The First Evil (asta77) wrote in jamiebambernews,
The First Evil

Jamie Bamber News Interview with Jamie Bamber

At Dragon*Con this year, zegeekgirl and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Jamie. The interview was to be posted Monday, after Dragon*Con news had subsided, but I realized late last week Jamie Bamber News would be celebrating it's sixth anniversary today. And a good way to mark the occasion seemed to be an interview with the man himself. Now, if we can only find a way to do this every year. ;)

Once again, I'd like to thank Jamie for his time. By Saturday evening, it was quite clear just how demanding a convention schedule can be for the guests. He was not only extremely accommodating fitting us into his schedule, but when we wondered, logistically, how we would pull this off, he suggested meeting after a photo op and assured us he would not leave the room until he saw us. And what was supposed to be a ten minute interview turned into twenty as he would ask if there was anything else. Have no doubt, he is as nice a guy as you believe him to be. Sorry if I'm embarrassing you, Jamie. :)

I also need to thank Jamie's publicist, Craig, who dealt with me for three weeks and was great about not forgetting about me. Jamie's D*C handler, Valerie. And Kennedy, who worked for either D*C or Froggy's Photos, who was incredibly sweet, helpful and made sure we got into the photo op area to talk with Jamie. (The one downside of conducting an interview in the photo op room: it didn't seem wise to ask for a photo in there. Hence, I'm recycling a photo from Saturday's panel.)

And since this is JBN's anniversary, I really need to thank all of you for the support and being a really awesome group of fans and making the site what it is today. Even with Live Journal's problems, I hate to think I may ever have to move the site elsewhere and potentially lose the community atmosphere that LJ provides.

Jamie: How's everything going?

Asta: Good. We enjoyed the pratfall earlier.

Jamie: Yeah, well actually... because Richard almost did one in the wings before we got on, I thought I would go for it.

Zegeekgirl: We were curious about 'Monday Mornings', were you offered the part or did you go up for it?

J: No, I auditioned. I went in and I read for Bill D'Elia, the executive producer and director and he brought me back and I read for David Kelley. And then I tested with another actor. It was me and another guy.

Z: And would you say the character specifically or the script itself drew you to the project?

J: Both. Very much both.

A: TNT, USA and cable networks generally encourage their stars to join Twitter to publicize the show. I'm not encouraging you to join, but if they asked you to, would you consider it?

J: Um, I don't know, at this point I feel like I've not tweeted for so long, it's worth keeping it a streak I think. Um... yeah, it's not something that really intrigues me that much. If they make it awkward, then I may. I don't know. I just don't feel like throwing 150 characters out there.

Z: Some people can make that an art form, but not everybody can do that.

J: Yeah, I know, I can see the self-commentary thing being sort of interesting. I don't follow anybody, but I do occasionally go online and see like... I follow Rory McIlroy, he's a golfer, I check him out. But yeah, I don't know.

A: By the way, we want pictures of you and Ioan at that charity golf tournament.

J: Okay, alright.

A: We're looking for a Hornblower reunion. :)

J: OK, alright.

Z: Question about 'John Doe', and this is sort of couched in the fact that [the filmmakers] have been quite coy, and deliberately so, about not revealing a lot about the film. We haven't seen any footage or photos. What's one thing you can tell us that's not a spoiler, about what drew you to the part or what you get to do in it?

J: Well, it's a classic... when I first read it, I was drawn to it because of the script. And the script seemed to be saying something very controversial that I didn't like at all. And it kind of, almost persuades you that the world is desperate enough that vigilantism is a good thing. And I'm so opposite in my opinion that I found myself almost persuaded by the script. That it just seemed like a very explosive mix, and I could smell the controversy. And I thought I would like to bring a humanity to that particular character. And that's what really drew me to it, it's dark and it's a difficult piece. You know, I think, at the moment, the reason everything is so hush-hush is because they haven't sold it yet. So, they're trying to find a buyer, and that's the only reason.

A: So, a little change of pace, with 'Un jour mon pere viendra', and also on 'Perception', you play an ass - but a humorous ass! - do you want to play more comedy?

J: I would, I'd love to.

A: Because you do excel at it.

J: Oh, that's very sweet of you. I'm not sure I do excel at it. But I would love to, I'd love to do more comedy. I've said for quite a while that I feel quite drawn, if I could start some movie career going, towards the romantic comedy genre. I don't know, there's something about it that I would love to have a go at.

