Shawn Doyle – Bellevue
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects you are working on?
A) I’ve been doing a few things. I just finished shooting a show called “Impulse,” which is the first YouTube original series. It’s executive produced by Doug Liman and it’s going to be very interesting. I’m about to go shoot the show “Ransom” in Budapest this week. I’m also currently shooting Season Three of a Netflix show called “Frontier,” starring Jason Mamoa. It’s all about the fur trade in North America in the 1700’s. Once I wrap that I’ll be heading to Vancouver to shoot a CBC/SundanceTV mini series called Unspeakable. It’s about the tainted blood scandal in the 1980’s. Basically, almost ninety percent of hemophiliacs around North America became infected with HIV because they weren’t screening properly for blood donations. So, there is a mini series about that and I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a special project, I think.
Q) How was your character Peter Welland on “Bellevue” originally describe to you?
A) So, I read the first script and Peter is a very mysteriously written character for the first half of the season. When I talked to Jane [Maggs] about it, I was kind of unsure what direction the character was going to go in and what was going to be interesting about playing him. She didn’t reveal the final twist of the series at the time, but she certainly kind of talked about Peter in the context of holding back many layers of secrets in an effort to take care of Annie (Anna Paquin) and protect other people. For me, it was interesting to consider playing a character that was always going to be in conflict with him about what he is withholding as it is connected to the past and the current place.
Q) Was there anything you added to the role that was not originally scripted for you?
A) Well, it’s not as if I added lines, but certainly I feel that when Anna and I started to do our work together we just had a certain rapport that happened automatically. I think that likely informed Jane about how to write our relationship, in terms of how they respond to each other and how they push each other. My sense of feeling protective of Annie and being frustrated with her rogue elements and how to corral her and yet encourage her – I think all of it came from the playing of it as much as Jane’s original ideas.
Q) What did you find the most challenging aspect of portraying Peter?
A) I would say the most challenging element is trying to keep a lot of balls in the air at once emotionally and mentally. Trying to play the scenes as they were written while also knowing they have to be informed by all the past history and secrets that I’m holding inside and kind of making choices based on all of those things at once, but that’s also the most exciting thing about acting in general and I had plenty of opportunity to do it here. Also, beside that, the fact that we were outside in sub-zero temperatures at the time was a huge part of shooting the show. It was a huge We shot around Montreal and we started in ostensibly summer there and by the time we were finished shooting it was winter and we were shooting full nights out in the forest. That was really challenging for everybody. Also, the thing about TV is that you are established with a certain wardrobe at the beginning of the season and time does go on, but rarely does the wardrobe change to reflect the time that is going on. You don’t really know what the weather is going to be so it’s not as if they can design anticipating how it is going to change. So, we often ended up outside with no hats or mitts and in thin coats. Of course, poor Sadie [O’Neil] had to end up being face down in water in a not very warm time of the year. I guess that’s all part of the business.
Q) What is it like working with costar Anna Paquin?
A) Well, Anna is a consummate professional. She is always completely prepared for the work. She’s given it a lot of thought. She was also an Executive Producer on the show so she had a lot of influence, obviously, in terms of what direction the show was going and she was a very strong advocate for her character and making sure that it was as fully realized as it could. She came to work. She came to really jump in, play and do the scene work. When we started working together it just became clear that it was going to be easy between us. That we were both going to allow each other to take risks and trust each other and have fun. Sometimes you work with actors and you feel like there is something that is not quite gelling. There is a lack of trust or something so you hold back a bit. Then, there are other times you work with actors (and this was my experience working with Anna) that you just show up and anything goes. I can try anything and I can do anything and I know that I’ll have a partner that will push back just as hard and just as playfully.
Q) You frequently take on dramatic roles. Is there something about this genre of characters that really captivates you?
A) I certainly find that the most interesting characters, for me, are the ones that spark me – for sure. Characters that I feel I can put a personal stamp on are often dramatic. I do comedy, believe it or not. I have done some comedy. I certainly have done a lot on stage and I also think that everyone is blessed with different trademarks. When you have a mug like this, people see you doing drama. I’ve done other things, too. I’ve done romantic films. I’ve done comedies. I used to do musical theater. I also think that as an actor goes through different time periods different qualities come to the surface and that is what people pick up on. And I guess right now I’m in a dramatic phase.
Q) How would you describe Annie and Peter’s relationship in one word?
A) In one word? Tumultuous.
Q) There is such great chemistry between Peter and Annie. Was that always there or something that was found along the way?
A) As I was saying, a lot of the chemistry was built into the history of the characters so we had a lot to play with. But Anna and I just really gelled as actors and we had a lot of fun acting opposite one another and we’re not afraid to challenge one another and take risks with our work. I think that’s what translates on the good chemistry that people are commenting on, if I do say so myself.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you enjoy the instant fan feedback you receive to the episodes?
A) Yeah, you know it’s always very satisfying knowing people are out there enjoying your work and enjoy the shows you are involved in. Whether it is one person or a thousand people, it just feels good to know that some people appreciate what you’re doing. Also, we were a very tight cast. We had a really great bonding experience with this particular project in a way that doesn’t happen a lot. It’s rare for a whole company to come together as a family and I think that happened a lot with this show. It’s good to kind of carry that on with the whole tweeting experience as we promote the show in the United States. It’s all awesome.
Q) What do you think it is about the show “Bellevue” that will make it a fast fan favorite?
A) I think that there are some really, really interesting characters. Often when you are creating a show that happens in a small town is something everyone relates to. What happens is values and qualities that show up in small town characters are kind of universal. So, I think everybody can find their own way into the story and, secondly, it’s just a damn good mystery that continues to unfold. It’s like layers of an onion – every moment and every episode you are learning new things about these characters. I know I was shocked when I finally read the final scripts and what the conclusion of the whole mystery was. I think the audiences are going to be continually captivated by it and finally I think they are going to be shocked when they find out who has done it in the end. I think that’s why people tune in. Everybody begins to form their own opinions and they are dying to know what the writers know.
Q) What has been your favorite projects to work on?
A) It’s hard to say what are some of my favorites per se because they are always so different. The characters are so different and there are different challenges, different things about them that are exciting. “Big Love” was a big series in my career for HBO. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a favorite of mine, but it was a major formative learning experience to work with all of those great actors and that great writing. I have just had so, so many. I did a short film once called Method, which was about an actor having a mental breakdown. I did “Frontier” where I was wearing period stuff and acting in the 1700’s. At one point, I played who is referred to as “the father of confederation” here in Canada – the first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald. I did a bio pic about him, which was an incredibly special experience.
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
A) I would like to say that I’m so appreciative of anybody who gets anything from the work I do or the work we do. I hope they’ll stay tuned because there I going to be lots more to come – for me and the show. The show just gets more and more engaging and intense as it goes. The mystery gets deeper and it’s a really well-crafted in that way. It just continually escalates all the way to the end. There is no red line. There is no plateau. It just keeps going.