From creator/executive producer/showrunner Derek Simonds, the third installment of the USA Network drama series The Sinner follows Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) on the seemingly routine investigation of a tragic car accident in upstate New York, involving Jamie (Matt Bomer), an upstanding local resident and expectant father, and Nick (Chris Messina), an estranged college friend of Jamie’s. While digging into the events surrounding the crash, Ambrose soon uncovers a hidden crime that turns the case into something more dangerous and disturbing than he could have imagined.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Matt Bomer talked about why he wanted to do Season 3 of The Sinner, the appeal of getting to dive so deeply into this character, how the development of the season evolved, the ways in which this character challenged him, and working with such talented co-stars. He also talked about shooting Season 2 of Doom Patrol, and how the second season further evolves the characters from the first season.
Collider: This is such a different character than we’re used to seeing you do. Was that the appeal? Was there an immediate attraction to getting your hands on a character like this?
MATT BOMER: As an actor, you’re always hoping for a deep dive, and you’re always hoping for a job that’s gonna make you stretch in directions that you’ve never had to stretch before. And certainly, in the case of this job, you don’t even know if you can stretch, until you get there, on the day. (Show creator) Derek [Simonds] and I met, years ago, when he was involved in Call Me By Your Name, so I knew the way he liked to work. And I had spoken with (executive producer) Jessica [Biel], before we started filming, so I knew what a deep dive it was, to be a part of this show. Those are the multi-faceted roles and hard-working processes that you hope for, as an actor, and they don’t come along, every day. So, when I first became involved in the project, I didn’t really know a great deal about it. I just knew that I was in really great hands with Derek and with all of the producers involved. It just evolved into this incredible world that Derek had constructed for this season. First of all, I was a fan of this show, going into it, so I thought, “Oh, man, just don’t mess this up.” And it ended up being one of the best creative experiences that I’ve ever had.
When you did ultimately start to learn about what the season would be, what the story would be, and who this character would be, did you get scripts to read, or was it just through conversations about how this would evolve?
BOMER: It started out with a very loose conversation, where Derek and I were just reconnecting. And then, he told me, thematically, some of the elements that were going on in this season. And then, we’d talk a month later, and there’d be like a loose story structure about who this guy was and what the world was going to look like. And then, we’d meet a month later and, all of a sudden, the writers had mapped out 80% of the season and how it was gonna go down. You don’t always get that luxury, as an actor, to have a holistic sense of the direction of the season. Obviously, when you’re working, you wanna be in the moment, and wherever the character is in that given moment, but it was so nice to have a sense of direction and perspective on the whole season, so that you know how to navigate certain guideposts, to get from A to Z.
You’ve played characters in dark worlds before, but the darkness that this guy lives in feels very different because it almost feels self-imposed. How was this role most challenging, and in what ways was tackling that challenge most rewarding?
BOMER: A great deal of Jamie’s struggle is internal, and that’s always an interesting challenge, as an actor, how to play that and how it manifests itself, externally. But I found a lot of the things that he was having a hard time with to be really relatable. He is somebody who wants to be the golden boy, the yes man, and the people pleaser. He has this beautiful life, a great wife, and they’re expecting a child, but inside, he’s dying. He is completely spiritually bankrupt. He feels a disconnection with society. He feels incredibly lonely. He also feels that the way we’re living, the world in which we’re living in, and the morals and ethics we’re applying to the world, in order to survive, in this day and age, are not working for us, whether that’s people locked into their phones on their commute to work, or whether it’s the steps that people wanna take in the educational system that he’s working in. He’s just feeling really disaffected with it all. And I’ve sensed things like that in myself, just not on the same level that he does. He’s not connected to things that could sustain him, spiritually so he reaches out, out of desperation, to the last person who called those morals and ethics into requests, and the last person that he really felt alive with, which is this toxic relationship from his past. It’s just one of those moments and one of those decisions that ends up creating complete havoc in his life.
You have great actors to work off of, in this show. What was it like to have Bill Pullman to play off of, some days, and Chris Messina, on other days?
BOMER: They’re all phenomenal. I’d worked with Bill on another film and we hadn’t had any scenes together, which I was so disappointed by. Obviously, one of the reasons you take a job like this is to watch a great actor like Bill, and to learn from him, and to get to see how he approaches a scene and a role, and how he conducts himself on set. He was such a great role model, in all of those regards. It’s also very surreal to be a fan of a character, over the past couple of seasons, and then, all of a sudden, find yourself across the table, being questioned by him. There is an element of surreality to it, as well. But I was so fortunate, with the entire cast, this year. Derek just has such a wonderful eye.
And Chris was just phenomenal and so great to work off of. I felt such a sense of freedom, when we worked together, to try anything. There was no wrong choice to make. You could just really play, and you don’t always get that sense. We did a workshop, at the beginning of the season, with all of actors who were involved in every episode, just to have that chance to connect with everyone. Jessica Hecht, who I’ve been a fan of for years, and Parisa Fitz-Henley, who is just phenomenal on the show, were there, and we really got to bare our souls with each other, in this workshop, and connect, so that we didn’t have to spend the first two weeks of filming getting to know each other. We had already gone there with each other. Just having that experience really was invaluable, in terms of being able to put all of the superficial aspects of things that can sometimes crop up, or the ego-based aspect of things that can crop up, at the beginning of the job, aside and just get down to the brass tacks of doing the scenes.
Have you also gone back into production yet on Doom Patrol? Are you shooting Season 2?
BOMER: Yes. The Sinner was one of those jobs that took such a huge psychological and physical toll on me. Literally, within two hours of wrapping, I completely lost my voice. It got waylaid, within two hours wrapping. I thought I was gonna have some time off, but I just ended up having about a week and a half to get better, and then I was back on the set of Doom Patrol in Atlanta.
Did Doom Patrol feel like a good project and character to shift out of The Sinner with?
BOMER: I was doing a lot of the voice-over work while we were doing The Sinner, and I really enjoyed getting to mix up those two worlds. Although, a lot of the things that Larry struggles with are very, very heavy, so I wouldn’t say it was a light load that I walked into, on the set of Doom Patrol. It is pretty heavy material, but it is nice to get to just shift gears a little bit, and shift the lens that you’re looking at the world through, in terms of character.
How would you say that Season 2 of Doom Patrol compares to the first season? Now that we know those characters, are you digging in even deeper, this season?
BOMER: Yeah. I would say that a lot of the abstract, absurdist tone that people have enjoyed, through the comic book, for years, and hopefully enjoyed in the first season, is all still there, but they’ve somehow managed to one-up themselves. The stories are so huge, in every episode, and there are new characters brought in that really elevate the stakes and a lot of the relationships. A lot of the characters, like Larry, are digging deeper into their past, to figure out how to move forward in their present.
The Sinner airs on Thursday nights on the USA Network.