Michelle Hurd – Lethal Weapon
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects you have been working on?
A) I’m still reoccurring on “Hawaii Five-0” so I’ve just been bouncing back and forth between that and “Lethal Weapon.” My husband (Garret Dillahunt) is an actor as well and it’s crazy to carve out a couple of days where we are both in the same state. We try to do the gigs we’ve committed to and then grab a couple days to ourselves.
Q) How was your character Gina Santos on “Lethal Weapon” originally described to you?
A) She was pretty straight forward in that she is Deputy Chief and coming in to stop the shenanigans of the lead detectives in the Robbery/Homicide division of LAPD. It’s a very important division and has to be void of controversy. I was sort of pitched that she was a strong, straight shooter with a little bit of a history with Murtaugh.
Q) Was there anything you added to the role that wasn’t originally described to you?
A) Kevin [Rahm], Clayne [Crawford] and Damon [Wayans] are so fun! The show leads itself to being humorous and lends itself to comedy. And I just love them so much that I wanted to be sure she wasn’t hardnosed and came in there and sort of growl at them. I really love being able to play with them and have sort of… “What are you guys doing over there? Oh! It’s so cute!” I have a different humor with them as well as being the straight shooting tough lady. It’s so easy to do with Kevin, Clayne and Damon. In fact, it’s quite hard to stay mad at them and keep a furrowed brow because they are just so funny. Their improvisational skills and timing is just so spot on. It just makes you want to play with them. So, I’m just letting her breath a little more and have a little more play time within the structure of order, which is fun for me.
Q) What was it like for you to join an already established cast?
A) It’s so funny! The last couple decades it seems this is what I do. It’s a testament to the cast, I have to say. It always starts with number one, at least that’s my experience. You can walk on to a set and sort of sense really quickly how to sort of fit in. I always joke that there is either a kindle set or not. A Kindle set is when you get on set and people aren’t going to interact. You just sit in your chair and read your Kindle. Or you get a set that is very welcoming and friendly. These guys were very friendly. Clayne was on the first season of “The Glades” with me. I just worked with Kim Wayans on “Hawaii Five-0” last season. I’ve known Damon from the industry. Kevin and I have a mutual friend, as well. So, it was a very warm, familiar set. I find that you just know what you’re doing when you walk onto an already established show. Just be prepared not to take things personally so you can flow with it. There are people who are intense and that’s because they have a lot to do. Maybe they don’t want to have to chitchat. Also, you can find sets where people have a lot to do and they want to chit chat. I think with being in this industry being in it for over two decades, I’ve pretty much learned how to navigate sort of seamlessly getting in and out of a show. And it’s fun that way! I get to meet new directors, producers, actors and a new crew. Then, the other side of having done it for so long that there is at least a handful of the crew that I have known and worked with before. So, it makes me comfortable.
Q) The show is a balance of action, comedy and drama. How do juggle all of that for one role?
A) It’s the best! It’s just fun to have kind of that expanse – to be able to say something intense in one line and then the next almost guffawing. That’s the fun part of this job as an actor, to kind of find actors that have multiples layers so it’s not just one note. I even enjoyed when I was doing “Blindspot.” She was an intense villain, a no jokes villain, but there were sort of ways to give her a maternal tone with this sort of loving caretaker – even though she has her own nuclear bomb! When you have all of those things it’s really like a gift to an actor.
Q) With such big personalities on the show, what would fans be surprised to learn about your costars?
A) I don’t know if they would be surprised just because they are such good guys. Maybe it’s that they are very family oriented. They have friends, family and their dogs that visit set often. They are very “normal” people. They do this job because they love it and they do it well. They have families who, if they have time, they’d rather spend time with their loved ones. They are just good people. They are just good, normal, ordinary funny typical lovable guys. Honestly, they really are good people.
Q) What have been some of your most memorable moments from filming “Lethal Weapon?”
A) I don’t know. That’s a tricky one because we all get there to do our work and we can all get into lots of discussions about politics and what is going on. But we’ve all been here a while and there isn’t a whole bunch of craziness that happens. It’s kind of like hanging out with friends at a dinner party. It’s funny because a lot of people who are funny on camera are much more subdued off camera because it takes a lot of energy to make people laugh. So, it’s not a whole bunch of craziness happening off camera. We just talk!
Q) You seem to seamlessly bounce between comedy and drama. How do you select the roles you play?
A) It’s generally the character. Obviously, you can tell from the things I have taken that I really like being the boss and in charge. I like being strong, even if it is comedy. Those are the characters I am drawn to and I also want to contribute to this world and representing women of color. I want to make sure they are seen in strong, intelligent, diverse roles. So, things that contribute to those views. Those are the things I’m drawn to because I think it will keep me entertained. When I was growing up, I never saw any multi-ethnic curly haired female leads in stuff. I didn’t realize until later that it was a very strange thing not to see yourself represented. I think of my two nephews who are beautiful boys of color and the fact that they are growing up in a world where they have had a black President – as a given they know they can do whatever, anything and the sky is the limit. I want to be that for some other little munchkin with curly crazy hair and beige skin who wonders, “Where am I represented?” I want to be representing them as well.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you enjoy the instant fan feedback you have been receiving to your time on “Lethal Weapon?”
A) I am on social media. I’m not really the best on it. But I love talking to fans! That’s the best part. I really like being able to interact and chit chat and see what they are feeling. Everyone is being really nice, which is really lovely and makes me feel very warm and welcome. I think that’s my favorite part of social media – actually interacting with the fans and creating a kind of relationship and comradery there. It makes you feel good!
Q) We recently saw you as a guest star on the show “Younger.” Talk about filming the bathtub scene with costar Debi Mazar.
A) Well, first of all, Debi Mazar is awesome! She’s an amazing actress and person. She’s such a joy to work with. But you know what, that bathtub was tiny! It may not come across on camera, but it was tiny! So, we were literally folded up and scrunched up in there. So many crazy things happen in that kind of situation that you don’t even think about it. We had to pour water in it because it was not a running bathtub. Then, they had to pour bubbles in. There was a sort of mixer for when you mix mashed potatoes or something so we’d both have to get out and they’d have to blend it to make the bubbles come up. Then, we’d jump into the bathtub and fold our legs up any way we could and try to do the scene quickly so we could so the bubbles wouldn’t fade. It was actually a lot more complicated than it seemed, but it was sure fun! If I’m going to get naked in a tub, why not do it with Debi Mazar? [laughs]
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
A) I send such big love, gratitude and thanks to all the people who have supported me over the double decades of work. It’s just really nice. To reach out, to talk and connect on social media and be supported and do this thing that I love – that so many of us as artists love to do – and to have people who appreciate it…I say thank you, thank you, thank you. If I can bring a giggle, a little laugh and even a scare now and then to their living room or on their devices then I am eternally grateful.