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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

CBFC Interview with Clancy Brown

The Bridges of "Carnivale" County

Interviewed by Beth Blighton • 5-6-03

[WARNING: CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS! Do not read this article if you do not want to hear possible plot points! Answers stated within the context of this interview are solely the opinion of the interviewee.]

CBFC: So, how are things going with "Carnivale"?

Clancy: Pretty good. Not workin' too hard, which is always good. It's a mixed blessing because you wanna be working a lot, but then, if you're workin' alot, then you're not at home to deal with what you need to deal with. So then, my paranoid actor self says, "Oh, they don't like me. I have to get busy," and all that noise... It's silly.

CBFC: How are things looking? Is everything looking good for the series?

Clancy: That's what I hear! I've got no reason not to believe them...

CBFC: And is it still supposed to be out in the Fall?

Clancy: September, I think, is what I keep hearing, but I don't know that that's actually gonna happen. They told me they were gonna get to work this past August, ya know ...

CBFC: And we know how that schedule changed.

Clancy: So, I take everything they say with a grain of salt.

CBFC: The last time you and I talked, you mentioned something about jumping off a bridge for the series. Have you done that yet?

Clancy: Yeah, I did that.

CBFC: How was that?

Clancy: That was... That was interesting. I have a crisis of faith (or the Preacher does, ya know), and I go out on the road. And then I find myself at this bridge. having nothing to live for, and I'm going to jump off it. And there's a guy who's trying to talk me out of it, a copper. And it appears that he doesn't quite make it, and I fall and land in the river -- but I don't die. I break my leg real badly. And I meet up with these two kids, who proceed to torture me, and kill me, then I wake up and it's a dream. I'm still on the bridge, and the guy saves me. He actually reaches me in real life.

CBFC: Ah... okay.

Clancy: Ah... okay! If you say so.... (chuckles) Yeah, all right... okay.

CBFC: (laughing) So, how big was the bridge they had you jump off of? How do they do that? I mean, do they just say, "Hey you, there's the bridge... Go jump?"

Clancy: To me it didn't seem high enough to kill yourself but, I guess, if you really like wanna kill yourself, you could do it. Although, then again, maybe the fact that it wasn't high enough was perfect because I don't actually die.

CBFC: Hmm... That's an interesting point.

Clancy: But I'd say it was about sixty or seventy feet high. But they tied me off, and it was with a wire, and I stepped over the rail and had my feet over the edge, and I kinda lean out over it, and then they cut to the stunt man going over or the stunt double, or whatever.

CBFC: So you didn't have to actually end up in the water then?

Clancy: No, not then. But later on I did end up in the water. I had to go and lie down in the water, and my leg is broken, and all that.

CBFC: (laughing) Yikes! So, it was a pretty miserable day for your character then, I guess?

Clancy: Pretty awful, yeah. A pretty rough day, that one. But that's all right.

CBFC: No, that's good, though, cuz I had these terrible visions of you actually taking that jump out there, yourself!

Clancy: Oooh, no. No, no, no...

CBFC: No siree! They're not paying you enough to do that!

Clancy: No, they don't do that with the... They don't let you do that. They don't let the actors do that stuff.

CBFC: Was there ever a time that you did anything that crazy for a part?

Clancy: Did I ever do anything crazy that much...? Hmm... No. Not that I recall.

CBFC: I imagine those sword fights had the potential to get a little nasty at times.

Clancy: Yeah, there were those, but... No, not really. Big stunts they don't want us to... Did I ever tell you that story about the stunt man when we were doing "Extreme Prejudice"? There was this old stuntman named Benny Dobbins, and Benny had worked in every imaginable old movie, it seems. He was an old time stunt man. And he was coordinating "Extreme Prejudice," and he did all of Walter Hill's films, until he died in the Alps during "Red--" something -- with Arnold Schwarzenegar and Jim Belushi -- "Red Cop" or "Red Buddy Movie" or something.
There was this sort of stunt... We were all a bunch of young guys, and we had been shooting the guns and running and jumping and doing all that stuff, and getting charges put on us and getting blown up, and all this. So, it was no big deal but, all of a sudden, there was this stunt man, there was this guy dressed just like me, and I was like, "Who the hell is that?" And he says, "Well, it's your stunt double." And I said, "For what?!?" And there was this scene where Michael Ironside shot at me and there was this dive over a table, right? And so this guy did that! And I was like, "Holy shit! C'mon, let me do that. I can do it! I could do that, and la la la la la..." And Benny Dobbins grabs me, not really, but just about by the ear, and pulls me aside and says, "Listen, that's how that young man makes his living. He is a stunt man. Every time you need a stunt, I don't care if you're just tripping over your own feet, you have to get a stunt man. Cuz that's his bread and butter. That's how he feeds his family." And I felt so bad for saying, [whiney kid voice] "Oh, let me do it! La la la la la..." So now, like every time I hear that somebody does his own stunts, I think, A.) You're lying, or B.) You're selfish. It's an ego trip.

