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BURN NOTICE -- "Means & Ends" -- Pictured: Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)

Jeffrey Donovan

Putting Us All On Burn Notice

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: November 6, 2012.

When we last saw Michael Westen - the super spy played by Jeffrey Donovan in the popular series Burn Notice, he and his friends were stuck behind enemy lines in Panama with his mentor at the CIA dead set on exterminating all of them.

A sticky spot to be in, but Westen and his team have gotten through tough situations before.  Burn Notice's cliffhangers are a specialty, and as the show revs back up for the second half of it's sixth season, the intrigue swirls around the characters at a record pace.

On Election Day, Donovan was nice enough to take time off his non-filming hiatus to discuss the final half of the Burn Notice season with us and some other media outlets.

Itís got to be really fun to get to play so many different characters through Michael. Can you talk about kind of that and I assume it keeps it interesting?

Yeah. One of the fun things that we didnít actually realize when we first started the show was that even though Iím a burned spy and Iím trying to get back in, the fun of the show is always to help the person that no one else can help. Only Michaelís skills can solve his problem. So we thought itíd be fun if certain cover ID just like spies had to do, were taken on. Some of the things that were asked of me were great. If I had to do an accent or some kind of character it was always fun to make that up with the writer at the time. Then over the years they kind of evolved into sometimes some wacky guys and sometimes some pretty sadistic guys. But yeah, it keeps it interesting.

BURN NOTICE -- "Desperate Measures"-- Pictured: (l-r) Jeffrery Donovan as Michael Weston, Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne, Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)Whatís been the hardest cover ID youíve had to do from an acting standpoint?

The hardest ones were always the ones that I hadnít ever done before. Just like a writer might have a certain style that they write in and theyíre comfortable and then someone says okay, I want you to do a short story form. It might be out of their comfort zone. Those are the most difficult ones. One of the most difficult ones was this character I did - I think it was season three, where I basically played the devil. I think this name was Louis - almost like Louis Cypher as in Lucifer. He was a cross between the devil and Clint Eastwood and I just went out on a limb and played him. Iíve never received better feedback from fans about thatís their favorite cover ID Iíve ever played. But it was the scariest one because I thought it was so different from anything Iíd ever done not only on the show but just as an actor.

Who has been your favorite villain on Burn Notice and why?

Oh, see now thatís really tough. Because, six years of actors that have come through here - God, just let me see. I have to think. You know, Iíd have to say Jay Karnes. He played Brennen. Jay Karnes, a wonderful actor and very well known. One of the things that I always say to Matt Nix and all of the writers is never dumb down the villain. I think why James Bond, the 007 series always works is because the villains were always these mega-intelligent villains. I said when you dumb down a villain then you dumb down Michael. Always make the villains smarter than Michael but Michael just figures out the one Achilles heel that the villain has. The closest person to ever do that was Jay Karnes. An actor like that is incredible anyway but to put him in that role where he basically tells Michael: "What are you going to do? Are you going to do this? Well then I have the answer to that. Are you going to do that? Then Iím going to do this." He always was one step ahead of Michael, which was always a great villain. A great foe is that the villain is smarter than you.

If you could act with any actor living or dead who would it be and why?

Oh geez. You know, Iíve been very fortunate and blessed to be able to be directed by Clint Eastwood twice. But he didnít act in either of those films - in Changeling or J. Edgar - and I would have loved to have stepped into the ring with him. There is an authenticity and a reality that he just brings because of the person he is. So I would have loved to have done that. I would probably consider myself accomplished if I could ever go toe to toe with him. (laughs)

BURN NOTICE -- "Desperate Measures" -- Pictured: Jeffrery Donovan as Michael Weston -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)There are some great locations you guys have been shooting in and we know that Miami though has been a bit of a trouble area for the Burn Notice team. Is there any idea of a possible relocation?

Miami actually has been great. I think that youíve read some news that was only recent regarding one commissioner.

No, no. I mean for Michael and friends...

Oh. Oh, I see. I was like God, what are you talking about? Yeah Miami is obviously a hot spot for Michael and all of the agencies and the foes and the villains know heís located there, so heís basically an easy target, a fish in a barrel. As far as story line, the network and the studio havenít talked at all about moving it to any other locale whether itís fictional or not. You know, whether we shoot in Miami but we pretend weíre in Malibu, California. None of that has been talked about. So I donít see him moving obviously this coming summer if we get renewed for a seventh season, which it looks like we will be. So weíll probably be staying put.

Thereís such great chemistry between you and Gabrielle Anwar on the show. How do you continue to maintain that?