[Ed: Short break in the interview as Aaron Douglas crashes the conversation. :) ]

J: Where was I? But I would love to do it, I would love to do more. And actually, my role, so far, in 'Monday Mornings' is not comedic in the least, but there is quite a bit of David E. Kelley quirky humor in the show.

Z: Yes, we kind of saw that in the trailer.

J: Yeah, in the show, and the other characters are doing it for now, and I'd like to think that maybe I'll get a bit of a go at it, but maybe my role in the show... I don't know what it is yet, if it is going to be that. But there are comedic moments in the show.

A: Another question about 'Perception'.....[Ed: Shorter break in the interview as Aaron Douglas apologizes for crashing the conversation. ;) ].....There was some talk on the comm, I think we started it, your Dr. Hathaway - did you intentionally channel James as Gaius at all?

J: No, not at all!

A: You sound a lot like him and some of the mannerisms.....

J: Well, James and I do sound quite a lot alike.

Z: I think it was more the mannerisms that came up.

J: Well, you know, he was a slightly smug, um, you know... very bright, but smug sort of vainglorious character. Although I wasn't really trying to play that, I was just play someone who was uncomplicated and straightforward. Which, compared to Eric McCormack's character, is sort of the opposite, that's what I was trying to do. No, James was very far from my mind.

Z: We were just curious because about five or six people all said the same thing [to that effect].

J: No, they're just Americans seeing Brits as being slightly smug.

Z: Oh, I don't think that's just it at all.

J: That's the only real similarity though.

Z: I know that you had mentioned this and we talked to you earlier today about not having seen '17th Precinct' all the way through. And you kind of touched on it in the panel yesterday, with it being a network show and being condensed into one hour that it was hard to get Ron's world-building [on screen]. Do you feel that, with what little you saw of it, that it was as successful as it could have been at that?

J: What I saw, I thought was very subtle. And maybe too subtle in the visual element of the show, and it was quite hard to differentiate that this was a different world, yet similar to ours and yet completely different. And I think it was something that Ron carried off on the page very well and....but we were all there already in our minds. For the uninstructed audience, obviously there was a problem. And you're not really sure why that happens. But I am 100% sure that given time, Ron would have really pulled off something quite extraordinary. I haven't seen the [full] pilot so I can't really comment on the net result. But it was a wonderful project, and a wonderful idea.

Z: We were actually under the impression, watching the version of the pilot we saw, that not all of the effects were complete.

J: Maybe that's true, because it was just the pilot. I don't know.

A: Well, and your wife's scenes - your TV wife - were completely cut out.

J: Yeah, I guess it ran very long. So they had to cut something out.

A: This is a superficial question, but I've always been curious - why are you Jamie Bamber and not Jamie Griffith?

J: Because when I was at drama school and you leave drama school, you apply to Equity for membership, and they have a policy of having a unique name. And at the time, under Equity protocol, I had to write to this other actor called James Griffith I believe his name was...or James Griffiths, maybe, to ask his permission to be Jamie Griffith, because it was deemed to be very close. And he wrote back and said..."No." So I racked my brain and came up with the next logical conclusion which is my middle name, Bamber which is a family name, my mum's maiden name and one I'm very proud of. So I used that. I mean, it was awkward, my parents are divorced and I did not mean it to be a slight to the Griffith side of things. And if I ever become published writer of any kind, it will be Griffith that I use. My kids are all Griffith, and that's my name, Jamie Griffith. But Bamber is a middle name and seemed to be the most logical.

Z: We found it kind of interesting that for some reason on some of the press materials for 'Un jour mon pere viendra', they used Griffith.

J: Yeah, that's the funny thing is on my email I put Jamie Bamber Griffith, just so I cover both bases depending on what capacity I'm emailing people. So then it sort of changed and morphed and I became credited as Jamie Bamber Griffith. But anyway, it's not really my thing. I don't really want to be a triple-barrel name!

A: Speaking of writing, I know that you had written a 'Battlestar Galactica' script that was not produced because of five seasons jumping to four seasons. Are you still writing, is there anything...

J: I...yeah, I'm not as disciplined as I wish I were about writing, I would love to learn that craft a lot better than I have. And I would love to write something, produce something, direct something, do all those things. And come up with my own material, and I'm trying to do that. I guess the fact is that I'm not the most driven person in the world anymore, I enjoy my acting work and I enjoy being a dad and I'm a bit lazy as well. So I haven't been as productive as I'd like to have been, but I do think one day I will.

A: And what about directing?

