Brian Letscher talks SCANDAL and GRIMM
SCANDAL’s Brian Letscher has seen his character Tom take quite a few steps out from the shadows of President Grant as a secret service agent to (spoiler alert) come front and center as the mole inside the White House, feeding secrets and doing dirty work for B613. While not dealing with framing people for murders he kind of committed, he’s also taking a featured role on the first two episodes of GRIMM Season 4, and working with his brother Matt (also from Shondaland) on a Kickstarted-comedy ONE AND DONE. To celebrate all of the things going on in his life right now, I had a chance to chat with Brian about these shows and how the TV world is going the way of the music industry. Check it out!
With a show like SCANDAL, it has to be hard to do interviews because not knowing what’s coming is half of the fun! What is it like to be in that world and not really be able to say anything?
[laughs] Fortunately for me, it mirrors my character on the show! I get to do all my work where I’m in a world where I can’t really say much or otherwise I’m in big, big trouble. It’s kind of cool, and at times it’s kind of frustrating, but at the end of the day, you know that it’s for the greater good! As frustrating as it might be in the moment, you’re doing what’s right by the show, and certainly for the person you’re talking to, because they want to be surprised. My girlfriend LOVES SCANDAL, so I have to put scripts up high where she can’t reach them [laughs]. I’m not joking! She doesn’t want to be tempted to reach them. The downside to that is that I have nobody to run my lines with! It’s all fun; she’s happy that she doesn’t know what’s going on. I try to keep that in mind for everybody.
Talking about how there are so many twists and turns in the show, down to every character; every character seems to have something going on in their lives. We see these twists with Tom – playing the character, when do you find out? When did you know that Tom was the guy? What is that process like?
The process is very simple – you find it out at the table read as you’re reading the script [laughs]. It’s been one of those experiences that’s been a ton of fun to me. Also, as an actor, you have to learn to let go. Which is always the goal of an actor is to let go, but in this case, it’s to the extreme. You have no warnings, or certainly I don’t have any warning, about what’s coming, and I don’t think anyone else does on the show, to be honest. It makes table reads really exciting. Every twist and turn, everything that happens, is getting reactions in the moment, and you’re having to adjust in the moment, which is a cool way to find out. It’s totally cool. It forces you to play every moment honestly. If you don’t know, I think it’s really smart to do it that way. If you don’t know, then you can’t play, you never want to play down the road. You want to play in the moment.
It is cool – we could have met Tom in the beginning and there could have been something off. This way, audiences don’t know what’s coming based on how you’re playing it.
Exactly! Exactly – you can’t tip your hand. The bottom line is, once you have knowledge as a person, it’s inside you; it’s there. As much as you might want to cover it up, that’s hard. I think it’s really smart of them to give no clues to the audience at all, that this may be coming. Every moment is played so honestly. There are some pretty great reactions at the table read, that’s for sure!
Is there anything you can say about what comes next, or what we can look forward to?
I can say that from Tom’s perspective, I had a role, obviously, in the death of the President’s son, and you have to deal with those things. Everything has repercussions, especially in the world of SCANDAL. No one gets away scott-free, with anything. Tom’s going to have to deal with the consequences with his role in that.
I like that you mention that no one gets away scott-free – I love how the show will wait weeks before bringing up something that happened, but stories aren’t typically dropped or forgotten, and it always comes back!
I’m continually amazed at the writers. I fancy myself a writer as well, and when i look at what they do, it’s just stunning, how they plant so many seeds that grow and come back and use them later, turn on the dime. It’s oh gosh, this person pulled out that card that they’ve been holding for 6 episodes, and now they get to play it, and it totally changes the dynamic, and how cool is that? They do an amazing job with that, which is why I think people [respond], the show is so gripping. People’s response is rabid on Thursday nights!
Let’s talk about GRIMM! Excited to see you’ll be a part of that for a few episodes! What can you tell us about the episodes you’ll be in this season?
I’m in the first and second episode of the season, as of right now. I play a curious, some might say sinister, character, who can morph and basically takes the brains/memories/knowledge of the person that I for a lack of a better term, attack. I do it as sort of a gun for hire. I’m selling these secrets and knowledge, whatever I glean from this person, to my clients, whoever that may be. And again, there are repercussions for the actions, that I have to deal with, with the people that I unknowingly get involved, through my profession, it sucks me into the world of the Portland community and the GRIMMsters.
Had you watched the show? Were you a fan?
