By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) I got this movie called Heart, Baby that is an independent film coming out. I have a romantic comedy called The Divorce Party and another movie I did out now is called Land Line. It’s with Tom Arnold and it takes place in Chicago. In another month, I’m on a huge show, but I can’t talk about it until it comes out.
Q) Please tell us about your character Brian Andersen in “Law & Order: True Crime.”
A) My character is Brian Anderson, who is the uncle of the Menendez brothers. Kitty Menendez is my sister. There were two sisters, Kitty and Joan, and then myself and another brother, Melvin. Brian Andersen is the uncle to the Menendez brothers and Kitty is the sister and they were very close.
Q) What made you want to be part of the miniseries?
A) I knew the story very well. My wife was an attorney for twenty years so all during law school she watched a few trials – one was OJ Simpson and the other was the first trial for the Menendez brothers. Their first trial was televised and their second trial wasn’t. I’m pretty familiar with the story. I’m really familiar with it now. I was given about twelve hours of research to do on it so I got a lot of information. There are going to be a lot of things coming out in this series that were not allowed into the court trial. The first court case was a hung jury and then the second court case led to them being convicted of calculated of first degree murder as opposed to manslaughter based on the allegations of sexual and physical abuse. So, I think instances of those coming out that were not allowed in the second trail…There is a large of amount of people who have survived incest and sexual molestation and those sort of things and have been able to survive it, but has it led to them kind of killing the very people who were behind it? That’s what kind of makes this case a little bit different – there is a leap that happens where how much can someone be subjected to before they snap? And did they snap? Perhaps they weren’t as mature as one might think and the way they grieved was to put on airs and they are from a certain ilk of society where their father’s memorial felt they had to wear Armani suits and Rolex watches because they had to kind of present a positive face for their father who they ended up killing. Everyone grieves differently, but if you put a shotgun to the back of both of your parents’ heads and twenty-four hours later you’re buying Rolex watches and Armani suits. Everyone grieves differently, but they way they were doing it didn’t necessarily perceive they really felt they did anything wrong. So, in that regard there is so many things about this case that I find fascinating and interesting. For the last couple episodes, I had the opportunity to sit in the galley and watch all the different testimony and evidence brought in. I’ve been in lots of movies where I play a historical character. This person is alive. Usually the historical characters I play are not alive. This is kind of a 21st century story. Also, I’ve been a fan of Dick Wolf’s work for years. The last thing I did before I left New York was “Law and Order.” So, the opportunity to be a part of this “Law and Order” franchise and their first outing on a miniseries with this subject matter – it’s kind of an incredible opportunity.
Q) Talk about process for getting into character.
A) What I loved is that Dick Wolf did it from the court transcript. So, there is not a lot of making stuff up. Once I got the role, Lesli Linka Glatter is the EP and the director of the first two episodes and is also the showrunner for “Homeland.” She picked up the phone. And this is the first time I’ve had this with a director where they picked up the phone and wanted to have a conversation because I was cast from tape. She wanted to talk about research, background and history. She had an assistant who sent me like twelve hours of information. So, I got to do research. I got to do it on my own, but I got lucky with a whole team of people who are dedicated to doing this thing right and getting all the information correct. I could quickly get the information and then spent more time researching when I got more information from certain things. So, the research project was pretty great. There are some things that are alluded to in the series and aren’t really said overtly – certain things that I believe would lead to lawsuits and things like that for liable. The only people who really, really knows what happened are Jose and Kitty and they are dead. They are not here to defend themselves against what has been alleged. For me, the research was my favorite part of the thing. Whatever you don’t know you go back to your source material, which I was lucky was Rene Balcer who is a writer for “Law & Order.” So, I’m going back to a writer who is really dedicated to getting it right and true and closer to documentary form. My source material then goes back to the script and then there are things I fill in. I kind of filled in those gaps and then whatever is not filled in – for me, these last few episodes – it’s rendering an opinion (positive or negative) depending on the information that is presented to the jury, which is also being presented to my character. Sometimes there are things that I know and I have the script my character doesn’t know as he’s hearing it for the first time. There is that interesting joy of being able to listen and respond to something that you never heard before.