J: Directing too, I'd love to direct. I'm not sure how good I'd be, but I'm pretty confident I could be decent with actors. That's really what I care about, the visual stuff is not me really, it's not my skill set. But, uh, yeah, I've just got to get off my arse and direct something short, to show people that I can. And I've been very close, I was meant to direct the webisodes of 'Battlestar' but I couldn't make it because of 'Law & Order', I couldn't fly back. But even in 'Law & Order', they were talking about me directing one, but my workload in the show was always a problem so I never got around to it. Maybe if my current employers are amenable and we last long enough, they'll let me have a go at 'Monday Mornings'. But we'll see.

Z: One more question about 'Monday Mornings': Do you have a hope... well, we read the book, and felt that as a treatment for a TV series it could expand on a lot of themes. You've talked about BSG and scifi in general giving you a unique opportunity to comment on sociopolitical issues. Obviously with a show like this it's grounded in the real world, but are you hopeful that it might approach issue themes, specifically healthcare as a political issue in this country?

J: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely I do. And you know, I'm sure it will with David Kelley's very subtle and light touch. He's a fantastic writer because he's able to write lots of things in one simple scene, and he blends comedy and drama very well. All the stories he puts in there have a moral angle, um... a legal angle a lot of the time, our show is kind of a hybrid legal/medical show without any capital L on the legal. It's about surgeons doing things wrong and facing potential action suits, but also legislating amongst themselves to try and learn from their mistakes and trying to keep that away from the legal department. It's all the mechanics of work, the business of being what a hospital is, seen through the sort of prism of surgery and most often brain surgery. It's a fascinating creature and it's introduced me to a whole world that I've never really been a part of. When I watched this eight-hour procedure at UCLA the other day and saw someone's right frontal lobe be relieved of a tumor, it was as amazing as I imagine going into space would be. It was extraordinary. Yeah, but I do hope it is able to hold a mirror up to this issue that we have in this country which is, you know, treating people and how we do that best and most universally. That's definitely at the forefront of these people, and they're all idealists fundamentally, but they're all realists as well. There's a lot of ambition and ego in the world of neurosurgery as well as wanting to do good and heal others. So it's an interesting combination for characters to be flawed and complex and rich.

A: General question: Other than 'Monday Mornings', do you have any other projects coming up?

J: I did a little tiny role in a film called Shakespeare's Daughter which was great fun. I got to go to Vermont for the first time, and it was beautiful. And Billy and Aaron Sharff, whose vision it is had quite a beautiful little script and I look forward to seeing that, but very much as a bit player. But that's the only thing I can think of. 'John Doe', I guess, is still in the can. There's an episode of 'Perception' to come out [Ed: There was when we recorded this anyway ;) ], that's it.

A: I have one 'Battlestar' question, this is off an answer you gave at Phoenix Comic-Con about your Crossroads speech. You said that Michael Rymer generously allowed you to tinker with it, and you went home that night and you did a rewrite, and the first 40 percent was what was on the page and the last 60 was what you came up with. And I just wondered if there were any other moments like that where you made a rather significant contribution to the show.

J: Yeah, I never want to say that I wrote it. That speech, it was Mark Verheiden's entirely, what he was trying to do and writers are warned off writing long speeches so I'm sure he deliberately kept it as succinct as he could. I really just sort of took it to the natural, what it would be if given half a chance. Fully expecting it to be edited down, and it just wasn't. It was in there, and you could do that on Battlestar, occasionally deliver episodes that were half an hour longer than the others and SciFi would generously let us air them like that. I know that with '17th Precinct', Michael and Ron wanted to make a longer show, but the networks aren't that flexible, they will not change from the 42 minutes or whatever it is.

