I spoke with Currie Graham about Murder in the First, Westworld, House, working with the cast, the format of the show, and so much more. Currie plays Mario Siletti in Murder in the First, which will be premiering its third season on Sunday. It was fantastic speaking with Currie about his work. Currie has definitely starred in your favorite show at least once. He’s an amazingly diverse and talented actor that doesn’t go unrecognized. I’m really looking forward to Westworld, his new projects, and of course, the new season of Murder in the First. An all-new season of Murder in the First premieres Sunday, June 26 at 10/9c on TNT.
LL: You just had your wrap party. I hope you have many, many more.
Currie Graham: We did. So do I. It’s a great group of people. I think we were all, sort of, standing around and knowing that we’ve all been really lucky for three years to have such a nice group.
LL: TNT puts out some really great shows.
Currie Graham: They do. I’ve been happy working there. They’ve been very supportive and I guess because it’s Steve Bochco, they leave us to make our show. We don’t get a lot of notes. There’s not a lot of network interference. Shows come out and people are happy, so they are happy.
LL: Animal Kingdom is also really good. It’s like Point Break.
Currie Graham: It does feel a little bit like Point Break. It’s very different from the actual movie. It’s Southern California at its worst.
LL: You were so good in House. I always enjoyed the dialog between Mark and House.
Currie Graham: Thanks. Yeah, I had a great time with those guys. We actually got along really well, Hugh and I. I think we were both thinking that it would go on much longer than it did. I think there were some external issues around the whole character development, some things that they were not sure of. I think there were plans for me to be around for a while.
LL: Hugh Laurie should be in season four of Murder in the First. What do you think the case would be?
Currie Graham: How great would that be? Oh, I think we could go really dark and really bizarre. He’s very smart and very funny. I think that we could really stretch the boundaries. I think that we could actually frighten TNT with the depths of depravity we could get to in season four if Hugh Laurie came on board. [Laughing.] He’s an edgy guy and I think we would have a blast. I don’t know that he would be willing to put down the music long enough to come and do the show.
LL: I just watched the season three premiere of Murder in the First and it was phenomenal. I definitely don’t want to spoil anything but I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s going to be a very different and interesting season for Mario.
Currie Graham: Yeah, it is a very different season for him. I talked to Steven last night and he felt like I was painted into a corner a little bit—where I was in the office and what my job description was, as an actor in the show. So his, sort of, goal going into the season was to open that up for not only this season, but for future seasons. There will be a lot more Mario in his strange and Machiavellian way.
LL: What are your thoughts on the premiere?
Currie Graham: I found it to be incredibly exciting. As an actor, to get a chance to sink your teeth into that kind of storyline—to go into that kind of place, it’s almost Shakespearen. It’s Machiavellian. I use that word a lot because I really believe that it’s a very Machiavellian season for Mario Siletti. There’s a lot of hubris, angst, manipulation, cunning, and he’s the smartest guy in every room and that works to his advantage and that is also one of his biggest flaws.
LL: The show doesn’t follow a typical format. It’s not like CSI or Law & Order, where they wrap up a case every episode. It’s more along the lines of American Crime, for people that aren’t familiar with your show. Can you talk about the format of the show and, as an actor, if you’ve noticed any pros or cons having it set up like that?
Currie Graham: I have to say that I love having that storyline follow through. I love the idea—exploration of a crime, or of a storyline, in more detail then being able to wrap it up in forty-two minutes and then the characters move on without the last episode having affected them. The cumulative effect of the show, episode after episode, really weighs on the characters. We don’t get to just walk away from a crime scene. We don’t just get to walk away from a problem and then in the next episode everybody is fine. The tension, and the weight of each episode, just builds and builds and I think you start to see it in their performances as well. I even think that you see it with the cast personally. Taye [Diggs] is involved with a very heavy storyline, and Kathleen [Robertson] is involved in a very heavy storyline. You can see the weight of that on the actors just at work—dealing with really dark material and really heavy situations. That’s what I like about it. I love the idea that it’s not a procedural show. Even if you miss an episode, it’s pretty easy to catch up. It’s not like you’re so lost in the story that you don’t get an understanding of what’s happening. I think that the people who want to pick up on episode three because they heard that the show was great and they want to jump in—TNT provides so many platforms for people to go back and re-watch that I don’t think you can ever get behind on television anymore. It used to be if you missed the first episode of a serialized drama you were, kind of, out of the loop. Nowadays they provide so many delivery systems for people to watch a good show, which is great for the networks and it’s great for us too because when you work really hard on a show you are really excited for people to see it. You can watch it on demand, the TNT website, Hulu—there are a million ways to get it.
LL: What can you say about the case this season?
Currie Graham: There are two cases. There is the case that I’ll be involved in, which could be life altering for me, and then there is the case that Taye, Kathleen, Ian, and Raphael are involved in about a high-profile athlete. I think it’s funny because it seems to be very relevant to our society today. When you look at what’s going on in the entertainment world and sports world, I think people will really identify with the story itself. I think it’s a very complex web that Steven weaves. I think there’s a lot of—I don’t know if I want to call it red herrings, but we don’t get scripts in advance. We get them one at a time and then we shoot the next one. We were all standing around saying we had no idea. Last season, we were all talking and we had a pretty good idea, but this year we had no clue. I had no idea. It’s not as simple as well, this person did it and we’ll catch them and it’s over. It’s a much more complex story and a much more complex crime and obviously, Taye gets involved in some very socially relevant problems—some issues that are happening in society today. We get to explore that a little bit as well.
