Duality with Kevin Chapman

Kevin Chapman returns this week as Detective Lionel Fusco in CBS’s hit show Person of Interest. After an intense season two finale we find Lionel and his partner Joss Carter lost in their new uncharted territories within the force. Join us as Kevin shares a few insights into the new season. Find out what special surprise he originally had for season two, but was spoiled by his quick thinking fans. And, discover why everyone’s favorite “detective” owes his career to everyone’s favorite “firefighter”.

*For our international readers who are still waiting for season two to air please note that the first few questions contain spoilers.

MV: Welcome to Movie Vine, Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you!

MV: To begin let’s talk about Person of Interest. I know you can’t talk much about specifics, but what are you most excited about for season three?

Kevin: I think that in season three the relationship between Carter and Fusco is gonna go to a completely new place. Which is always interesting when you have a fantastic dynamic and try to bring it new places. Carter this year gets busted down to uniform, a patrolman, because of HR. As we all know they killed her boyfriend, and it’s something that Fusco knows Carter isn’t going to be willing to forgive. So as the only member left in the precinct Fusco is left swimming in a sea of HR sharks. The question becomes how does a once dirty cop like Fusco turn around and fight the resurgence of HR? Especially now that HR has teamed up with the Russians. How does Fusco help Carter without getting them both killed? So I think that is really what is happening to Lionel this year.

MV: Carter and Fusco’s roles have been reversed in a way.

Kevin: Yeah! Carter basically saved Lionel’s life at the end of last season. It’s funny because I was very surprised, I mean I didn’t know Fusco was going to get out alive last year. Then when Carter came in and saved him by moving the body it was nice to see that she was able to see the redeemable qualities in Fusco. Just as Mr. Reese did in the original pilot. So that was a lot of fun to play.

MV: Especially since Carter was willing to break the law even though she’s been so adamant about doing everything by the book as much as possible straight across the board. That was a great reveal.

Kevin: It will be interesting to see how that all shakes up this season.

MV: So often corrupt cops are portrayed as greedy or power hungry, but I think in Person of Interest it shows a different layer of it, with exception to HR. Fusco originally broke his oath due to loyalty and he’s been caught in-between ever since.

Kevin: Yeah, I definitely think that’s what it was. I think it was more out of acceptance than it was anything else. Wanting acceptance. You know? Not being the odd man out. He was basically assigned to a corrupt unit and it’s like “Ok, do I turn them all in or do I join them?”. I think what Fusco did was he joined them and then once he saw an opportunity to get out he came back to that once loyal image of himself that initially drove him to become a police officer in the first place.

MV: I think it’s interesting to see that he is always teetering on the edge of morality, but he’s evolved so much. You’ve played a lot of, I don’t want to say bad guys, but men with questionable motives…

Kevin: Conflicted as I like to say. (laughs)

MV: (laughs) Exactly. Conflicted. That’s perfect. Has it been refreshing to play Fusco who is trying to straighten out his moral compass?

"It's always nice to play a character with a sense of duality."
“It’s always nice to play a character with a sense of duality.”

Kevin: It’s always nice to play a character with a sense of duality. That’s the thing that I enjoy most. Is it good guys doing bad things or is it bad guys doing good things? That’s not up to me to decide. That’s up to the person who takes an hour out of their day to watch the show. I never try to judge my characters. I try to play them as truthfully as possible and kind of leave the judging up to the viewership. So to have a character who has a sense of duality is just so refreshing to play. But, I never judge them. I feel like if you judge a character before you play it that’s a recipe for disaster. So you just try to play it as true as possible and however the viewership embraces it, or is discouraged by it, is totally up to them. I’ve been very fortunate that Fusco has been embraced by most.

MV: Fusco’s human. Everybody does good things and bad things, right and wrong, I think it’s a struggle for everybody.

Kevin: Everybody’s scarred. Everybody in society is scarred in one way or another, you know? Some more than others.

MV: That’s so true. Fusco embraces his scars. What I also love about Fusco is that he has some of the best lines in the entire series.

Kevin: We kind of brought this kind of archaic element to Fusco. I have a tendency to kind of want to go more in that direction and sometimes Jon (Nolan) will say “Reel it back a little bit”. Because I’m a bit of a class clown as it is anyway. I’ll be on the set feeling good and I’m feeling goofy so I’m trying to play in the scene and Jon is going “Remember we’re making a drama not a comedy”. (laughs) And, I’m like “alright, alright, alright”.

MV: (laughs) But, there is so much comedy in drama there has to be that balance between the two.

Kevin: Yeah! We have a phenomenal writing staff. Every time I’m in Los Angeles they’re like “Come by the writing room”. But, to be totally honest with you I’m so intimidated to walk in there because they are so incredibly bright. Greg Plageman, Amanda Segel, David Slack, and the whole writing staff is amazing. Sometimes I will take something a little bit too much to the right and I’ll get a call from the writer’s room saying “By you doing that, you messed me up for episodes ten and eleven”. I’ve never worked on a show that is so calculated in my entire life. I mean every little thing. The entire season is laid out. It’s like one dot connects to the next dot and the next dot. It’s connecting the dots. To get what they want everything is so much subtext. Everything that is said on the show. It can kind of be overwhelming because to look at something from one place, and then all of a sudden you get a call going “No. Look at it in another place because we’re going in this direction.” Then when they say it, and they spell it out for you, and you see it, you go “Oh, ok. I get it”.

