, but now people are seeing the show (Continuum) and girls are talking about it. I would play any woman, first of all. Any great role, it doesn’t matter. But, I do like the fact that I’m kind of known for playing these strong women. I like it. I’d like to think, if I was ever in a fight, I’d win, although I’d probably run in the opposite direction.
Did you guys do any training together?
NICHOLS: Yeah, actually. Tyler [Perry], Ed [Burns] and myself worked with this special ops team. We did house sweeping. This had this old abandoned house outside of Cleveland that they use to teach you how to sweep rooms. As many times as you do that stuff in a film or on a TV show, you forget it because you’re not doing it every day. So, it’s great, even for a few hours a day, for a couple of days, just to go in and refresh. When it comes to holstering a weapon properly, drawing a weapon or following someone into a house with weapons drawn, you’ve gotta go back and do that stuff. Tyler, Ed and I did it together, and it was great. That stuff is really, really fun, especially when you’re working with people like Tyler and Ed. They’re easy to be around. It’s not super serious, but you get your work done and then you have a good laugh.
NICHOLS: Yeah, we all got on really well. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t get along with Ed Burns because he’s just so lovely. And Tyler was great. It just worked. I understand the mechanism of why I had to disappear from the movie, but gosh darn it, it would have been nice to do the whole thing.
What was it like to see the lengths that Matthew Fox went to, for this role? Does it make you wonder about the lengths you would go to for a role?
NICHOLS: You know, I’ve always contended that I would do whatever it took. I would like to have a role where I had to do something crazy, especially if it was to get really, really sick ripped. I was so impressed with Matthew. I’d met Matthew, over the past years, and had definitely adored him from Party of Five and Lost. When I saw him on the set of this movie – I didn’t work with him, but I would see him and he would be training – I was blown away. We had a big cast dinner, before we started shooting, and Matthew was on a very strict diet with no drinking. I was amazed. In the movie, he’s petrifying. His transformation is unbelievable. You don’t expect that from him. I brought my best friend to the screening with me, and we were by ourselves in a room. She kept her eyes covered for most of Matthew’s coverage because he’s always doing something heinous. And she left and said, “I don’t know if I can ever look at him the same way.” It was really impressive. In this weird way, I’m very proud of him and happy for him because he did such a great job.
With your Canadian TV show, Continuum, how nice is it to know that enough people have responded to it and connected with it that not only are you getting a second season, but it will also air in the States on Syfy?
NICHOLS: It’s so hard to put into words how nice it is and how much it means to have fans that responded so well to it. When I read the first script, I wanted to do the show. It was only this show that was going to be in Canada, but I didn’t care. I love this character and I love this role and I love this show. And to go into work with such great people and put together such a product that people want to see more of it, is incredible. We were at the Toronto Expo and the Vancouver Expo, and people just have the most interesting questions. And they’ve gone back and watched episodes again and learned new pieces of information. The nicest form of payment, in this job, is to have people that say, “We want to see more of this. We have questions about this. What happened here? What’s going to happen there?” It makes you so excited to go back and do another season. I’m so excited!
NICHOLS: Yeah. Humans in 2012 are much more human than they are in 2077. In the first few episodes of Continuum, she’s got her suit on and she’s a fish out of water, and it’s very robotic, Terminator-esque. She’s not quite sure what’s going on. And then, there’s an arc where she eases into the present day. There are a lot of new things, obviously, and it’s confusing. And there’s the husband and child, in the future. She needs to ingratiate herself with the Vancouver P.D. and there’s this voice in her head. There are all these different elements and, thankfully, I have Simon Barry, who created the show, to help me keep track of everything. But, it’s an insane idea. If we went back to 1947, I don’t have any idea how I would maneuver that territory, at all. So, it’s both exciting and overwhelming, at the same time, because you have to track everything.
When do you start shooting Season 2?
NICHOLS: In January.
Are you looking to squeeze in another film first?
NICHOLS: Well, I came back from shooting the first season, and I executive produced and am in this movie they’re editing right now, called Raze. It’s Fight Club meets Gladiator meets Hostel, but it’s all women. It’s gonna be so bad-ass! Zoe Bell is the star of it. I famously, in my first fight scene that I ever did, which was on Alias, fought Zoe. Now, I get to come back and fight her again, in a totally different realm. And then, I was in Philly for a little bit. I have a friend who’s directing this tiny movie, called Mechanic, which is a beautiful script. That had David Morse, Cory Monteith and Mike Vogel. Now, I’m in L.A. and keeping busy, and looking for what’s next. I’d really like to fit something into that window, if it comes up. If the opportunity presents itself to go back and do a couple episodes of Criminal Minds, then I would totally do that. I miss hanging out with those guys ‘cause they were so fantastic. But in the interim, I go to the gym and I’ve taken up golf lessons. I try to keep myself busy.
Is The Ten O’Clock People still going to happen?
NICHOLS: That got pushed, and then it got pulled. Now, it looks like it’s on the shelf. Maybe not. But for right now, I think they’ve had to push it until next year.
NICHOLS: It’s where a lot of the interesting characters are. I’ve now played FBI, CIA, Detroit P.D., Vancouver P.D. from 2077, and even the babysitter in Amityville Horror. There’s something really interesting about the darker side of things. To get to investigate that, under the guise of my job and what I get to do, that makes it really fun. Also, I would be interested in playing any kind of cool role, provided that I don’t have to sing since I’m tone deaf. You don’t want me to sing. I could do a really bad karaoke scene, if I had to, but I’d probably choose to rap.
I have to say that The Inside was such a great TV show, and I was so heartbroken when that show got canceled so early.
NICHOLS: By the way, I loved that show so much. That show getting canceled was such a heartbreak. That one hurt me. So many people on Twitter comment on it. And the places that it was going to go were incredible. Tm Minear is so amazingly and alarmingly crazy and brilliant. And I just adored Peter Coyote. There were so many things that they were going to do with it. I was really sad that it could never come to fruition. It was dumped, which was painful. But, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. You have to take that, if you’re going to be in this industry. Heartbreak like that happens a lot.
Don’t you think it would have stayed on longer, if cable networks had been as strong with original programming then, as they are now?
NICHOLS: Yeah, there would have been a different audience for it. There would have been a better place for it, and a better fit for it. Because it was so gritty and dark, it’s not a Fox TV show. It would have been better served elsewhere. But maybe in the future, we’ll just call Tim and say, “Let’s do another season of The Inside, call it something slightly different, and get Adam Baldwin and Jay Harrington back.” I would do that, in a heartbeat, ‘cause that was fun. It needs to be on DVD. I have so many people asking me about that. I don’t even have it on DVD. I think my parents recorded it on VHS. I’m not even kidding!
Alex Cross opens in theaters on October 19th.