Clancy Brown Interview
Interviewed by Beth Blighton
Beth: So how do you feel about “Carnivale’s” renewal for a second season?
Clancy: How do I feel about the renewal? I feel relieved. I feel vindicated. I feel impatient. I feel kinda exasperated that they took so long to do it. I feel like I can hardly wait, and I also feel like I’ve waited long enough. So, ya know? It’s like, YEAH! Let’s get going! I would start filming tomorrow, if they would let us!
Beth: And how did you find out?
Clancy: I got sort of an early phone call, early in the week last week, which was probably the Monday after the Friday that they made the decision – when all the muckety-mucks made the decision. So those people who hold that kind of information, who make those decisions, once they give up that information, that’s kind of a power that they release, so they hang onto it as long as they can, right? So, certainly, I’m sure I was one of the first cast members to know, but I know I wasn’t even CLOSE to being the first person to know! I wasn’t even in the top twenty!
Dan tells this story… Dan was told about the renewal, and he got it from the horse’s mouth, the Big Kahuna at HBO, their Tony Soprano, you know… And then he was told, “But don’t tell anybody. Keep it under your hat and everything.” And he was like, “all right… I understand, I’ll keep it under my hat.” And so he goes into work the next day, to continue breaking out the scripts, and he gets there early (and I guess they get there pretty early in the morning), and he’s walking in the building… And the guy is there, the maintenance guy who opens up the building is there, and he says, “Hey! I heard you got renewed! Congratulations!” (laughing)
Beth: (laughing) That sounds about right, doesn’t it?
Clancy: And then he’s going in to talk to… kinda hanging out with the wardrobe or the prop people, and somebody who was working on another show comes by and says, “Hey! I heard you got picked up… Congratulations!” (laughing) So that’s a bunch of garbage, that keeping it under your hat stuff! But I didn’t mention it… just because I don’t believe it until it actually happens, and I know that from experience.
Beth: And you’re not about to jinx yourself…
Clancy: And it’s not even about jinxing, really. It’s just that I believe that they’re lying to me! (laughing) I mean, I just don’t trust em, at all! And when you care about something… Ya know, I always care about these shows like WAY more than I should, and you leave it in the hands of these people, and they make the wrong decisions 90% of the time…
Not HBO! I mean, HBO’s very GOOD! They’ve actually proven themselves to be what I thought they were, which is a very brave, instinctive group of executives who don’t really live and die by the culture of numbers that’s out here. And I can’t stress that enough! So it’s really my own paranoia and my own failings that make me so skeptical about stuff like this. I also don’t want them to be insulted by thinking, “Well, jeez! What’s wrong with Clancy? He doesn’t think we’re liars, does he? What’s wrong?” Cuz there is that culture in Hollywood that admires duplicitous-ness, which I’ve never quite understood…
But to me, HBO did the right thing. And they’ve once again proven that they have different standards, or march to the tune of a different drummer, however you wanna put it. And it’s to my benefit this time, and it’s been to other benefits, for the most part. I mean, they killed “K Street” and they killed “Mind of a Married Man,” and I don’t think anybody will miss any of those shows. But I would have missed “The Wire” terribly, and I’m dyin’ to see “Deadwood”! They’ve maintained if not enhanced their own position, as far as I’m concerned. My own regard for them is intact. I just wish they could make the decision quicker! (laughing) That they could come to these decisions and announce them, and not goof around. But they did it now, so I’m not gonna complain!
So I’m THRILLED! I’m excited! I would start this afternoon! I would start tomorrow! I would start doing it in a second! I love this show so much, and I love playing this character so much.
Beth: Now, what do you think that HBO survey was about?
Clancy: Ah… The Survey! That weirdo survey!
Beth: Yup, that weirdo survey that all the fans got ahold of real quick.
Clancy: Ya know, it’s funny because, I was thinking about this after our last conversation… And, ya know, it was a survey FOR the demographic of the fan base that showed up from the internet!
Clancy: I mean, I’ve never seen a survey like that connected with any show! A kind of marketing survey like that… connected with any show, on any network, at any time! And so specifically targeted! I mean, it’s not like they emailed their entire HBO list. You had to actually FIND that survey and fill it out. So they were really… Ya know, the more I think about it, they were really getting the opinion of people who watched the show, and paid attention, and liked the show.
