Silas Weir Mitchell's fairy-tale job: 'Grimm'
Silas Weir Mitchell plays Monroe (right), a wolf creature called a Blutbad (left), in "Grimm." (NBC / August 13, 2012)
The veteran character actor, 42, plays the wolf-like Blutbad clockmaker Monroe in the NBC drama that puts a new spin on famous fairly tales. NBC is capitalizing on the popularity of the show by premiering the second season at 9 p.m. Monday, weeks ahead of the usual fall TV rollout.
The early debut meant the cast, crew and writers didn't get much of a break between seasons, and currently are in the thick of filming the new season in Portland.
"There are a lot of episodes, a lot of people, a lot of action, a lot of work in the woods," Mitchell said last week on the phone. "The last two [episodes] really have been pretty intense."
So what's in store for fan-favorite Monroe this season? Mitchell confirmed this will be a darker season, and that the reformed wolf will continue to help his buddy, Portland Det. Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), navigate the strange world of the Grimms, the family from which Nick is descended that battles ancient creatures, called Wesen, that are disguised as humans.
"It's bumpy and it's violent," he said of Season 2, but hinting that the buddy comedy aspect doesn't disappear. "It still has that weird sense of humor."
Mitchell also talked about the return of Nick's mother, Kelly (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), Monroe's budding romance with fox-y Fuchsbau Rosalee (Bree Turner), and his first acting gig that makes "Grimm" the perfect job for him.
Actors often say playing a bad guy is more fun than playing a good guy, but you seem to be having a good time playing a good guy.
Well I think bad guys are generally; that's sort of the line, "Bad guys are more fun." It certainly depends on what kind of bad guy and how good the writing is, first of all. What is fun about Monroe is that he is conflicted. He's a good guy with a bad past, so that kind of gives you a lot of bandwidth to play with.
He really wants to be good and he is trying to keep his bad Blutbad tendencies at bay. Will he be tested more in the upcoming season?
I think so. I think there is always going to be a phase where I use it for good—like I use the dark stuff in a positive way. But I also think that I probably will be challenged in the sense of backsliding. I don’t know if they’re going to do that, but I think it would be interesting.
I've heard that it's going to be a darker season this year.
Yes ... it's going to deal with the sort of deeper mythology of why people do what they do and some of the Wesen are behind a lot of what is going on in the world. I think it's going to be sort of surprising to people to consider.
That ties in to what you’ve said about “Grimm” being relatable to modern times. Could you expand on that a bit?
I think a lot of what the show is about in its very sort of essence is—aside from the large macro level of, you know, Hitler was a Blutbad, and Gadhafi was a monster, I don't know what kind of monster he is—but that a lot of the global shift that is going on is based on sort of creature behavior. That's the macro picture, the power struggles between Wesen and the royals and the Grimms and how they fit into that.
On a micro level what the show does is kind of mythologize and make a metaphor of normal human tendencies. Some people are conflict adverse and they would be sort of a mouse creature. Some people get an idea in their head and they want to make it happen; they're like badger people. Do you know what I mean? And then there are people who are like the shitty lawyers out there, like snaky people that are always looking for a way to take somebody.
I think one of the fun things about the show is that kind of way of taking the fairytales in which there are a lot of these types of creatures in the woods and kind of adhering that to a psychological, mythological kind of structure.
When you see a script does that come into your head right away? Do you see those parallels a lot?
For sure. We have a mouse guy in the next script; the guy needs help. The guy can't help himself. He's a little bit you know. He can't get it together. He doesn't really want to go out, but this guy needs help. He's a little frail.
In another episode—we met a Lausenschlange last year—this year we meet a Konigschlange. If you know German, Konig means king, so he's like a cobra. He is like a king snake. He's like sort of the leader of the Schlange snake people, who want to do bad.
There is a logic to it.
It doesn't look like Monroe and Nick’s mom are going to get along.
We're like cats and dogs, man. That's Grimm and Wesen.
How has that conflict been to play? How is working with Mary Elizabeth?
The dynamics of that was really fun. Suddenly I'm in a room with two Grimms and I don't know if Nick—is Nick playing me? Who is this woman? Is she really his mother? She is supposed to be dead. What the hell is going on? She wants to kill me. I might have to kill her if it comes to that. Like what's going on? It was real fun and Mary Elizabeth was just great. She was really delightful.
I was surprised about her in that role.
She was badass actually. She was really badass. She was great. She did a lot of that stuff herself, like the stunts—not all of it of course—but she was very, very good, very game. She got it.
What will happen with Monroe and Rosalee?
There is a little romance beginning to sort of bubble up, but also I have to deal with Angelina [Lasser, played by Jamie Ray Newman] coming back and she sort of throws a wrench into things, so there is that. That's fun.
Can a Fuchsbau and a Blutbad make little ones?