Q) Was it surreal to be on set and see everyone in character?
A) Yeah! I’m going to throw the prediction right out of the gate Edie Falco with 100% certainly will get a Golden Globe nomination playing Leslie Abramson. So will the two playing the Menendez brothers. Especially Edie – her closing and opening. Her court acting. All of the things I remember from the first trial on Court TV and then going into the second trial. No one was able to see the second trial unless they were there, but the kind of work being done her part…Particularly when you look over and she does this walk that Leslie did and pouts her lips. She rolls her eyes and does certain things that I just remembered – it’s a little surreal. Then, the Menendez brothers – the way they are leaning over and they got all the body language down. They are wearing the same colored sweaters and are crying on the stand. You’re like, “This is close to what I remember twenty-five years ago.” I think what is beautiful about this miniseries is that there are a lot of things people didn’t know that they will find out. Also, because this was twenty-five years ago there is a whole generation of people who know nothing about this case. So, they are going to be hearing about it for the first time and rendering their own opinions. There is some great stuff with the jury. Dick Wolf knows how to tell a story. But it is a little surreal at times to look over and the hair is perfect and the guys are wearing the same colors. They are moving their heads back and laughing just like they did in trial. I’m part of this exciting thing!
Q) What were some of your most memorable moments from filming?
A) One of my most memorable moments was a scene in episode three or four. It’s the inner fighting amongst Kitty’s family because what happens is that when Jose died Kitty was still alive so his estate went to her. They didn’t die at the same time. When she died, the estate went to Kitty’s immediate family which is my sister, my brother and me. For me, the most exciting stuff was all of a sudden you are talking about a fourteen-million-dollar estate and they have admitted to a therapist that they killed their parents and the evidence shows that they did. One goes, “Why are we spending fourteen million dollars defending these two kids that did it? They said they did it. What’s to defend?” What you are defending them against is the death penalty because it was at play at that time. I think these great scenes between the family and Kitty’s family members are deciding who they believe and why are they spending money defending the brothers when they’ve admitted they did it. Those are the most exciting stuff for me, which is episode three and four. That’s when it gets down to the nitty gritty because you start to see the story unfold and it effects everybody from different angles. There is Kitty’s family and then there is Jose’s family – these two factions. There is fourteen million dollars and at that time it is a lot of money. Why are we spending money depending them when they said they did it? We know who did it and we don’t know why. That’s what this whole series hinges on. We don’t know the why and that is what is going to be intriguing about all eight of these episodes.
Q) You are a part of social media. Are you looking forward to the fan feedback you’ll receive to the miniseries?
A) Yeah, I am. It’s kind of hard being a supporting player. They are going to be focused on the Menendez brothers and Edie so they may not reach out to me. There is also a lot of secret stuff I can’t let out. There will be a few surprises, but I’m always interested to have the fans reach out. I’ve got my Twitter and Facebook. So, I’m interested in hearing fan feedback – always.
Q) What did you personally take away from working on “Law & Order: True Crime?”
A) I think one of the biggest take aways is that we don’t always know what is behind certain things. Meaning every family has particular issues and problems. We can quickly and easily judge people by their status, where they live, what they do and what they have done (in this case). But what’s behind that? What’s happening at home? I remember being on a red carpet recently and someone said to me, “I went to school with the Menendez brothers. They went to Beverly Hills High. So, when we heard they killed their parents we weren’t surprised. Those guys were freaks. There was something wrong.” Well, your perception is that they were freaks and something was wrong, but once you hear what was happening in their household I think you get a better understanding. It’s “judge ye not lest ye be judged.” It’s kind of easy to make a quick judgement, but there are always two sides to each story. There may be more that you just don’t know. I think we need to be a little more compassionate and a little bit more understanding sometimes with where we come from. Not to say that these guys are justified in any means for killing their parents with what they have been through. I don’t mean to put that out there. But I think some people snap and they can’t handle it anymore. They really do fear for their lives. Their perception of things was so warped that it led to their parents’ demise. They are in there for life. There is no shot of them being released as far as I know.