Russell Hornsby Interview on ‘Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector’

Although Russell Hornsby (Grimm) hasn’t spoken directly to Denzel Washington about Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector, he did have a conversation with Denzel’s wife, Pauletta. Oscar winner Denzel Washington starred in the 1999 feature film adaptation of Jeffery Deaver’s The Bone Collector novel, and Russell Hornsby takes on the lead role in NBC’s upcoming crime drama debuting on January 10, 2020.

“[Pauletta Washington] said we’re rooting for you – Denzel and I are rooting for you,” said Hornsby during our roundtable interview at the 2019 New York Comic-Con. “Honestly, that was good enough for me.”

Hornsby went on to explain that he and Denzel Washington, who he worked with on the Oscar-winning film and Tony Award-winning play Fences, are similar in their approach to roles. Both like to be challenged, and Hornsby believes this project fulfills that desire to be pushed.

Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector follows the title character, a NYPD detective and forensic genius, as he comes out of retirement to track a notorious serial killer who’s known as “The Bone Collector.” Teaming up with Officer Amelia Sachs (Arielle Kebbel), Lincoln once again is on the hunt for the man who left him paralyzed.

“It’s the challenge of dealing with his disability, quite honestly,” explained Hornsby, describing the appeal of the series. “The type of theatrical that I am, that I’ve been historically, I want as big a challenge as I can possibly get. Am I nervous? Was I nervous? You’re damn right I was. But I know that I can do it. But, more importantly, is that I tell people all the time that you can’t just be a thinking actor – you have to be a feeling actor. I think the challenge of dealing with the character with such a disability is that you have to feel, you have to have a sense of empathy, for these disabled people.”

Hornsby spoke with, and attended physical therapy sessions with, a Q4 quadriplegic who helped provide insight into how to portray Lincoln Rhyme. From those meetings, Hornsby was able to understand how a person with a disability might hold their body.

“Seeing how their disability affects their posture, how it affects how they move their head or how limited an arrangement do they have with their hands or their arms. How it affects how they talk, how they breathe, all of those things,” said Hornsby. “That’s what I want to do with the role. That’s what really enticed me to it because I think that I am a thinking and a feeling actor, so I feel that there’s no one better than me to be charged with this challenge, to be charged with this role because I do possess all of that.”

Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector Russell Hornsby
Russell Hornsby, Michael Imperioli, and Arielle Kebbel in ‘Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector’ (Photo by: Zach Dilgard/NBC)

Hornsby says preparing for this role and then actually playing Lincoln has left him with a new sense of what people with disabilities go through in everyday life.

“I do think of myself as one who looks at things authentically but also responsibly,” said Hornsby. “I have to because when you look at also being a black man in America, I know how we’ve been treated. I know how black folks have been treated. I know how women have been treated. I have a mother. I have a wife. You know, all of these things I have to take into consideration living in this country. So now, how are the disabled treated? How may they have been disregarded? What are we doing to really consider them when we sort of change the landscape of the city when we look about creating ramps on sidewalks and corners and whatnot like that? I look at that stuff differently.”

Russell Hornsby is hopeful the show will help bring added awareness to how we treat people with disabilities. “Stuff ain’t going to change overnight. You know what I mean? But you just want to bring about awareness to it like you want to do for anything or anybody else,” said Hornsby. “This will just be a part of the conversation. It doesn’t have to be the conversation. But it will be part of it.”

Asked about Lincoln’s personal journey in season one, Hornsby replied, “I think it’s about getting out of his mental imparity. I think he has to now expand himself and get from always thinking about being insular. I think he’s become a loner and I think he always has been because he’s the smartest one in the room. He’s been able to sort of dismiss people. He’s been this cynical curmudgeon most of his life, and even more so because of the disability. But now how does he bring people in because he knows he has to rely on people? He has to rely on Amelia. He has to rely on Kate and Felix and Sellitto, and Claire who is his helper. He has to find a way to say, ‘I need you,’ when that’s not in his vocabulary.

That’s his biggest challenge is just sort of to metaphorically reach his hand out to say, ‘Please come in.’”