Did you miss Matt Lauria? I did. After two weeks of reruns, he's back tonight as FOX's The Chicago Code returns with the first of six all-new episodes to finish out its critically acclaimed first season. To mark the occasion, Lauria and I sat down to discuss his role as Chicago rookie detective Caleb Evers, the NBC premiere of his previous series Friday Night Lights, and what it's like working with some true heavyweights to make one of the best shows on television.
You're in a unique position: you're not in production while your show is airing. Is it different to have done all the work already and just watch the whole thing unfold?
It's really interesting. A really cool benefit of that is that I have a heightened appreciation of the show. When you're so close to it, you can't see the forest for the trees. There's always more to catch. When I watch it again, I'm like, "Oh, yeah. I didn't see that the first time."
One of the things I like about you is that you've always got something to say in the show's behind-the-scenes videos. Have you also figured out a lot about your character? How much input do you have when it comes to Caleb?
The reason I'm in the behind the scenes stuff is every time any of them were on set, I was always really eager to volunteer. I was excited. Anything I could do to help promote the show.
It's interesting. Shawn [Ryan] has really well drawn characters and relationships, and as the season rolls on, it becomes more collaborative. The writers pick up the rhythms and nuances, and over time, they kind of make you look good. They cater to your choices with the character. It's a give and take, which wouldn't exist without great writing.
I have to ask because he's absolutely blown my mind: what's it like working with Jason Clarke? How fun was it to do the scene where Caleb confronts Jarek about his infidelity (at the end of "The Gold Coin Kid")?
He's a great actor, and he's a really intense artist. He brings an intensity to his work and to his discipline with the work, and it really sets the bar pretty high. Consequently, I've learned a tremendous amount working with him. He's also a very generous actor. Even people who were in one scene, he makes sure that he really gives in a way that will ensure a great performance from them. He's a really intense dude. We have a good time; we have a good balance.
That was a fun [scene]. It felt good. It's all about trust and respect, and what's really cool about the dynamic of their relationship is that they earn each other's respect. Neither of them are willing to give up anything unless they see something from the other. It's a little bit of a chess match.
That scene displays one of Caleb's strengths - that he's not just the stereotypical new cop. Did you consciously choose to play him to evade that stereotype?
I certainly didn't want to play that stereotype and I think Shawn knew that was a boring stereotype, and he was trying to avoid it. [Caleb]'s got guts, he's got intelligence, and he's a fast learner. It's more interesting; it makes it more dynamic.
It has to be incredibly fun to play a cop - how have the show's action sequences been for you? I was particularly impressed that you actually had to stop and reload during the shootout in "Gillis, Chase & Babyface." That never happens.
It's tricky. You've got to [reload] without looking down.
I really don't want to put Chicagoans to shame and I really don't want to put cops to shame, so I'm glad that it's working. It's a blast. It's feeding the twelve-year-old inside of me.
You have another series that you've wrapped about to start airing - the final season of NBC's Friday Night Lights. What's it like to know you're going to be on TV twice a week?
It's a great show. I started watching it as a fan, well after it'd begun airing, before I ever even knew I'd be cast in it. It's a little hard to believe that. I'm honored.
Friday Night Lights filmed in Texas and The Chicago Code obviously in Illinois. How has it been for you to be consistently working on projects in places that aren't the typical Hollywood backdrops?
That is a total gift. There's a definite atmosphere. You'd never get the feel and the pace and the rhythm and gravitas of Chicago in some studio in Hollywood. With that comes the personality, the culture, the social beauty that is unique to a specific location. That's the same with Texas.
For me, it gives me a heightened sense of accountability to serve the people. If I'm playing someone from that place, I want to fully submerge myself into their lifestyle.
With those two shows, you've played two roles that a lot of boys dream of being: a football player and a cop. What's next for you? A superhero, perhaps?
That would be cool, wouldn't it? I don't know. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to have as much variety as I've had early on in my career. Hopefully that'll continue.
What shows are you currently watching?
I just started watching My So-Called Life on Netflix. There are some fantastic actors in it. I also just started watching Parks & Recreation, and watched my first episode of Glee. My in-laws watch Brotherhood and love it, so I'm going to get to that.
My thanks to Matt Lauria for this interview. Check out The Chicago Code when it returns tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on FOX, then check in after for our review of tonight's episode - and stop by ChicagoCodeFan.com for more!