LL: They did such a great job casting the show. What has your experience been like working with everyone?
Currie Graham: It really is a great cast. I’m not just saying that because I’m on the show. Each person individually, I’ve obviously spent time with each human being just sitting and talking to them and they are all interesting, kind, and smart people. In their own way, everybody has their own personality—they are all very unique and I think that translates to the screen. It doesn’t ever feel like this character is similar to that character, or he’s a lot like that guy. I feel like everybody is vastly different and unique and that they bring their own special thing to the show. I think, as a cast, that we’ve become very close because of the material that we work on and we just love the material. We have this commonality about the work that we are doing on the show. We all love it and we all want to be here and do another season, and another season. They also bring in a great guest cast for us to play with. This year was exceptional in the people that they brought in. It’s just fun and a great place. I feel really lucky that I get to do this show for a living. I feel really blessed to go to work and see these people and experience work with them. The crew feels it too. I wonder to if because the material is so dark and the scripts are so heavy if there is that, sort of, bond that we have outside of it, like we are all caring for each other because the material is so heavy.
LL: Yes, in that premiere alone, things get very dark.
Currie Graham: There’s a lot of stuff for people to identify with and gravitate towards. I have to say, I think this is the most excited that Steven and Jesse Bochco, the writers and the cast, have been about a season that we’ve had so far. We are all really excited about the premiere because the feedback from the network has been so fantastic and the people that have seen the show, like yourself, have all really reacted positively. We are all really excited.
LL: If the rest of the season is only half as good as the premiere, it’s going to be the best season yet.
Currie Graham: That’s what we’re hoping and that’s what I’ve been telling people that ask me about season three. I’m in it and I don’t want to sound biased, but I really believe that this is our best season. I, sort of, felt like maybe we had a bit of a sophomore slump in season two. I, sort of, felt like it wasn’t quite where we wanted to go. I felt like season one was strong. I feel like this season is clear, it’s clean, and it’s dynamic. I really think that people are going to jump on board. It’s exciting.
LL: You are also going to be in Westworld on HBO.
Currie Graham: Yes, I did spend some time with the Westworld people. It has an October release date. That was big, big production.
LL: It looks like it was an amazing series to film.
Currie Graham: I remember being on the first day of filming and standing beside Jonathan Nolan and we were shooting some stuff with a train. I walked behind the monitor and when I looked in the monitor I was like, “Shit! We are doing this.” The image in the monitor looked like a hundred million dollar feature. I remember turning to Jonathan and going, “Shit! We are doing this.” He’s like, “Yeah, man we are doing this.” Okay, all right then I’m clear on what’s happening now. You just got the sense that there was something special going on there. You step on the set and you think that you’re going to do a Western and then you stop and you see the talent that’s there, and you read the scripts, and you work with the people, and you know that it’s something else. It’s bigger than just doing another show. I think it could be a really cool thing for people. I don’t think that there is anything else like it. I think Jonathan and Lisa Nolan, who wrote and created it, have done such a masterful job at details. I think that a show being good, or a show being great, comes down to the details.
LL: You play Craig.
Currie Graham: Yes. He’s a bit of a wild one. He’s like 180 degrees from the character that I play on Murder in the First. Craig is a wild, wild dude.
LL: Would you invite him out to dinner?
Currie Graham: I probably would have when I was like twenty-five. I think Craig would probably scare me a little bit now. He likes to have a good time. There is no doubt that he likes to have a good time and any hesitancy that he has about enjoying his time at Westworld quickly fades.
LL: What other projects do you have coming up?
Currie Graham: I just finished Agent Carter, which aired in the fall. I was working for Marvel in the fall and then I came back to Murder in the First. I’m going to have Westworld coming out. Right now, what I’m doing is meeting with writers. I have a bunch of treatments that I’ve put together and my literary agent thought that they were really cool ideas and asked me if I could write them all. I don’t think that I can, so I’m going to start meeting with some writers to start banging out some of these scripts that I have. I’m excited about it. I know that Paradigm has no trepidation with me as a writer. I wrote a script for them a couple of years ago, just on spec, and the literary department called me in like a week and said that I was a client. I was like, “Great! What do I do now?” They are like, “Write more shit, dude.” [Laughing.] I continued on with work and did more literary work. I got a little overwhelmed with some of my ideas, so they are going to help me out and start to put some stuff on paper. I’m actually really excited about it. I don’t need to jump into another job right away. I’m doing some press for the show and I’m interested to see how that goes. If something comes up, I’ll jump in. I know that there is some talk of some other shows for me in August, but in the meantime I’m going to clickety clack on my computer.
Murder in the First premieres Sunday, June 26 at 10/9c on TNT.
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Photo: Doug Hyun