Spend as little time with each other off the set. (laughs) When you play a role like Michael and Fiona, there is an intimacy and a spark that I think is hard to maintain over seven years when you spend every working hour with them and then every social hour with them. So we do our best to never lay eyes on each other after work.

That way you smolder on screen.

Yes. Your words.

Well absence makes the heart grow fonder they say.

Exactly. Exactly.

Now that Michael knows who burned him and heís tracked down his brotherís killers, whatís next for Michael now that he doesnít have that driving force behind him to stay in the spy world?

You know, great question. I think whatís tough for this show is the title. (laughs) Burn Notice was not only an unfamiliar word to me but I think to most fans until they understood what the show was about. Itís kind of like calling the show Escape from the Moon and after the sixth season they got off the moon. Well what next? I think that the fans are going to love this last part of season six because it focuses on Nateís death, finding that killer and bringing him to justice. I think that youíll see a more of a hell-bent Michael, more personal than youíve seen him try to navigate the waters towards getting back in with the CIA and Burn Notice. Then at the end of the season, itís a bit of a cliffhanger. Thereís a huge event that happens between Michael and Fiona that will propel season seven which if all goes as planned, will be a very different kind of Burn Notice because of the trajectory but no less dangerous for Michael. But I think itíll be more personal next year than it will be professional, if that answers your question without me giving anything [away].

BURN NOTICE -- "Desperate Measures" -- Pictured: (l-r) Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Kenny Johnson as Tyler Gray -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)At the end of the two hours Michael faces off with his mentor. And I just want to say I loved the way that you played that scene and the emotion that, you know, just propels on your face. But could you talk a little bit about what it was like selling that scene?

Now youíve got to - now youíve got to understand itís November. (laughs) So youíve got to remind me what scene particularly and with who?

With your mentor. The one that tried to kill you.

Oh, John C. McGinleyís character?


Oh, okay. Well, going toe to toe with McGinley is... though you will never be recognized you should just win an award for going toe to toe with John C. McGinley. The guy is such a powerhouse itís hard to keep up. I mean heís a guest star that shows up and knows not only his lines but your lines back and forth before you even rehearse. Itís quite remarkable. So a lot of the things that I tried to bring to that scene was (chuckles) sheer fear of "please donít screw up in front of such a great actor." Me looking up to him that way, fed that fuel of "wow, this is a great actor but now I have to actually believe that heís someone that taught me so much and has betrayed everything I invested in." So though it wasnít easy it was certainly much more compelling because of McGinley himself.

You mentioned that this season will be a little more personal because of Nate, also the fact that your mom isnít really speaking to you even though she did help save your life. Might Michael makes some mistakes because the stakes are different this time around?

Yeah. Thatís a great, great observation. I think anything thatís personal and emotional will always cloud judgment. One of the fun things Iíve developed with Matt is in real life, with a normal person, you are in every day life with your family and thatís easy. Then you go to work and thatís hard. You show the strain at work because the stakes are so high. What was hard to kind of convince a lot of directors who were coming in was they would always want me to have an intense high stakes moment when I was being chased or shot at. I always though thatís wrong, it doesnít ring true. Itís the opposite. Michaelís judgment is so clear when heís being shot at or heís being chased or heís trying to figure out a solution with a bottle of Clorox and a car battery. Thatís all clear to him and itís objective. When heís at home with his mom or heís talking to his brother Nate or heís in a fight with Fiona, those are the most subjective, emotional moments for him and he doesnít know how to handle it. So what I always said was heís out of his element when heís with his family and friends and heís in his element when heís being shot at and thatís kind of counterintuitive. So this last season itís all about his judgment being so clouded and so subjective because of how his feelings towards his brother are, what happens to him and what his mother accuses him of. I mean those kinds of stakes Michael has never really dealt with.

BURN NOTICE -- "Means & Ends" -- Pictured: Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA NetworkYou mentioned the renewal. How long can you see playing this role and do you have a vision of how you would like to see it end for Michael?

Well, you know, first of all thereís nothing official yet about season seven so I donít even know if itís going to happen. Iím assuming it is but I have not received a phone call so Iím still waiting just like everybody else is. Whether an online magazine writes about it or not I donít believe it until a contract is here because you never know. So I donít know what season seven could possibly be other than maybe a different kind of trajectory for Michael which has to happen because him going after Burn Notice, him trying to get reinstated has played itself out. But the only thing that can happen is that it becomes much more personal. Now it becomes about his family, his past and his friends. I think that will probably be what season seven is about. I guess, you know, it will come full circle because when Michael was burned he was plopped in Miami and he had to deal with his mother and he had to deal with Fiona. I think probably season seven will be our final season and it will probably come down to those two people probably in some devastating fashion.

