Interview: Sprague Grayden Talks of New '24' Role And More
We should get this out of the way, since it is probably the first question everyone asks. Your first name is your mom's maiden name, correct? It's very cool.
So if you have a child, will you maybe name him/her Grayden?
Grayden is a pretty cool first name for a child but I'm going to hold off saying what I would name my child until I have someone to have a child with.
Walk me through this. The last time I watched 24, the president was the Allstate Man (Dennis Haysbert.) So I guess there was an election in there?
Yes, Cherry Jones is currently the president (Allison Taylor.) She's my mom in the show. I find my character (Olivia Taylor) to be very fulfilling.
Are you anything like your character?
I think there is a part of us in all the characters we play, at least there is for me. I tend to play quite a range, and Olivia is in that range.
What's it like working with Kiefer Southerland?
Kiefer has been nothing but magnanimous and generous.
He sounds too good.
Often when I do interviews with the shows I am doing people say, "You're too happy." I've been so blessed to do shows that everyone in television says, "You're going to love it there. You're never going to like another show." It started with "Six Feet Under." Everybody believed in what they were doing and were grateful for their jobs. They came in prepared, knew how to have fun and when to work. I got hungry for that. I think I've been very lucky in that I've worked with other people that follow that same ethic, and "24" is no different. Everybody loves being there.
So you all get along? No egos?
(laughs) At least in my world so far. Everybody I have come in contact with has been incredible.
Wasn't "24" off the air for a season?
It was. I think they had a couple of bumps in the road and then combined with the writer's strike, it just seemed like a more satisfactory resolution for fans to give them an entire season. Especially because "24" happens in one day. You can't exactly cut it off in the middle of the season.
When is the premiere?
The 2 hour preview is November 23. The rest of the series begins in January.
What network is it on?
Fox. They have been very good to me this year. They got me two shows, this one and "Sons of Anarchy," on FX.
Tell us more about "Sons."
They have finished shooting as well with two more episodes to air. It was an incredible experience. A long time ago I realized that if I was going to do TV it was just so welcoming to me in a way that film has not been yet, but hopefully will be soon. I really try to aim for great television and luckily I am working in a time when there is. I get to spend 6 months saying the great words of Kurt Sutter who is fantastic and an incredible writer. He came from "The Shield." I got to hang out with dudes on bikes. And Katey Sagal is amazing!
What was working on "Jericho" like?
That was awesome. "Jericho" was fun because we were such a family. We still talk. We all got really tight really quickly. Then, when we did the second season, we got even closer. We were shooting in Ventura but we had our own little set and it was outside the big studios. We had a great time. People rode horses, they shot guns. It can't get any better.
Maybe not the gun part.
(laughs) I didn't shoot any guns. I'm also a big geek. I love sci-fi and fantasy shows and I got to be a part of a show that I would totally geek on myself.
Are you a computer geek, too?
I have a lot of computer geek friends but I am totally technologically incompetent. But I am a total sci-fi and fantasy geek. I loved "Hellboy." That was so exciting when Ron Perlman ("Sons of Anarchy") took one of the leads. I finally told him," Mr. Perlman, I just wanted you to know I loved 'Hellboy" and I have the dolls." And I love "Battlestar Galactica."
How about "Star Trek"?
I was brought up on "Star Trek." My mother is at fault for all of this, I think because she was a "Star Trek: Next Generation" fan.
Do you read sci-fi, too?
I do. I just got into Olivia Butler. She is kind of amazing. Read "Parable of the Sower." It's an apocalyptic, end of the world novel. I have also read Robert Heinlein, and Kurt Vonnegut's "Galapagos" is my favorite. "Slaughterhouse Five" is pretty amazing, too.
You are from Massachusetts?
Yes, Manchester By the Sea.
What's up with the Singing Beach there?
Supposedly, when you walk on the beach barefoot you get a tingling sensation. I don't know if it's mob mentality but I was told my whole life that it does that, so I feel like it does. (laugh) I think you would have to ask a tourist.
