Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Grey Damon caught the acting bug early on in life, working his first professional job in a production of The Christmas Carol at the Denver Theater Center in Colorado. From there, he began to snag guest spots on the shows 90210, Lincoln Heights, Greek, 10 Things I Hate About You, True Blood and The Whole Truth. In 2010, he scored the recurring part of Hastings Ruckle in Friday Night Lights, after which he went on to star in The Nine Lives of Chloe King, The Secret Circle, Twisted and Star-Crossed. Now, he’s playing Brian Shafe in the critically-acclaimed series Aquarius opposite David Duchovny. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Damon about his role on Aquarius, what we can expect from the show’s second season and his love for graphic novels. Check it out below!
When you first read the script for the season one finale, what were your initial thoughts regarding the ending?
Just “Wow!” and “Finally!” I say “Wow!” because we were kind of pulling all of these things together and, at the same time, developing these new surprises for season two, which I think was really clever writing—our writers are known for being exact and really clever—and also “Finally!” because my character Shafe finally gets to see some real action. He’s holding a gun for the first time in the series, so it’s cool to see Shafe do some real policin’ with a gun and everything, which is always fun for an actor to pretend to be a sort of action hero. I think that I deliberately tried to play it down a little bit because I’ve always seen Shafe as a bit clumsy and out-of-place, even though he is skilled.
What are you most excited about in regard to the season two premiere?
I think just surprising people and I’m excited for people to see how hard we’ve all worked. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all really believe in this project, the content, the writers and each other. I’m excited for everyone to see how this all comes to fruition. We’ve all really grown into a team that complements each other. Also, I’m excited to tell these stories and I definitely say that for everyone involved because we all worked so hard to make this beautiful experience both on and off-screen.
Can we expect to see a change in Brian and Sam’s relationship in season two as a result of what happened at the end of season one?
Absolutely. Both of them are going through some very heavy stuff this season. I think we all saw how Sam Hodiak was going through a bout of alcoholism and dealing with family issues with his son being a deserter and potentially joining an anti-war group, and then Shafe dealing with the trials and tribulations of his daily life and living in a very racist world with a black wife and child. That stuff in this season gets amplified. There are going to be some very big surprises this season and some characters that are beloved are going to go through and deal with certain things on a more extreme level. More than anything, we are going to see them unhinge and become different people from the people that you remember because of the things that they’re going through. I think it’s a testament to the ‘60s, a time period in which everything changed, and I think our characters reflect that.
When you first signed on for the role, did you do a lot of research on that time period?
We all did. Our creator, John McNamara, he gave us a laundry list of books and movies to check out, which we were all only too happy to do. It is an interesting time in general, a time where America became a completely different country—really, the world did, too. We had books upon books and YouTube and googling and just an endless well of content on behalf of John Mac. If you know John Mac, then you know that he’s read every single one. You try hard to be like the Mac. (laughs). It’s not easy because he’s a genius, and I don’t say that lightly. We’re always just in awe—but then, quite frankly, I’m in awe of everyone on this show. I know that everybody says that but I really believe that; all the cast and crew are amazing. But yeah, we did a lot of research and learned a lot of new things. I wouldn’t say that I’m well-versed in it but I’ve gotten a better education here on the ‘60s than I have anywhere else.
What’s one surprising thing that you learned as a result of your research?
I suppose, in terms of the Manson stuff, it was that he had never himself committed any murder that we know of. Of course, there’s hearsay and a lot of rumors but it’s never been proven, which was really surprising to me, even though I knew a little bit about him before the show. It was surprising to learn that he was able to orchestrate this and commit these heinous crimes without actually committing these heinous crimes. Also, just how pivotal the ‘60s were to the world and to America; they truly changed the way that people think, how they listen to music, how they look at politics, how they’ve grown substantially or backtracked substantially, in some cases.
In what ways would you say that “Aquarius” is different from other Manson-themed projects?
I think the major thing is that it’s historical but it’s also fiction. In many ways, we like to be very accurate, and in other ways, we take artistic license to make the story more beautiful, darker or just to emphasize the points of what was really going on. From the beginning, we kind of all understood that this was historical fiction. I do think a lot of it is based on hearsay and what people have said about Manson—what the girls have said and what other members of The Family have said—and what he himself has said, and we can’t know how much is true or not. He’s kind of a notorious liar. We just don’t know.
As a whole, “Aquarius” tends to be a very heavy show that deals with many dark themes, but behind the scenes, what’s the atmosphere like?
It depends on the day. When it came to the Tate-La Bianca murders, it was rough. It got dark. I think that we were all a bit uncomfortable. And those photos—I could only really look at them once or twice before I really couldn’t look at them anymore. In the society that we live in that’s so desensitized, it was incredible that these photos could still have that impact after all these years. You look at them and you’re just blown away. You know, we have shows like “Game of Thrones” and others with lots of violence in them on a larger scale, but for some reason, those pictures were very affecting, and I think it’s because of what it represents: the real death of the ‘60s. Manson and his Family and what their crimes heralded—all of that made such an impact.
Do you have any funny, behind-the-scenes moments that you could share?
We definitely do have fun. Claire Holt is a riot and of course David, he’s—he likes to throw things at me: pencils, cups, whatever he can get a hold of, he’ll throw it my way. (laughs). I think it’s just his character that we developed because Hodiak is always chucking shit at Shafe and I think it really plays funny. This season, he finds new things to throw at me. Also, David always has really great stories and is a great team leader, and Claire and I, we often can’t stop cracking up with each other. The whole cast is just amazing. Gethin is funny because he’s such a sweetheart in real life—he’s such a goofy little sweetheart—and then he can walk into this very sick and disturbed person, which is a testament to his acting. You’re just like “Whoa, this is not the Gethin that I know!” And that happens with every character. But we all have a blast and we’ve developed this way to walk into it and hit those notes without too much trouble.
So I know that ATX festival is coming up. Who are you most excited to see and reconnect with?
Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ll see Madison Burge there, who I was on “Friday Night Lights” with. She was my roommate when I was out there and I see her from time to time—we bump into each other occasionally—and Matt Lauria, we had a blast. Those are the people that I know are going. But, really, just seeing everyone—I’m totally stoked to see that whole cast.
Besides the music, what do you miss the most about Austin, TX?
Probably the weather. And the bats. (laughs). I love bats and they have this bridge that is just full of bats. I think the food is awesome, too, and the climate and just the overall vibe of Austin. It’s my favorite. I know my girlfriend Alice and I are very stoked to go and to be able to hang-out for a few days there and indulge in the always awesome Austin. We definitely hope to move there one day; that’s how much we love it.
Since our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, I’m very curious: what brings out the nerd in you?
The nerd in me…I guess anything that has to do with graphic novels because I wanted to be a cartoonist before I got into all this pesky acting (laughs). So I’m always excited to read new graphic novels. I’m a big fan of “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones”—I’ve read all of those—I would say that both of those things bring out the nerd in me, but my heart always has a special place for “The Walking Dead.” It was really fun to read the books and then see how AMC did their own version—who they would kill off and who they kept strong on the show. You can definitely be disappointed in things when you see them translated to film but I’ve never been disappointed by that show.
Season two of Aquarius premieres on June 16th on NBC, which will be airing the first two episodes of the season commercial-free from 9:00 pm ET/PT to 11:00 pm ET/PT, so make sure you tune in!