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An Interview with Lou Diamond Phillips from Longmire, Blindspot, and The 33

V6Xo5QEDLou Diamond Phillips has been a class act in Hollywood for closing in on thirty years. He’s done comedy, drama, history, sci-fi. You name it, he’s probably done it and done it well.

In the midst of an already busy schedule with his A&E series, Longmire, and promotion of his latest film, The 33, Lou also managed to put in a fun appearance on NBC’s new fall hit, Blindspot.

During a conference call yesterday, he told us about that role and little bit about the other things going on in his work life.

Can you tell us what intrigued you about your character in last nights episode.

“I was very, very intrigued by Blindspot just from watching the ad. I was going to watch the show as a fan, and then the call came to go on the show. They didn’t have a script yet, but they gave me a character description. I thought, you know, that sounds, you know, like a lot of fun. I’d worked with Martin Gero before, so I had a great sense of, you know, how intelligent the script would be, how much fun it would be. And I kind of jumped into the Blindspot, so to speak. And ultimately what was a lot of fun was that I was [able to get to know and work] with Sullivan Stapleton and Audrey, Ashley, all from the show.”

I just saw a preview saying that you may be the key to Jane’s tattoos. And I know obviously you can’t tell us specifics, but you have an important part coming up, and obviously Mayfair has been hiding what’s going on. What can you tell us? Anything about how he’s connected?

“Yes. Saul — emphasis on the ul — is definitely a part of the puzzle, but I don’t even know if he knows, you know, what part he plays in this. And every question just leads to more questions, and I’m just, you know, one big worm in a can of worms. So it’s intriguing, and then obviously I think, you know, any show, any success, has a long-term plan. And, you know, very interesting to see how it’s going to play out.”

I love the show. I was wondering how many episodes will you be on Blindspot, do you know?

“You know, I don’t even know if I can reveal that. All I can say is it’s more than one, you know? Yeah, no, believe me, you know, it’s a show about, you know, black ops and high intelligence. And, yeah, they – yeah, I’ve got a gun to my head right now. I don’t know if – you know, you can’t see that, but yeah, they’re watching every word I say.”

 

You are such a rich and talented actor. You bring it all to everything you do. You add so much. So this is going to be very exciting to see the Number 2 feared criminal on the FBI’s Most Wanted List?

“And I have to say yes, he might be the most feared, but he’s got a great sense of humor. And that’s one of the things that I really loved about the role. It was an absolute blast to play it. And, you know, that’s one of the nice things about bad guys, is you have a license that you would not necessarily have as a hero. So it’s always fun to come in and, you know, let the bad guy play a little bit.

I’ve been very, very fortunate recently in that, you know, a lot of the roles I’m getting to play have a lot of meat on the bone and, you know, are challenging to me because, you know, I’m doing different things. The role in 33; Henry Standing Bear on Longmire; and now this guest spot on, you know, Blindspot, you know, they allow me to tackle the roles in different ways and to, you know, use different facets of my own personality, if you will.”

That’s what an actor dreams of.

“That is what you hope and you pray for, because the same thing over and over again would just get boring.”

Congratulations on Season 5 of Longmire!

“Yeah, that just came down on Friday, so I’m absolutely thrilled. I think this last season was our best yet and, you know, our writers just keep raising the bar. I am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled about it. I think, as I said before, the fourth season was our best yet. It certainly gave Henry Standing Bear so much more to do, and has, you know, set the table, if you will, for, you know, some very, very interesting plot lines for the next season. So we’re all absolutely incredibly grateful that we get an opportunity to continue that.”

Thank you for retweeting my little Twitter poll asking if I should bring up Longmire!

“Oh, hey man. It’s a total symbiotic relationship, isn’t it? I mean, you know, that’s what the social media’s for. And I’m thrilled because, you know, it opens up an absolute channel not only between me and my fans, but between me and the media, which is very, very cool.”

Definitely. There was that criticism regarding the show’s [Longmire] age demo. And I thought that was hollow, because I know fans of all ages that like Longmire, and of course all the fans of yours, and Katee Sackhoff’s fans from Battlestar Galactica. I imagine you’ve met Longmire fans of all different ages. Do you want to comment on that?