You have such good chemistry with your castmates, when you have that kind of shorthand does it make it easier for you as an actor or does it make it more challenging to be sharp from episode to episode?

You do run the risk of getting into a monotonous rut because you shoot 70 hours a week the same character and sometimes overlapping dialogue from other episodes creep back in. But whenever you show up, especially with someone like Sharon or with Bruce, they have such a freshness when they come on set and such a great attitude that it inspires you. So staying sharp - I thank, you know, the actors for keeping me sharp because it can become kind of monotonous.

You mentioned a minute ago, for another season to happen you do have to take the show and the character in a different direction. What sort of is interesting or appealing to you about going in a different direction from where youíve been these six years?

Well I think that not only am I kind of tired of it, I think maybe the fans are a little tired of just me trying to get back into the CIA after being burned. But I think that one of the things weíve never really explored and Iím actually - this is my thoughts, no oneís actually said this to me - is that the whole mystery behind Michaelís past and his relationship with his father, I think thatís an interesting road. But I also think that weíve never really seen how dark Michael can go when someone close to him has been hurt. I mean when his brother is killed I mean you can see a rage in Michael which hopefully the audiences kind of connect with. But I think that thereís even something deeper there. And not that, where a show like Dexter where Michaelís a serial killer and will cut people up, but for a greater good. But I think that there is a side of Michael that would channel some kind of monster if he felt like that was the only way to get retribution for someone being hurt that he loved.

BURN NOTICE -- Episode 614 "Down & Out" -- Pictured: (l-r) Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne, Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)You were just talking about how with Michael having closer relationships that obviously clouds his judgment.  I was wondering how do you think that the fact that Michael and Fiona are giving in to their relationship completely is going to affect them both personally and as co-workers?

Well, listen Michael and Fi are as dysfunctional as they get. I donít think them becoming closer or them growing apart is really going to affect what probably is an ultimate time bomb between those two. I think that - and thereís nothing written or any story that Iím referring to - but I think that down the road these two are going to combust. I mean they have to because I mean sheís nitro and heís glycerin and they are going to blow up. But how they blow up is going to probably be very unique to them. Blowing up to them might be them getting married. (laughs) You know? But blowing up may be also them killing each other. I donít know but I know that the more conflict that those two have I think is the best for the show. I think when they become romantic and cute towards each other I think thatís where the show kind of gets boring. So I think that youíre probably going to see more of a combustible Michael and Fiona in season seven.

I also love the way that the villains all have sort of different characteristics. Like Tim Matheson was almost sort of very good-natured except for when he was being evil. And John C. McGinleyís character seems a little bit goofy before you realize how devious is. But I really thought you did some really amazing work with Jere Burns who obviously - his character was killed off. But what was he like to work with as a villain?

Jere is one of my favorites. Heís a phenomenal actor and he has such a presence when you work with him. I mean nothing, nothing affects him. I mean a piece of equipment could fall on him and itíd still like just be right on target. Heís an amazing actor. I had a great time with him. And, you know, the sad part about it is all the great villains die. Itís just killing me. I mean John C. McGinley, Jere Burns, I mean these people are awesome actors and they just get killed. Ben Shenkman in season two who was my CIA agent was just an amazing actor and we killed him. I donít know why we kill all the great actors. Maybe because they donít want to show up me. You know, they keep bad actors around me so I look better.

You had just mentioned that you thought that youíre sort of getting a little bit bored and the audience might be with the idea of Michael trying to get back into the CIA. Do you think that Michael could ever go back to being just a normal CIA agent?

I donít know. Good question. I think that the season finale which I think the audience is going to be shocked at, Michael makes a decision which affects not only his friends but mostly Fiona. I think thereís going to be a huge betrayal that youíre going to see. And I think the audiences are going to kind of be excited about season seven to see where Michael will go once he made probably one of the worst decisions heís ever made.

BURN NOTICE -- "Means & Ends" -- Pictured: (l-r) Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe, Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne, Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Coby Bell as Jesse Porter -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)Michael being in a dark place with his brother being shot and everything, how does that work for you as an actor? How do you get into that mindset looking so sad and dark?