(laughs) Do you get to go home much?
I go home at least once a year and my family comes out here (LA) quite a bit.
Do you have any other projects coming up?
I was shooting "Sons of Anarchy" and "24" simultaneously for a while. Now I am starting to look around for another job. It's been a really fulfilling year so we will see what happens. I would love at some point to do some film, but if TV offers me another great experience I would never turn it down.
Maybe you can be in "Hellboy 3."
Maybe Ron will put in a good word for me. I could play some kind of alien.
How about the new "Star Trek" prequel?
It's going to be an amazing movie but there are not a lot of women on that ship.
How did you handle doing two shows at once?
Really nice line producers who schedule around each other. Both of the teams have been incredibly generous so I never had a conflict. Busy is good!
Don't you have a personality conflict if you are one character one day and another one the next?
As long as I get a good night's sleep, I'm okay.
What was your first role?
My first was a grocery store commercial. I think it was Stop 'N Shop. I was about five. I stopped acting for a while when I started getting awkward at about 14 and concentrated on high school, theater and sports. Then I went to college and while I was finishing school, I was fortunate enough to meet David Guc at Vanguard Management. He discovered me and got me out auditioning again. So I started from the ground up in New York.
The first job I got was "Law and Order" from Lynn Kressel. She is a woman that has kickstarted the careers of so many actors and we all hold a special place in our hearts for her.
You have done some stage work, too?
I did a lot of that work in school. Some were productions at Columbia University and I did a bunch of readings with a company called Drama Department. I started as an intern and they made me a member. Here's a funny note. Justin Kirk (I played one of his love interests on "Weeds,") was a company member and I was his intern. And when I showed up the first day at work, he said, "Oh no! That's so great!"
What's your favorite medium to work in?
I don't really have a favorite. They are all so different. I haven't done stage in a long time and it's something that I really need to return to because it's a challenge and keeps you sharp. Working this year with Cherry Jones I've learned so much. She's an effervescent lightbulb of a person. Her technique is so incredible to watch and learn from. She is really one of our great actors in America. Watching her, I realized I need to go back to that training ground.
It's such a different experience being in front of a live audience. There is no second take. You have to be able to adapt at any moment. Whereas with film and TV, everything is so small and intimate. It's such a different technique.
Are you into improv at all?
Not yet, but I think it's something that I should explore. I've been interviewing for some comedy projects lately and that is something I would really like to try, but I tend to go over the top. I think I need to hone my comedic skills and I think improv might be the way to do that.
If Christopher Guest calls you, say yes.
Of course! If Christopher Guest calls me, I'll clean his garage. I think for me, drama is my strength. I can take a dramatic script that isn't necessarily the strongest and make it work. I have friends that are so good in comedy that they can read the phone book and make you laugh.
We read that you collect Pez dispensers.
Yes. When I was in college I was studying American Women's History. On one of my birthdays, a friend of mine gave me a couple of the "Great Women of
Pez," Wonder Woman and Princess Leia because I am such a "Star Wars" fan. "Star Wars" is my heart. From there, I started collecting more. I got Maggie Simpson, Lisa Simpson and all the other chick Pez I could.
I really like to collect weird ones. I gave Alan Poul, the executive producer of "Six Feet Under," a Mr. Bean Pez for his birthday, because I thought, "What do you get the man who has everything?" The girl who plays my daughter on "Sons of Anarchy" gave me a large Pez with a dog's head that gives out dog treats. They are not my top priority but I still get them.
What's on your playlist?
Let me open it up.
That's great. This is the first time anyone actually checked.
I have it right here. I just bought Elliott Smith and some Jeff Buckley. I guess I am in a pensive mood. I also got the new Soul Patrol album and The Verve.
Before you go, can you give us a little hint about "24"?
No. (laughs) But I can say that I've been thrilled to be a part of it and I don't think anyone will be disappointed.
Thanks for talking to us, Sprague.
Interview by Sheila Franklin
Starpulse.com contributing writer
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