The Law and Order franchises are universally known
for their high-caliber of acting. Of all of the great actors who have
portrayed policemen or court officers in the series – including such
respected names as Sam Waterson, Jerry Orbach, Mariska Hartigay,
Christopher Meloni, Chris Noth – arguably the best single thespian to
take on a role is Vincent D’Onofrio.
D’Onofrio was a respected movie powerhouse when he took the
Law and Order role eight seasons ago. D’Onofrio first made his mark as
a disturbed Marine in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (he
gained 70 pounds for the role.) He also was acclaimed for his work in
Men In Black, The Whole Wide World, The Cell, Ed Wood, The Player
and Mystic Pizza. D’Onofrio had also made his mark on television
already, winning an Emmy for a stunning guest performance on
Homicide: Life of the Street as a Baltimore commuter who is pushed
into an incoming subway train.
Complimenting him perfectly for eight years
on Law and Order: Criminal Intent is Kathryn Erbe
– also a movie vet who is best known for Stir of Echoes, What About
Bob? and Kiss of Death.
Together they have made a perfect odd couple in the eight
years of Criminal Intent – D’Onofrio playing the eccentric genius
Det. Robert Goren and Erbe playing off him as the more grounded but
equally determined Det. Alexandra Eames.
As Law and Order: Criminal Intent returns for the
final episodes of the season, D’Onofrio and Erbe were nice enough to do
a conference call with us and several other websites to talk about their
I was wondering, Kathryn, what about your role continues to challenge
Kathryn Erbe: Finding ways to – let’s see.
That’s a very good question. I don’t know, every day we have new
challenges, just in dealing with the new actors that we get to work
with. We have new writers on the show, new producers and I feel like
it’s a challenge just staying involved with the work that we’re doing
and staying actively involved in finding ways for Eames to stay
important to the stories and to just have a positive effect on what
Vincent, after so many seasons, how do you all
continue to maintain chemistry between each other?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s been eight years
now, so I think that anything the audience sees is just whatever has
happened naturally in the eight years. I think that both of us kind of
just rely on that – the history of the show and the history of the
characters – to just somehow translate to the audience in some way.
How much more in-depth is the Goren-Wallace
frame-up story going to go into during season seven? Or is that just
Kathryn Erbe: Oh, she’s dead. Right?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes, that’s over.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes. Unfortunately, sadly,
they killed her.
There’s no way it’s going to come back to haunt
you guys later on?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I don’t think so, no.
That was a certain set of writers that were doing that, and we were
enjoying that with them. And then we’ve had another set of writers
since then, so – that’s not going to happen again, I don’t think.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes. It’s sad.
Vincent, you’ve played quite a variety of types
of roles – both good and evil. What kind of role do you enjoy the most?
Does playing evil have a different set of challenges than what you’re
Vincent D’Onofrio: I don’t know. I think
it’s the same as most actors. Anything that’s interesting, you know.
Whatever comes my way, the most interesting parts of those are the ones
that I would do. I don’t really have a dream role or anything like
that. I just go script by script and see what’s interesting, and if
not, then I don’t do it. You know, it’s like that.
Vincent, I wanted to ask, with the events of
last season’s finale, what is your character’s mental state at the
beginning of the season? Has he resigned himself to all of the loose
ends being tied up or has he broken down at all in the face of
everything that’s happened to him and his nephew being missing?
Vincent D’Onofrio: We never really tie
anything up when it comes to Kate and my characters. They always want
to leave it open. You know, we tie up criminals, we’ll end those
stories, but they’ll never really shut any kind of storyline down
completely, so it’s kind of open as to what’s going to happen with my
character. I don’t know. I think that this eighth season, I just
played it differently than last season, but last season was very, very
extreme. So this season, it’s like he’s just trying to be a cop, trying
to do the best you can.
What is it like to be developing a character
over several TV seasons as opposed to having to develop a character in a
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes, it’s completely
different. When I first started the TV show, I kind of thought it’s
ostensibly about the character, and did a lot of planning and stuff.
