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LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- Pictured: (l-r) Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren, Kathryn Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames -- USA Network Photo: Miranda Penn Turin

Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe

Cool Intentions

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 19, 2009.

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 Ė including such respected names as Sam Waterson, Jerry Orbach, Mariska Hartigay, Christopher Meloni, Chris Noth Ė arguably the best single thespian to take on a role is Vincent DíOnofrio.

DíOnofrio was a respected movie powerhouse when he took the Law and Order role eight seasons ago.  DíOnofrio first made his mark as a disturbed Marine in Stanley Kubrickís 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.  DíOnofrio 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 Ė 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 Ė DíOnofrio 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, DíOnofrio and Erbe were nice enough to do a conference call with us and several other websites to talk about their show.

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- Pictured: (l-r) Julianne Nicholson as Detective Megan Wheeler, Jeff Goldblum as Detective Zach Nichols, Eric Bogosian as Captain Denny Ross, Kathryn Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames, Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren -- USA Network Photo: Miranda Penn Turin I was wondering, Kathryn, what about your role continues to challenge you? 

Kathryn Erbe: Finding ways to Ė letís see.  Thatís a very good question.  I donít 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 itís a challenge just staying involved with the work that weíre 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 weíre doing. 

Vincent, after so many seasons, how do you all continue to maintain chemistry between each other? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Itís 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 Ė the history of the show and the history of the characters Ė 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 completely done? 

Kathryn Erbe: Oh, sheís dead.  Right? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Yes, thatís over. 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes.  Unfortunately, sadly, they killed her. 

Thereís no way itís going to come back to haunt you guys later on? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: I donít think so, no.  That was a certain set of writers that were doing that, and we were enjoying that with them.  And then weíve had another set of writers since then, so Ė thatís not going to happen again, I donít think. 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes.  Itís sad. 

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- "Playing Dead" Episode 8009 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kathryn Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames, Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren -- USA Network Photo: Will Hart. Vincent, youíve played quite a variety of types of roles Ė both good and evil.  What kind of role do you enjoy the most? Does playing evil have a different set of challenges than what youíre doing now? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: I donít know. I think itís the same as most actors.  Anything thatís interesting, you know.  Whatever comes my way, the most interesting parts of those are the ones that I would do.  I donít really have a dream role or anything like that.  I just go script by script and see whatís interesting, and if not, then I donít do it.  You know, itís like that. 

Vincent, I wanted to ask, with the events of last seasonís finale, what is your characterís 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 thatís happened to him and his nephew being missing? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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, weíll end those stories, but theyíll never really shut any kind of storyline down completely, so itís kind of open as to whatís going to happen with my character.  I donít 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, itís like heís 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 two-hour film? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Yes, itís completely different.  When I first started the TV show, I kind of thought itís 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, itís really planned out scene by scene and thereís a real solid arc hopefully most of the time.  The structure of the film is in three acts, you know itís going to end Ė itís easier to plan out a role like that.  Itís just as interesting but itís a completely different thing. With the show, itís just wide open.  We just keep doing it, and thereís different crimes, different little stories to tell.  So itís two different things.  I think I just always will prefer films.  I just think thatís my favorite thing to do.  But Gorenís a great character, so itís good to do. 

What do you feel it is about a show like Law & Order that resonates well with viewers? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: In our show I think itís the characters, and we investigate weird crimes.  Itís a popular thing on TV, these crime shows Ė just like people are into crime novels and short stories.  Thatís what weíre doing, but weíre doing a TV version of that, so Ė you know, it takes off and people like it. 

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- "Faithfully" Episode 8001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kathryn Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames, Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren, Janel Moloney as Alison Wyler -- USA Network Photo: Will Hart Do you have a favorite type of case to tackle on the show? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Yes, I like simpler stories.  We just finished oneÖ 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 arenít working directly with him, but have you seen any of his work?  How is he fitting in with the show? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: To me it looks like heís psyched.  Kate, do you want to Ė go ahead. 

Kathryn Erbe: Thatís 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 heís having a good time. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Yes.  He seems really enthusiastic.  I havenít seen any of his episodes, so I canít comment on that. 

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 DíOnofrio: Weíve also worked with some really good unknown actors, young people that were really good.  Weíre very lucky in that way, that most times we get really good actors, whether theyíre known actors or not.  Thatís one of the pros of working on this show. 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes. 

