Dermot Mulroney on Crisis, His Character, and What’s in Store on the New Dramatic Series

Dermot Mulroney Crisis Interview
Dermot Mulroney as Thomas Gibson in 'Crisis' (Photo by: Vivian Zink/NBC)
NBC debuted the new dramatic thriller Crisis on March 16, 2014 with Dermot Mulroney, Gillian Anderson, Rachael Taylor, and Lance Gross in starring roles. As initially introduced in the first episode, Mulroney’s character is a divorced dad named Thomas Gibson who doesn’t share a close relationship with his teenage daughter. Accompanying her high school class filled with the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful on a field trip, Mulroney attempts to act like a hero when their bus is attacked and the students are transported to a secret location where they’re held hostage. In what promises to be the first twist of many, it turns out Gibson is actually in on the hijacking of the bus and the plot to kidnap his daughter’s high school class.
In support of the new series, Mulroney took part in a conference call to discuss what audiences can expect from Crisis as the plot develops. However, he was very careful as to not reveal any spoilers so feel free to read on without fear of learning any real plot secrets.

Dermot Mulroney Crisis Interview

Can you talk about the hidden elements of your character?
Dermot Mulroney: “I can talk about them, sure. There are more hidden elements of the character of Gibson than the current viewer has any idea about. There’s an incredible plot twist, several of them in fact in the opening episode. But what you need to know is that this keeps happening week after week. It’s what makes this show so fun. As it evolved in its story, I just kept being so pleased by the twists and turn of the plot. So what I say is there’s more to come, if you like that.”
As a father, how do you relate to these characters? This is like the parents’ worst nightmare come true when their kids are kidnapped. Do you think the lengths these people go through is realistic at all?
Dermot Mulroney: “I love the world that Far [Shariat] and Rand [Ravich] created for Crisis. It has just about one DNA strand off of reality, so come with us and you won’t hardly notice. That’s what I say about whether it’s believable is it is in the world that we’ve created. Now I can’t personally imagine where I would draw the line if I were coerced or forced to do something to protect my child, so I can’t imagine what I wouldn’t do. I think that’s one of the parts of the character that I can most relate to on a personal level.”
He’s part of the scheme but also has a daughter involved who was kidnapped. Can you talk about how we’re going to see that affect him at all? Are we going to see him torn up about what he has to do?
Dermot Mulroney: “Yes, the story gets really crazy but what stays the same is how much he loves his daughter and how important it is for him to repair his relationship with her and put his family back together. Now, his intentions are good; you will see that his methods are questionable at times but then you’ll learn how effective it is. And so the story makes you really question motives versus results. It’s very smart in that way. Another thing I love about it is there is a lot of story coming at you really fast but I’m more surprised to how clear it is. In other words it’s complex – the show is complex but it’s not confusing. You’ll see what I mean. It’s really great the way they were able to do that.”
Do you believe with the current consensus that television is the place to be now and that it’s offering juicer roles and projects?
Dermot Mulroney: “I’m so happy to be doing a show like Crisis and especially for NBC at this time because it is different than it was even a few years ago, in terms of the stories that a major network is willing to tell. And for me, to be honest with you, for a long time I thought it would be kind of a grind to play the same character over and over again, so that was one of the things that kept me doing films only. But I was wrong. All I had to do was find a character like this because I was thrilled to work as this character for such a long time. I didn’t expect to be gratified in the way that I was to create a character and develop it over a longer period of time. Yes, so it’s a lot different from film and it’s really fun.”
Were you aware of most of the twists and turns ahead of time or are you kind of learning it as the story unfolds? How does that affect you playing the part?
Dermot Mulroney: “It’s true that I had very little knowledge of what was coming moments later. We’d get the scripts about four or five days in advance … the thing is we did the whole season as planned, 13 episodes, so now I know everything and it’s awesome. There’s some really good semi-sideline twists in our story too that I think [sci-fi fans] are going to love. It comes unexpected and it’s not alien motherships or anything, but there’s some touches. It’s really enjoyable in terms of those types of stories.”