I just think of the long hours Iím working and then I just channel that. I think as an actor not that Iím experienced but at least I have about 25 years under my belt. Just like any kind of pro athlete, itís like asking a pro athlete like David Ortiz who gets up at home plate, how do you hit that home run? Itís just you do what you do, you know? Itís ingrained in you and then you just try to find that kind of motivation that will spark each take. It might be that theyíre out of M&Ms at craft service and that really makes you sad. Or itís something from your personal life that you draw on that was maybe hard or devastating in your past. I think that actors do what they do well when they can just make it their own. Thatís up to them. The way my process works is very different from the way Bruce works and very different than the way Sharon works but we all kind of accomplish the same goal. Itís hard but I draw upon different things, per day, per scene, per character.

When youíre done is it easy just to "okay, scene over, no problem" or does it stay with you for a while?

It sometimes lingers with you. You might be in such an emotional state that you need a few minutes to just recompose yourself, especially if theyíre saying "okay, moving on to the scene where Michael chases the bad guy and grabs and ice cream cone and licks it while doing it." Youíre like oh this is supposed to be slightly comical at the same time. But thatís what we do. Itís not brain surgery. It certainly isnít on a level of national importance, like an election or disaster relief. Hopefully for those few minutes you believe what Iím doing and youíre entertained and you can escape that world that youíd maybe be bothered with for an hour and have fun.

This season seems to be so pivotal in how it all has rolled out and particularly the way it was left hanging that at the end of last season the finale was kind of like going youíre leaving it there? And now youíre picking up and going forward and I get the feeling that thereís so much stuff thatís been buried inside Michael thatís suddenly starting to come out. Did you plot this out how you were going to unroll this emotionally?

I kind of go episode to episode because unfortunately we donít see a script until about two days before we start shooting. So itís difficult to kind of do an overall arc to track your character especially emotionally. I mean we would love to but the writers donít give us any material until basically right before we start shooting so itís difficult to chart emotionally. What we do is that day we look at the script and then I plot through: well if Michael gets to here letís say he gets to Z at the end of the episode. Then I want to start as far away from that as possible. So I want to start at A and hopefully youíll see a journey. Now unfortunately with that is once Iím done with Z - where can I go in the next episode? I mean I canít start a new alphabet. So thatís difficult. But whatís great about the show is that, you know, itís a TV show. Once we do it itís gone for that one episode and we can kind of pick ourselves back up and start over again and create another hour of entertainment. But as far as the dark journey overall, Michaelís going to go down I think a dark hole, especially from Bruceís character. The way Bruce plays Sam is so incredible. Heís so observant of Michael because heís his best friend. I think youíre going to see so many indictments from Sam that will actually reflect on how dark Michael is getting because Sam knows the kind of dark person Michaelís becoming.

BURN NOTICE -- "Desperate Measures" -- Pictured: (l-r) Brunce Campbell as Sam Axe, Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Coby Bell as Jesse Porter -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)The journey after Nate was killed and you see some of the light parts come up but thereís still that journey that Michael is taking is very evident. For the viewer and Iíve been there and watched probably every single season at least twice. It has been so intoxicating and so addicting that itís like as you get to the season finale for season six then weíre just going wait a minute, wait a minute, we canít live without this.

(laughs) You sound addicted and you may need help. But admitting it is the first step as they say. Well thank you. Thatís awesome. I donít know if Michael will come back from this emotional hell that heís gone down. Heís lost his brother. The only family he has left is his mother. And I think heís losing his friends. I see this journey eventually compromising his friendship with Sam and with Jesse. And ultimately probably being the destruction of his relationship with Fiona. But I have to. You canít just keep a show going after six seasons and go yeah, everyoneís just the same. After Michael has seen his brother die, his father die, thereís just too much death that has gone inside Michael that you wonít be able to just kind of pass it off. I think maybe season seven, if we finally get that order and create that, I think thatís what season seven's journey is going to be.

Since your mom raised three boys alone what did you gift your mom with when you became financially stable?

Well first off, thank you for obviously having interest in my family and where I came from. But, my mom and my family has never really been talked about that much and Iíd kind of like to keep that that way.

I definitely respect the family privacy. You do such a great job of channeling a closeness with Sharon Gless as far as the mother/son, can you say whether or not you were at least close to your mom growing up? I really donít know much about it. It seems to come through and I just wanted to see if thatís what Iím sensing?

Well I can talk about Sharon and first of all, she is like a second mother to me. Sheís an extraordinary actress but even more so sheís an incredible woman. She took me under her wing since day one and has always protected me and sheltered me in the greatest way. I didnít have an experience like she had with all of the history she has in television. So sheís been such a great educator and her husband, Barney Rosenzweig, he is an incredible producer and Iíve learned so much. Theyíve become kind of like my second family and I could talk for hours about them.