MV: Wow. They are seeing the whole forest, but you guys are just seeing the individual trees.

Kevin: Yeah. We don’t see the forest. We’re just seeing the path that we’re on. But, we don’t know where the path is going to take us. It’s great too because as an actor it’s like Christmas. You get your script for the next episode and you go “What am I doing now?”. So it’s fun.

MV: I like what you said about the writers. It sounds like they have it set up the same way as a detective’s crime board. Or, like how Finch’s board is mapped out with all of the numbers that he originally missed. That’s really cool.

Kevin: Exactly. When you see Finch’s office all of those red strings attaching things that’s pretty much the writing room.

The following two questions/answers contain season two spoilers.
MV: When you’re visiting the writers do they ever let you throw in your two cents with “Let’s have Fusco try this or do this?” or is everything pretty much set in stone?

Kevin: You know I pitched an idea last year. I pitched that idea of when Fusco went on a date. Just to show you how smart of a consumer our audience is that was a two part pitch I pitched to Greg Plageman. I produced a movie last year and I had to go to L.A. for some post-production stuff and Greg found out I was in town so he said “Come by the writer’s room”. So I went by and had lunch. All of the writers are sitting around the table and Greg says “Alright, pitch us an idea”. I didn’t go in with anything planned so I started thinking about it, and I said “I think Fusco should go on a date”. They said “Ooohhh that’s interesting”. I said “I would just like to see something other than him following Carter or Reese around. I would like to see a little bit into his life.” So Greg and I started talking with the rest of the writers and I said “You know what would be great is if he went out on a date. Fusco becomes smitten with this woman, he thinks “wow, maybe this is love” and really starts becoming attached to this woman. As it continues down the path we realize that this woman is a mole for HR. She’s playing up to Fusco so they can find out some information on how much he knows, and whether or not he’s on their side. What side of the fence he’s on.” Greg said “I really like that. That’s great. That’s great.”. So we shoot the date. Then (after it airs) the next day on Twitter all of the fans are going “I hope she’s not a mole for HR.” (laughs)

MV: (laughs) Oh no! That was a great episode. Here Fusco was just wanting to have a normal life, but everyone thought he was up to no good. She was very sweet. It was great chemistry. It was a very sweet romance.

Kevin: Yeah! Tricia Paoluccio is great. I thought her and Fusco together were fantastic. I was so excited for the idea and the possibility for her to come back. I thought that the two of us together really worked. It was believable. It clicked. But, the fans put a hole in my boat. Who knows, maybe we’ll see her again in season three. The fans are so smart that watch the show. They pick up on every little thing. They’re really engaged. But, look at our show. With the stuff that’s happening with the NSA we’re becoming a reality show. We’re like the Real Housewives of Interest. (laughs) And, that’s something we’ve been talking about for three seasons and all of a sudden it’s coming to light. That gives you an idea of how great our writing staff is.

MV: That’s so true. It has so many unsettling parallels to what’s happening right now. It’s shocking.

Kevin: Absolutely! Kudos to the writing staff because they do a remarkable job week in and week out.

"We don't see the forest. We're just seeing the path that we're on. But, we don't know where the path is going to take us."
“We don’t see the forest. We’re just seeing the path that we’re on. But, we don’t know where the path is going to take us.”

MV: It’s also amazing how much they have made the city its own character.

Kevin: I don’t know if the show would be as successful if it was based in Chicago or somewhere else. I think New York has to be the city because it’s so transient. People are constantly coming and going. People from all walks of life. It’s a really diverse city. And, that pretty much plays a part in the overall structure of the show.

MV: When you’re filming on location what are some of the challenges working in the city? Do people pay attention or do they just kind of ignore you guys?

Kevin: People are just like “Get out of my way I’ve got somewhere to be”. (laughs) People do not care. All they know is that they are going somewhere and you are stopping them from getting there. It’s funny because when we’re filming half the people that you see are just people passing by.

MV: (laughs) So when you’re bumping into people, or rubbing shoulders, they are really not happy with it?

Kevin: No, not at all. They’re like “What are you doing filming outside of my house? How dare you!”. And, we’re like “Sorry”.

MV: You are planning to be at the New York Comic Con next month (10/13). What are some of the different reactions you receive from fans in New York versus other conventions around the country since the show is rooted so deeply in the city?

Kevin: It’s funny because New York fans come by and say “Hey, there’s Fusco!” but there’s not a lot of fanfare hoopla made over it. I ride the train a lot in New York so people will come by and go “Hey! Love you on the show. Big fan.” and just keep right on walking. It’s not like it is in Los Angeles where you walk into a restaurant with so-and-so and everyone is tripping over themself trying to get you a table. In New York they’re like “Yeah. Yeah. We know who you are. Sit down.” (laughs)

MV: No one is sliding scripts to you under the bathroom stall. (laughs)

Kevin: (laughs) Yeah. It’s the truth. It’s a completely different thing. It’s refreshing.

