LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT JOHN STAMOS and NEAL BAER Interview

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JOHN STAMOS and NEAL BAER took the time to chat with us about LAW & ORDER: SVU.  John is guest starring as Ken Turner, a reproductive abuser and Neal is the Executive Producer.  This seems like a very interesting episode and John promises a surprise ending with tons of blood.  When I think of John Stamos I certainly don’t think of a reproductive abuser so his character portrayal should be a hoot.  I love when actors go out of their comfort zone and play less than favorable characters.  Who doesn’t have a crush on John Stamos?  He played one of my favorite characters, Uncle Jesse in “Full House”.  I also loved John in my other favorite show, “Tales from the Crypt”.  John seems to have signed the Johnny Depp and Rob Lowe deal with The Devil because he has barely aged.  I can’t wait to see him in LAW & ORDER: SVU on NBC.

Q:  John, regarding the plot of this story it says that when a baby is found abandoned on a playground the detectives come to your character. Can you just expound on that a little bit about giving us a little more background about the plot?

John Stamos:   Well Neal can help me out with this. I mean…

Neal Baer:  Sure. Well it – Special Victim’s covers in addition to sex crimes, crimes against children and the elderly. So an abandoned baby, we’ve had several abandoned babies over the years so that calls in SVU.  So the abandoned baby ultimately leads to John’s character in a way that we don’t want to reveal but there’s definitely a connection.  The question is who abandoned the baby and why leaving this child out in the cold? And that pulls in a number of characters including John and Lori Singer and several others. So that’s what sets the whole show in motion.
And John plays a very wealthy venture capitalist who is more than happy to help the – help (Stabler) do the investigation because it turns out that the baby – he’s tied to the baby at the beginning because he was having a thing with the baby’s nanny and that – and the baby disappeared while he was in bed with the nanny.

John Stamos:   Basically what, you know, what attracted me to this and also what scared – first of all scared the hell out of me about playing this, he’s a sexual – he’s a reproductive abuser. And, you know, it’s really unlike any character I’ve ever seen or read anywhere.  He basically loves children so much so that he manipulates these women and, you know, gets them pregnant most of the time without them knowing, you know, poking holes in condoms and basically again, manipulating them to have children.  I think he, you know, loves children. I think it’s part of, you know, his desire to procreate, have more of him in the world.  And I just found it so fascinating. I mean at the time when they asked me to do it by, you know, again like it scared the hell out of me because it was funny, the day they sent this I was planning – I have an organization called Project (Huddle) which is the – about baby abandonment and this, you know, prevention of it.  And I said I can’t do this role. I mean this makes no sense for someone like me.  I think what happens is you get so caught up in being a celebrity these days. And, you know, it kind of, you know, and you forget why you’re a celebrity. And it’s really because you’re an actor.  And, you know, roles like this that scare you is really what you should – where I should be going with my career.  And so I jumped at the chance. And I think it’s really one of the best things I’ve ever done on television.

Neal Baer:  Yes John is pretty amazing in it. And it really opens up a couple of interesting questions because it’s not illegal for a guy to poke holes in his condom. And if the woman gets pregnant, you know, even though it’s fraud — and (Riska) and Chris’s characters discuss that. It’s really kind of new territory.  But I heard about it originally from – when I was at a conference and I just sort of like perked up and thought gosh, this is something I’ve never heard of that men are doing this. And so we did a lot of research and that’s how we came to do the show.  And we wanted someone like John who, you know, is very appealing because these guys are very often very appealing guys.

John Stamos:   Very charming.

Neal Baer:  And very interesting, very charming. So it worked. It’s a really interesting show.

Q:  John, you’re obviously such a big television veteran. What was it like for you to step into such a long running show and fit in with another established show that you were never a part of before?

John Stamos:   Well, you know, it seems like I’ve done that quite a bit over the last few years, you know, with ER and, you know, I’ve been doing a lot of guest spots Entourage and Glee. So it’s – so there’s always an extra challenge in it. But, you know the benefit is that the shows are up and going in they’re running well.  And there’s not really a lot to learn. I mean of these shows work at a different pace and at different energy.  And this particular one, I mean these guys were pros. And again I did some of my favorite work on the show because of how good (Christian Musgar). I mean I really had a, you know – and, you know, and writing, you know.

Q:  Neal, when you were going through the casting process, what about John Stamos made him the actor that you wanted for this role?