I think, yeah. They're both canid. It would kind of be like a fox and a dog. They're both canid. It's not like a snake and a mouse trying to figure it out. That's bad news, man. They don't belong together.
Have you been having fun in the spice shop?
It's such an amazing set. That spice shop set is just fun to be in. I want to move into that set. The props and the art on the show are incredible. They have just all these old bottles of tincture with like Czech writing on them from like the 50s. It's just weird, cool stuff. Brown bottles and blue bottles and it's cool, man. They do an amazing job making the set decorations, the art is just really great.
Did you embrace this part right away? You seem to love it.
Totally. First of all, I love [executive producer] Jim Kouf. I get his sense of humor and it was an exciting prospect. I felt like it worked. I felt like there was a good fit. I feel like I understood where Monroe was coming from. ... Looking back on the audition, I always felt like in a groove. So yeah, there is a good fit.
You spend a lot of time out of the studio and in the forest or woods around Portlant. Do you enjoy that?
Totally man. I mean that's what great about being in Portland is the locations are just great. ... They fit the story.
You're really good at the comedy here; is that something you enjoy more than anything about the role?
I love the whole thing. I love this show. I love the stories. I like the people I'm working with. I like where I'm working. I like the comedy side because I can't tell you how many times in the last 15 years I've heard from casting directors, "But I don't know, can you do comedy? I don't know; is he funny? I don't know if he's funny." So this is very nice to put the kibosh on those questions.
What originally got you interested in acting?
I was in "Hansel and Gretel" when I was in third grade, no joke. That was the first play I ever did. It's kind of funny that I'm doing this now. Huh?
Were you surprised by the reaction to the show, how it was embraced?
Yes, I was surprised that the pilot was as good as it was. I was surprised we had pick-up. I was surprised we were the first thing renewed because you just can't expect these things to happen, especially when you're a weird little show like this. Come on, we were the first thing renewed and "Prime Suspect" got cancelled? Are you kidding me? So yeah, I was surprised for no other reason than it's like threading a needle to get to this point and not because I didn't believe in what we were doing or I didn't believe in the people because I do and I did and in continue to. It was more the kind of like winning the lottery feeling.
You played a lot of sort of crazily mentally unstable characters in the past. Did you pursue those kinds of roles or did they just sort of happen upon you?
It's just a combo. I am very interested in like what goes on in the mind of someone who is not right. I find that to be very interesting sort of territory to play with, but I didn't like super actively seek them out ... I have to say I did contribute to it I think because I do find that stuff interesting. Like when you see the guy muttering to himself, what is he talking about?
What has been your most fun role to play?
Probably what I'm doing right now. It is what I'm doing right now. There is no probably about it. This is the most fun I've ever had doing my job.
Do you have any favorite beasts, any favorite Wesen besides the Blutbad.
The Murciélago was pretty cool, the bat creature, which we totally mispronounced and I can't believe that that happened, but it's all good.
That must be hard with the language thing anyway. You guys are making some of them up. Right?
Yeah, definitely, but Murciélago does mean I think bat in Spanish and we pronounced it Murciélago and that drives me crazy because I don't speak Spanish so you know, but the creature looked really, really good because it was actually physical. Sometimes it's physical. Sometimes it's CGI and sometimes it's a combo and when it's a combo it looks really good because there is an actual person, physical thing happening that they kind of spruce up a little bit with the computer, so the Murciélago was one of those and I thought it looked frickin' awesome and the Hundjäger are pretty badass too, the like jackal kind of creatures. Some work better than others.
Do you find the makeup process troubling?
Mostly for me it's CGI. I've only had to do the full makeup one time. (Click here to see the process.)
That's good for you.
Yeah, that's great. It's just too time consuming. There are not enough hours in the day.
Could you give a tease for the new season?
Look, if you liked the first season you're going to love the second because it's just bigger, badder and better. We hit the ground running and we don't look back and it's like action-packed, scary, funny. It's great honestly and I'm not just being a shill here. I really think this season is going to rock.
You spent time in Chicago when you did "Prison Break." Any special places you used to go to? Anything you miss about the city?
I miss being able to smoke a cigar indoors while listening to somebody play jazz music. Can you still do that there?
Well there were bars where you smoked cigars man, like the Redheaded Bar where there was some guy playing piano and there was like a bar called like the Dopey Redhead of something.
The Redhead Piano Bar.
Yeah, you could walk downstairs and do it and you could smoke. I remember walking around town smoking.
You can't do that anymore.
And another place, what's it called? Rush Street area where you could walk in the jazz bar and you could smoke a frickin' cigar. I liked that about it. I didn't like the heat and the humidity. I almost got heatstroke out there working at Joliet, but Chicago is a fun city. Portland is my favorite place I've ever been hired to work, but Chicago is pretty close second.