Exclusive Interview with James Frain:
By True Blood News on Sep 22 2010 | 34 Comments »
“Franklin doesn’t know he’s psychotic”
James Frain made a big impression as Franklin Mott on True Blood this season … a big impression full of crazy, psychopathic, lovesick lunacy. He was so intense and so brilliant that he’s become a fan favorite and many mourned Franklin’s true death. We had an opportunity recently to ask Frain a few questions about his role as Tara’s unwanted suitor and about his other roles, getting to know a little better the awesome British actor behind Franklin Mott.
TB-N: You landed your first role in Shadowlands (1993) directed by Richard Attenborough, who discovered you when you were in your third year at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. What was it like to begin your career with such an important film? Did that role change your life in any way?
JF: I think I was the only guy on that set who didn’t have a knighthood. Lucky break is too small a term. Shadowlands gave me my career.
TB-N: And what a great start! In that film, you worked with Anthony Hopkins, portraying a taciturn student of the British writer C.S Lewis. You also starred with him again in the film Titus (1999). What was it like working with the talented Sir Anthony Hopkins?
JF: Hopkins is one of the greats; watching the intensity of his concentration up close was inspiring. On set he’s relaxed and fun, and he’s a brilliant mimic. He’s of the work-hard-but-don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously school, and that had a big influence on me.
TB-N: You are a popular face on TV, having appeared in shows like “The Closer,” “24,” “Invasion,” “Californication” … and especially “The Tudors.” What are your favorite TV shows? What’s the show you have enjoyed acting in the most?
JF: I enjoyed all of them in different ways, but ‘The Tudors’ stands out because it was my first experience of working on a character over several years. My all time favorite TV show? HBO’s ‘The Wire.’
TB-N: And it was in The Tudors where you portrayed for the first time a subject of a sanguinare King. You magnificently brought to life again to Sir Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s councilor. Did you enjoy being under Cromwell’s skin?
JF: I imagined how Cromwell might have seen himself; as a good man doing God’s work, and I was fascinated by the contradictions in his personality. I enjoyed putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and I appreciated how generous writer Michael Hirst was with his process.
TB-N: It’s a busy year for you. You’ve been working recently on the much anticipated sequel to “Tron,” “Tron Legacy,” with Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde (releasing in Dec.). Can you tell us a bit about your character, Jarvis?
JF: Jarvis is the Chief of Secret Police within ‘Tron’ World, but he’s completely inept. He spends most of his time trying not to get killed.
TB-N: And you are also sharing the screen with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in the upcoming film “Water for Elephants”, where you play an elephant caretaker…
JF: Rosie the elephant is a total pro and a major scene stealer. She’s going to be a big star.
TB-N: Seems you’ve jumped from one villain to another; you play an evil billionaire in the upcoming NBC superhero drama series “The Cape.”
Is the project confirmed after filming the pilot?
JF: Not all billionaires are the of the loving kind. Peter Flemming has complicated family issues which he resolves by adopting creepy disguises and doing terrible things. Only one man can stop him (although this may take a few seasons). The Cape starts airing in January 2011.
TB-N: We’ve read that you live in Los Angeles. Being born in Leeds and raised in Essex, do you miss living and working in the UK? What are you into when not acting?
JF: When I’m not acting I like hanging out with my kids, drawing, and cooking. I get to travel to Europe a lot for work so that helps keep me connected to the UK.
TB-N: You have been a regular on the stage in the UK, appearing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court Theatre, and now you’re a vampire on True Blood. How did your stage training prepare you for playing a psychotic, love-sick vampire?
JF: Shakespeare wrote genre (although vampire wasn’t as hip then) and his villains are complex, funny, scary, and tragic. So I guess that’s a pretty good build up to Franklin.
TB-N: Had you ever watched True Blood before you auditioned for the role of Franklin Mott?
JF: I knew it was a phenomenon but I hadn’t caught up yet, but I found it useful going in without any preconceptions. I had a couple of scenes from the first few episodes to work with. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I read with Rutina to make sure we had chemistry. We started shooting about a week later.
TB-N: While True Blood is known for its intense characters and risqué plots, Franklin Mott entered the season with a whole new whirlwind of crazy. Although he’s a villain, fans really enjoyed the character … a lot. Did you expect such an overwhelming reaction to Franklin?
JF: I didn’t anticipate about how people might react, and I had no idea what was coming. I feel very grateful for how enthusiastic the response has been.
TB-N: And you got a chance to live for yourself the fan love at Comic-Con. Was this your first experience at such a crazed event?
JF: It was my first time and I had a blast. There’s a celebratory atmosphere – people get to feel a part of the shows they love. It was cool to see people dressed as zombies and superhero’s just hanging out in San Diego’s cafe’s and bars.
TB-N: What did you like best about playing the role of Franklin Mott? What has been the biggest challenge?
JF: I liked Franklin’s sense of humor, and how he didn’t have a clue how crazy he is. The challenge was keeping all the elements in play without losing the balance. I’m still holding out for a spin off-show – I’m thinking something along the lines of ‘Flavor of Love.’
TB-N: You seem to have a great sense of humor based on other interviews we’ve read. Were there any scenes when you struggled not to laugh on set?
JF: The texting scene cracked me up. The writers kept coming up with great ideas for Franklin but speed texting? That was comedy gold.
TB-N: Franklin is deliciously psychotic. Is there anything specific you do to prepare for that?
JF: Franklin doesn’t know he’s psychotic. I think he’d be upset if you told him that.
TB-N: Ok, we won’t tell him then. Let’s talk about love. You have filmed sex scenes before; how would you compare True Blood’s neck biting sex scenes to what you have done in the past?
JF: The teeth make you talk like Elmer Fudd. Not so sexy.
TB-N: Hah! We guess it takes some training to get used to it. Anyway, you didn’t look like Elmer Fudd to us. OK, we can’t resist. Those silk jammies were hot. Did you get to keep them?
JF: I’m wearing them right now.
TB-N: Sexy! Thank you James for being such a nice dude.