Vincent, your character goes into some very dark places, and weíve 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 Ė what effect that has on you, if any, in your real life? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 Ė you know, itís Ė 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 thatís a long time ago now, and we all know how to do the show, and we know what the show is.  So itís not that exhausting anymore.  The hours are long sometimes, and when we are working we donít see our families as much as we want.  But thatís part of our job, so we have to do it.  And as far as Goren, bringing Goren home, that just doesnít happen anymore.  Iíve been playing him too long, and itís Ė itís not something that stays with me. 

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- "Faithfully" Episode 8001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Leland Orser as Rev. Daniel Wyler, Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren -- USA Network Photo: Will Hart I wanted to know Ö all the Law & Orders deal with heavy subject matter and I was wondering what you guys do during downtime on the set. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 DíOnofrio: We run our families, over the phone.  We try to participate in our lives out of our dressing rooms.  Mostly thatís what I do. 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes, exactly. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 Ö Law & Order franchise? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Lifelong, huh? 

Kathryn Erbe: I donít think either of us thought that we were going to be doing it for eight years. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: No way. 

Kathryn Erbe: No.  They never would have gotten you to agree to that. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: No way.  And the first Ė what did we do, we did thirteen at first, Kate? 

Kathryn Erbe: Right, yes. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: The first thirteen was such a blur that I donít think either of us was even thinking aboutÖ it wasnít 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 DíOnofrio: 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 Ė it was just a blur.  I wasnít thinking about whether the show was going to run, honestly.  Thatís the honest truth.  I think we knew earlier than most people do with a Ė when you shoot three, right?  I think we knew pretty early that it was going to go. 

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- Pictured: (l-r) Julianne Nicholson as Detective Megan Wheeler, Jeff Goldblum as Detective Zach Nichols, Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren, Kathryn Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames -- USA Network Photo: Miranda Penn Turin 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; sheís fairly straightforward and doesnít 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.  Sheís sort of like my fantasy of what it would be like to be like that Ė 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 sheís a strong woman in a tough job and a scary job.  I think theyíre both courageous.  I think most of NYPD is very courageous.  So thatís 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 youíve 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 DíOnofrio: A lot of them Iíd like to forget. 

Kathryn Erbe: The Mighty Ducks 2. 

Vincent, what about you? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Can I just say most of them? 

Kathryn Erbe: You would not say that, youíre being sarcastic. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Rather than name them?  Because I donít 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. 

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- Pictured: (l-r) Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren, Kathryn Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames -- USA Network Photo: Miranda Penn Turin Goren is always touted as being this unstable genius and the brains of the partnership, and sometimes youíre 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 Ė Eames has a lot to do Ė and sometimes she doesnít.  Iíve fought for the whole time for her to have more of an impact on the work that theyíre doing, and itís 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 ďVanishing Act.Ē 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Which one was that? 

Kathryn Erbe: Was that the magician one?  I think it was.  I canít Google it because Iím on my phone.  (It was, an episode about dueling magicians with guest star Christopher Lloyd.) 

What got you started in acting in the first place? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 didnít think of acting until I guess I was like eighteen.  I just thought Iíd try it out.  I donít really know why.  I think it was just in my life, really.  I think itís my dadís 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 youíd known it was going to be eight seasons, they probably wouldnít have been able to lock you into the character.  Why Ė I guess I have to ask Ė how have the managed to keep you two on and interested for so long, especially you, Vincent?  Youíve 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 DíOnofrio: For me itís a combination of all three. 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes, for me too. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 Ė itís 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 couldnít Ė it was just too hard of a life.  This gives us Ė when we have time off, we know that itís time off; itís not time out of work, looking for other work.  And itís really such an amazing experience to work with the same people for this length of time.  Itís challenging and itís so gratifying to know everybodyís families.  Itís just a very different experience from the sort of crash and burn of going from one job to another and really never knowing Ė this gypsy lifestyle, never knowing where youíre going to be when.  So itís a very different, much more stable, if itís even possible to say that Ė a stable environment. 

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT -- "Faithfully" Episode 8001 -- Pictured: Vincent D'onofrio as Detective Robert Goren -- USA Network Photo: Will Hart You were just mentioning creative freedom.  I was wondering, I know itís 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 couldnít necessarily do on NBC? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: I donít think so.  I think itís exactly the same, right? 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes.  Because they show them on NBC too, soÖ 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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.  Iím a big fan of his. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Me, too. 

Whatís he like to work with and is he going to be getting more to do this season? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Heís going to Ė yes, heís doing lots. 

