Can you solve crimes without ever leaving one building? That's the idea behind Endgame, a Canadian series that gets a second life on Hulu starting today.
In Endgame, veteran actor Shawn Doyle (Big Love, 24, Lie To Me) plays Russian chess champion Arkady Balagan, who's confined himself to a hotel after witnessing the murder of his fiancee. Arkady is both brilliant and difficult, but when he's convinced to apply his powers of observation to the disappearance of a young boy, he finds another use for his amazing talent. With the help of hotel staff and a grad student, Arkady tackles a variety of problems, while still struggling with his own.
It's a different role for Doyle, who brings charisma and an unexpected sublety to the character. For every scene that Arkady might cause, there's another quiet moment where we can really grasp what's going on in his head. Whether or not you like chess, or even crime dramas, Endgame is worth watching just to see what Doyle does with the character.
As the show's first two episodes arrive on Hulu today, I had the opportunity to sit down with him and ask him about the show's second chance.
This is a really unique role, and different from a lot of what you've done before. What do you like about Endgame?
Shawn Doyle: There's a lot about the premise of the show. It was the idea that this character can be anything. The idea that the show has no limitations in terms of where it can go, with location, the cases that he takes on, that all really attracted me. I realized early on that any limitations that he had would be because of the limitations of my imagination.
He's a chess champion, but were you familiar with chess at all prior to accepting the part?
I would certainly not win any competitions anywhere in the world. I knew how to play the game, but it's not something that I did in any serious way. For me, the whole idea of chess becomes a metaphor for strategy and how people move in life.
You pull off an impressive accent in the role. How difficult was that to master?
It was a challenge. Again, like chess, I didn't necessarily have any inherent affinity with the Russian culture or the accent. I realized if I went too authentically Russian, it was going to be limiting for this character. What I kind of adopted was more the idea that he was more like Garry Kasparov. He'd traveled the world. It's much more of a cosmopolitan accent than specifically Russian.
Is there an episode in the series that you're the most proud of?
As an actor, what was interesting was to find the challenges in the light-hearted moments and obviously the more dramatic moments. Finding both those qualities is equally challenging. For the whimiscal idea, there's an episode ("Huxley, We Have A Problem") where I'm tracking down the murderer of an astronaut, and in the process I end up reuniting with my old friend from Russia. That was a lot of fun to do. There was another episode ("Mr. Black") where I end up trying to solve a hostage situation and I end up having to play chess against this opponent to kill a man for every game that I lose, and that was extremely heavy. That was something I was proud of.
The show was cancelled by Canadian network Showcase in June last year. What's it like for you to have completed the show and then see Hulu bring it back for a second airing?
It's odd. It's been awhile since it aired. I'm happy that it's getting introduced to a wider audience.
Had the show come back for a second season, is there anything you would have liked to have done or explored?
I'm curious to explore some of Arkady's past in Russia. I'm not sure exactly what that means yet. Maybe he has to go back to Russia, even if only it's in his imagination, but I think that would be interesting. I would love to get back to the mystery of [his fiancee] Rosemary and the conspiracy, because as an audience member, that's what I love to watch.
Let's talk about the fans. The show seems to have a passionate fan base, and you've interacted with them quite a bit like on Facebook. How has that been?
It's awesome. It's one of the best rewards you can get for doing what we do. I come from the theater, where you get instantaneous feedback. We don't have the same thing with TV and film. I've been on big hit shows and not necessarily felt any kind of connection to the audience. It's great to be in a position where every day I can get new followers [on Twitter] and people asking me specific questions about the show.
You just mentioned it: you've been on quite a few popular TV shows in your career. Do you have a favorite TV role that you've done?
I have so many. They're all so different. I would say this role has presented some of the bigger challenges, acting in a different accent and playing a character that displays such a wide spectrum of behavior.
I did a film called Birth of a Country where I played John MacDonald, who's like your John Adams; I just found out that I've been nominated for the equivalent of a SAG Award out here, the ACTRA Award. I'd say those two.
And a long time ago I was in a movie called Frequency. I played the serial killer in that. That was kind of my big break.
Is there a project or a role that you'd really love to do?
Yeah, and as soon as I know what that is, I'll let you know. I'm really interested in the genre of political thrillers. But it seems like the dream roles, they sneak up on you.
What shows do you watch?
One of my all-time favorites is The West Wing. I love that show, everything about it, not to mention the world of politics I find kind of interesting. Dexteris a show I've loved for quite awhile. The Killing; my ex-wife in Big Love, Mireille Enos, is the lead of that show. Battlestar Galactica - there's an actor on Big Love who tried to convince me for years to watch it, and I fell in love when I finally saw it. Ultimately the sci-fi became just a great metaphor. It deals with essentially the question of whether or not human beings deserve to live or not.