James Frain Interview

James Frain Interview
by Abbie Bernstein

james frain, james frain interview, true blood franklin

Yorkshire-born James Frain has been having a very good run playing very bad people of late. True, he’s had some time off for good behavior, but he’s largely been delightfully dark as Audrey Raines husband in 24, a hostile extraterrestrial in INVASION, the ambitious Thomas Cromwell in THE TUDORS and as a menacing computer program in TRON: LEGACY. Last year, he stole scenes on TRUE BLOOD as love-crazed – and just plain crazy – vampire Franklin Mott. Now Frain is a regular on NBC’s new superhero series THE CAPE, which airs Mondays at 9 PM. The title character, aka Vince Faraday, played by David Lyons, is a cop who is framed for murder by Frain’s immensely powerful and corrupt industrialist Peter Fleming, who has his own secret identity as criminal mastermind Chess.

Sitting at a table at Universal Studios in North Hollywood, California, during a break from filming THE CAPE, Frain says it’s not that he goes looking for sinister characters – they just seem to find him. “I just seem to be on the evil wave right now – I’m surfing that evil wave,” he laughs. “It’s just coming my way and I’m fine with that. It’s not necessarily I go to seek it, but I think once you sort of establish that it’s something that you can do, that tends to be what people want to see more. I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way – we’ll see.”

As Chess, Frain wears contact lenses that have chess-piece irises, and of course, in TRUE BLOOD, he occasionally sported vampiric black eyes and fangs. And, he reminds, “In TRON, I have a glass Mohawk and little kind of cool things on the face. I looked different, no doubt.”

Does having to wear what amounts to special effects makeup help him get into character, or does it just make Frain feel physically uncomfortable? “It helps,” Frain says. “It’s all about creating an illusion, so it’s more about whether it works for an audience. The feeling of being in character is a very internal thing, so to me, it doesn’t make much difference about those kind of details, but once it’s up on the screen, you can see how much it impacts and shapes the character, but I don’t know if I would feel different playing the character without those kinds of props.”

Franklin got shot and promptly melted, as dead vampires do on TRUE BLOOD, but might Frain return to the series in flashbacks or nightmares? “I’m available, but so far I don’t think so,” he replies, pointing out as a practical matter, “You don’t come back from goo. I’m done.”

The vampire gig was fun while it lasted, though, Frain adds. “I loved it. I thought that that character thought of himself as a romantic hero, this tragic drama, and that’s what was so funny about it, because of course, he isn’t, but I enjoyed playing that aspect of it.”

Is there any romance in Peter Fleming/Chess, or is he all business? Frain suggests we’ll see a courtly side. “We see there’s a twinkle in his eye for someone, and that’s something cool that comes up. I think we’ll see more of that.”

Will CAPE viewers find out more about what motivates the so-far enigmatic, albeit entertaining, Chess? “Yeah,” Frain replies, “[the writers] have a lot of what they call the mythology of the show that they’re going to roll out, but in little bits here and there. I mean, there’s a certain amount of story that’s already come out, but it’s very expansive. There’s a lot of back story, there’s a lot of stuff going on. I think that we’re going to see even more of what’s going on with Chess and his world.”

There’s an element of doing THE CAPE that’s new for Frain, the actor notes. “What’s interesting about this show is, it’s the first thing I’ve taken coming right at the beginning. Pretty much everything else I’ve done, I’ve come into as sort of a machine that’s already working very well. But this has a lot of similar elements [to previous acting jobs in television]. There’s a confidence to it and there’s an enthusiasm for the work that sort of bounces back. It’s a payback for the hours and the hard work. So I guess it feels like it has that positive kind of flow that the other shows have.”

Does coming in on the ground floor, so to speak, give Frain more freedom to have input into his character? “Sort of,” Frain replies, “but I feel like these guys have got such a lot of story to tell, they’ve got so many things that they’re trying to do, that unless I feel something’s very seriously amiss, I don’t want to give them much more input, because already their slate is full. Maybe as time goes on – I mean, they’ve made it clear that they’re very much available to hear what I have to say if I want to say something, but I don’t have a problem with what they’ve come up with so far. They’re doing really well. I think that our magic secret weapon is how much fun it is. It’s fun to read the scripts, it’s fun to shoot them and it’s fun to watch them and I think that’s what audiences will respond to most of all. ”

By Abbie Bernstein
Entertainment Reporter – Buzzy Multimedia
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Abbie Bernstein

Abbie Bernstein

Abbie Bernstein is an entertainment journalist, fiction author and filmmaker. Besides Buzzy Multimedia, her work currently appears in Assignment X.
Abbie Bernstein