(Reprint of previously published article removed from original site, CableTV.com.)
Matthew Lillard made a name for himself being the jokester in many of his previous roles, including “Scream,” “The Descendents,” and the cult classic, “SLC Punk.” And while he maintains that he’s not the “comic relief” in FX’s bleak drama, “The Bridge,” he does bring some much-needed levity to the melancholy mood of the show, albeit a very subtle and dark humor. Lillard sat down Tuesday in a conference call to discuss his role on the show as Daniel Frye, a reporter — or former reporter, at this point — for the El Paso Times. His character has a knack for getting himself into dangerous waters, and in fact, Daniel was set to die in Season 1, dodging a car bomb and being thrown off the bridge from whence the show gets its name. But the show’s producers, headed by Elwood Reid, apparently decided to keep him around for a while.
We can only hope he’s here to stay, because not only does his character add some great depth and variety to “The Bridge,” but Lillard proved during the media call that he still has his trademark sense of humor, inviting one reporter to go to the prom with him after a particularly complementary question, and telling another his voice sounded like he had been on a 48-hour binge in Las Vegas. And when the reporter told him that was his normal voice, Lillard replied, “Then you’re a lucky, gravelly son-of-a-bitch.”
The actor also discussed whether his character might make it through this season and that he’s not above doing whatever it takes to get fans on board to keep him on the show, even if it means taking up some unconventional weaponry.
Trust me, if you read on it will make sense.
Diana Price: “The Bridge” is obviously a very heavy dramatic project, but you always seem to provide some kind of comic relief or levity in your roles. Do you seek out those roles, or do you try to inject a little bit of humor at times on the page that’s not already there?
Matthew Lillard: I definitely bring an energy that’s different than other people on the show. I don’t really have a lot of jokes. It’s not like Elwood [Reid] and our incredible writing staff; it’s not like they give me a lot of jokes. I certainly get to say more funny things on the show than anyone else.
Then, I think what I bring is energy and, yes, I generally find opportunities to be funny in really high stakes; “Scream” is a great example of that. When you’re running for your life, and you’re at the end of your rope and the stakes are really high, to be able to make people laugh in that little sweet spot; I like doing that.
I think that it’s a combination. I think that the writers and Elwood have found a great way to use me in the show. I think that Emily and I do a lot of solving the case, but on top of it, we can add a little levity to a world that’s so ripe with drama. Yes, I think it’s a combination of both. I think that they lean into me for that, and I tend to find it on the day.
DP: You were talking about how it was rare for you to get these kinds of dramatic roles. You’ve been known for comedy, and this is a chance for you to mix a little comedy and drama together. Would you like to maybe do more of that; that special mix where you get a little bit of both? We obviously just lost one of the masters of being able to mix those two art forms. Do you think that’s something that you might be interested in doing more of?
ML: Yes. I think that every actor is interested in doing that. There’s not a comedy actor out there who doesn’t want a chance to do drama, and vice versa. As actors, we’re always looking to be pushed and to do the other side of the coin. Look, for me, I would love to do both. I’d love to just continue to work in great things.
Having worked with Alexander Payne in “Descendants,” that kind of tone where you’re laughing one moment and the very next moment you’re crying, speaking specifically when he says goodbye. Judy Greer comes into the room in “Descendants” and she’s going off on his wife. Then, he throws her out and it’s very funny then she leaves and then you’re crying because he’s saying goodbye to his wife. I think that’s real life. I think that comedy and drama live a breath away.
For me, if I’m doing really great work and I can be connected to the words and being “dramatic” and real and then immediately make people laugh, I think that that’s a fantastic place to live. I agree with you, we did lose a master at that. I feel like there are not a lot of people that deal in that nuance.
Not to get too crazy and blither off too long, but film and television has been pushed in extreme directions, having extreme horror and extreme comedy–I don’t think that that reflects real life… Yes, I would love to do those jobs, and I would love to have great jobs; that’s what I’d love to have.
DP: I was just wondering, your character on “The Bridge” has dodged death once, and he looks like he’s getting into a little bit of trouble again on the show getting into some danger. I know you can’t give away any spoilers, but do you think that Daniel has it in him to keep dodging death and stay on the show a little longer?
ML: Look, I will say that there’s an episode that comes up that is mind blowing the things that happen. No character is safe on our show, and I will tell you, I’ve seen a script where I died in Season 1. I got the script and it said Daniel Frye is dead. I’ve seen it and I know how it happens and I know the look on Elwood’s face when he hands you the script. I’m not beyond that, I don’t think anyone on our show is beyond that. Saving probably Diane [Kruger] and Demian [Bechir], I think that everyone is up for grabs, and I think there’s an episode coming up that will surprise people on what happens to characters.
The truth of the matter is, I would love to be a character that they use and use and they dig him deeper and deeper into a pit of despair, and then they have to kill him because there’s no way out. I’d love to be that kind of character; that means that they’re using you in a way that’s full of muscle. As an actor, that’s what you want. I’d love to go out in a blaze of glory if you’ve given me an entire season of work that gets him to a place where you have to kill him; that’s the truth. If you can build a great story around it and it supports Season 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of the show and you have to kill me, then God bless him. Kill me good.
DP: Just exhaust the character?
ML: Yes. That’s the thing, you dig a character into a hole and you’re like, well, what are you going to do? You can’t come back from that. To write a character that you can’t come back from, to be that character would be really exciting.
DP: Just get the fans behind you; sell t-shirts that say, “If Daniel dies we riot!” and maybe pick up a crossbow.
ML: I would love that. If you could—because I can go right from that to like a zombie show or to the dragon show I’d be into it. If you can give me a crossbow I’d be completely happy with that decision.
See Lillard–sans the crossbow–Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on “The Bridge” on FX.