The “Prison Break” and “N.C.I.S” star answers YOUR questions
Muse Watson knows What “You Did “ Last Week – You asked him some questions about his TV (Prison Break, NCIS) career, Film (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Songcatcher, All the Rage) career, and well, anything else you had to know about The Killer Fisherman.
Here Comes the Hook…
Q. Mike asks: How did you get into acting?
A. Muse : Story presentation was something I was raised with. Down in Louisiana, we would entertain each other with stories. Taking mere facts about our day and turning them into entertainment for the entire family. Comments were made when I was very young that I had a talent for it. Probably because I felt the story was more important than the truth.
Many years later when one of my college professors encouraged me to audition for an upcoming performance of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”, I decided to try it. I was cast as a lead, Petruchio, and found my calling. I had thought about making a living as an FBI man or a rodeo clown but nothing would satisfy me again like acting. Good reviews, leading roles, and applause only served to make me know that this is what I would devote my life to…making a living would become a means to be able to act.
Q. Jan asks: Could you please ask Mr. Watson who or what the greatest influences on his acting style are?
A. Muse : I am not sure I have an acting style. I have always believed what I did. I mean, it has always been a matter of “becoming” the character or loaning your body to someone for a while. I never formally studied acting, so I never adopted any of the philosophies. I carry a worn hard bound copy of Stanislavsky’s “An Actor Prepares” with me to the set. Mostly out of ritual. If I were to have trouble getting in the mood to work, I might pick it up and read a paragraph or two. That has always been enough to get my creative juices working again. But generally, the preparation I have done prevents any hesitation. I study the script. Ask myself questions like, what music does he listen to alone?…what are his dreams, his motivations, his view of integrity? …what are his buttons? What do the other characters say about him?
Q. Craig asks: Hi, what was the story with the 3rd “I Know What You Did Last Summer” pic? Were you ever asked back? If so what was the original plot outline, or did they just move on without asking?
A. Muse : Hi, Craig. My agent sent me a copy of the proposed script. I can’t say what dialog went on between my agent and the producers, but the script was nothing short of dribble, and I told my agent that. Still, if Love had agreed to do it, I probably would have. I was really disappointed. At the same time I felt possessive of the character. I worked long and hard creating ‘Ben Willis’ and his movement. How would you feel if they announced Austin Powers 3 tomorrow starring Steven Seagal? It should not be listed with the other two. No one, producer, writer, actor, director, no one associated with the first two were with this picture. Please stop listing it with the other two! It’s at best a take-off. Not a sequel. It does not deserve to be called the 3rd. It’s “I’ll Always Know something something something”. Period.
Q. Colin asks : Why did your character die on “Prison Break”? Did you know D.B Cooper was going to die when you signed on?
A. Muse : Doesn’t make much sense does it? Was I told he would die? Yes. Did I believe it? No. When I signed on, I only signed on for five episodes. I was told then that in the original outline that my character would die. I was also told, that things could change. After doing 17 or so episodes and being told that I was the only one who could make Michael smile, I thought I had a chance of making it to the outside. My back story was active and there were lots of loose ends to tie up. I felt like I had created a character that would go on….probably more of a character than they envisioned. As Don Belarsario (NCIS) said in a letter to me last month, “you give more than you get on the page”.
Actors mourn character’s deaths. You spend that much time loaning your body to another person and you will miss them if they are suddenly taken away. That’s a fact of the business. But, I have had the hardest time with this. I don’t ever remember mourning a character like this, and it is probably because it was an untimely death in story logic. I saw Matt Olmstead ( producer, head writer ) at the wrap party who had some really nice things to say about what DB and I did for the show. I think I detected a mournful spirit in him also. Who knows? They have since made their thinking consistent, if obtuse, by killing off a lot of folks. Thanks for asking about DB. He means a lot to me.
Q. Shelley asks : Who did you like working the best with on “Prison Break”?
A. Muse : Shelley, Shelley, Shelley,….who do you love more, your Mom or your Dad? Stop it. Actually, I describe each actor and our relationship in some depth at my club on Yahoo. I spend a lot of time there answering questions and I just decided to devote an entire post to each of my buddies on Prison Break. Wentworth is a very, very special person. Dominic’s got a heart as big as all outdoors. The others are there as well:
Q. Steven asks : Can you tell me where the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” movies were filmed? My cousin says they filmed some scenes for it near San Diego?