Most of the planning went out the window, and then I just kind of tried
my best after that. With a film, it’s really planned out scene by scene
and there’s a real solid arc hopefully most of the time. The structure
of the film is in three acts, you know it’s going to end – it’s easier
to plan out a role like that. It’s just as interesting but it’s a
completely different thing. With the show, it’s just wide open. We just
keep doing it, and there’s different crimes, different little stories to
tell. So it’s two different things. I think I just always will prefer
films. I just think that’s my favorite thing to do. But Goren’s a
great character, so it’s good to do.
What do you feel it is about a show like Law
& Order that resonates well with viewers?
Vincent D’Onofrio: In our show I think it’s
the characters, and we investigate weird crimes. It’s a popular thing
on TV, these crime shows – just like people are into crime novels and
short stories. That’s what we’re doing, but we’re doing a TV version of
that, so – you know, it takes off and people like it.
Do you have a favorite type of case to tackle on
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes, I like simpler
stories. We just finished one… a spree killer type story about one guy
doing bad things, and Kate and I had to catch him. It was more direct,
not complicated, and it had heart. I like that kind of thing.
Jeff Goldblum is new to the show. I know you
guys aren’t working directly with him, but have you seen any of his
work? How is he fitting in with the show?
Vincent D’Onofrio: To me it looks like he’s
psyched. Kate, do you want to – go ahead.
Kathryn Erbe: That’s okay. We only really
got to see him in the beginning when he was waiting for his scripts to
be ready. He came and hung out with us extensively and learned all the
names of everybody on the crew and just asked us a lot of questions. It
seems like the crew is really happy with him and the producers and like
he’s having a good time.
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes. He seems really
enthusiastic. I haven’t seen any of his episodes, so I can’t comment on
Kathryn Erbe: Yes.
Have you worked with any particularly
interesting guest stars or bad guys for the new season?
Kathryn Erbe: We have a lot. We have Lynn
Redgrave, we have Scott Cohen and Kathy Baker are in the episode Sunday
night. We had a great time with them. Who else, Vince?
Vincent D’Onofrio: We’ve also worked with
some really good unknown actors, young people that were really good.
We’re very lucky in that way, that most times we get really good actors,
whether they’re known actors or not. That’s one of the pros of working
on this show.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes.
Vincent, your character goes into some very dark
places, and we’ve seen a lot of changes in him since the beginning in
the last season. What kind of toll that takes on you as a person – what
effect that has on you, if any, in your real life?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Well, it takes a lot of
time. It used to take a lot more time before we started sharing the
episodes with another detective. But – you know, it’s – how do I answer
this? The first four years, or maybe the first three years of the show,
when we were trying to make the show a show, you know, just make it
distinct from the other Law & Orders and just a plain old good
show that people would watch, that was hard. It was like a 24-hour job
and it was with me all the time. But that’s a long time ago now, and we
all know how to do the show, and we know what the show is. So it’s not
that exhausting anymore. The hours are long sometimes, and when we are
working we don’t see our families as much as we want. But that’s part
of our job, so we have to do it. And as far as Goren, bringing Goren
home, that just doesn’t happen anymore. I’ve been playing him too long,
and it’s – it’s not something that stays with me.
I wanted to know … all the Law & Orders deal
with heavy subject matter and I was wondering what you guys do during
downtime on the set.
Vincent D’Onofrio: What do we do?
Kathryn Erbe: How do we deal with heavy
subject matter and what do we do in our downtime?
Yes. What do you do on breaks from filming?
Kathryn Erbe: Lots of different things.
Eat, read, I walk my dog. What do you do, Vin?
Vincent D’Onofrio: We run our families, over
the phone. We try to participate in our lives out of our dressing
rooms. Mostly that’s what I do.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes, exactly.
Vincent D’Onofrio: And then if we can, if we
have a moment of relaxation, like Kate said, we read or Kate walks her
dog or something like that.
When you guys first took on these roles, did you
go into it knowing full well that this might become like a lifelong
fulltime job … Law & Order franchise?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Lifelong, huh?
Kathryn Erbe: I don’t think either of us
thought that we were going to be doing it for eight years.