Is there a clear-cut answer on whether your character is good or bad? And if there is an answer, do you have it and do you have a preference as to whether he’s good or bad?
Dermot Mulroney: “No, I have no preference. I prefer that people wonder. But yes I do know for myself and quite clearly is that he is good. There’s no other choice as the person hired to portray this person than that, but people will wonder that for themselves. Again, maybe I said something to that effect before, but his intentions are good.”
Did you like not having all the information upfront? Was this something that was more of a challenge for you?
Dermot Mulroney: “It took me about two or three episodes before I really embraced it and then I loved not knowing. I enjoyed that reading of next week’s script. It became so enjoyable … and me wanting to know what was happening next wasn’t going to make the scripts be written any faster. I should be clear, there were very specific story points that I was aware of and needed to be in order to play the character who knows the whole plan. But I didn’t know how the other characters were going to develop or how their storylines end up crossing, things like that.
The intrigue of the story was the reveal for me each week. And so to answer your question, I loved it but not at first, I had to adjust to that way of working. A screenplay ends on a page number and then you close it and you know everything that happens, so it was very different for me.”

Dermot Mulroney Crisis Interview
Dermot Mulroney stars in 'Crisis' (Photo by: James Dimmock/NBC)
What are some of your most memorable moments from filming Crisis?
Dermot Mulroney: “Well, you’ll come to see that a relationship and a dynamic develops within the kitchen, so I worked very close with Max Martini who plays Koz. He’s in the first episode. He’s got a mask on for some of it, but he’s the one that amputates my left pinky. And our other partner in crime was Jessica Dean Turner who was a Chicago actress who was also particularly great in the part. We felt like we had our little team there while the Crisis crew was off shooting all these other storylines. So it was sort of like you could color code the storylines, but then of course they all come to cross at the end of the season in a very gratifying way, so stay tuned.”
You stick to the script, but how much input are you actually allowed? Can you develop much of a backstory for this guy outside of the scripts?
Dermot Mulroney: “No, it’s all what they tell you. This was that. I would have approached this anyway but I think that television sort of more typically works like that. I mean you’ve always heard it’s a writer’s medium and so forth, so I came in knowing that I would just be doing the job that I was asked to do. But that’s how it’s done, really. I’m not sure this web of plot was so intricate that there wasn’t anything I could add. I mean, that wasn’t my job either, so this for me was fun because I was reading the scripts like a spy novel and then just doing what they said.
But I didn’t know in episode four necessarily how something I was doing was going to affect something we would shoot for episode eight. That’s a confusing example … what I mean is as we were going I just followed the steps as they laid them out in front of me.”
Now looking back over the episodes you’ve filmed, would you have played anything differently?
Dermot Mulroney: “No. The writers were giving away the right amount at the right time throughout this story. I think the answer will be best understood, like you said, around episode eight or 10.”
What do you admire most about Gibson?
Dermot Mulroney: “Well there are two things: his heart and his mind. I very much admire the reasons that he goes to the lengths that he does and makes the decisions he does, which is an intense and profound love for his daughter and his family. But the thing that most impresses me about Gibson is how truly genuis he is. It’s fun to play a character that is vastly more intelligent than I am, to be frank. It made me feel really smart.”
What’s the most challenging aspect of playing him?
Dermot Mulroney: “I found it difficult sometimes to contain my evil glee as other stuff takes place later on. I’ll be honest with you, it’s really fun to play that character. My challenge was to play it in a contained and controlled way. I mean, yes, there are other aspects to the character that are challenging too, but that was one of them for sure, just to be real cool I guess.”
What can you say about that notebook you keep referring to in the series?
Dermot Mulroney: “The notebook is as much a character in this series as well. It get its own storyline in a way and it’s one of the best props I’ve ever worked with. I wish I had in my mind the name of the woman who worked on this prop – page after page of intricate diagrams and drawings, all of which dealt directly with the story. If you can imagine this, there were things in that book when we were shooting the pilot that I didn’t know about until about seven months later when we were shooting the series and that’s when the picture that had been in the notebook the whole time came into play. It was really fascinating for me. And for me the double whammy pilot where you cut the finger off and then right away it’s revealed that he had planned even that, I think is what makes this first episode so great. In other words, a lot of other writers would have had the one and then a little while later would have had the other. Rand and Far gave you that bing-bang, back-to-back plot twist I think that’s just irresistible. It’s great the way they structured the reveals in this first episode and we do that throughout the series.”
We’ve seen Gibson being pretty surprisingly strong and in control. Are we going to see weaknesses at some point soon?
Dermot Mulroney: “Well his weakness of course is… No, I’ll answer it this way, not everything in Gibson’s master plan is going to go as he conceived so some of the fun parts of the series are to see Gibson think on his feet and have to adapt to the changing situation. So there’s that tension between knowing that he has a great plan and learning that it’s not going according to that plan and what’s the character going to do next becomes part of the series. It is a good question for that reason because he’s always close to having everything under control but it’s not as simple as that. As I said, it’s a very complex story so he has to adapt as it evolves.”

-By Rebecca Murray

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