Beth: I don’t really know who got it first. I don’t know how it got out, in the first place, cuz I never got it. I mean, I only heard about it.
Clancy: I know! I never got an email… I saw it on the list! So… It’s kind of a weird thing. It’s kinda cool, if you think about it, cuz it’s very shrewd on their part -- if it is shrewd on their part – that they have a control group built-in, and they have people who are into the show. They know the people watch the show. It’s not just some bonehead they have to ask a bunch of preliminary questions to see if it’s gonna be a useful interview or not. I mean, on further analysis, I thought it was pretty smart of them! I don’t know what the point of the questions were, that they were asking. They were pretty standard kind of marketing questions, and what kind of decision they’re gonna be making from that.
Beth: So, the decision about the renewal was probably pretty much made by the time they put that survey out, though, do you think?
Clancy: I would imagine. Cuz at the time that they put it up, they had already hired the writers to break out the first five or six scripts, or whatever, to at least kinda give them an idea of what the arc might be. So, I think they were on that path, and maybe trying to get an idea about what stories served the people that are devoted to the show.
Now, I read a couple of posts that said people were kinda alarmed by it, that it was some kind of marginalization of the show, but I don’t think so. I think it’s got a different purpose than that. I think it’s really… Just because it was so specific, it was so targeted, it was so hard to find… I mean, there was nothing about it on HBO’s website. There was nothing on the “Carnivale” portion of the HBO website. I mean, you had to sort of discover it!
Beth: Yeah, it had to be brought to you by your own contacts in fandom almost.
Clancy: Right, so in that sense I think it was kinda cool! I just hope that Brother Justin scored well! (laughing)
Beth: Yeah! That’s what I’m worried about, too! Cuz people have kinda tagged you as the villain, and I would hate to see that reflect in that survey just because people might not want to answer in favor of “the villain,” ya know what I mean? (laughing) Ya know, kinda the “Boo, hiss!” vote expressing itself.
Clancy: Well, it could be that if they see high marks for Lodz and Lila and Samson, they might say, “Okay, obviously, we’ve handled that storyline well. So, now what we need to do is concentrate on these other stories.” I mean, you just never know what’s going to be derived from the quantification of this sort of thing. So you just gotta kinda take it as a whole piece of cloth, and say… well, it’s interesting that they did it, and it’s probably good that they did it.
Beth: So where do you hope that your character goes next year?
Clancy: Well, more to the point, where do I hope the show goes next year…I think the show kinda got off track somewhere around “Babylon.” As excellent as I think “Babylon” and “Take a Number” were – and I really think they were probably the two best shows that we did -- although, all of them were very good. But those ones really got to me. I loved those the most. And you have to take that with a grain of salt, cuz I wasn’t IN them as much. So I was really kinda watching it fresh. But I really liked those shows, and they were very episodic in nature. But it’s also where we got off track, I think.
Right around there is where we got off track. Ben goes down in the mine, and he sort of loses his mind. When he emerges, he’s not the same character. I mean, he’s really driven in those first few episodes to find out who Scudder is, and to solve his own mystery. And right around then, he kinda takes a back seat in the story to the grief of the Driefuss family, and Stumpy in particular. So that was great. Toby and Cynthia and Tim got a chance to shine. But they shine at the expense of what we’ve established as our central storyline. You can take issue with that, that maybe there was still plenty of things going on with Ben. And there certainly were with Ruthie and all that stuff. But you can’t deny that whole storyline, because it was acted so well by the actors and written so well, kinda took over the show.
So, I’m sitting here thinking, how can we have that and have it inform the main point which, we know, is a battle between good and evil, or wonder and reason, or whatever the ultimate confrontation is. And I’m thinking, well, maybe that’s the key… That you write it, you construct stories that become these sort of allegories to the main story. And maybe they don’t give particular clues to it, but you basically see that struggle manifest. And our own story can deliver whatever clues we need.