Neal Baer:  Well we didn’t really select him in the sense that we wrote it with him and mind hoping that he would do it which we often do.  And so because we sort of – we really had in mind the character and the person we wanted to play this because we wanted someone who was completely charming, affable, very handsome, had a way with women that people could really, you know, connect to.  And yet there was this side of him that was unexpected. And we liked that as well because we wanted to, you know, see him in the light may be that he hasn’t been in on other shows.  And so we often write the shows with people in mind. And sometimes we’re really lucky to get those actors.  But it also helps us kind of create the part because we just knew that this character had to be charming and handsome. So if he was kind of like, you know, evil and nefarious then it wouldn’t have worked. So it just we’re so happy he did it because it was – it would have gone out of as well we need a John Stamos most type for this part.  So we were very lucky because whatever that, you know, and I’m being a little – not really being facetious because we wrote it with him in mind and we do that a lot and it worked out.  So it must have hit some nerve as – well as John said it hit a nerve in him that was something he wanted to play. And that’s really a, kind of an interesting – the character’s a very complex character too. So that’s why I wanted to go to him as well.

John Stamos:   You know, I’ve been caught up the last few years and really trying to please the audience, you know, always. And I think some of my most successful stuff was when I was taking chances and when I was fearless. I felt that I had that more when I was younger.  I remember leaving Full House and I went into right on to Broadway. And I actually remember doing Cabaret and people were walking out of the theater because they wanted to see Uncle Jesse.  And I remember talking to Sam Mendes about, you know, I’m doing something wrong. I have to please these people. He said no, you’re doing something right. I mean if you’re really, you know, digging in playing the truth of this character.  And that’s why roles like this and SVU have scared me over the last few years and I found myself doing some safe stuff.  And recently I’ve kind of stopped. I’ve turned down a bunch of roles that I thought people would like to see me in and thought that I should get involved with in television. And I’ve been actually just waiting for role like this to come around. So I, you know, again I, you know, I jumped at it.

Q:  John, what can fans of yours expect from this performance that maybe they haven’t ever seen before?

John Stamos:   Well every – I mean you know, it’s – it really is kind of an interesting casting choice because you kind of buy in to oh it’s me. It’s John Stamos. He’s kind of sweet with the ladies and he’s charming and all of a sudden, you know, you find out that he’s, you know, really, you know, an evil, deceptive man who, you know, is just out for very selfish reason and procreating and wanting more of his DNA in the world, you know?  It was odd because I – when I started playing it I was like oh, you know, like Neal said, I didn’t have to play all that stuff. I, you know, I didn’t want to get caught up in being this, you know, nefarious weird evil man. I sort of just played, you know, into really loving children.  He loves to – you know, when his finance a finds out that he’s father 20 children in the beginning she looks at him and he says well I told you I love babies, you know?  So and then at the end you find out that he’s actually fathered 47 children. And he says, you know, I love each and every one of them, you know, with all my heart.  So as part of it you kind of get bought into, oh that’s John doing that but then, you know it’s really truly the farthest thing that I’ve ever done on television or movies, you know, from who I really am.

Q:  Neal, you said you wrote basically the character for John but we’ve always seen him as a really funny guy. So what made you think of him for something so dramatic?

Neal Baer:  Well the charm was really important because we really wanted to get into someone’s head in a way that we could understand why he was thinking this way as opposed to just this is an evil guy.  And so as John was saying this is a guy who loves children. He’s just taking it to this kind of bizarre degree that he – and he says – there’s a scene where he says I’m a really good father, I pay for everything. And it’s like he’s convinced himself.  And that’s what makes it so interesting for the – we always felt for the audience if you didn’t like him from the beginning then you just would be like yes, you don’t like him and then you’re not taken on this journey.  But because it’s fun you want to know like what? You just go wait a minute what? He said that? And yet he seems so true about what he’s saying.

John Stamos:   Because he really believes it. He really does love children.  And the surprise Neal you can tell him or hint at the and it’s like, you know, you were saying what are fans going to see that they’ve never seen me do? There’s quite a dramatic ending to this show that I’ve never seen done ever.  The way that – you know, it’s not illegal like Neal said what he’s doing. So somebody kind of takes their own stand and brings…me to justice.  I will say there’s more blood involved in that scene than I’ve sought ER in four years.

