But after meeting the veteran character actor, producers Peter Berg and Alexandra Cunningham asked him to try out for Irish cop Augie.
The affable Griffin has a point. During our hour-long phone conversation in which he told plenty of stories about growing up in Lincoln Park, his love of the Cubs and his past movie roles, he showed the same playful sense of humor that Augie uses to keep things light even during the darkest of homicide investigations.
“[Augie’s] the class clown of the squad and [Tim’s] the class clown of the cast,” Cunningham said during a separate interview with the show’s star, Maria Bello.
“Tim is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Bello said. “He makes me laugh every single day.”
Bello plays Jane Timoney, a gruff detective new to the homicide division in the series that airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays on NBC and is based on the British show of the same name.
Jane initially alienates Augie and the other male detectives who call themselves the “Beef Trust.” In the two episodes that have aired so far, they have only sporadically accepted Jane into the fold, despite her obvious prowess at solving cases.
“We slowly recognize that she’s great at her job. She might not have the most accessible personality, but she becomes part of our squad,” Griffin said, promising a lot of humorous moments that bring the squad members closer together.
Griffin said the writers have picked up on the relationships between the actors to bring a lot of that interplay to life. He and Bello, for example, had co-starred in two films prior to getting “Prime Suspect.” When they saw each other on set, they couldn’t believe it. “We just had a natural rapport,” he said. “We’re all like brothers and sisters now.”
“Abduction” and “Carjacked,” the two films he did with Bello, are not Griffin’s only big screen roles this year. He also appeared in “Conception” with Julie Bowen and David Arquette, “Super 8” with Kyle Chandler and the latest film from director Chris Weitz titled “A Better Life.”
That’s a whole lot of acting for a guy who sort of accidentally fell into the profession.
As a fifth grader he gained the attention of Chicago casting agents when he starred in a school production of “Oliver Twist.” It led to his acting in local stage productions from the Goodman and Body Politic theaters, among others. But he wasn’t convinced he wanted to act for a living, so he went to college at the University of Vermont where he double majored in English and Political Science, but kept acting as a hobby with a group called the University Players.
In summer 1988, Griffin the sophomore was driving home to Chicago when his car broke down outside of New York City. So he called his best friend’s mom, Maureen Brookman, a Chicago agent he had worked with in the past, who told him about auditions for an After School Special called “Taking a Stand.”
“I ended up auditioning for it and winning this role,” he said, chuckling. “And people were actually mad at me, like, ‘Who is this frickin’ kid? Where’d he come from?’
“And I said, ‘I’m from Chicago. My car just broke down here.”
His experience on that film and several other TV gigs that summer convinced him to pursue acting, so he moved to L.A. with a mandate that he had one year to become a legitimate actor.
The rest, as they say, is history. He appeared in tons of TV shows and before being cast by John Singleton in the film “Higher Learning.” He’s gone on to star in such films as “Cloverfield,” “Star Trek,” “Leatherheads,” “Men Who Stare at Goats” and “The Bourne Supremacy” (where Matt Damon broke his nose).
With this year’s “Abduction,” he was reunited with Singleton.
“Now 20 years later, we’re doing ‘Abduction’ together,” he said. “You know what I mean? I’m just a this Chicago boy; it’s sort of crazy.”