Kathryn Erbe: Yes.  We just got him out in the woods last night in the rain. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 DíOnofrio: 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 thatís the way to go, and unless they wantÖ 

Kathryn Erbe: Get an education. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: 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 Ė 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 Ė Iíve been checking out universities and stuff and I know some teachersÖ teachers that teach writing, film writing, and I know some drama teachers.  Theyíre all really good teachers, so Iím swaying towards that now. 

Your characters have a pretty complex and interesting relationship.  After all theyíve been through, what would you like to see happen between them during this season? 

Kathryn Erbe: I personally am very happy because this season weíre back on the same page.  I, for some reason, really like that, when theyíre on the same team and theyíre just on the path together.  Although it makes for probably a more interesting show when weíre at odds or going in different directions, I personally like that; and this season we were working together. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Yes, I agree with Kate, what she said.  I think thereís 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. 

Weíre 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 andÖ 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Oh, yes. 

Kathryn Erbe: Ö pressed him to her Ė to her chest and tried to comfort him after screaming at him, they were fantastic.  It was very twisted and Ė I mean, weíve had a lot, but that one really sticks out in my mind. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Yes.  He turned into this big baby right in front of her eyes.  It was awesome. 

Kathryn Erbe: Oh, such a baby.  Yes. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: It was really good.  So I guess it was somebody elseís screen moment that we liked most. 

Kathryn Erbe: I guess.  Can you think of one that was ours? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: No, I canít.  I think youíre 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 DíOnofrio: No. 

Kathryn Erbe: I donít think I would, no.  Not writing, definitely not writing.  And being a director, I donít know whether I have it in me.  Maybe for something else. 

Do either of you have any new projects coming up? 

Kathryn Erbe: You have lots, right, Vin? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Lots? 

Kathryn Erbe: You did like seventeen films on the last hiatus Ė directed, starred. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Thatís good, Iíll talk about that.  I directed a film over the summer, a kind of new genre that I invented Ė slasher musical.  I just finished it, and weíre taking it to LA in a week to sell to a distributor, so itíll 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 Ė both of those.  And thatís 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 heís sitting with that professor.  You kind of looked at the end, when he said, ďI did it to free you,Ē basically, and you got that look on your face like, you got it.  I was wondering if weíre going to be seeing now in this season a change in you or a kind of a freeing in your character because of this action. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Itís nice that you saw it that way; because thatís the way I wanted you to see it, so itís 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 whatís interesting about this kind of storytelling is that the audiences that watch our show, if theyíre fans of the show, then they know that thatís part of the learning.  Even if we donít 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, theyíre still present, because people are fans of the show and they know that the guy theyíre watching that went through all that stuff.  So, yes, thatís what I did, and thatís what Iím doing now. 

How do you feel about the new writing team this season?  Are you pleased with your episodes? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Itís always tough when we switch writers.  These last eight years have been just experience after experience, learning experience after learning experience, and itís 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 theyíre trying their hardest to get it right.  Theyíre in a position where they have to get it right fairly quickly, because there are shows to shoot and to air, and so itís tough.  It takes a while.  But the great thing about is that theyíre all talented people and everybodyís scripts are getting better and better, and what weíve 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 itís tough.  Itís tough to get new writers.  Theyíre great people and so this last show that we did was great, and itís a good season so far, so weíre 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 the wayside? 

Kathryn Erbe: We miss Courtney.  But we havenít been in court at all this year, not once.  I didnít even think about that. 

Vincent DíOnofrio: No, itís been just straight out catch the bad guy.  Weíve been involved in politics of big corporations and stuff like that.  Itís that kind of season.  I think we do less of the law part, I think youíre right.  I mean, as you know, it never really focused on that very much anyway, but Ė one of the cool things about having an ADA in the show is that you have to actually answer to somebody.  Because thereís this kind of tension between the captain and the two detectives, but thereís a certain kind of tension between the detectives and the assistant district attorney and thatís fun to play.  So we donít get to do that often anymore. 

Vincent, whatís the name of your slasher musical, so we can look out for it? 

Vincent DíOnofrio: Itís called Donít Go in the Woods. 

Okay, that sounds interesting. 

Kathryn Erbe: It is.  Itís very good.


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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2009 Miranda Penn Turin. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2009 Miranda Penn Turin. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2009 Will Hart. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2009 Will Hart. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#5 © 2009 Will Hart. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#6 © 2009 Miranda Penn Turin. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#7 © 2009 Miranda Penn Turin. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.
#8 © 2009 Will Hart. Courtesy of USA Network.  All rights reserved.

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