Beeb Ashcroft: I know our readers are really excited for the new season of Perception coming out, so I wanted to ask you if you could give us any hints as to what season 3 might have in store, and do you think that Donnie will really win Kate back?
Well, for the first part of it, season 3 has everything people have come to expect from this show, which is really interesting, intricate, complicated, emotional, mysteries to be solved. What got built last year was the really interesting triangle between Kate, Donnie and Daniel, and there is some great humor and tension and drama that comes out of those three relationships. Where the writers come up with these stories, I have no idea, but there’s one great story where there’s a young kid, who is afflicted with an emotional/psychological illness and is convicted of a murder. One of the coolest part of the show and what sets it apart is that the central crime solving character is himself afflicted by something that oftentimes the person who has committed the crime is [afflicted with], so there’s just a real sense of connection and empathy – rather than there being a “Good guy” and a “Bad guy”, there’s two people who are sorting things out.
There are some really amazing new cases, and obviously in terms of Donnie and Kate, the fact that I’m talking with you now [means] that Donnie’s still around and things are going OK for him in his quest to win her back. But even though the beginning of this season showed two people who were maybe heading back toward each other, they’re far from done with the challenges that will arise in terms of the rebuilding a trust between the two of them. We are rooting for Donnie & Kate – I think what’s fun is in the middle of what is a of a crime show, or a crime procedural and a mystery, [there’s] some really great human stories and in this one, a couple who might well be each other’s true love. Some mistakes have happened and trust broken and whether that’s worth fighting for, or whether it’s even possible to fight and get that back, remains to be seen; but I feel like it’s a really compelling story and one that a lot of people can relate to.
Beeb Ashcroft: Right, and since Donnie’s character is playing an increasingly larger role this season, that must be exciting to you to see the character developing and evolving.
For sure, I mean look, when the character was introduced, most people just kinda wanted to slap him and send him outta town. So the fact that’s he’s emerged as a character because of how well it’s been written and their commitment to telling a real, authentic-feeling story; it’s a guy who was really attempting redemption and recognized that in order to have the life he wanted and win back to the love of his life, he was actually gonna have to be a better person and set out to be that person. It took the course of an entire season, and you just don’t see that kind of patient storytelling all the time – I was really very proud of the way that story got told last year. I guess as the last season ended, a lot of the audience was surprised that that they were in the position that they were in, not minding the idea of Donnie and Kate being together and almost actually rooting for them to happen – I don’t think anyone really saw that coming.
That’s just really fun, challenging storytelling and this year it’s more of the same; at times, it’s the opposite. Sometimes I think people will be a position where they might think, “Yeah, I’m good with all this” and then something happens or Donnie might get involved in something, or do something, or say something that that challenges people all over again, and so it’s definitely engaging and a really cool human story. I would love being part of this show [even without those elements] just because it’s really inventive, and Eric (McCormack) and Rachel (Leigh Cook) are amazing and the writing is so good, but the fact that they find a way to tell these really intricate human and romantic stories alongside these really interesting and intricate crime mysteries really makes the show rare.
Beeb Ashcroft: Going back to what you were saying about how the show portrays complex characters, do you the think that shows like this are helping to maybe destigmatize the portrayal of mental illness?
100%, yeah. And I think that’s one of the things that is incredibly important to know Ken Biller, the show runner and Eric, who is obviously the lead of the show and also a producer. I think destigmatizing and having a different conversation about mental illness is really important to everyone on the show, whereas on a lot of other shows the person who committed the crime is basically just the bad guy, or the bad girl, and on this show, they’re victims themselves. I think [they’re] dealing with the mental, emotional and psychological conditions authentically because they do an immense amount of research, and they recognize that there are people out there living with these conditions and they can’t be haphazard or careless with them. The fact that the title character, the person who is most of the time at the center of solving these crimes, is himself victimized and afflicted with mental illness, there’s less of a “Good guy, bad guy” “Us versus them” and the whole thing just feels a bit more empathetic. Ultimately there’s still somebody who does terrible things and is gonna have to pay the price, but it’s a lot more challenging, and at times, heartbreaking when you see some of these characters who are at the mercy of some condition or another. I feel like the fact that Daniel Pierce, Eric’s character, just relates so definitively to all of these people who he’s kind of tracking down makes the storytelling so much more interesting.
Beeb Ashcroft: With all of these complicated storylines, which one has been your favorite so far?
Oh, boy. This season there’s one that happens early in season 3 that’s about to air where there is a young kid, and he’s been involved in this crazy situation and he’s been charged with murder. I guess just the fact that it is younger character and such a sweet, engaging character that you just want for him to have not done it, but it but it looks terrible. I think the reason I love that story and that case is it’s an example of if it weren’t Daniel Pierce, this kid would be sent away, but because Daniel does that extra bit of work out of his connection and empathy for this kid and people like him they find their way toward a version of story that that someone else might never have seen.
Beeb Ashcroft: Right, digging deeper.
And he just cares more and out of being a empathetic, caring character but also because he feels like he walks in their shoes and really understand them. It’s a unique character and a unique take on on of this kind of murder mystery where the person who is at the center of solving a crime understands and more importantly empathizes with a lot of these people who he is investigating.
Beeb Ashcroft: How long does it take you to on film each of these episodes?
We shoot episodes in 7 days, which to the average person might sound like a lot of days but it’s actually little days, it is not a lot of time. The amount of time it takes to shoot any one little scene is a lot more than most people would expect just because there’s a lot of different camera angles and there’s lighting and equipment, so the show actually shoots in a relatively short amount of time. In this particular case we wind up shooting two episodes at a time because it makes for more efficient production to actually shoot two episodes worth of stuff at a given location, which, at times gets a little complicated because you’re balancing two intricate story at one time! But everybody’s pretty passionate about what they’re doing and organized and cares a lot about the show, so it all works out.
Beeb Ashcroft: You’re your filming Perception, you just finished a storyline on The Night Shift and you’re doing the voice for the lead character in Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters. So how do you juggle all of these very different TV roles at the same time?
Well, thankfully the schedule has actually allowed for it to all work. The Night Shift production happened while we were in between seasons on Perception – frankly, I just wouldn’t have been able to do it time-wise. Night Shift shot in Albuquerque so there’s no way I would have been able to do it [otherwise], but I’ve been lucky that the production schedule has worked out and that I’ve had the opportunity to do all these various things. I feel really lucky because I’m proud of all of them, and at the same time living an off-camera life with my wife and our kids. There’s a bunch to balance, but my life is full of all the things that I really love at the moment, so I’m grateful.