Neal Baer:  Wow. Yes, you know, that’s the great thing about the show is that it’s always unexpected things happen even to our, you know guest stars.  You know, there’s no art that everybody goes through. It’s like, you just never know. Sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes they end up good. You know you never know what will happen.  But I think people will go for the ride to really try to understand this guy. And the more you just see what he’s doing the more your jaw just kind of drops.  I mean Lori Singer’s character has – is the one we – kind of the audience sees through her character what she’s been going through. And you’re just like wait, what? What? And yet she loves him.  So I think that’s what’s interesting. And it’s wonderful to have Lori on too because, you know, Lori really took a lot of time off to raise her kid and, you know, had done phenomenal films.  I was a huge Fan of Footloose and Falcon and the Snowman and Shortcut. So it was so great to have her come back. And we thought wow that’ll be a great pairing to put her with John. And so it was really fun.

Q:  John, you’re a guy that has worked really hard in the business and has worn so many faces. How does this show and working with Neal give you more self-confidence as an actor?

John Stamos:   You know, I think just working with really good people, you know, really smart people.  I think my adult career kind of started on ER, you know, where I was kind of thrown in – it sort of felt like the same situation. I was, you know, working with, you know, fine actors and really good writing, established show. So you kind of have to, you know you have to – but certainly how to do on ER and on SVU, really there were a lot of similarities where you have to rise to the occasion there because they’re bringing their A work.  Marsha and Chris were – I did a scene with Chris that was I think one of the favorite scenes I’ve ever done. It was like just playing cat and mouse. And this guy was throwing hard balls at me the whole scene. And, you know, I really had to be on my toes. So I – it did kind of spit me out as a more confident actor I think.

Q:  Since you started on daytime, I wanted to get your take about the recent losses of soaps and what that medium gave you as a young actor?

John Stamos:   Well, you know, if it wasn’t for General Hospital I wouldn’t be talking to you on this phone right now. I give a lot of credit to that show.  You know it really prepared me. And not even knowing as much – not even forecasting the way television has turned into – I mean, you know basically nighttime television works about as – not as fast but, you know, we have to work so – as Neal knows with the budgets and, you know, we have to shoot so much in one day.  And I remember doing General Hospital it was 90 pages a day, you know which I had 30 of those sometimes.  You know, you really – so I learned a tremendous amount. And it wasn’t just a springboard but it was a base of, you know, it was acting 101. I mean you really had to come and bring a lot of different emotions and a lot of, you know, a lot fast, you know, which really prepared me for television.  But and I think it’s really sad obviously, you know, for everything that it did for me — the training, the launch that it gave me. It’s sad to think that there’s not some other guys out there like me that’s going to get a shot on a soap opera, you know?  I just saw Demi Moore the other night. We talked about General Hospital for 45 minutes and just raved how much we loved it and good – the good memories we had from it.

Q:  Neal, it sounds like you have a great episode here with John. I was wondering if you could skip ahead and may be tease us a little bit about the season finale airing on the 18th?

Neal Baer:  Well we go out with a bang even though John’s episode is called Bang and the last episode is called Smoked I guess we go up in a – I go up in a cloud of smoke. It’s my last episode for SVU. And I’m leaving, you know, after 11 years to go to CBS.  So the last show leaves us with a desk. It leaves us with one of our beloved characters doing something that will change, you know, the way they see being a cop.  And I throw in, you know, and since I’m a pediatrician I get to rag on cigarettes. So it’s perfect.

Q:  Are there any wink, winks to your own exit like does a bear escape from the Central Park Zoo or anything?

Neal Baer:  No, no, no. But I wish – oh I wish we would have done that. That would’ve been good.

Q:  John, could speak about your recent appearance on Glee? Did it run a little bit shorter than you thought?

John Stamos:   You know, I didn’t – you know I went into that, you know, because I love the show and I love Ryan Murphy. And I would’ve been happy with, you know, one episode.  I mean I got do four I think which is more than, you know, most people get to do.  So no I mean it was, you know it was everything that I would want it to. I made great friends. I had a great time.  It was challenging too, you know, to dip in again like being put on a show that’s up and running and to be around such talented people. You really have to rise to the occasion.  And they do – you know they work very fast on that show. That show is a miracle. I mean I watched it before and I’ve been in the middle of it and I still don’t know how they do it. I still don’t understand how they get the quality that they do each week and the messages.  You know it’s an absolute – it’s magical what they do and that show. It’s magic I think. And I was really – I’m really grateful to be part of it in any, you know, one line of four episodes is, you know, it was great.

Q:  John, you have done so much between soap operas, comedy, drama and Broadway. What’s next?

