Actor Tim Griffin stars on this fall’s new highly-anticipated drama Prime Suspect which premiered last Thursday on NBC. Based on the famous UK version, Griffin plays Detective Augie Blando, the class clown who provides the comic relief as he follows unconventional an New York Detective played by Mario Bello, as she navigates through a tough, male-dominated precinct.
Griffin recently spoke about his new character and experience filming Prime Suspect and there was no doubt of his excitement on the series and on working with its cast and crew. Something else to not doubt is Griffin’s highly impressive acting background. He has starred on some of television’s hottest shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, 24, NCIS, The Closer and Party of Five just to name a few. You may also recognize him from starring opposite George Clooney in ‘Leatherheads’ and Matt Damon in ‘The Bourne Supremacy’. Currently you can also see Griffin on the big screen in ‘Abduction’, also starring Taylor Lautner and Sigourney Weaver. As if all this didn’t keep his busy enough, Griffin also builds houses! We chatted about all of that, why he values each and every one of his roles , and how he went from an academia to Hollywood!
Congrats on the new role on the new show Prime Suspect, what is your character like?
Tim- I play Detective Augie Blando. I think this is probably my favorite character that I have ever played. I didn’t know he was going to become the character that he has become but there’s so much humor. He’s that kind of guy who’s always telling jokes. He’s based on a few guys that our technical advisor Mike Sheehan knew. I’m very familiar with drama. Very familiar with comedy. But I’ve never gotten to do a show that sort of mixes the two. There’s an infamous group of detectives, sort of the ‘old boy network’, we call it. Very set way of doing things. Maria Bello’s character is sort of abrasive and a brilliant detective. The guys don’t want to admit it at first. She has to prove herself in all of our eyes. It’s mixed results. It’s hilarious things that they’re doing with her personality. She has a personality where she wants to move and get results and she’s not going to spare your feelings to get results.
My character, Augie, takes to her character quicker than the other guys because I see that she’s great. She makes me laugh, she’s fun to poke fun out. And we get along, sort of bickering like brother and sister.
What can viewers expect from this series? How is it different from anything on television right now?
Tim- Prime Suspect it’s an iconic institution. It’s set in modern times now. And I loved The British version. I loved Helen Mirren. I think for the fans of the original they wanted to sort of preserve the crimes and all of that stuff, but Peter Berk, he is so fresh and so current. He wants things to move. He loves humor. He loves people who can go off the cuff and every single actor on this show, now I realize why they were hired. I think it’s such a fresh re-imagining that people are really going to love it. I think it takes you by surprise. There’s so much action, but the humor that comes out is great. This is a great one-hour drama. It’s so intense. It’s like bi-polar because one moment I’m sitting there crying because it’s so intense. Then I’m laughing in the very next scene because it’s so ridiculous, a comic relief. And it’s just that sort of the nature of the job too. I think it’s a little bit like soldiers. It’s their bonding and humor that sort of keeps people together with things that are almost unimaginable. To be successful at this job, homicide detective, you’ve gotta be quick. You’ve got to have a sense of humor.
Is there a moment or scene that most stands out to you?
Tim-Every scene, but there is one scene that I love and it’s emblematic of why I love this show. We are now currently on our seventh episode. Our technical advisor, Mike Sheehan, knew this legendary homicide detective. He worked every major case that was in Manhattan the last many decades. He went on to become a television personality. His story sort of merged with Prime Suspect, merged with the writers take and our personalities. So he happened to tell this story of a hilarious take down that they did of a guy who they knew was armed. He’s telling the story of what was a very dangerous situation that ended up turning comical and they wanted to portray it in that style. So I think I’m off and I get scene pages from an episode that we finished weeks before. A five-page scene that is a chase. Basically we’re going to turn these guys loose somehow and they’re chasing a guy and the way that we take him out, he gets away from us and we’re sitting there bickering back and forth, “I had him!” And we look out and this guy is hiding in a version of like a K-Mart. He hid himself by all this stuff but his feet were sticking out. And so we did this whole thing that turned this incredibly action-oriented scene on its heels. We pull him out. And this is a true story. You have the crew busting up. It was just one of these things where as we were sitting around later we were saying, “Can you believe that just two days ago that was just a story coming out of Mike Sheehan’s mouth and two days later we were filming it?” That’s sort of what’s so exciting about being on a show like this they really give you more than you could ever ask for.
I bet that does make it very thrilling to be a part of.
Tim-Also there were a lot of people in the store, the owner refused to turn customers away. So we’re filming and people are shopping in the aisle and it’s so funny! The look of surprise on people’s faces are genuine because they are just real people in that store. You can’t write it. It just happens. It’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see it! I had network executives coming to me at the premiere party saying, “I just watched that scene you did in the episode, that is just gold!”
That’s great. I can’t wait to see it. The show sounds very interesting!
Tim- Yes, and I’ve never worked with this kind of talent before. Being led by Maria is amazing. But also the crew, the writers, the producers; if you look at everybody’s resumes, everybody has been on some of the best stuff in the world. We’re just all so proud to be a part of it. We’re truly a family. I think Pete Berg said it best, where everybody’s that’s involved in the show, we’re all kind of like where we’ve reached the point in our careers that this is what we want to do. A lot of us have families. We’re a little more settled. We’ve done many movies and many different shows. Nobody has ego. It’s just really special. And it makes me want to work that much harder. I want to work as hard as I can.