I had watched the show; when it first came on, at that time, three or four years ago, the supernatural/sci-fi movement was just beginning. The fairy-tales, and things like that. It started off as being really rooted in those fairy tales, and now it’s morphed slightly to give it some longevity. I’m a huge fan. And then you get on the set, and meet everybody. I just thought they did such a great job, always with the visuals and every thing, and the stories – melding these two. The sort of detective drama with the supernatural and the fairy-tales. I think that’s a really smart way to do it. And then to be on set with them and meet everybody was pretty cool. And then I got a chance to work with Norberto Barba who I worked with on LAW & ORDER years ago a couple of times, and also Jacqueline [Toboni], who plays Trubel. A University of Michigan graduate; we got along and it was fun to work with her.
It has to be fun, too, to come into this community; they’re off doing their thing in Portland. They’ve bonded so well. Shooting on set has to help that.
You bring up a great point. Portland is a really unique place and I had a blast up there for three weeks. They take good care of people from a professional stand point. They do a great job; you want the people coming in to feel comfortable so they can do their best work, and they do a fantastic job of that. And the cast was so amazingly friendly and cool, willing to answer any questions, and spend time with you, which isn’t always the case when you come on as a guest star. They have their routines, and it will be fun, but this was very welcoming. It was “we want this to be excellent.” It wasn’t “ok, come in, do your thing, see you later.” It was “how can we help you so we have the best two episodes we could have, so your character could fulfill what we want it to fulfill?” So they were very helpful in that regard.
We’ve seen some of the creatures and Wessen come back throughout the years – is it saying too much to tell us if we could see you again?
[laughs] I think that might give a little too much away! I’m not going to say exactly where or how or what I end up as or in at the end of it, but these two episodes are a wild ride.
I just watched your Kickstarter video for ONE AND DONE – loved that! Where did the idea come together?
It was in the works for a while – Matt (Letscher, Brian’s brother) and I are both writers, we’ve written together. We’ve had plays produced. We’ve written pilots. We wanted to do something online, acting; in this day and age, you can do something yourself. At the same time, Matt and I sort of began to write our own pilots designed to go online, and Matt with a friend of his Nipper Knapp, they wrote a script, and along the way, we were all talking, along with our younger brother Aaron Letscher, who is a digital marketing guru, he was a part of this as well, and Troy Hollar, our producer. We crafted the idea of where we wanted this to live online. We wanted to explore that medium and be able to tell our own stories and shoot our own stuff, so Matt came up with ONE AND DONE, I think very much from his heart, which is always the best place to start. His own fears, his own triumphs, in life. He did just a phenomenal job; I was thrilled that he asked me to be a part of it as an actor and chip in when I have to, in terms of any idea on scripts, or anything like that. Happy to chip in; then the idea of going to Kickstarter – crowd-funding has obviously become more popular. We view it as a starting point – saying “here’s our audience, if you like this, help us start this series.” Once we get it started, we have the plan to keep it going on our own, but we want to get t out there with Kickstarter and have people who enjoy our work as actors, get to us doing something else, as writers, as actors, as directors. Forming this co-op of artists; editors, directors, actors, writers, producers. We all know each other; we’ve all known each other for years. Let’s take all of this talent and do something with it.
I’m excited to see where it goes – can you imagine trying this 10 years ago?
I think that’s always the frustration, especially being an actor, writer, director, before, 10 years ago, before technology really allowed you to shoot and produce your own material. It was just so much harder. And now, if you want to put in the time and the effort, you can do it, and you can do it for very little cost. You can do something that looks pretty darn good, with the resources as your disposal, and that’s so exciting! I think that’s what really turns us on. I love working in network television. It’s a great gig, love it, never want it to stop [laughs]. But to also, as writers, go, “hey, I have this idea for a show” and I can make it happen, people can see it, and then they’ll tell us whether they like it or not. Then we get to write more if they do, for me, it’s pure joy. It’s like being able to put on a play, to have been able to do theater your whole live, you put on a play, and the audience comes and they’ll tell you whether they like it or not, that’s all you can ask for. So we’ve got it now, so we’re going to after that!
I can’t wait to see what happens in 10 years!
Oh yeah, right? It will be interesting. You see what’s happened with the music industry, the fragmentation, things getting smaller, more artists making more product – everyone gets to do their own thing, make a little money, and put out great content for their audience. For me, that is pure joy!
SCANDAL airs at 9/8c Thursdays on ABC.
GRIMM airs 9/8c Fridays on NBC.