CBFC: Yeah, the old ego trip...

Clancy: Because, ya know, there are actual people who do this, and it's not just somebody you pick up off the street and make them jump off the bridge. There's guys that really do it, that really train for it, that know how to do it. And it's dangerous work! People die! So, that's why I always use a stunt man anyway, plus they never let actors do that kind of stuff anymore.

CBFC: There's so much insurance liability and everything...

Clancy: Yeah, if Jean Claude Van Damme is doing all his stuff, then it's A.) because they want him to hurt himself (laughing) B.) it's an illegal movie, as far as unions go. You know, low budget/no budget, a foreign film, or whatever, or C.) he's just lying.

CBFC: Have there been any changes made to your character, now that post-pilot filming is underway?

Clancy: They've re-shot a whole bunch. I'm a completely different character than I was in the pilot. It's really cool.

CBFC: So you're pretty much completely separate, then, from the other characters in the show?

Clancy: I am completely separate, which is kinda bumming me out, because the stuff that's going on in the Carnivale is just great. It's like... I can't wait to see it, to see that stuff filmed! I mean, it's so interesting -- the sort of soap opera that's going on there. And it's really soapy. We're really getting involved with all the characters there. And they were trying to soap up my side of the story by introducing another character. And every time that they do that, the next script, it's cut. So, the other character, who is really interesting... He's a radio correspondent. He does these Charles Karualt kind of radio reports, and strangely enough, he's played by Rob Knepper, who I went to college with and we did "Merchant of Venice" together. It was my first Northwestern show. We did a pilot once together a long time ago, although we didn't act together in it at all... and I didn't act at all in that pilot! (chuckles) But he's this really good looking, this really slick looking guy, and he's a pretty good actor, too. And he's supposed to sort of hook up with Amy Madigan, who plays my sister.

CBFC: Well, that's kind of interesting casting!

Clancy: Yeah, I thought it was great! I loved it! She's terrific... So they're trying to soap up my side of the story, but it seems like, whenever they go down that path, nobody really wants to see it.

CBFC: Huh... That's strange. I wonder why not?

Clancy: Well, they're really concentrating on soaping up the Carnivale, which, to me, is fine, because, if you get the first season, you get all those guys going, then there's gonna be lots of questions about what's happening on my end. And once the epic battles start happening, that'll start fleshing itself out.

CBFC: So are you being incredibly wicked, but subtly so?

Clancy: I'm in crisis. I don't know what's going on! I have this force within me, and I don't know what it is. I don't know how to control it, I don't know what it means. I think I'm crazy! It might mean I'm crazy and, if it means what it means, and I'm a normal human being, and I say it's another human being, they think I'm a nut! So I'm just starting to figure it out.

CBFC: So you're really maybe not human then?

Clancy: Oh, I am human! Both of us are human, we just don't know what's going on. Because I already have this structured ethic or sense of morality, or structured belief system or whatever you want to call what religion gives you, that philosophy, then I'm trapped into that kind of rationalization. Whereas this other kid, he can actually get the clear picture and be told what it is. I'm kind of... I have to put it in the cubbyholes that I know are there, or that I believe are there. And so I think I come to realize the nature of it a lot quicker than he does. But I'm still skewed, because I think it's God speaking to me, and it's not.

CBFC: So your character is in for some big disappointments, at some point... or not, depending on how they want to go.

Clancy: Another big realization. Whoops!

CBFC: Yeah, big whoops!

Clancy: Whoops! I'm not a good guy. I'm a bad guy!

CBFC: How did that happen? But I thought I was being the good guy, huh? So, do you think we're going to see a lot of unhappy religious groups out there, upset about this show?

Clancy: Yeah, perhaps...

CBFC: I'm guessing...

Clancy: Ya know, I'm guessing, too. Though I think they're taking great pains not to get too specific with anything. And that's why they got me out of the church, so I'm not saying any of this stuff, hiding behind the pulpit.

CBFC: Which is good.

Clancy: And I'm not discovering any of this behind the pulpit. All of my church activity is quite sincere and wonderful. But, ya know, we'll see what happens. The lunatic ones are gonna say that any characterization beyond... that's not completely positive is sinful or whatever, but that's not the case. So I'm gonna try to protest my bourgeois normalcy, my boring self, assert that publicly more than anything else. I'll be an upright citizen in the face of the character onslaught that I anticipate, ya know what I mean.

CBFC: Now, will the audience know that you're "the villain" of the piece, right off the bat?