You’re also in the new movie ‘Abduction’, which has also been receiving a lot of hype.
Tim- I’m very excited for it. I’m very excited for John Singleton. I have a huge admiration for him. He gave me my start in film. I did ‘Higher Learning’. When I met him I was a kid and at the time I had done a lot of TV, but that was sort of a breakthrough to make that transition. He gave me my first opportunity. It’s funny because I’m so happy to come back to my television roots and to have that movie opening the day after our show premieres is surreal. It’s a great action movie. I can tell you that some of the people on the production side were associated when I did ‘Bourne Supremacy’. And that to me is one of the best movie’s, not because I was involved in it, but because it was a born franchise. I really think Taylor Lautner has an opportunity to become established in the same way that Matt Damon did when he got the part in Bourne Supremacy. I don’t think people really saw it in that particular genre and yet can you imagine anybody else? He was flat out brilliant in that. And I really think Taylor is great. And he has a great supporting cast behind him too. Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver.
You have had various roles on some of TV’s most popular shows and been in so many hit films, is there one role or one experience that really stood out to you?
Tim- This is like a Sophie’s Choice question. I’ll tell you this, what I would say is you take something different away from each role. The amazing thing is when you’re an actor and you start out, and I’m from Chicago, I came up in the theater, I used to make those little goals that we all make. You sit there and go, “If I could ever just get that part in the school play..” Or as an actor you go, “If I could ever get that guest role on Television!” And then you go “If I ever get on a sitcom!” You keep moving the bar. I remember distinctly each one of these milestones. It’s an achievement, like doing ‘Higher Learning’ was my first film, it was like I won the Super Bowl. Then to do a movie like Bourne Supremacy, you’re in a movie that makes hundreds of millions of dollars. Then you follow it up with ‘The Iron Man’, it’s a thrill in different ways. Like Fair Game, I have always wanted to work with Sean Penn then it happened. Working with George Clooney was amazing in Leatherheads. It was so fun. You will find something of value in every role that you do whether it’s a guest lead on a show or whatever. It’s really like having an all-access pass to some of the most magical places on earth! Only restricted by the imagination. It’s one of those surreal gifts. I would say to every actor just appreciate it when you’re able to do something you love, you should show respect for it and you should be thankful for the opportunity. I know I am.
I agree because it’s so competitive. So when it’s happening for you because of your hard work, enjoy it and be grateful.
Tim- You know it’s funny when you say you pay your dues and you’ve been in it long enough that you’re sort of secure and it’s one of those things as Oprah would say that ‘you’re meant to do’. Your passion. You relax into it a little but and you see some of the people that are there with you and it’s all great talent; and you realize hard work will eventually merit some reward. Other people, industry people, or people you respect with great work ethic will find that you fit. I remember it being so much more cut throat when I was in my 20’s. Now it’s such a more collaborative universe. Some of my best friends are these guys who act and I’ve known for years and years, and they’re all just incredibly unique and wonderful in their own way.
I can see how passionate you are about acting, but I read you also love to build houses,and have built homes here in Los Angeles. Where does that come from?
Tim- I answered that question almost in anticipation of “Well if this doesn’t work out”. My initial plan was I was actually an academic scholar and I was supposed to go on into a career of political philosophy and my mentor at The University of Vermont, Robert Taylor, inspired me to go back to Los Angeles. Because I come from there and I had been working and I was planning to leave it behind, not because it wasn’t fulfilling, I just never really thought of it as a job. And I was like well now it’s time to get serious. And he said to me, “What you’re doing as an actor has as much merit as anything you’re doing in the academic world.” That was the advice he gave me. He said, “You’re really great at it. You’re great at both.” So when I came back to Los Angeles and I actually met with success, I remember thinking so that I’m not sitting on my hands waiting for something to happen, I wanted to learn a skill. And I heard that they were looking for a carpenter with a contractor. And then it just evolved to the real thing. So I know exactly one thing I would be doing whether it was acting or not and that is construction.
That’s impressive! I never expected to hear that as a side job of an actor!
Tim- Well they really kind of go hand in hand because acting is a very sort of subjective art. Some people will say that was great! And some people will say, “That was the worst piece of crap I’ve ever seen!” Building is kind of the same thing. The two of them always compliment each other and the more successful I’ve become as an actor, the more successful I became in building.
If you could go back in time and spend a day in the life of anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Tim- There’s a person whom I love and admire and it will seem like a bizarre answer, but I’m fascinated by the time when Bruce Lee was living in Hollywood and producing Martial Arts films in the 70’s. To me that must have been one of the most bad-ass time’s ever to be an actor in Hollywood and I would have loved to have sort of seen that world through the eyes of Bruce Lee. To me he was one of those guys who was taken before his potential was really seen. He was such a phenomenal talent that I would have loved to have been in his class. I studied a little Martial Arts back in Chicago. Bruce Lee was sort of our Michael Jordan. Our icon. I just find him a fascinating person.