An Interview with Sullivan Stapleton, Star of NBC’s Blindspot
Last week, we were invited to take part in a conference call interview with Sullivan Stapleton, star of NBC’s new hit series, Blindspot.
Mr. Stapleton is an Australian actor who received the Breakthrough Award in 2013 for his accomplishment in crossing over from the Australian film industry to Hollywood.
He is best known for his role in the feature film, 300: Rise of an Empire, and television series, Strike Back. And he can currently be seen playing FBI Agent Kurt Weller who is trying to follow the clues that have been tattooed all over Jane Doe’s body, beginning with his very own name.
So much of the show is about figuring out who Jane is and what her history is but Weller’s kind of got his own story going on as well. How much are we going to find out about this guy and about his back story over the course of the season?
“Well, you know, we’ll find that a lot gets lost in, you know, how focused he is on his job and trying to help solve the case of who Jane Doe is.”
Can you compare the action that you’re going to do in this show [Blindspot] to what you do/did in Strike Back? I know you get hurt really badly in that one.
“Yes, but that had nothing to do with a stunt on the show. But yes. It’s, you know, it is. I mean, the season is actually about trauma but there was absolutely a lot more action in Strike Back. I think it’s a very different world to play soldiers as opposed to FBI agents.”
After Strike Back, were you inundated with different scripts? I mean, were a lot of things thrown at you? If so, why did this appeal to you the most?
“This is an awesome, awesome story. And, you know, it’s obviously been created by [Martin] Gero, who’s a great man. And actually, the premise for the show, you know, it sort of excited me to see where this will go throughout the season.
And also, you know, its shot in New York. And, you know, with the people who created it and the NBC and Warner Brothers family…it was an easy ship to jump onboard.”
Yes, and it’s an incredible character. Just in the first episode he seems like a pretty complex, incredible character.
“Yes, he is. And obviously, you know, we’ll find out more about Kurt as we go on. But yes, it’s interesting to find out what, you know, what drives him to become an FBI agent and then also, you know, what the connection is between these two people, Kurt Weller and Jane Doe. So yes, it’s a great start.”
We’ve seen so many FBI characters on TV and often times they’re kind of cookie-cutter, but I was really surprised at how intelligent your character was. How compassionate he was and how understanding he was of Jane. Can you sort of speak to what you like about this character and how he’s different from so many FBI agents we’ve seen in the past on TV?
“Yes, I mean, that is what I love about this character of Kurt. It’s not – as you said – he’s not the cookie-cutter FBI agent. And the show’s not just, you know, each case is a procedural. We get to explore his past and the connection between himself and Jane Doe. And yes, you see the drive that makes this man who he is. You know, he is a very layered man, very focused at work but yet you do see some of the emotional characteristics of him, too, you know?”
How does Kurt feels about Jane at this point, going into the second episode? He’s been very good to her, but obviously he must be a little suspicious with some of the interesting things that have come out of her mouth and out of her fists…
“Yes, well I think, you know, at first we are quite suspicious as to why the FBI was directly linked to this case, this target. As to what the connection is and why his name was tattooed on her back. And then, obviously, through the investigation and the tests they’ve put her through, you know, he realizes that she’s telling the truth. So I think we do see that sort of almost caring nature of him and, you know, the fact that he does sympathize or empathize with the fact that she, you know, she’s lost and he obviously understands that it would be quite hard to lose your identity and who you are or where you’re from.”
You’re supposed to be training her, I think, or attempting to train her until she turns the tables in this week’s episode, is that right? Do you see him getting more suspicious of her as he starts to realize that she’s got all these skills?
“No, I don’t know about suspicion. I think that just opens up the door to, you know, actually really trying to find out who she is or how she understands the different aspects of the world we’re in. She understands weapons and fighting. You know, I think that just sort of becomes more intriguing for them as, you know, as they’re finding stuff out.”
What characteristics do you like about the role you’re playing in the series as compared to other roles?
“Well, actually Kurt is, you know, he’s a pretty honest and straight-up guy, you know, and he’s obviously he’s very focused on his job and for good reasons. You know, something happened in his past that I think drives him to sort of try to make the world a better place by I guess chasing criminals, solving cases. Which in turn saves people’s lives so I think I like the fact that, you know, he’s got a big heart and, that’s how he lives his life. He’s got things to do. He seems to come from a very positive place.”