Vincent D’Onofrio: No way.
Kathryn Erbe: No. They never would have
gotten you to agree to that.
Vincent D’Onofrio: No way. And the first –
what did we do, we did thirteen at first, Kate?
Kathryn Erbe: Right, yes.
Vincent D’Onofrio: The first thirteen was
such a blur that I don’t think either of us was even thinking about… it
wasn’t weighing heavy on me what was going to happen. Was it weighing
heavy on you, Kate?
Kathryn Erbe: No. We had no idea. It was
just getting through each day, really, trying to make it to the end.
Vincent D’Onofrio: The first thirteen
scripts were really, really good scripts and maybe there was like one
clunker out of the thirteen, but they were really good scripts and very
tough to figure out how to pull the show off while we were doing them.
The last thing on my mind was like – it was just a blur. I wasn’t
thinking about whether the show was going to run, honestly. That’s the
honest truth. I think we knew earlier than most people do with a – when
you shoot three, right? I think we knew pretty early that it was going
What do you like best about your character?
Kathryn Erbe: What I like best about my
character is she usually has the right thing to say. She knows what to
say; she’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t seem to have difficulty
making choices. Nothing like myself in real life. I rarely know the
right thing to say and she seems to almost have infinite courage. She’s
sort of like my fantasy of what it would be like to be like that –
strong all the time and know what to do all the time. Have a clear idea
of what the right thing is to do and that sort of thing. I like that
about her. I like that she’s a strong woman in a tough job and a scary
job. I think they’re both courageous. I think most of NYPD is very
courageous. So that’s what I like about her.
I have one question for both of you regarding
your roles outside of Criminal Intent. Out of all the work that
you’ve done in movies, stage or whatever, what roles do you want to be
remembered for and which roles would you like to just kind of forget?
Vincent D’Onofrio: A lot of them I’d like to
The Mighty Ducks 2.
Vincent, what about you?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Can I just say most of
Kathryn Erbe: You would not say that, you’re
Vincent D’Onofrio: Rather than name them?
Because I don’t want to like insult the filmmakers.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes, I even feel bad that I
said Mighty Ducks 2, because some people liked that movie.
Goren is always touted as being this unstable
genius and the brains of the partnership, and sometimes you’re there to
be like the dry witness conscience. Are you okay with this role, or do
you think Eames deserves more respect?
Kathryn Erbe: Sometimes I get a lot to do –
Eames has a lot to do – and sometimes she doesn’t. I’ve fought for the
whole time for her to have more of an impact on the work that they’re
doing, and it’s gone up and down. I like being the dry wit. I wish I
actually did more of that these days. The humor has kind of gone out of
the character and so I would like to find a way to bring that back.
I think you guys need some more episodes like
Vincent D’Onofrio: Which one was that?
Kathryn Erbe: Was that the magician one? I
think it was. I can’t Google it because I’m on my phone. (It was,
an episode about dueling magicians with guest
star Christopher Lloyd.)
What got you started in acting in the first
Vincent D’Onofrio: I was introduced to it by
my dad at a very young age, because he was always involved in community
theater and stuff. I used to run lights and sound and stuff like that
for plays and things. I really didn’t think of acting until I guess I
was like eighteen. I just thought I’d try it out. I don’t really know
why. I think it was just in my life, really. I think it’s my dad’s
fault. I thought I would give acting school in Manhattan, a try, so I
did. Then I guess I just caught the bug and went for it.
Vincent, Kathryn said that if you’d known it was
going to be eight seasons, they probably wouldn’t have been able to lock
you into the character. Why – I guess I have to ask – how have the
managed to keep you two on and interested for so long, especially you,
Vincent? You’ve certainly looked for a lot of variety in your film
roles. Is it a love of the characters or is it a comfort zone or are
they writing you the big checks, or is it a combination of all three?
Vincent D’Onofrio: For me it’s a combination
of all three.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes, for me too.
