Today I spoke with Person of Interest’s, Kevin Chapman, who plays Detective Lionel Fusco, a “dirty cop” who seems to be trying to do the right thing. Mr. Chapman was discovered by the late and greatly missed, Ted Demme in the late nineties while working for the City of Boston’s film office and was cast in Demme’s film, MYSTIC AVE. Since then he has appeared in several critically acclaimed movies such as MYSTIC RIVER, IN THE BEDROOM and SUNSHINE CLEANING. Person of Interest is not his first foray into television either. Mr. Chapman has appeared in shows such as Sons of Anarchy, Lost, Rescue Me, and 24, with the longest run being that of the character Freddy Cork on Showtime’s Brotherhood. He has worked with Sean Penn, Keifer Sutherland, Denis Leary and now Jim Caviezel. Speaking to Mr. Chapman today I discovered something else about him, despite his success and the caliber of talent he possesses and is associated with, he is down to earth and a genuinely nice guy.
SI: With the current state of television, all of the police procedural dramas and situational comedies that seem to fill the air, it’s refreshing to see an intelligent, unique show like Person of Interest come to television thanks to Jonathan Nolan and involvement of J.J. Abrams. Did this factor in to your decision to become a part of the show?
KC: J.J.’s track record speaks for itself and now it seems with him branching in to motion pictures as well, is bringing the same quality that he has brought to television for a number of years now to the big screen. I was very excited to work with him. Jonathan Nolan, I’ve been a fan of his for years. MOMENTO is one of my favorite films, I thought the last BATMAN (The Dark Knight) was really good as well. As a matter of fact, that was the first thing I did when we were shooting the pilot, I was taunting him to put me in the next BATMAN. It didn’t work out for me that way. I think he’s like thirty-five years old and this guy’s gonna have a huge career. What makes it so refreshing is that he’s just a…good guy. He’s just so talented and so humble and everything with him is a collaboration, which is really refreshing from an acting stand point. He really listens to what you have to say and he’ll…take it under advisement and try to make some type of adjustment that makes you comfortable saying the words that he wants you to say. I’m just so happy to be working with two incredibly talented people and then we have Greg Plageman who was our show runner who I worked with on Cold Case, who I was a big fan of as well. So it’s really been quite an experience.
SI: I’m curious, did they seek you out for this role…or did you pursue them?
KC: You know what it was? It was one of those things where the stars just aligned. April Webster who’s been very supportive of my career has been looking for something to put me in and she was our casting director, and she cast the pilot. I had worked with Greg Plageman on Cold Case…and we had known each other but had never really sat down and had a conversation, and then April brought me in and Jonathan and Greg were both fans of mine from Brotherhood on Showtime, they were big fans of the series, so when I came in it just felt right. I was a fan of their work, they were a fan of mine, we had a great script and a great story to tell and April put it all together. I had done a couple episodes of Lost, which of course J.J. had done so it just really felt right.
SI: So with your character, Detective Fusco, what is it about him that is so appealing to you? I know you have mentioned how his duality intrigues you, could you tell me more about that?
KC: Well, whenever I am looking to play a role, the first thing I’m looking for is truth. Is this a true character, is it somebody that could actually be in society today? That’s something that I look at and when I saw Lionel (Detective Fusco), I thought, “Hey, I can see that. I can see this cop, who comes into this precinct , he gets paired up with these guys who are all corrupt and he becomes somewhat of a comformist and kind of goes with the flow because he doesn’t want to become an outsider.” Then as that whole thing just kind of dismantles and Reese (Caviezel) comes along and says, Lionel, I see the good in you, I’m gonna allow you to live. But if you ever hurt anyone again, I’m gonna be the first one to kill you. Everyone loves a good story of redemption and I feel like Lionel is a redeemable character. It’s great what the writers have done because with every episode they bring Lionel more and more to life. They remind him every once in a while that he is corrupt and that he is a crooked cop, but they create moments where they leave that up to the audience, whether or not they think he’s a good guy or a bad guy. For me that’s the most exciting thing to play. Whenever I play a character, I try not to judge the character. My job is to bring him to life and portray him in a light where the audience makes some form of connection with him and we’ll let the audience judge him.
SI: What genre really fits this show? It seems to be kind of a sci-fi, detective drama?
KC: Is it really that sci-fi? Is it really that far off or are they just bringing something to light where America is going, wow, this is the direction we’re moving in. Look what’s going on in society today. You’ve got cell phones being tapped for the purpose of news stories, is it really that far off? Walk into an intersection and see if you see a camera, is it really that far-fetched?
SI: I suppose not, that’s a good point. Keeping genre in mind, what kind of fan base have you noticed so far?
KC: It runs the whole gamut. You have people who are Michael Emerson’s fans from Lost, you have people who are Taraji Henson’s fans, and Jim Caviezel from his movie career, then you have fans of mine from Brotherhood and my movie career, so we have fans from sixteen to sixty-five. That’s something that really excites me, I can see the whole gamut that runs the whole of society, we have white collar and blue collar, young and old, it seems like each week it’s picking up more and more. The way I base when you’re doing something special is when people approach you me in the street and people come up and go “Hey, I really love the show”, or “Hey, your the guy from the show, I love your character”. This morning, we were down on Wall Street and people were stopping saying, “We love the show, you’re great”, and thats a great feeling, when you know you’re making something that is affecting people. There’s nothing better than being a part of a great television series.
SI: You’ve been in this business for a little while now and you seem to work consistently. I know this speaks to your talent, but how do you manage this in such a competitive field?
KC: A little bit of talent and a little bit of luck mixed together. I mean, there aren’t a whole lot of people in Hollywood that look like me. Sometimes I get people who say “you look like a young Brian Dennehey”, that’s about the closest comparison I’ve ever gotten. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a working guy, I worked for the City of Boston, ten years ago. It hasn’t been something that I’ve been doing since I was nineteen years old and that I don’t have a lot of life experience other than acting. I had a lot of life experience before I became an actor, and as an actor that”s what your paid to do, to portray life. So, I think that’s where I’ve had some success. I had a very full life before I even became an actor, so there are a lot of things I’ve experienced in my life that I’ve been able to use in my performance. All the stuff I do is character, I would rather have twenty minutes in a great show rather than sixty minutes in a bad show.
SI: Is it easy for you to slip into one character and then another?
KC: It’s never easy, there’s always a bit of work involved. Everyone has their own style, so you have to embrace it. Some writers really don’t want you improvising, and sometimes that’s a fine line you have to walk without offending their art, so you try to work somewhere in the middle where you give a performance that everyone involved in the process is happy with and that’s when you’re successful.
SI: I saw that you had producing credits for LONELY STREET. Are you interested in doing more outside of acting?
KC: I really welcome and embrace all areas of storytelling, it’s just such a great collaboration of people from all walks of life, which I find to be the most fascinating component of it all. Bringing these people together that you may not normally spend time with outside of this collaboration, but you all come together to make this thing that brings entertainment to people.
SI: So do you think directing or producing again?
KC: I’ll definitely produce another film. Directing, I don’t know. I don’t think I’d be ready to direct. That’s a tough gig. When I play a character, I have to think about my one character. A director’s got to think about the 140 characters that are in his script. I don’t know if I’d be quite ready for that yet.
Thanks again to Kevin Chapman for taking the time to share more about Person of Interest and the path that led him to this role. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and look forward to speaking with him again on future projects. Tune in to Person of Interest on CBS on Thursdays at 9/8 Central and on CBS.com.