Clancy: Well, nobody's really gonna... I guess, the people who really want to know are gonna find out, ya know what I mean? There's not gonna be any big secret about it, as far as that goes. So the people who want to know will find out. What will be interesting is how it is received critically, and then how interested everybody remains in it. Am I obviously the villain? No. Not at the get-go. Bad things happen and, as the show goes on, it's still coming into question.
In fact, I've talked to a couple of the writers and just heard from a completely independent source, actually, that there's still a lot of discussion about what's gonna end up happening. I've heard a lot of "they're thinking about this, they're thinking about that," with sort of the main plot arc of the thing. So, they're still not really sure what's really gonna happen, because it's changed so much.
But recently, it was at my kid's school, in fact, and I ran into this lady who knows one of the writers, and she comes up to me an goes, "Wow, I hear the show is great, but I also hear that it's a battleground in the writer's conferences, that they all have different opinions about where to go. That Dan wants it to go one way, somebody else wants it to go another way, and somebody else wants it to go a different way, and then there's a couple people who are trying to make it work for everybody." Which... that's very interesting to me because, what if they suddenly decide that it's a big red herring that I'm the bad guy? That I actually am a good guy. Because it's built in such a way that it can twist and turn. I might think one thing, and I end up being something else.

CBFC: And they're probably trying to figure out exactly where they'd like to take it in the future, because they're probably building the foundation of that now. And they have to set up where you're going.

Clancy: They're trying to build a five year arc for this, and they want it even longer if it's gonna be popular. It's sort of a great show in that, if it's not good, they can do one more season and wrap it up, and if it is good, they can stretch it out for as long as they can keep the actors interested. As long as it's economical for them to do.
So, I don't know. But then I keep hearing that there's all these battles, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that suddenly we're all wrong, and Brother Justin is actually the Avatar of Light and the other guy is the Avatar of Darkness.

CBFC: Which would be a nice twist to sneak in on them in the second season or something.

Clancy: Right! Or the third or the fourth season, ya know, like when you find out The Smoking Man is actually the good guy, and Scully has been working for the bad guys the whole time without knowing it. So, we just don't know how it's going to develop, and I'm excited every time I get a script to see what happens.

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CBFC Interview with Clancy Brown

“Carnivale” Shooting Schedule
Postponed til January 2003

Interviewed by Beth Blighton • 11-21-02

[WARNING: CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS! Do not read this article if you do not want to hear possible plot points! Answers stated within the context of this interview are solely the opinion of the interviewee.]

CBFC: What can you tell us about the postponement of the shooting schedule for your new HBO series "Carnivale"?

Clancy: Now, I'm not really "in the loop," and I sorta insinuated myself in because I was getting a little annoyed... The first postponement of it was because the one actor in it had a big job doing "Terminator 3," so he wasn't going to be available til Fall. So they held us over til the Fall, and that was okay... Then they saw the pilot, after they'd sort of committed to making it. They saw the pilot and they decided, well, the way it's set up now, it won't be sustainable over a period of time -- over thirteen episodes, many years, or whatever they have planned for it. The narrative wasn't sustainable and it would have become a dumb sort of a chase thing, like that chase show... "The Fugitive." They would run out of stories after a while. Plus HBO doesn't do stuff like that. They want it to be a little bit more interesting.
And the main complaint was actually my character -- not what I had done with him, cuz I did the script. But then they realized that this character was kinda stuck. And they hired this guy, Henry Bromell, who said, "Ya know, what you do is you... One line of the story is this guy who is the Good Guy and is discovering his power and that it's from God. And the other line of the story is this Bad Guy, who already knows he's a Bad Guy and knows his powers and stuff... So what we should do is make him unaware that he's a Bad Guy, and have him discover what his destiny is. Have him be a real man of God and watch him grow into this megalomaniac, this avatar of evil, which he's gonna be."

CBFC: So we get to watch him turn then... watch the whole process.

Clancy: Right! And I thought (laughing), well, that's great! Fine with me. I'll just keep my mouth shut! So that's what they're working on now. They're trying to develop this new line, which means they're probably gonna have to reshoot a couple things.

CBFC: Will they keep most of the pilot but reshoot scenes from your part then?

Clancy: They'll probably keep most of the circus part of it, and then they'll reshoot probably everything I did.

CBFC: Wow! That makes a lot of extra work for you suddenly!

Clancy: Right. But that's okay... as long as it's in that direction. It's a much more interesting role now. I mean, it was interesting before, but now it's even more interesting. And I talked to Dan Knauf, who had created it, and he said, "Look, I've never worked in TV that much, and so this is my forte. I'm used to telling a story in two hours and moving on. But they wanna have something that goes on over the course of a few years. Yours was the simple character. You were the force that was gonna doom our hero, and I didn't need to explain much more than that."
Now we'll get to see how it all develops, how that whole thing develops. And that's why these guys have brought on some other writers. And I guess it's a pretty high-powered group of writers. I really don't know who they are. I can't even tell you the names right now, but apparently it's the gang that everybody wanted. They got the cream of the crop. They're all writing like madmen. My bet is it's kinda like that "X-Files" group...