John Stamos:   Well again I just want to get back to that, you know. Talking about General Hospital, you know, when I started that show and through my earlier career I felt a lot – I felt fearless, you know? And over the years you get so caught up in yourself.  And again, you know I’m flattered but, you know, you become such a celebrity. It’s very difficult to draw the line between celebrity and actor. I mean you get caught up in just Twitter and Facebook and the Internet that what everybody says. And you want to please everybody.  And, you know, and lately it’s funny. You’ll hear my name on TV shows or movie references and I mean so many people come up and say reference about the what was in the stepbrothers, you know.  So you’ve really got to – I really have to pull the brakes back and go whoa, you know, I really have to combat that with, you know, with taking chances again and being fearless. I really miss that.  So that’s kind of where I’m at right now in my career. I’ve turned down a lot of stuff. I’m waiting for something that feels, you know, challenging in television.  And that’s tough because like you said, I haven’t done a lot of it. But right now I’m at that place in my life where I’ve been many times in my career where I’ve no idea what I’m doing tomorrow.  And it’s the most frightening and exhilarating moment that I’ve had a long time. So I’m waiting to be scared and challenged and I’m going to jump at the opportunity.

Q:  Is there anything that’s off the table for you? I know you mentioned being fearless but is there any role that you absolutely will refuse to take?

John Stamos:   Replacing anyone on a sitcom. Read between those lines.

Q:  John, you said earlier that you had reservations about the role initially. Why take chances now at this point in your career?

John Stamos:   Well, you know, I could either way. You know, I could – I’m at the place where I’m, you know, I’m looking at almost 30 years.  I was – you know, here’s get ready to drop a name. But I was at a party the other night and the great George Clooney came up to me and he said God he said, you know, we’re still around. There’s not many of us that have, you know, made it this long.  And first of all to beat even, you know, in the same category as him which I’m not was very flattering of him to say.  But it’s true. You know, for all intents and purposes I should be long gone by now.  So I think because I’ve taken some chances or tried to get back to my roots I go to the theater quite a bit or I mean I do theater quite a bit so around.  But I think that – I think, you know, I could take the easy way out. I could jump on a sitcom tomorrow. And, you know, at some point maybe I will again. But I think I’ve got one more fight in me. I think I still have some energy. I still want to get out there and do something that’s challenging and original.  I think there’s some incredible writing in television now. Everybody’s going into television. So I feel if I’m patient, you know, I sat out for the pilot season. I just feel if I’m patient I think that’s going to come around for me.  And again, I guess to answer your question I feel I have one more fight in me before I sort of, you know, just kind of be put out to pasture and, you know, maybe go do a – not that there’s anything wrong with it but, you know, just jump on a family sitcom again like Full House or something like.

Q:  How have you managed to stay relevant after 25 years?

John Stamos:   Well that’s a good question. I mean it baffles me. I mean I think, you know, doing some of these popular shows have been good for me, certainly Entourage, certainly Glee.  Again at the same time I think that’s the answer. Hopefully, you know, I try to stay relative that way.  You know, a couple weeks ago I was, you know, on tour with the Beach Boys who have been around for 50 years which is maybe not the most, you know, finger on the pulse thing happening now.  But at the same time I did a music video for a band called Low which is a really cool independent Indy band that, you know, is about as, you know, gritty and raw and fresh as I could do. So I try to do those kinds of things I guess. Did that make – did I answer that?

Q:  John, what did you find most challenging about playing the part I mean beyond getting past and the fact that you probably wouldn’t have liked him in real life but in terms of playing the character itself?

John Stamos:   Again, you know, when I read it — and I think Neal hinted to this earlier — like I thought oh I’ve got to play into this guy. I’ve got to be this evil diabolical guy who’s out trying to, you know, manipulate women.  But I kind of kept it really simple. And I think when you see it you’ll see – Neal was saying it earlier that I just kind of played the truth of this guy really loving babies at, you know, at whatever cost.  So it was a challenge to not play into the stereo typical things that maybe someone would read into a character like this, you know?  I played them very laid back and very confident and very controlled and, you know, just kept what I wanted, you know, what he wanted which was to procreate and have as many children as he can because he loved babies, loved himself. So the challenge was to keep it very clean and…

Q:  Were you a fan of Law & Order Special Victims Unit before appearing on the show?

John Stamos:   Well I have to be honest with you, no I hadn’t seen it much. But I’m a fan now.

 

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