Uh, yeah there were lots of other little moments where I would... I remember there was an exchange between Starbuck and Apollo quite early on in season one, and one of the lines was some... it was Apollo's frustration with her...I was very keen to sort of show the writers how I felt actually! Which was that Starbuck gets all the lines, gets all the fun, gets the swagger, gets the cigar, gets all of that. A bit like Trucco just said in the [panel]. You know? And I'm the bitch. [laughs] And I just sort of try and do the right thing, and so I was constantly, I was quite frustrated by this. I think as an actor and as a character, I was like no, this is good, I should hold onto that frustration with her, which isn't sexual, it isn't anything other than envy, slight jealousy....and competition. Rivalry. I'm a pilot, too. I'm the CAG! I'm....everyone calls her the best pilot, she's this, she's that, she's the talisman. And I remember this exchange, I just really wanted to let rip a bit more. The only words I can remember, I say, you know..."Some retina-detaching move the way Starbuck would." And that was me, and I re-wrote the whole scene and sent it to the writers, who probably laughed their arses off. Because it was very early on, and I'd never done this, ever before! And I just FAXed this thing off and said, "Look, this is the scene as I see it." And they generously took some of the stuff I came up with, that line being one of them, and stuck it in there. But that was the first instance where I felt "I've got to do something, I've got to get up, I want to give voice to some things this character is almost getting to, but not quite." And that set the ball rolling, started the precedent, and from then on I was probably a bit too trigger-happy doing that. But, you know, to their credit Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, whose episode that was, were just the most inclusive, gracious people. Unthreatened, big enough as writers to be unthreatened by that kind of... Bolshevism. So, it was a precedent that was a happy one in the end. But I never want it to be suggested that these writers weren't there first. They got there first, and we kind of just, sort of, sometimes extemporize and embellish, and offer alternative verbalizations for the feelings they are still putting onto the page.

Z: Did you have any cases on 'Law & Order' where you were able to do that at all?

J: Yes, yes. The difficulty with 'Law & Order' is it's a whodunit, and there are potholes to be navigated on the plot journey. But all the time, Bradley and I were fighting the whole, you know, the curse of all storytelling which is exposition. On TV and film you have to do that, often through dialogue, and it's almost always unnecessary dialogue. So we'd constantly try and take the curse off that information load for the audience with behavior, with banter, with humor, with finishing each other's sentences. Sort of acknowledging that this is going over that same old material, but trying to incorporate that feeling within the scene so it's not just the audience being spoon-fed information. And Bradley and I would often say, you know, these lines, in this scene, the whole scene, are completely interchangeable. Either character could say all of this. Which is just part of what 'Law & Order' is, and we would just try and keep it as real as possible. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, and sometimes the producers would allow us more reign and sometimes they wouldn't.

Z: I asked actually because Emilia [di Girolamo] had told us that during script readings, you had contributed a lot to the material.

J: Well, yeah and Bradley particularly, you know. He's a proper Londoner, and he would have issue with a lot of the way things were said, because he knows how it really goes down. He's from that world and I would listen to him a lot, too.

Z: Did you find that when you did contribute stuff, that you had such a strong rapport with [Bradley] that it was more of a collaborative effort?

J: Oh, he and I were on the same page all the way. He's a very very savvy guy, he's got great instincts. Really great instincts. The only time I would tease him a bit is his background as a comedian has made him very technical about rhythms and words and triggers and all these things that comedians know. Which was a complete lesson to me, often, but there's a side of Bradley which is very, very um... um...

Z: Laser-guided?

J: Anal is a good word. [laughs] With words. And I would tease him about that occasionally. And he gets very obsessed by it, at times it would frustrate him so much that it would get himself into a corner. But I learned a ton from that specificity of what makes humor work, and that thing which is super-technical and some people have it naturally and they don't realize how tough it is. But he understands both things. He could tell me "No, you've got to do this to make that funny." Things like that which are very, very useful.

Z: Which you can now take with you into comedy if you decide to do more of that.

J: Well, I'm not sure I'll remember it all! But certain things like, you know... K. He says K is a funny letter. Whenever that sound is in a word, that's inherently funny. "Frak," I suppose is the perfect example.

Z: It did seem to surprise a lot of people the amount of humor that was in the show, from certain writers in particular like Terry Cafolla we always found was so good at writing really really funny [scenes].

J: Yeah, yeah Terry could write the banter really well. Some of the writers were better at that than others, and Terry was good at that. But that's what writers do, I mean Chris Chibnall who set up the show, his model for these two were Morecambe & Wise, which is a very famous British double-act who we all grew up with. And he put it right there in the bible, "they're known as Morecambe & Wise", that they do this double-act thing, straight man/attack dog sort of combination. That was deliberate.

A: The only other thing I can think about for 'Law & Order' is Matt Devlin's death...

J: I haven't watched it.

A: You haven't watched it? Really?

J: No, I have a strange relationship with stuff that I've done. The more I do, the less I actually need to see it.

A: The only reason I ask is because I think Emilia took a little bit of heat for the way Matt Devlin [was written out].

J: Oh, she did. Oh, I didn't know. No, that was me, she needn't because it was my decision. They didn't want me to go, the producers were accommodating me.

A: I think we're done. Thank You!
Tags: convention: dragon con, interview: bamber news, interview: miscellaneous

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