A. Muse : Well, the first one starts out north of San Francisco….because the director wanted a road on the beach with no houses, and you can’t find that where the story takes place on the east coast (in North Carolina). The director was from Ireland so he didn’t think you would notice. The second one was done mostly in Mexico and some on the Sony lot. There could have been a scene done in San Diego….like the stuff Freddie [Prinze Jr] did or something….I don’t know. I can tell you, if there was shooting done there, it was not a major series of scenes.
Q. Alan asks : Can you tell us about a new film of yours that has just been listed, “Between the Sand and the Sky”?
A. Muse : I was first contacted by a producer named [ahem] Clint Morris about the project. I have known him for years and I trusted his opinion.
Shortly after I met actor Chris Showerman for coffee. Chris wrote the script. I was so excited about the script. For one thing, it is a western, and I would play a horse in a western. The second thing that struck me about the script is that it is an unusual western. More along the lines of “Wild, Wild, West”. The other thing is that it is a good story, a story that will entertain. We are currently casting.
Q. Adam Innes asks : What do you remember about your role on “American Gothic”? I’m a huge Gary Cole fan, so interested to hear what you have to say about that.
A. Muse : I am also a big Gary Cole fan. I was at a Studio City eatery and heard someone on the street shout, “MUSE”, as I turned around, I was delighted to see that it was Gary. I think the world of him. I wish I could work with him more. That American Gothic episode I did has made it’s mark in television history. I was auditioning for Shaun Cassidy a couple of years ago and he introduced me to the rest of the people in the room as the guy who played “Wash Sutpen” in his favourite episode of “American Gothic”. No one can believe the popsicle scene made the censor’s cut for prime time television.
I was on the plane headed for Wilmington, North Carolina studying my lines and hoping that the casting department had not cast a local minor in the role of the little girl. I just did not want to ruin some little girl’s life with therapy for the rest of her life. As I got off the plane, Bridget Walsh walked up to me and said, are you playing Wash Sutpen. I said, “Yes, are you playing Poppy?” “from Los Angeles?” “…how long have you lived in Los Angeles?” She said, “10 years.” I was so relieved. She was 25 years old and had been in L.A. for 10 years? I wasn’t going to ruin her life. I was so relieved.
As we were filming the popsicle scene, Lou Antonio, the director, yelled out, “this will never make the cut”. The DP said, “well why are we doing this?”, and Lou yelled out “I need it for my reel.” [Laughs] It was so sexy and perverted I was uninvited to people’s homes who had daughters…[Laughs]. That episode has gone down in TV history with a disturbing distinction.
Q. Snoop asks : What roles have you lost to other actors that you ‘really’ wanted to play?
A. Muse : Just about every role Chris Cooper has been honored for. [Laughs]
Q. Ben Clarkson, Iowa, asks : You did a film with Tony Todd called “House of Grimm” a while back. Is that still happening, if so, when can we see it? It will be great to see two horror icons sharing the screen together.
A. Muse : I have no idea where this film went. It came along when I had some free time and when I got to the set I filmed three of the five scenes that were written in the script and two that were not and several weeks later a buddy of mine called who had a small role and said he was having trouble getting paid. They seemed a tad disorganized.
Q. Grey asks : Can you tell us about the worst film experience of your career? (I hope you don’t say “I Know What You Did Last Summer – because I love that movie)
A. Muse : No. “I know” was a great experience. I hate to tell you the worst, because the people producing the film were the kindest, most loving people in the business, but it was “End of the Spear”. Shortly after arriving in Panama, I got deathly ill and was told that not just 2 of my lines were to be in Spanish as was written in the script, but my entire role was in Spanish. When I got to the set I spent most of my time in a ‘port a john’ learning Spanish.
Q. Tony asks : How did you get the role on N.C.I.S?
A. Muse : I have been told that Don Belarsario liked my work on “Prison Break”.
Q. Leo asks : Did they let you keep the hook?
A. Muse : They actually sent it to me and it now sits on my mantle over the fireplace in my hide-out in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. There were nine hooks altogether. As I remember, there were three plastic ones, three rubber, one with just an eye-hook for dragging and two made of steel. I have what they call the hero hook. The metal one used for close ups. It’s funny because they flew the hook from Los Angeles to New York with a production assistant ( the hook had it’s own seat ) for my performance with Love Hewitt on “Saturday Night Live”. The production assistant told me he had been threatened with death if anything happen to the hook. The prop guys and I always joked that my limo was really for the hook.
