Talking HAPPY TOWN with Sam Neill

I know and love Sam Neill from a multitude of movies and TV events over the years, so imagine my delight at getting the chance to speak to him in support of his latest role, Merritt Grieves, in ABC’s new horror drama HAPPY TOWN.  Sam and I talked about what drew him to the show that has mystery and murder, and drama, all in the small town of Haplin – read on!

What is it that originally drew you to the show? Had you read the script?  What drew you to the character?
Well, I think just, it seemed to me to be an original piece of writing and I thought it was funny and scary and the kind of thing that I would want to watch on TV and I hadn’t seen anything like it in quite awhile or for many years and this will do me.

What I liked to was that the characters you get a little bit of a glimpse of about what they are about but there is not a lot answered so it provides such a wealth of what could come and what we could find out and especially with your character.  You’re in there just long enough to be like “what is this guy about” what is going on?
And why is he there (laughing a devilish laugh).

What does the shop have to do with everything and does it have to do with everything?  So there are so many great questions. Is it hard to play a character where you’re just kind of popping in and you don’t have much of a back story or do you have a back story that we don’t know and we will know?
Oh I have a lot of back stories.  But it is going to take a lot of time for all of that to run rebel and I think that is true about pretty much everyone in this, it’s you know, everyone has secrets of one kind or another and a past that kind of brings them together in this little place.  Yeah. Um, it’s a multi-dimensional murder mystery.

There is a big cast in the show.  Do you all get to interact as the first season goes on or is it just that you’re with Henley and you’re with the ladies at the boarding house.
Yeah, there is more and more.  Our lives become more and more of a kind of tapestry and we will at the end of these eight hours of course know who the Magic Man is that is the central mystery. But I think it is probably fair to say that will open up one or two other questions that will need to look at in series two.

I think that the depth and size of the cast allows for a tremendous amount of potential in terms of story telling and I mean it’s never too forthcoming for instance, it was kind of interesting that a lot of information was withheld from us as actors so we weren’t really allowed to know.  We knew what happened next but we didn’t know what happened next after next and it was kind of thrilling to get the script that would be issued on a Thursday. I assumed it would be inevitable that my character and Frances Conroy’s character who plays Mrs. Haplin, there would be, her character and mine for instance seemed to have some sort of inevitability about them and that turned out to be one of the more interesting chapters of the story indeed (laughing that devilish laugh again).

Is it difficult to know what you can say and what you can’t say when people are asking questions about what the show is about?
I guess you have to be a little bit careful.  But also I am as intrigued in this as everybody else and I can’t tell you who the Magic Man is for instance.  My hands are tied there.

That was my next question so I’ll cross that one off.
(lots of that awesome laugh again)

Why do you think that this is a show that people will enjoy watching or want to sit down on Wednesdays and follow?
I guess LOST is finishing so we need a good murder mystery on television.  I think there is something that happens in a small town which we are always drawn to.  I think the writing is smart and funny and scary and that’s good.  This is probably the closest cast that I’ve had on anything I’ve done and I think they are all very good, too.  So I think it is well directed, well acted and cool writing.  That pretty much covers it doesn’t it?

It sounds like it is a very well round series.  Like I said from the first two episodes there is so much going on that once you watch even one, you can’t not watch a second episode, you have to see what is going to happen.
You have to see what happens next.  That’s one of the best things.

What are some shows that you enjoy watching?  Are there are other shows that you sit down to watch on a weekly basis?  Do you have other favorites?
Well, look in terms of what engages me there has been a lot more on television lately then there has been in the movies.

I agree with that.
And you know in recent seasons I’ve been very taken with MAD MEN and THE WIRE and shows like that so I came to find something that was smart and intriguing for myself to work on!