“You know what? I will simply say that it is inaccurate to assume that we appeal to only one demographic; and that our fans are incredibly loyal. They’re incredibly vocal. And this is the reason that we were not only picked up by Netflix, but that we have a Season 5. So any statement to the contrary is not only irresponsible, it’s inaccurate. You know, obviously we could go into that a lot, and I actually do think that there’s going to be some sort of discussion toward that comment this weekend. But I need to leave that to our producers and to Netflix to handle.”

You’ve mostly played good guys throughout your career. So do you find you’re more excited to play the bad guy role?

“You know, I love playing bad guys because, you know, the gloves come off and there are no rules. You can be as mean or as – I don’t know, irreverent as you want. And certainly the bad guy in Blindspot is part and parcel of that. I mean I think he’s hilarious. You know, they gave me some very funny lines, and he’s incredibly talky. But yes indeed, he’s a bad guy. And, you know, it’s definitely different from Henry Standing Bear, or the very, very emotional and earnest role that I have in The 33.”

Do you let your children watch your bad guy roles?

“You know, it depends on the bad guy role. I mean this is one that I would certainly, you know, not have a problem with them watching. But I mean for instance, I played a serial killer/child molester in, you know – yeah, in Law and Order SVU. And that was one that was like no, you’re not going to be seeing that. And I also – even though I have older daughters, I’ve warned them. I did an independent film recently where I played Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. And we’ll see that next year. So, you know, it’s not just a reminder to my fans, it’s a reminder to my family — don’t forget, I’m just acting.”

You were just saying that, you know, doing the same thing is boring. So I’m curious. You’ve been in a lot of different projects, but is there like a type of role or maybe some character that like you would really love to get to play?

“You know, the one thing that I don’t get to do enough of is comedy. And I absolutely love that. I cut my teeth on it, you know, when I was doing theater back in Texas. Actually my first paying role ever was part of a sketch comedy troupe called The Zero Hour, where we used to do comedy in punk clubs. And if you weren’t funny, they threw bottles at you, you know? And, you know, fortunately I’ve had great success in drama. I’ve had great, you know, success with intense roles. But, you know, I like to get away from the brooding ethnic every once in a while and, you know, bring the funny.”

You mentioned that you were intrigued by the show as a fan, and wanted to watch it. I was wondering, have you had a chance to see all of the episodes so far? And what do you think of it?

“You know, I was very fortunate in that the week while I was filming, I actually got to have Sullivan Stapleton and Audrey and Ashley, you know, with me in my hotel room, and we watched the premiere together. So that was pretty exciting. And, you know, I’ve seen a few of the episodes. But, you know, fortunately and unfortunately for me, I’ve been incredibly busy these last few weeks on this press tour, and getting things together for The 33. And I also just got back from Australia and New Zealand, making a couple of appearances. So I’m not quite up to date, but I certainly have seen enough of the shows to know that, you know, it’s incredibly quality writing, and the directing. And it’s just a big show, you know? It’s a little action film every single week. And so I think they’re doing a great job.”

Do you get to do any of the action in the episode last night?

“I get to do a lot of action in the episode tonight, and I have to do all of the action while handcuffed.”

Wow.

“I took a few bruises and a few bumps on this one. But, you know, like I’ve always said about fight scenes, if you don’t come away a little sore, you weren’t doing it right.”

Can you tell us anything about future episodes? Do you get to do more fight scenes?

“You know, I can’t really comment on what’s coming up for Saul Guerrero, you know, just that he is intrinsic to the plot and to what’s going on with not only Mayfair, but obviously Jane. But I don’t think I’m allowed to divulge any of those other secrets.”

I know we were just talking about that you had been intrigued by the show and wanted to watch it as a fan. What other shows — new shows this fall or other shows — have you been intrigued by or following recently?

“You know, because I have been so busy, I’ve pretty much been going back to a lot of my favorites. I mean like a lot of people, my jaw’s still not off my chest from The Walking Dead. Huge fan of that. And, you know, looking forward to bingeing some other shows that I need to catch up on — big fan of The Good Wife; Ray Donovan — I mean just a stellar cast. And I actually did an independent film with Dash, who I love. So, you know, unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of down time to catch up on everything that’s out there. And, you know, and Gotham I’m a huge fan of. So right now I can’t speak – other than Blindspot, I’ve been sticking with the tried and true.”