Q. Anonymous asks : You worked with Colin Farrell on one of his first films, “American Outlaws”. Early impressions of him?
A. Muse : I would rather Colin Farrell kick me in the crouch than any actor I know. Seriously, the role called for it and he has excellent control and is a fine actor. A lot of actors can’t move and don’t realize how important movement is to acting. I enjoyed working with him and hope to work with him again soon.
Q. Jonathan, Parramatta, asks: After having now worked with Dominic Purcell on “Prison Break”, how do Australians work differently to Americans?
A. Muse : I don’t see a difference (Only Clint Morris takes god-awful long coffee breaks). One of my dearest friends just married an Australian girl. I asked him about her. He and I were both raised in the South and he told me that she was like an old fashion southern girl. Gracious, kind, thoughtful, with a grand sense of family. I said, “what if she ever wants to return to Australia, could you move there?” He said, “Yes, I could.” And began telling me what he knew. Made me wish I had a reason to move there.
Q. Melly asks : Do fans ever recognize you in the street?
A. Muse : Often.. …and since “Prison Break” the times have doubled. People used to look at me like they didn’t know if I dated their sister or they saw me on tv. Now they know who I am. Recurring on “NCIS” as Mark Harmon’s mentor, Mike Franks, has also brought a lot of recognition. That show consistently has double the audience that “Prison Break” had.
My wife and I will be sitting at a restaurant and she may lean over to me and say, “you’ve been made”, and sure enough, I’ll look over and someone will be staring and smiling and say “sorry about your cat”, and then I sign an autograph.
Q. Tyne asks : You are producing a new film soon; is that new territory for you? How does that differ from acting?
A. Muse : Producers are business men. Actors are artists. A good producer will keep the drama ‘on’ camera. Most of the job is preparation and organization. If a project is well prepared and well organized, the artist have what they need when they need it and are able to concentrate on the characters and the story. With a degree in Economics and 19 films under my belt in transportation as a driver, captain, and co-ordinator, besides the 44 films as an actor, it is a more logical transition than it may seem on the surface. I have always been one of the few actors who ran my career as a business. When I met Burt Lancaster, who was the first actor to have his own production company, he and I got along famously. He admired my business sense and I, well, he was Burt Lancaster.
I am looking forward to Producing. The business has been taken over by corporate types. Movies used to be made by artists trying to handle business, now it’s being run by businessmen spamming the audience. The product has suffered and so has the experience. The mantra now is, “if I am smart enough to beat you out of money, I deserve it, I am the better man”. I want to produce movies where there is a sense of fairness in the deal making. A good deal is when both parties are happy. After those deals are made, then the artist should take over and produce art….and not have to worry about money. If Clint, Chris, and I are able to produce an entertaining story here in an atmosphere of relaxed artistic expression, we will attract “names” to our projects that will guarantee their financial success.
Q. Bob asks : what can we see you in next?
A. Muse : Feburary 7th ( in the states) you will see me as Mickey Bates on “Criminal Minds” and then again as Mike Franks on “NCIS” a couple of weeks later. This week I am filming an episode of “Ghost Whisperer” with my old friend Jennifer Love Hewitt. It will be such a pleasure to work with her again. She is the best.
A great way to find out on any particular week where I will appear worldwide is on my page on IMDB. Just go to the site and click on “On TV This Week”.
Q. Eric asks : Any chance that you will appear in a flashback on “Prison Break”? Or have we seen the last of you?
A. Muse : I keep getting these papers to sign to use my footage. Depending on where you are, I think you will see flashbacks.
Q. RB Lindgren asks : What’s the last movie you saw?
A. Muse : “Dreamgirls”. One of my all time favourite musicals. The film version missed the mark. If there had been no “Dreamgirls” it might have been a wonderful movie. But there was. There is. …and a lot of folks remember having their insides torn out by the sheer power of the soundtrack. The movie was vanilla. Glad I didn’t buy it.