A Chat with “Harper’s Island” Victim #6

First off, my apologies for the delay in getting this week’s interview onto the site, though in my defense, today is the earliest it possibly could have gotten up. Saturday night’s victim was out of town on Monday, which is now my new day to do the Victim of the Week interviews, so our conversation had to be bumped to Wednesday instead.

On a related note, please be aware that there will be no interview next week. Why? Because there’s no episode of “Harper’s Island” this Saturday. And why isn’t there one? Because CBS is opting instead to show a rerun of “The Mentalist.” As for why they’re doing such a thing, your guess is as good as mine. I can’t imagine I’m the only person mystified by the maneuver. I mean, presumably, it’s a way to gauge if the “Harper’s Island” fans who’ve followed the show to Saturdays and aren’t watching it on DVR or TiVo will come back if they skip a week, but, damn, come on, CBS, you’ve already annoyed us by shifting it to the weekend. Can’t you at least just run the remaining episodes uninterrupted? Surely we deserve that much.

And just one last thing before we get to our interview: when the show does return, the Victim of the Week interview won’t happen on the following Monday, because that’s Memorial Day Weekend. It will instead take place on Tuesday…and since I’ll be out of town on Tuesday, it remains to be seen if I’ll even be able to do it.

Damn. “Harper’s Island” fans just can’t catch a break…

Premium Hollywood: Hey, Richard, how’s it going?

Richard Burgi: I’m well, thank you, Will. How are you?

PH: I’m good. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. I feel like I know you already, since just about every other “victim” I’ve spoken with has made a point of talking about how working with you was one of the high points of their “Harper’s Island” experience.

RB: (Laughs) Oh, that’s delightful! Well, it was a great group of young actors, and I was honored to be part of it.

PH: So you definitely now have the best death scene to date.

RB: I thought they could’ve gone a little further, you know? They could’ve splayed open the fruit a little bit and shown the seeds.

PH: (Laughs) Well, I was hoping that’s how they’d open next week’s episode.

RB: That’d be pleasant.

“Say, is it just me, or does that chandelier look like it’s getting closer?”

PH: So how did you get involved with the series? Was it a standard audition, or did someone on the series ask for you?

RB: No, I got the offer, and, God, I just thought it was interesting, with interesting people and shooting in a place that I really love.

PH: Were you intrigued by the idea of the show, given that it’s a model that’s different from the average?

RB: Yeah, I was intrigued by the writing, I was intrigued by the character, and I was interested in working with Jon Turteltaub, who I’d heard a lot about. We had a great time together. Everything sort of came to a wonderful fruition.

PH: Are you a horror or mystery guy by nature?

RB: You know what? I like it, yeah, but it’s not a genre I devour assiduously. My brother is quite the fan, but, no, I’m not a large consumer of that genre.

PH: So how did you find out about your impending demise on the show? I know some people have gotten the cold tap on the shoulder from a producer.

RB: Oh, I found out when I got the script.

PH: Okay, I didn’t know if you’d been approached before that.

RB: Well, I knew when I started the show that I was not going to make it past Episode 5 or 6.

PH: Oh, so they gave you some warning, then?

RB: Yeah. They always threw little bones here and there, saying, “Ah, you know, if it works out, you could be here a little longer.” But I had no attachment to it one way or the other.

PH: When I talked to Harry Hamlin, he said that one of his favorite scenes in the show was when he was smoking a cigar with you.

RB: Yeah, we had a good time. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed working with him and getting to know him.

PH: How did you enjoy playing not really a villain, per se, but a character whom the audience rarely knew what to make of?

RB: You know, I kind of like those amorphous characters where you aren’t really sure how to take them. I enjoy the idea of having a clean slate for a character to begin with, and then people put all sorts of content on him or her. It’s fun to set them up in certain ways, and you’re part of the process to fool the audience into going a different way, in terms of the characteristics and traits. So, yeah, I enjoyed this supercilious kind of one-dimensional rich white guy veneer, and revealing the facets underneath it that created a more complex being.

PH: When I talked to Sean Rogerson, he referred to you as “the funniest dude ever.”

RB: (Laughs)

PH: He said, “That guy’s got stories.” So I was wondering: when you look back on “Harper’s Island,” is there a particular story that stands out from your time on the show?

