Already renewed for Season 2, the NBC drama series Grimm, inspired by the classic Grimm’s fairy tales, follows Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), who discovers that he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers known as “Grimms.” Charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world, he tries to hide the dangers of his new found calling from his girlfriend (Bitsie Tulloch) and his partner (Russell Hornsby), while getting help from Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed Grimm creature known as a Blutbad.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Silas Weir Mitchell (Prison Break) talked about how he came to be a part of Grimm, how much he enjoys playing such an interesting and cool character that’s unlike anything else on TV, that the level of peril will definitely amp up as the underpinnings of the world come to a head, that playing Monroe is all about focusing on the humanity, and that he hopes to never lose touch with the violent inner nature of the character. He also talked about what draws him to specific characters and what it is about acting that appeals to him. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Silas Weir Mitchell: I joined the show because Jim Kouf, who is one of the head writer/creators, along with David Greenwalt, made a small movie a few years ago, called A Fork in the Road, and he wrote and directed it. I auditioned for it and my feeling is that the role that I auditioned for was not really my type. It was for the jealous husband of actress Jaime King. It’s a comedy of mishaps and misunderstandings, but it’s based on a crime, and they originally wanted the character to be a corn-fed quarterback guy. I came in and did my thing, which is obviously not that, and Jim got it and thought it was funny, and he liked it, so he cast me against what I think his original idea for the part was, and it worked out. It was one of those things where he recognized something in me and was like, “This isn’t the normal thing, but I’m going to do it anyway because it’s interesting.” We had a really good time working on that movie, about four or five years ago. So, when this started getting momentum, and the script was going around and they were working on it, I think Jim thought of me. He was like, “We don’t know what this Monroe thing is. It’s interesting and it’s other.” It was through Jim that I went in and read, and it just worked. It’s a good fit, and it feels right.
How much fun do you have, playing Monroe?
Mitchell: People say, “It’s such an interesting character,” and it really is. It’s a gift of a character, for an actor, because it’s not something we’ve really seen before.
Mitchell: I didn’t. I knew that it was a one of the regulars in the show. When I auditioned for it, it was a series regular role. As far as the expansion of the role, I knew when I read it that it was a cool character that people were going to dig because it’s something we haven’t seen before, and yet it’s set in familiar surroundings, i.e. a procedural. And, it had a chance to be a break-out type of thing, in the sense of being the right amount of unexpected within something we already understand.
Did you have any hesitation at all about signing on for multiple seasons, as a series regular?
Mitchell: Did I have any qualms about signing on as a regular? No, because it’s job security, and it’s nice. I’ve been banging around for years, but I’ve never been in on the ground floor of something. It’s a nice feeling because you have a real vested share in the creative world that you’re working in, and it’s something that I’ve been aiming for. Plus, I wanted to work with Jim again. Everybody is really cool on this show. It’s a good group. We have a good time. Everybody is happy to be here. We’re working in a great city. It’s a good situation, all around.
Mitchell: Well, things come to a head, as far as the underpinnings of the world. We start to learn more about who the different players are and about the mythology underneath the whole situation. We learn a little bit more about Nick’s parents. We learn a little bit more about the [police] captain. The level of peril definitely amps up. I think Monroe is getting in deeper than he anticipated, certainly, as far as being in danger and having his loyalties tested.
Is there anything that you’ve most enjoyed discovering about the character, over the season?
Mitchell: One of the main things that I enjoy about it is just that the writers have created a very nice arc. It started as, “I don’t want this. I don’t need this. This is bad news.” And then, he started to trust this guy who is a natural enemy. And then, he got more into, “Wow, this is really cool!” There’s an excitable quality to Monroe that I enjoy. It’s almost like a kid in a candy store when he sees the trailer, and that’s fun. At the same time, the trailer is populated with things that have been used to kill generations of creatures. That tension is always there with Monroe. Nothing is over 100% one thing or another. There’s always an underlying sense of things. Even though we’re doing what’s good in the world, underneath it, I’m still working with a Grimm, which is insane, to begin with, and I’m getting into situations where I might have to use parts of my personality that I have tried to keep at bay, as far as the regimen that I keep so that I don’t lose my marbles. So, there’s always inner conflict, and I’ve just found that to be something that is fun to play and always there for me, in Monroe.
When you play a character like this who has a creature side to him, do you always keep that in mind, or do you just focus on the human side of him?