CBFC: Not that you'd be able to tell this early in the game, but if we get to see your character slowly being turned, is there then a possibility he could also, at some point, be turned back? Be saved and realize that he doesn't really want to be the evil that he's become?

Clancy: Ya know, I don't really know what's gonna happen! It's such a different role for my character. Honestly, I wasn't hired to play this character. And if this was the character that was being auditioned, they probably wouldn't have gotten me. But they're stickin' with me, which I just love. I just sorta walked into -- if this thing turns out to be everything that they want it to be -- I may have walked into one of the greatest roles of my life! It's gonna be awesome! But we'll see...
Maybe I'll get some great stuff... like this clergyman who's actually doing good works and struggling against this impulse of evil he's felt since he was a little kid, and coming to the realization that it's more than an impulse. It's an actual destiny. That would be great. We'll see what happens...

CBFC: Did you ever get the chance to see the pilot the way it was?

Clancy: No! I haven't seen it. Which is weird... I've gotta ask for it. I know they released it around to other people for other purposes, like I got stopped at a restaurant by some lady who is a game developer. And she had seen the pilot, and she was gonna apparently start writing some kind of online or computer game. They don't really even have the scripts written yet... But they're already exploring the ancillary markets.

CBFC: That would seem to bespeak a certain dedication the project...

Clancy: You would think that, but I don't know. Maybe that was somebody's idea early on.

CBFC: One thing you can count on, if the series is a hit and there's an "original" unaired pilot floating around out there on tape, it will become the Holy Grail of any potential fandom.

Clancy: Right. Sure! Unfortunately, it won't be that good. The one thing that I keep hearing about HBO, the guys who are involved with HBO, is that they really are smarter and trying to do something different. And everybody I've heard of really loves working with them because of that. They take chances, and they know how to tell a story, and they know what they want from a story. And they're not afraid of making it a little more highbrow than you get at the regular networks. So that's kind of exciting. Cuz that's my main complaint, all this stupid stuff that you have to deal with on network...

CBFC: That you have to be careful, and politically correct, and always have an eye on who you might offend...

Clancy: Right, be careful, and you can't use "big words." And you can't talk about this subject or that... It's all just silly. I mean, how dumb do they think people are who watch this stuff?

CBFC: Pretty dumb, it would seem, judging by the wonderful fare we're being offered currently.

Clancy: It's just so bizarre, when they're really the dumb ones!

CBFC: It's the ones who can't figure out that you have to give a show enough time to actually grow an audience... Those guys are the dumb ones, at least to me. They seem to throw away an awful lot of good shows that way.

Clancy: Yeah, maybe because they can't figure out how to make it dumb!

CBFC: That could be.

Clancy: That's sort of my theory as to what happened with "Earth 2." They really tried to figure out how to dumb it up. It had already generated its own momentum and had a narrative going on... Cuz UPN was looking at it real hard, as I recall. And the Universal guys came in and gave them the "new" pitch, and they said, "That's not what we wanted!"

CFBC: Of course not! They wanted the other show!

Clancy: "No... Give us the other show. We want to see the next season of the show you already shot!" But then, what do I know?

CBFC: Isn't that basically what they did to "SeaQuest," too? Dumb it down beyond recognition?

Clancy: Well, I think "SeaQuest" always had problems because nobody really knew what they wanted to do.

CBFC: Speaking of "SeaQuest," here's your chance to debunk a big online/fan rumor... Were you really in line to take on the Captain part on "SeaQuest" when Roy Scheider left?

Clancy: What?!?

CBFC: Well, there was some big "SeaQuest" fan write-in campaign online at the end of "Earth 2" where it was rumored that you were the guy who would be replacing Scheider as the Captain. This had the "SeaQuest" fans all up in arms cuz they wanted Scheider back, despite the fact that Scheider didn't wanna be back!

Clancy: No, Scheider didn't want to come back.

CBFC: So, according to this report, you were in line for the part... (laughing) and you didn't even know you had it!

Clancy: No! No, I had no idea! (laughs) Mike Ironside ended up being the new Captain, didn't he?

CBFC: Yeah, he did. And I imagine from the emails out there, he probably got about as much guff as you would have gotten -- had the rumor been true. Cuz the fans seemed very married to the idea that it had to be Roy Scheider.

Clancy: Roy Scheider just didn't wanna do it, he was really getting tired of it. And I don't blame him. It had really gotten kinda stupid. It had gotten into stupid teeny-bopper stuff with that... Jonathan Brandis, was it? Actually, I thought that kid was pretty good, and he could have developed into something real interesting, but the TV powers wanted him to stay 13 years old forever.

CBFC: Yes, Rule #1 on network TV: Change is Bad.

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