RB: Um… (Very long pause) Oh, God. Funny…? I like to keep people loose, and that whole area of kind of shaking up what appears to be this serious…well, the same kind of thing happened on “Hostel: Part 2,” where we had so much fun because the material was just so disturbing, and I think a lot of times on “Harper’s Island,” the same kind of thing happened, where my intention is just to keep things light. Out of laughter or tears, something new emerges when people get out of their heads, so my intention was to work in this way that constantly keeps people…and myself…in this state of discovery. So, God, what stands out? Maybe going to work with my son. My youngest came up, and we just had a lot of fun. I had so much fun on that show, but having him behind the monitor, with his headset on, and Jon Turteltaub allowing him to say, “Cut,” and, “Action,” and yell things at me and talk to me over the headset, that was great. Turteltaub is just a joy, and everybody else…I can’t think of one salient feature. I could probably expound upon some discomfort, but… (Laughs) …it was just such a gas, the whole shoot.

PH: I would think that some of the scenes with you and Katie, when you’re running outside, would’ve been less than thrilling to film.

RB: Uh, that was not my favorite episode. (Laughs) However, my working experience with Katie was exquisite, and I adore her. There were just some extenuating circumstances that I, uh, had a difficult time with. And that was the only time. Other than that, every episode was a lot of fun. So, yeah, my time with the cast and most of the directors was really great.

PH: (Laughs) Although I’m very tempted, I’m going to restrain myself from following up on that caveat. Did you find that the father-daughter relationship with you and Katie was easy to fall into?

RB: Oh, yeah. Katie’s so open and curious and fun. I love her laugh, and I love making her laugh. I sort of revert to when I was a kid. I grew up with a lot of female cousins, so my desire was always to cut up and make them laugh, and I just dropped right into that with her. I had this sort of fraternal / paternal thing with her. It was great.

PH: I wanted to ask you about a couple of other projects you’ve worked on over the years. First off, what project have you worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?

RB: Well, actually, there was a show that was brilliant but cancelled, called “Action.” It was with Jay Mohr.

PH: I have the complete-series set on my shelf as we speak.

RB: (Laughs) And “The Sentinel” ran, and it was a great show, and I understand why it…that, too, had its problems internally. And, well, probably “One West Waikiki,” the one I did with Cheryl Ladd in Hawaii. It was kind of caught in this political turmoil, a changing of the guard at CBS. The pilot debuted at #14 or something, and it was doing great numbers, but due to political reasons…well, most likely, I dragged the whole thing down. (Laughs) But it didn’t receive the love it should’ve.

PH: I always liked “Point Pleasant.” I thought it had a lot of potential.

RB: “Point Pleasant” was a lot of fun. Yeah, I liked “Point Pleasant” a lot. I loved working with those folks as well, and in San Diego. That was a kick: I could surf on my way to work and on my way home. It was great.

PH: So you’re an avid surfer, then?

RB: Yeah.

PH: In that case, I’m sure that “One Waikiki” was a joy to do.

RB: See, you don’t even know the name of it? (Laughs) I thought it was the silliest name for a TV show. It was actually called “One West Waikiki.”

PH: Oops. Sorry about that. Yeah, I saw it on the IMDb page, but I wasn’t familiar with it.

RB: No, no, it really was just such a terrible title. But it was a really fun show, and it just got caught in a lot of turmoil.

PH: How did you enjoy your stint on “24”?

RB: “24” was lovely. I had a great time with all of those folks. Again, a first-rate group of people, and, y’know, it was just a gas. It was one of those shows that had kind of a grisly tone, and I tried to make as much merriment as possible around it.

PH: So with “Harper’s Island,” are you one of the cast members who watches the show religiously every week?

RB: No, I actually just saw it for the first time accidentally, when my son and I were flipping around after the basketball game. I’m not an assiduous consumer of television, so I don’t watch what I do. Not as a choice, but…it’s just one of those things.

PH: What would you say was your favorite episode of the ones that you were on? Does one in particular stand out?

RB: Um, let’s see. (Pauses) I think it’s the one where Victor Webster’s character (Hunter Jennings) dies. I really liked that one.

PH: Actually, that episode includes one of my favorite scenes of yours, when Henry and Mr. Wellington are skeet shooting. You definitely put on an ominous performance, where you totally see why Henry’s paranoid that he wouldn’t ever be able to get into your good graces.

RB: Right! I had a lot of fun doing that as well. It was a beautiful day, and, you know, anytime I can have a party with some guns, I’m set for a good time.

PH: (Laughs) That sounds like a good closing line to me. Well, Richard, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I really enjoyed your performance on the show.

RB: Thanks very much. Cheers!

* Missed our interview with Victim #1? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victims #2 and #3? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #4? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #5? Go check it out!

  

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