Johnathan Fernandez was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. He majored in telecommunications and minored in film. He became a regular with the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC, where his dry, wry, deadpan sense of humor allowed him to stand out in improv comedy. Recently he relocated to California, and can currently be seen as medical examiner Scorsese. Fernandez took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Talk Nerdy With Us about his role on Lethal Weapon, his short form web series The Gumshoe Diaries and the independent film Pearl, in which he also plays a medical examiner.
When asked what he liked best about working on Lethal Weapon, his response was “everything.” He said that “everyone is so nice. Not just the other actors, and the director, but everyone, from wardrobe, to craft services, to all of the technical assistants.” Fernandez feels blessed to be in such a positive environment, one in which he enjoys going to work in. He is also very proud of the show’s diversity, with so much of the main cast being people of color, or women. He says Keesha Sharp, who plays Trish Murtaugh, is the “Michelle Obama” of the series. She is a fabulous role model, Fernandez points out, as in the pilot she says that with her job as an attorney, Roger Murtaugh didn’t even really need to go back to work.
Of his own role as Scorsese, the medical examiner, Fernandez claims he puts a great deal of himself into the role. This is not the first time he has played a crime scene investigator – he can be seen in Crime Scene as Agent Williams, and in the independent film Pearl as CSI Trunks. Fernandez revealed that he grew up watching re-runs of Quincy, M.E. with his mother, and at one time considered a career as a medical forensic artist. He’s always been a bit “into the macabre.” He has read extensively on the topic, and speaks about the influence of the book “Working Stiff” by Dr. Judy Melinek.
“I’ve even pointed out mistakes on the set,” he says.
“Can you give me an example of that?’ I asked.
Fernandez goes on to explain that the autopsy markings we see on television are wrong. They do not usually go up as high as the shoulders – that’s a visual for the viewers. “The cut is more of a U shape,” he explains, and states this is done so that the flesh of the torso can be pulled up over the corpse’s face. (Well, I did ask.)
He does believe that minorities cast in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles on television can help improve diversity in these roles in real life, and he would be honored if he inspired young people watching Lethal Weapon to enter forensics or medicine.
Fernandez is also currently working on a short form web series entitled “The Gumshoe Diaries” in which he plays a character opposite his usual type – Fernandez likes to dress formally, especially for auditions, where he believes his choice of dapper clothing helps him to be taken seriously (his genuine dry wit gives away his comedic abilities right away). As the Gumshoe, Fernandez has a prosthetic gut, a shirt that is never tucked in, and a trenchcoat even Columbo would reject. Each episode of the series is less than five minutes long, and filled with “Airplane” style humor. He credits Leslie Nielsen as an influence, as someone “who can say the most ridiculous things with a completely straight face.” The series was created by Ken M. (Ken McCarthy), a well known internet troll and part time gumshoe himself (Fernandez’s character, he says, “is essentially Ken M.”) John Kingman, who has worked with Fernandez on Crime Scene, the independent movie Pearl and with the UCB, is writing, directing and producing the series.
One-liners include the gem, “ They say that beauty is only skin deep, but I was willing to bet her skeleton could give me a boner.” The series can be viewed here.
We discussed shortform TV, and how there is the need to grab a viewer’s attention right away. “There’s so much competition for a viewer’s time and consideration.” Fernandez goes back to Lethal Weapon, and how much was established in the first few minutes of the show – that Martin Riggs is a crack shot sniper who was already slightly crazy, and that Roger Murtaugh is a cop committed to his job; even though he suffered a heart attack and has the option to stay home due to his incredibly smart and capable wife. There has been some commentary made about the gruesomeness of Miranda Riggs’ accident, but Fernandez believes it was necessary to the establishment of Martin’s character.
When asked about the show’s future, Fernandez is hopeful. Currently, they are filming episode 8 of 13, and should know in a few weeks if the series will be picked up for a full season run.
A question came from a Twitter follower: how much of your personal style do you put into Scorsese, and Fernandez answered, “Quite a lot.” He believes the best roles are the ones when you can basically play a version of himself, and Scorsese is very much like him – he dresses to be taken seriously, and despite the snarky wit, is all business. His outfits, he says, “are not something I might buy off the rack” but are definitely the kind of clothes he feels most comfortable in.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Talk Nerdy With Us article if the question of nerdy hobbies didn’t arise, and Fernandez revealed he can talk nerdy with the best of us. This is the first year in five years he has not attended New York Comic Con. He is working on creating a webcomic himself, and is into pop culture, superheroes, manga, and anime. Without hesitation, he states his favorite anime is the classic Cowboy Bebop, and that Spike Spiegel is his hero.
Fernandez is deeply grateful for the opportunity of working as an actor. He possesses a natural optimism that allows him to see the blessing of living in the moment. “I may or may not have the money to pay the rent this week, for example,” he says. “But in the meantime I have a roof over my head and I know I will get the money. I’m privileged to be working in a job I love to go to every day.”
Lethal Weapon can be viewed at 8 p.m EST on Fox on Wednesday nights.