Developed by Shane Brennan (NCIS: Los Angeles), the TNT drama series King & Maxwell follows private investigators Sean King (Jon Tenney) and Michelle Maxwell (Rebecca Romijn), characters originally seen in the best-selling series of books by author David Baldacci. The two are both former Secret Service agents who use their unique abilities and their quite apparent differences to get a leg up on conventional law enforcement.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Ryan Hurst – who plays Edgar Roy, a high-functioning autistic savant and proven valuable asset to the team, with an extraordinary ability to see patterns and numerical sequences – talked about how he came to be a part of this show, jumping right back into work after his time on Sons of Anarchy was done, how much research he’s done for the role, and the evolving character dynamic. He also talked about the experience of making CBGB, about the New York City punk-rock scene and the famous nightclub, and working with Alan Rickman, as well as his desire to direct. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
RYAN HURST: I heard about it through the normal channels of Actorville, and was really, really interested in it. So, I read the script and went in for it. It’s funny, when I went in for the audition, Chris Reed, who plays Filthy Phil on Sons of Anarchy, was also there, at the same time. As I got there, he came walking out of the audition and went, “Oh, shit! You’ve got it, I guess.” So, I went in and read for it and, as we got further along in the auditioning process, there were a lot of concerns that I had, that I brought up with Shane Brennan, the creator, about where they wanted to take this character. Unlike the other characters in the novel, this was a one-shot deal. Edgar was just in one novel, and no one knew exactly where we stood with the character. So, he said that he had some ideas, but that he wanted to rely heavily on our collaboration together, to develop something. It’s been an evolving process, as we find our legs as a series. It’s something that we’re developing together and finding our way through.
Once you had ended your time as Opie on Sons of Anarchy, what were you looking for, in a character?
HURST: I was looking for something that was the complete opposite of what I’d just played. Pardon the pun, but this character is certainly on the other end of the spectrum of who I am. The description that I’ve always had in my head, for what I wanted to play in a character, was extravagantly vulnerable. That’s what I’m trying to bring out in Edgar.
You jumped into another television series, not too long after your time on Sons of Anarchy ended. Had you considered taking some time off, or did you want to get right back to work?
HURST: I did actually want to take some time off, but as things worked out, this was just one of those roles. Having worked with TNT before, I was excited to work with them. When the stars align, you’ve gotta go where they’re telling you to go. Playing anybody with a mental disability or who is an extreme character like this, I’ve always thought is the highest order of an acting challenge because it’s so easy to get wrong, which I completely am doing, left and right. Whether it’s Peter Sellers in Being There or Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape or Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, it’s just one of those things that’s very, very, very easy to get wrong. It was one of those challenges that I’d always felt that I wanted to get in there and test my mettle with. So, that’s what we’re doing. The character is so brilliantly written. Shane Brennan is such a brilliant and excellent human being. He and I vibed so well together that I was like, “Let’s make a run for the money.”
Actors who resist signing on for procedural shows seems to do so because they don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing, season after season, since those shows are more about the crime being solved than the character development, but TNT seems to have found a way to put a twist on the procedural. Was that something that was important to you?
HURST: Yeah. So much of the time, with a procedural, the plot takes the spotlight away from the characters and the relationships between those characters. But for this character, in particular, it was never really an issue. He was gonna be the question mark, and the undefinable element to the show. So, I didn’t really have that concern of being the guy in the tie who was just spouting off exposition. Obviously, whenever you’re doing a procedural, you’re locked into the ritual of what the genre demands. But at the same time, I feel very confident in Shane’s ability to continue to evolve the platform. I was cool with getting in there and finding a great group of people. TNT really does find the right balance, in a strong way. The procedural has been around on television since the ‘50s. I think we’ve got a good shot to get in there and really evolve the platform, just a little bit.
Did you do much research into what life would be like for someone like Edgar Roy?
HURST: It’s a spectrum disorder, where there’s savant syndrome and Asperger’s and autism. Besides being such a timely subject matter, it’s something that I’ve been researching and been a part of for many, many, many years. There was a wonderful book, by a man named Darold Treffert, called Islands of Genius, specifically about savant syndrome, but I found it wonderfully informative. I contacted him about becoming a consultant on the show, which we’re still trying to work out all the details for. Whether it’s sensory integration issues, autism or savant syndrome, it’s been an issue that is very, very close to who I am. It’s been something that I’ve researched, on my own, for years and years and years.
Having spent so much time on Sons of Anarchy, did it feel odd or surreal to show up on a set with different actors, so soon after?
HURST: When we shot the pilot, it felt a little bit like cheating on your wife, or something. I was like, “Who are these people?! This is all wrong!” But then, the craziest thing happened during the second read-through, once we had gotten the pick-up and started shooting. Everybody fell into their roles on the show, very quickly, and were just like, “We felt like we’ve done this 100 times already,” but it was the first time. There was a gelling, very, very, very quickly.
What can you say about the dynamic that Edgar has with both Sean King (Jon Tenney) and Michelle Maxwell (Rebecca Romijn)?
HURST: We’re still trying to find it. The writers, myself and everyone on the show is still trying to figure that out a little bit, which is a lot of fun and very apropos for how Edgar fits into this scenario. That’s actually what I like the most about it. It’s not just like, “Here’s the tech guy on a procedural drama, and we’re throwing in a splash of autism to make it look fancy.” We’re taking a character that we don’t really know what to do with yet. On a serious note, one of the reasons that I took this job and I felt so strongly about it was that, yes, we’re making a television show and it’s a procedural drama that’s not completely based in reality, but I felt it was a great example to show an autistic character who is independent and self-reliant and has a job. They say that 1% of families on the planet right now have someone in their family with autism or who is on the spectrum. There are so many families out there who have a child, who is sometimes severely autistic and doesn’t talk or had severe sensory integration issues, and all these families think about is, “When I’m gone, what is going to happen to this child?” There are pilot programs all around the world now, that are starting to integrate autism and people on the spectrum into the work force I thought it was a wonderful example, to actually show a character who is not just socially awkward or the nerdy guy, but who is actually labeled as an autistic savant, and who has a job. I think that’s a really important aspect to it. Obviously, the show is not a soapbox, but as much as we can integrate those tiny little things through the media, it makes it a little more acceptable.
What was it like to be a part of CBGB? Are you a fan of that era of music, yourself?
HURST: Oh, absolutely! I was a huge, huge fan of the music in that time period, since I was 11. It was just one of those things where they were like, “Oh, they’re making a movie about the establishment of CBGB.” I remember waiting in the waiting room to audition, and every actor that you could think of was there. It was full of people who were like, “Please let me be in this movie.” Everyone was clamoring to be in it. It was an absolute blast. I have two or three scenes, that were just me and Alan Rickman, who’s just exactly what you think he is. He’s so wonderful to play with. That was so much fun. I’m looking forward to it coming out and everybody getting to see it.
Now that you’ve been branching out behind the camera, is that something you’ve always been looking to do?
HURST: Directing has always been the primary focus, for me. It’s what I love to do, more than acting, since I was in high school. My mentor was an acting professor who also taught film at USC for 30 years, so very early on, I got a dual education in acting and in film. I’ve had a camera in my hands, every since I was a freshman in high school. That was always wanted I wanted to do, but acting turned out to be much more profitable. It’s just one of those things where, when the time is right and the project is right, I’ll move into that a little more strongly. But, I have the rest of my life to do that.
King & Maxwell airs on Monday nights on TNT.