Vincent D’Onofrio: I have a lot of freedom
because of Law & Order. I have a lot of creative freedom. I
have a lot of creative freedom on the show and I have a lot of creative
freedom with my own time to do other films and do anything I want, so –
it’s a very good situation.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes, and it gives us a
structure for our lives. I was ready to give up acting because I could
not handle never knowing when I would have a paycheck or where the job
would be, where it would take me; and having a daughter and now my son,
I just couldn’t – it was just too hard of a life. This gives us – when
we have time off, we know that it’s time off; it’s not time out of work,
looking for other work. And it’s really such an amazing experience to
work with the same people for this length of time. It’s challenging and
it’s so gratifying to know everybody’s families. It’s just a very
different experience from the sort of crash and burn of going from one
job to another and really never knowing – this gypsy lifestyle, never
knowing where you’re going to be when. So it’s a very different, much
more stable, if it’s even possible to say that – a stable environment.
You were just mentioning creative freedom. I
was wondering, I know it’s been a couple of years now, but has moving to
cable and the USA Network sort of freed the show up to do different
things that they couldn’t necessarily do on NBC?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I don’t think so. I
think it’s exactly the same, right?
Kathryn Erbe: Yes. Because they show them
on NBC too, so…
Vincent D’Onofrio: I think the only change
that I know, the episodes are like a minute longer or something like
that, something silly like that.
We have an older interview with Eric Bogosian.
I’m a big fan of his.
Vincent D’Onofrio: Me, too.
What’s he like to work with and is he going to
be getting more to do this season?
Vincent D’Onofrio: He’s going to – yes, he’s
Kathryn Erbe: Yes. We just got him out in
the woods last night in the rain.
Vincent D’Onofrio: We located a girl in the
woods with the captain last night.
Kathryn Erbe: Yes. He comes out a lot more
this season than he ever has, I think. He was wondering really why he
wanted to do that, when we were standing out in the middle of the woods
in the rain.
What kind of advice would you give to new young
actors coming up as far as what kind of education they should get and
how they should pursue an acting career.
Kathryn Erbe: What would you say, Vin?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I think when I was
younger I would have said go to a private acting school or something
like that, but I think that these days, the drama departments and the
universities are so great that I think that’s the way to go, and unless
Kathryn Erbe: Get an education.
Vincent D’Onofrio: Get an education. Go
into the drama department, whatever, film department, or just the arts
section of a university. Start there, study there. Then after that, go
to the city you want to live in, like L.A. or New York – then try to get
jobs. Do theater and stuff. When I was younger I would have said just
go straight to the city and take an acting class and try to get jobs. I
think these days – I’ve been checking out universities and stuff and I
know some teachers… teachers that teach writing, film writing, and I
know some drama teachers. They’re all really good teachers, so I’m
swaying towards that now.
Your characters have a pretty complex and
interesting relationship. After all they’ve been through, what would
you like to see happen between them during this season?
Kathryn Erbe: I personally am very happy
because this season we’re back on the same page. I, for some reason,
really like that, when they’re on the same team and they’re just on the
path together. Although it makes for probably a more interesting show
when we’re at odds or going in different directions, I personally like
that; and this season we were working together.
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes, I agree with Kate,
what she said. I think there’s nothing left to argue about, really. It
depends on what the writers come up with. If they can come up with
another good conflict between us, then most likely it will be cool to
do. But I agree with what Kate said.
We’re curious to know if you had a favorite
episode or onscreen moment from the coming season so far.
Kathryn Erbe: I would have to say that in
the episode that is going to be on Sunday night, Kathy Baker and Scott
Cohen, their characters, when they were in the interrogation room at the
end when she kind of grabbed him and…
Vincent D’Onofrio: Oh, yes.
Kathryn Erbe: … pressed him to her – to her
chest and tried to comfort him after screaming at him, they were
fantastic. It was very twisted and – I mean, we’ve had a lot, but that
one really sticks out in my mind.
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes. He turned into this
big baby right in front of her eyes. It was awesome.
Kathryn Erbe: Oh, such a baby. Yes.
Vincent D’Onofrio: It was really good. So I
guess it was somebody else’s screen moment that we liked most.