I’m intrigued that you’re in this series, because you have played so many different roles. Would you rather have played a different character? Or do you really like what your character is doing in this series?

“I absolutely love what my character is doing in this series, because it’s different from, you know, what I’m doing on Longmire. I mean it’s 180 degrees from him. And it’s a different kind of bad guy than I’ve played, you know, recently. And so, you know, there’s a certain charm to him. There’s definitely a sense of humor. There’s this off-the-cuff, cavalier quality about him that I found, you know, very refreshing and a lot of fun to play, especially when, you know, everything else is so life and death for the regular characters, you know? So many times the process of filming can be an incredibly enjoyable one. And this was one of those situations.”

For The 33, I was wondering if you got to spend any time with any of the actual survivors. And what was it like being directed by Patricia Riggen?

“First of all, yes, the miners were involved in this process from the beginning. We actually started filming in Colombia before they had a chance to fly some of them up. Mario Sepulveda, who was Antonio Banderas’ character, was there almost constantly. And he had been magnanimous and bigger than life, as Antonio plays him. And I had the great opportunity to spend some time with Luis Urzua, my character, and just soak up the man’s, you know, quiet dignity and his reserve. And it really helped me, I think, approach the role in the right way. And I will say that Patricia Riggen was absolutely the best choice to direct this film. She obviously brought a woman’s sensibilities to it. She never forgot the heart and the soul. She never forgot the importance of the families — the wives, the sisters, the mothers, you know, that were keeping hope alive in Camp Hope. And I also think as a Mexican, she brought a real cultural sensitivity to the story, and that the authenticity of the Chilean people, you know, was not lost. So to me she was the whole package, and she and I had just an absolutely wonderful collaboration. And I’m quite proud of what we put on the screen.”

I did get to see a wonderful interview with Juliette Binoche on, I think it was, Charlie Rose, where she talks about The 33. I was wondering if you had any exciting interviews on The 33 coming up anywhere?

“Well right now, I mean I’m literally in the middle of a press tour for The 33. We did our junket Thursday and Friday here in New York. I was on The Today Show this morning. I’m doing a number of appearances on New York television. And then when I go back to Los Angeles, I’ll be doing Conan, Access Hollywood Live, a lot of the E! entertainment shows, that sort of thing. And our premiere is on the 9th, and it’s part of the AFI International Film Festival. So once again, I mean we’re really, I think, operating in rarified air, and I’m very privileged to be a part of this.”

As many times as you’ve played Native Americans, including recently on Comedy Central’s Another Period, which was hilarious, I’m curious if you have any personal affinity towards any one particular tribe, or if any tribes have made you an honorary member?

“Well absolutely. And, you know, I mean honorary member’s actually an understatement. After Young Guns films, I was adopted into the Lakota nation on the Pine Ridge Porcupine and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota, and given a Lakota name. And just last year, the Cheyenne people of the Lame Deer reservation in Montana adopted me, and also gave me a Cheyenne name. In both cases I went through a naming and blessing ceremony. So, you know, much like when I represent, you know, the Latino community, you know, be it Mexican-American or Puerto Rican or, in the case of The 33, Chileans, I try to be specific. I try to be respectful and accurate, because I know I’m representing a community, you know, of people who have, you know, pride and dignity. And, you know, fortunately I think the acceptance that I’ve received from any number of these communities is affirmation that, you know, I’m approaching it in the right way.”

Yes, you do an excellent job. And the last time I spoke with actor Eric Balfour, he was talking about the Tao of Surfing, and how shooting on that was especially sporadic. Can you tell us if the shooting has concluded on that piece?

“No, unfortunately we have not finished that film. It’s one of those little films that has struggled, and still trying to get the finishing funds on that. So, you know, hopefully sometime in the future, because it truly is a beautiful little piece. But the state of independent film in the world right now is, you know – it’s difficult. It’s like getting blood out of a turnip.”

Well, I hope I get to see it someday. I look forward to it.

“There you go. Me and you both.”

 

Lou’s arc on Blindspot began last night. Tune in next Monday to NBC at 10pm EST/9pm CST to find out how it will continue.

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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