Talk a little bit, if you can, about what it’s like working with Jaimie [Alexander, who plays Jane Doe]. It seems like from the first episode that you and Jaimie have some really good chemistry that’s really playing well into the show. So what’s I like working with Jaimie and how well do you guys play off each other during production?
“She’s awesome, you know, she’s an awesome girl to work with and, you know, she’s good at her job so I think sort of working with that every day and working with that aspect, you know, it just makes work easier. And Jaimie and the rest of the cast we, you know, we all just get along really well and we sort of do our best to try and, you know, make the show the best that we possible can…”
Strike Back was filmed all over the world and Blindspot is filmed mostly in New York. Do you feel more sort of settled filming in one city? And what is New York like as a location for you as an actor?
“Good question. I love it. I guess you’re right, it’s been nice to settle-in, you know, to a city for obviously longer than a few months. Strike Back we were in and out of places after a couple of months. So it’s nice here and New York…New York’s a fantastic city. It is a great place to work and it’s a great character to have in the show. You know, to be able to see the city and then chase criminals through this town, it’s exciting.”
Did you meet with any FBI agents or maybe even go to Quantico to learn more about your character?
“Yes, I did. I met-up with a couple of agents that, you know, we just talked about how they approach work and what it [their work] was. It was an honor to meet the men that do this for real and, you know, to hear some of the stories they told me. It was really eye-opening and, you know, exciting.”
One of the things that I’m really curious about is your relationship with the rest of your FBI team and, as the season goes on, is that relationship going to develop along with your relationship with Jane?
“Yes, we are. I mean, you know, we’re great friends, the whole group of us and we all enjoy making the show. But yes, we’re sort of developing this team as being together for years and so, you know, we are quite close and understand each other. But yes, I’m sure we will see, you know, these relationships develop throughout the course of the season and delve into people’s back stories. You know, different connections with each of the characters.”
Earlier we were talking about what you admired about the character of Kurt and as we know, every actor brings a little of himself to the characters. In what ways would you say you’re similar to Kurt, if at all?
“Yes, I would say I’m similar. You know, I think we’re both very focused on our work. And I guess, you know, even though Kurt rights the wrongs in the world, I guess I’d do the same. If something’s not right, I’ll fight against it, so it’s similar in that sense. And then also, you know, the camaraderie between Kurt and the other agents…that again is very similar to myself, working with the great crew that we’re working with and my fellow actors that I’m working with. I have that sense of…I don’t know. I enjoy sort of, you know, working as a team to do the best we possibly can.”
If you had a chance to go hang-out for a night off with the team, would you rather hang-out with Kurt or with Damian or both?
“Great question. Well, probably both because at least then, you know, you’re not going to get in trouble. But probably more with Damian because then you’ll both get into some trouble.”
The best of both worlds.
Have you had a chance to see Philip [Winchester, Stapleton’s co-star in Strike Back]’s new show, The Player?
“No, I think we were working last night and I didn’t watch it. But yes, I missed the ball. It was a great partnership and I would kind of like to see him again and I can’t wait to watch his show, you know?”
It’s really pretty good, I watched it last night. It’s really, really good. I think you’ll enjoy it.
“Yes, it looks awesome and he looks like he’s having a ball doing all the stunts himself so yes, I can’t wait to see it.”
In the pilot, you got knocked around quite a bit. I mean, Weller almost got blown-up, almost got knifed. What was it like for you to play the guy that, for once, is getting knocked around a bit instead of doing the knocking around? And how much punishment is Weller going to take this season?
“Good question. I don’t know. I don’t know, but yes, at first…I mean, you know, it’s been fun to do. I don’t know. You get to explore action in a different way, so it’s a bit different. But, you know, that’s fine. I don’t mind getting knocked around. But, you know, we always seem to end-up on the right side at the end of the fight.”
I was reading an interview with Martin [Gero], the creator, and he said that each episode is sort of going to revolve around Jane Doe. How long do you think the show can keep that up and how much of the season is going to be spent on trying to figure out the mystery of why your character’s name is tattooed on her body?
“Yes, I think, well obviously, that is one of the most important arcs, as to why we connected and why Kurt Weller has specifically been drawn into this case. But then we can put lots of tattoos on Jane Doe and you end up, you know…I’m hoping that yes, we can. Hopefully it’s going to make the show go for a long, long time.”
Tune in tonight when Blindspot returns to NBC at 10pm EST/9pm CST.