Mitchell: It’s all about the humanity. Even the creature element, if you think of it in terms of the real world, that’s what makes Grimm different than Once Upon a Time, where there are two distinct realities. I’ve never seen the show, but I hear that there’s this world that is our world, and then there’s the fairy tale world. With Grimm, it’s all one world. So, something that I lean on is the idea that the creatures are a metaphor for a type of psychological tendency. You might be a mouse, you might be a snake or you might be a beaver, and all of those animals have their own types of behavior. Mice are scared, beavers are like the busy beaver, and snakes are dangerous and will strike at any moment. Underneath that, there’s a humanity to all of it, despite it being, in this particular story, a creature. So, I generally stick with the human side of it because, ultimately, it’s a parable for that, I think.
What was your reaction when you saw what your character would look like, in his other form? Were you also glad that a lot of that could be done with CG and you wouldn’t have to be sitting there in make-up for hours?
Mitchell: Yeah. If this were a film, I would be in the chair for six hours a day, so it’s nice that I don’t have to do that. But, I also think it looks better when it’s actual make-up. It’s a fine line. I like the look of Monroe, in the morphed version, when it is not the classic werewolf thing. I think that werewolf is a term that humans use to describe what are actually Blutbads. The Lon Chaney wolfman look is a human misapprehension of what’s actually going on. And, we actually went through a few iterations of the look before they landed on what it is. I think it’s better when it’s not the classic werewolf thing because Monroe is not a werewolf. He’s werewolf-ish. He’s an element in the world that was labeled a werewolf by people who didn’t understand why this man, in the 17th century French countryside, was running around killing people and eating them, or whatever the Blutbads were doing.
Have you had a favorite this season?
Mitchell: I thought the cage-fighting episode was pretty cool, just as far as the spectacle goes. I thought Episode 8, “Game Ogre,” was a very well done episode. It was just a very well-told story. I don’t watch many of them. I tend to choose which ones I watch, based wanting to see how something in particular went. I try not to watch them. I’d rather think from the inside than the outside, and when I watch them, it builds up the part of your brain that looks at it from the outside. I try to keep that part of the brain quiet. And, there have been some really fun things to do. Playing with that huge gun, in the “Game Ogre” episode, was cool. The props are really neat, like the swords and knives and morningstars in the cage-fighting episode. The prop department on this show makes some amazing stuff. They make some really cool spaces to play in and objects to play with.
Since you have already been renewed for Season 2, are you looking forward to getting to explore this character further? Are there things that you’d like to see him get to do?
Mitchell: My main thing is that I don’t want to lose touch with the dangerous side of Monroe. I would like to see Monroe put into a position where he has to use his strength and he’s cornered. I don’t want him to lose the dangerous side of himself. Other than that, I feel like the writers are giving me really fun stuff to do and I love where the stories are going. I think the introduction of Rosalee is really great. Bree Turner is just fantastic. She’s great to work with. We have a good time. So, I like where it’s going. I just want to make sure that we don’t lose touch with the violent inner nature.
Do you typically find yourself drawn to characters who are more than just the average guy?
Mitchell: Yeah, I play outsiders. That’s just the way it’s gone for me, and I think that’s fantastic. I like it because I’ve always been interested in how the other guy thinks. I want to know what’s going on in his head. You see people on the street, talking to themselves, and you’re like, “What are they talking about?” I’m interested in that. Even people that are speaking in tongues are interesting. What’s going on there? What’s channeling through there? I’m definitely interested in that. When I was in college, I said, “In Sam Shepard’s world, I am the main guy. But, in the normal world, I am the other guy.” It requires a certain kind of world for me to live in, as the main guy. The fun thing about Monroe is that he could really go anywhere. He is a complex dude.
Mitchell: Yeah, there was a moment where I was like, “Okay, I’m going to go for it.” The first play I ever did – ironically, now that I’m on Grimm – I played Hansel in Hansel & Gretel, in the third grade. That’s a little funny twist. But, I just kept doing it. When you’re young and you do something, and adults pat you on the back and say, “Hey, good job, kid!,” you tend to keep doing it. So, I kept having fun and I kept doing it and I kept getting put in plays. It was something that I did for fun and I enjoyed. There wasn’t a lightning bolt moment where I was like, “I’m going to do this.” I just kept doing it in high school and I kept doing it in college, and sometime in college, I was like, “Well, I’m going to go to New York and go to grad school.” It just seemed like a natural extension of the direction I had already been going in.