MV: Yeah. You can just live your life and be like everybody else.

Kevin: Right.

MV: What can you tell us about your film Bad Country? You have the dual roles of actor and producer.

Kevin: Yep. It’s a great cast. We have Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, Tom Berenger, Neal McDonough, Amy Smart, myself, and Bill Duke. We have a great cast and we have a great movie. It’s unfortunate that the director, who is one of my best friends, Chris (CB) Brinker died of an aneurysm while we were making the film. We were doing some reshoots and we lost CB. Chris and I met actually before I became an actor. He’s a great friend and I miss him every day.

MV: I’m so sorry.

Kevin: That’s been tough. It puts a cloud over the whole movie for us. Because it was something that we all were doing together. But, we made a great little movie. So we’ll see what people think when it all comes out.

MV: Would you mind sharing a little about how you first became involved in acting?

Kevin: I actually kind of stumbled upon it. I worked with Denis Leary and Ted Demme on a movie called Monument Ave. The late great Ted Demme. Denis said to me one day “Can you act?” and they gave me the script for Monument Ave. I read it and then had lunch with them to give them my interpretation of the role. They said “Can you get two weeks off of work? We want you to play this character.”. So I played this character which was kind of like this barfly guy from Boston so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me. After that I got cast in small roles in movies like Cider House Rules and In The Bedroom. All of these great New England movies. I thought if I’m going to develop a craft at this I’m gonna have to go to Los Angeles and study. So I did. I moved to Los Angeles and I studied for about two and a half years. I studied during the day and I worked at night at The House of Blues as a doorman. And, then when I got Mystic River of course that was the thing that helped set me on my way.

MV: That’s an amazing film.

"It's great to be given the opportunity to portray life, to give somewhat of your own interpretation of it, invent these characters and be someone else."
“I thought if I’m going to develop a craft at this I’m gonna have to go to Los Angeles and study.”

Kevin: It was great to work with that cast. Then I went from Mystic River, which was a phenomenal experience, to Ladder 49 with Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta. Which was another tremendous experience. I made my way through. It’s great to be given the opportunity to portray life, to give somewhat of your own interpretation of it, invent these characters and be someone else. It is really a gift.

MV: I think it’s a great way for people to escape. Not only the actors themselves, but the audience as well. And, you end up with an amazing community of friends you can continue to work with over the years. Like for instance starting out with Denis and then you get to work together again on Rescue Me.

Kevin: I credit Denis to really getting me in the business. He has a new show coming out next year called Sirens on USA. It’s about ambulance drivers. One of my dear friends is on the show. Kevin Daniels who I did Ladder 49 with. Denis and I were talking and I couldn’t say enough nice things about Kevin because I think he is remarkably talented. He’s just a great, great, great talent. He’s a phenomenal friend and a great guy. So Denis sends me an email one day and said “Hey, you know, everything you said about Kevin is true. He’s great and he’s doing a great job on my show.” So I said “Well thanks for being smart enough to listen to me. But, more importantly thank you for the journey, my journey, because I would have never been involved in this business if you hadn’t kindly given me a nudge.” And, he said “Yeah. That’s right. You owe me.” in true Denis fashion. But then I said “Well I owe you some days. There are some days where I want to find you and beat you up” . (laughs) It was a very funny exchange back and forth.

MV: (laughs) What a small world. Even in Person of Interest I’ve seen a couple Rescue Me folks make an appearance.

Kevin: Right. And, you know what else, I had worked with Jim (Caviezel) before. I did a movie with Jim, but we didn’t have any scenes together. We did this movie called Unknown. Then I did a couple episodes of Lost, but of course Michael (Emerson) and I didn’t have any scenes together. And, I’ve always been a fan of Taraji (Henson). So, it’s been great.

MV: Well one last question, if Fusco were to investigate you by spending the day doing a stakeout what is something he might discover about your everyday life that would surprise your fans?

Kevin: That I think I have this incredibly gifted singing voice, and I really don’t. When I’m in the shower I sound like Elvis, but when I’m out … not so much. (laughs)

MV: (laughs) That’s awesome! Thank you so much for hanging out with Movie Vine, Kevin. We are really looking forward to seeing where Person of Interest season three takes Fusco.

Kevin: Thank you very much!

*For more information on Kevin be sure to follow him on his official Twitter (@POIFusco) and Facebook pages. Catch Person of Interest on its new night: Tuesdays on CBS (season three premieres tonight – 9/24).

Jan Ostegard

It's been four decades since I first discovered a passion for movies. One momentous evening in 1977 my sister and brother introduced me to Star Wars and it forever changed my life. I relocated to Los Angeles after receiving a BA in Theatre and lived in the San Fernando valley for nineteen years. Besides acting and writing, I enjoy movies, music, theatre, relaxing at the beach or in the mountains, mastering racing games, traveling around the world, and hoarding chapstick. My husband and I are currently readjusting to life back in the States after spending three years living in Shanghai, China.

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