Jeffrey DeMunn Talks MOB CITY, Building Relationships with Frank Darabont and Jon Bernthal, Developing His Backstory, and More

     December 14, 2013


From Frank Darabont, the new TNT drama series Mob City depicts the epic battle between a determined police chief and a dangerous mobster, in 1940s Los Angeles. Based on the critically acclaimed book “L.A. Noir” by John Buntin, the story follows Det. Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal), who has been assigned to a new mob task force headed by Det. Hal Morrison (Jeffrey DeMunn), as part of the crusade by Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker (Neal McDonough) to free the city of criminals like Ben “Bugsy” Siegel (Ed Burns) and Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), and to stop the corruption in his own police force.

At the show’s press day, actor Jeffrey DeMunn (who played Dale on The Walking Dead) talked about the relationship of trust that he’s built with Frank Darabont, how wonderful the experience of making Mob City has been, how much he has enjoyed working with actor Jon Bernthal, what appealed to him about this particular character, developing his own backstory, and just how much he’d like to do future seasons. Check out what he had to say after the jump.

mob-city-castCollider: How did this come about for you? Does Frank Darabont just call you when he has a role that he thinks you’re suited for, and you say, “Yes, of course! I’m in!”?


Are you passed the point where you have to read the script before making a decision? Do you just trust him completely?

DeMUNN: Absolutely! I was doing Death of a Salesman down in Dallas, and he called me up and said, “Do you want to come to Atlanta and kill zombies?,” and I said, “Sure!” I know that when I’m working with Frank, I’m working with the best and it’s going to be exciting. He surrounds himself with such extraordinary talent that you can trust every department. It’s astounding. So, yeah, it’s a no-brainer for me.

Was it sad to say goodbye to him when he left The Walking Dead?

DeMUNN: Sad doesn’t encompass it, but yeah.

How has the experience been on Mob City? Does it feel very different?

DeMUNN: It’s just wonderful. These guys are great. Everyone that I’ve encountered at the network has just been a great, normal human being. That’s a relief. Frank brings such a joy to it, whether we’re filming The Mist and he was bouncing around like a school kid, or any of his projects. He brings such joy, and it’s infectious. We have a blast, and we work really, really hard. Hopefully, we come up with something good.

What’s it been like to work with Jon Bernthal again, on this show?

DeMUNN: It was fabulous. In addition, Jon and I became very fast friends on The Walking Dead. Experiences that we both went through on that show brought us very close together, and we’ll be friends for the rest of my time.

mob city castWhat was the appeal of playing this particular character?

DeMUNN: It’s an ongoing discovery. I don’t know how to characterize that. All I know is that I get the scripts and I enjoy the man. He’s honest. He’s strong. He’s somewhat fearless. Those are nice qualities. Everyone would like to be those qualities, and it’s fun to play those qualities. So, I’m enjoying it. If the show moves on, I’m intrigued to see what emerges because not everybody is exactly what they appear to be. None of us are. So, I’m looking forward to it.

Are you okay with not really knowing what your character’s motivations are or where he’s headed, or are you the type of actor who likes to make your own backstory for your character?

DeMUNN: I love making the backstory for myself. I think it’s important. Every part I play, I work on the backstory. If it’s fully written out in the script, or there are intimations of it in the script, fine. If not, fine, no problem. I’ll fill it in, or I’ll create what it is. That pays off. That’s an acting school exercise. If you’re going to walk into a scene on a stage, you’ve gotta know what room you just left and what just happened. It’s not necessarily written in, but what just happened? That’s very important, in terms of who the character is. You fill in whether he has a wife or not, whether he has children or not, whether he had an education or not. If this guy is 60 in 1947, he was born at the end of the 1800s. What did he see? That’s interesting. What happened in World War I? What happened during The Great Depression? How did he fare during all of that? How did he survive all of that? What does that do to you? How do those experiences change you and shape you? All those questions present themselves. I love doing all that stuff. It’s like playing a mind game, in my imagination.

mob-city-TV-show-posterYour character seems like this honest guy, but will that be difficult for him to hang onto?

DeMUNN: You’ll have to see. You never know. Everybody has their weaknesses.

What’s it like to work on these incredible sets?

DeMUNN: That’s Greg Melton. We have one of the best scenic designers alive today. That’s gold. That’s very helpful. 

Do you feel like you’ve only just started to scratch the surface with these characters? Would you like to do future seasons of this show?

DeMUNN: I think we were half-way through, or three-quarters of the way through shooting this season, and I went to Frank and said, “Okay, I want this show to go on. I want another three seasons of this.” I could feel it in all of us, which was the nice thing. I wasn’t just talking about me. I could feel it in all the people around me. It was taking on a life of its own with this group. If you can get that, you don’t say no. That’s a gift.

Mob City airs on Wednesday nights on TNT.

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