The fact that I was basically out of two episodes just tells you that you can tell the Brother Justin story in ten! (laughing) And then if you say, well, he was in half of those shows – and that would be generous – then you could say, well, you can tell Brother Justin’s story in five. (laughing) So, I mean, you can go on and on like that. And I think, actually, my arc was probably the best conceived and executed, just in the narrative sense. It was very clear. There wasn’t a lot of wasted stuff. But there’s still plenty of interesting speculation going on. Answers were given, and the character moved through the season, and he is a different character from when he started the season. And that’s the key, to me. The journey in the character is what’s gonna excite me. But it’s also what’s gonna keep people watching.
Beth: Now Dan did an interview with TV Guide, I think, toward the end, when they were talking about renewing. And he was saying that even next year, Brother Justin and Ben won’t meet.
Clancy: I don’t think they’ve decided that just yet…
Beth: He was saying that their worlds would begin to intertwine, though.
Clancy: Yeah, that’s probably true. I don’t know how they can avoid that. I mean, they gotta do that, at least, for cryin’ out loud. Ya know, the woulda, shoulda, couldas are all over the first season. So I think that if there are any mistakes that have been made, they’ve already been made. And that’s the end of the mistakes. It’ll start being a lot more focused. And if anybody asked me, which they don’t, or wanted my opinion, which they don’t, the first thing I would say to them is – you ask yourself, in every episode, in every scene you write, how does this illuminate the human struggle between darkness and light? It has to be about that. It all has to be about that in some way.
Beth: And if they’re working toward this confrontation, eventually, I think we need to see how Ben is going to get to the point where he’s going to take an active part in that. Because Brother Justin, you can kinda see where his power base is building. But I can’t quite figure out what Ben’s power base is going to be.
Clancy: You certainly know that Brother Justin has got some idea of what he can do and what he can do with it – how he can change things, how he can affect things. We don’t really know what ultimately his goal is, though we can safely assume there’s some religious rationalization to it.
But you’re right. Ben kinda is the same guy. It was frustrating for me at the end of the first season, in the finale, because he really didn’t get the moment where he accepted what he did. He killed in a moment of passion and was cornered into it, manipulated into it – which doesn’t reflect well on his own self-control and his own self-awareness, self-possession and intelligence, or whatever else. And that’s not to impugn the job that Nick did, cuz he did exactly what he should have done, and he did it excellently. But I think the writers aren’t giving Ben enough credit yet, aren’t – I don’t know what. It’s like they don’t trust him enough yet.
Beth: It seems like they’ve got to tell us a little bit more. We have to see him grow a little bit more into his destiny.
Clancy: And he’s gotta get sharp! He was very sharp in the beginning. He was a sharp kid. He was his own man and everything else, and he was not a dummy. And then he just got dumber and dumber through the show… Now, you can argue that it’s sleep deprivation and everything else, but at the same time, it’s sorta “keep your eyes on the prize” here. You have a mystery you have to solve. And it’s not just a matter of avoiding it, it’s a matter of solving it. He was very proactive about that in the beginning, but by the end of the show he was completely a pawn in everyone’s hands, which doesn’t bode well for our little buddy!
Beth: No, because he’s being manipulated!
Clancy: He’s being manipulated, and he’s manipulated into committing mortal sins. And, ya know, I just have a hard time with this whole “he’s the messiah” thing (laughing), if he’s so easily controlled, and will commit a murder based on hearsay evidence, and all the rest of it. It’s like, c’mon you guys… C’mon, c’mon, c’mon… It’s either a mistake in the writing, or it’s NOT a mistake in the writing – which I tend to think – and he’s not who we think he is!
Beth: It may be purposeful that he’s not quite with the program yet?
Clancy: Well, yes.
Beth: And I’m just wondering, if there IS gonna be some kind of ultimate battle, right now I’d say Justin has got the upper hand on him – big time!
Clancy: Yeah, and in the original vision of Dan’s, the original thing that we all read first, that was part of it. It was part of him learning and cultivating his power enough to really confront somebody who was in the full flower as a powerful preacher. It’s much more interesting now. They changed it for the better. And it’s one of the reasons I tend to trust HBO and give them a pass on losing our way in the middle of the season, because you could see them running to get back on track there in the last two or three episodes. Which I was pleased to see, but it wasn’t quite as artful as the first four, I think.
To Be Continued…
To comment on this interview, please click HERE
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Clancy Brown Interview