Kathryn Erbe: I guess. Can you think of one
that was ours?
Vincent D’Onofrio: No, I can’t. I think
you’re exactly right, that was very entertaining.
Kathryn Erbe: It was very entertaining.
Would either of you ever be interested in
writing or directing for the show?
Vincent D’Onofrio: No.
Kathryn Erbe: I don’t think I would, no.
Not writing, definitely not writing. And being a director, I don’t know
whether I have it in me. Maybe for something else.
Do either of you have any new projects coming
Kathryn Erbe: You have lots, right, Vin?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Lots?
Kathryn Erbe: You did like seventeen films
on the last hiatus – directed, starred.
Vincent D’Onofrio: That’s good, I’ll talk
about that. I directed a film over the summer, a kind of new genre that
I invented – slasher musical. I just finished it, and we’re taking it
to LA in a week to sell to a distributor, so it’ll probably be out
sometime, I hope, soon. I have a movie, The Narrows, coming out,
and a movie called Staten Island coming out that I acted in –
both of those. And that’s all.
Kathryn Erbe: I have a movie with Edie Falco
and Elias Koteas called Three Backyards.
Vincent, I have a question about the very end of
the last season, after Vincent or Goren realized that his nemesis had
been killed and it was for his benefit and he’s sitting with that
professor. You kind of looked at the end, when he said, “I did it to
free you,” basically, and you got that look on your face like, you got
it. I was wondering if we’re going to be seeing now in this season a
change in you or a kind of a freeing in your character because of this
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s nice that you saw it
that way; because that’s the way I wanted you to see it, so it’s yes. I
wanted it to kind of be a freeing thing so that I could treat the next
season fresh, so it could be a guy trying to keep his stuff together, do
his job; and so what’s interesting about this kind of storytelling is
that the audiences that watch our show, if they’re fans of the show,
then they know that that’s part of the learning. Even if we don’t
mention it or I just show this kind of earnest cop trying to do his
thing throughout the season, the season previous to that or other things
in the previous years, they’re still present, because people are fans of
the show and they know that the guy they’re watching that went through
all that stuff. So, yes, that’s what I did, and that’s what I’m doing
How do you feel about the new writing team this
season? Are you pleased with your episodes?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s always tough when we
switch writers. These last eight years have been just experience after
experience, learning experience after learning experience, and it’s
quite a business. To be a performer on a television show, you get a lot
of curve balls thrown at you and you have to deal with them. You know
that the show has to be shot so you do your best to contribute and make
it the best show you can. But you get thrown curve balls, like a new
writing crew, who have never written for you and they’re trying their
hardest to get it right. They’re in a position where they have to get
it right fairly quickly, because there are shows to shoot and to air,
and so it’s tough. It takes a while. But the great thing about is that
they’re all talented people and everybody’s scripts are getting better
and better, and what we’ve been talking about for the last few minutes
is these great things about this season already. So there have been
some amazing things already this season. But it’s tough. It’s tough to
get new writers. They’re great people and so this last show that we did
was great, and it’s a good season so far, so we’re happy.
The show seems to have completely dropped the
law end of it, is that ever coming back? Or has it just kind of gone by
Kathryn Erbe: We miss Courtney. But we
haven’t been in court at all this year, not once. I didn’t even think
Vincent D’Onofrio: No, it’s been just
straight out catch the bad guy. We’ve been involved in politics of big
corporations and stuff like that. It’s that kind of season. I think we
do less of the law part, I think you’re right. I mean, as you know, it
never really focused on that very much anyway, but – one of the cool
things about having an ADA in the show is that you have to actually
answer to somebody. Because there’s this kind of tension between the
captain and the two detectives, but there’s a certain kind of tension
between the detectives and the assistant district attorney and that’s
fun to play. So we don’t get to do that often anymore.
Vincent, what’s the name of your slasher
musical, so we can look out for it?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s called Don’t Go
in the Woods.
Okay, that sounds interesting.
Kathryn Erbe: It is. It’s very good.
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT VINCENT D'ONOFRIO
HAD TO SAY TO US IN 2011!
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