BURN NOTICE -- "Desperate Measures" -- Pictured: (l-r) Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne, Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)You directed two episodes of Burn Notice as well as The Fall of Sam Axe. What were the major challenges you experienced while directing?

Whatís tough about episodic TV and also about Sam Axe was a deadline. The scripts are huge. Typical episodic scripts are about 46 to 50 pages and Burn Notice tends to write between 52 and 58 pages. And thatís difficult to shoot in a cable studio budget. Weíre constantly running over time and out of money. Those are the big challenges. The actors are always the easiest thing. The cast is great. I donít actually even have to direct them - except Bruce. Heís an awful, awful actor and he needs all the help he can get. I donít know how he got this job. But thank God Iíve been directing him for years.

You were talking a bit before about Sharon Gless. Can you talk about how Michael and Madelineís relationship is going to change this season? Can they ever get back to where they were do you think?

I think that youíll see mending in the latter part of the season. And I think that Madelineís love for Michael is unconditional in the best way. But what I think is the hardest thing on Madeline is not seeing Michael go back into the CIA or do a job or maybe cross the line in accomplishing some kind of mission. Itís when he hurts his friends. At the end of this season youíll see Michael make a choice that I donít think that Madeline will be able to justify. But her love has been for six seasons itís unconditional and I think that sheíll try to find that compromise. Michaelís going to put his friends and his mom in a very difficult position at the end of the season.

By the way, happy Election Day.

Yes. Happy Election Day. Did you vote?

Yes, I did.

Did you early vote or were you not allowed by the RNC?

Well I didnít early vote. I was allowed to but I didnít. I just wanted to do it with everybody else and that was probably a mistake since there were a lot of lines, but itís done. So I saw the season premiere. The one thing I noticed is how I guess violently realistic the scenes [are] - especially when you and Gray are getting beaten around. What does it take to get to that mindset to make it look so realistic?

(laughs) Well thank God the camera can lie because, weíre safe and nothingís happening to us. But imagining all of that violence coming down on us itís... Iím sure every young boy has been in a fight. I certainly was growing up, quite a few, lost as many as I won. You just channel all of those bruises and punches that you had over the years and put it into that emotion, you know? Itís not that hard to imagine yourself getting beat up. (laughs again)

BURN NOTICE -- "Over The Lines" -- Pictured: (l-r) Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Coby Bell as Jesse Porter -- (Photo by Glenn Watson/USA Network)A few days ago I caught a rerun of Sam Axeís film. Would you like to go into any other of the charactersí back stories and what would you like to learn about them?

You know, I donít think so. I think what was great about the Sam Axe story was based on Bruce. Bruce has such a huge following from all of his Evil Dead, film stuff and heís just a cult hero. So I think that that was interesting to look into where did Sam Axe come from and why was he forcefully retired from the Navy Seals? I think that was interesting. I donít think that any other story would be as compelling. I mean Iím sure Sharon would have no interest (chuckles) in going back and showing herself 20 years ago and trying to figure that out. So the back story stuff I donít think is going to happen about anybody else. I donít think it would work.

Youíve had Jere Burns this year and John C. McGinley or Ben Shenkman previously. How can you top that with the next villain to bring in? Who would you like to have?

Oh, thatís a great question. I mean theyíre so good, I donít know where the next villain will come from. Weíve always done a great job in finding some interesting actors. Hereís the irony about the actors who play great villains. Theyíre the nicest people, you know? They really are. I mean Jay Karnes, Jere, Ben, youíre talking about guys who are just the salt of the earth and they show up and play such dastardly characters. Itís always fun. I know itís fun for them to come out. Next season, who knows? I think weíre going to have to go raise the bar certainly, because these actors are so great.

Which do you enjoy most, television or film, and why?

Iíve answered this before and it hasnít changed. I always enjoy what I havenít done in a while. I grew up actually in the theater. I did my BFA [Bachelor of Fine Arts] at U. Mass [University of Massachusetts] Amherst, I did my MFA [Masters of Fine Arts] at NYU [New York University] and I got classically trained. I was doing Shaw, Ibsen and Shakespeare. When I got out of school I thought thatís what my career was going to be. I got on Broadway right away and then I started doing a little bit of television and a little bit of film. Itís such a different world. Itís very, very technical what we do in film. Then, while all of the lights are there and all of the crew members and hanging instruments and cameras and directors staring right at you, you have to be honest. Itís a very difficult but technical medium. With theater itís a feedback and a reciprocation that you get thatís immediate every night. Now that Iíve done the show for six and a half years, Iím missing theater. And if I get on a Broadway show and Iím doing that for half a year Iíll probably miss film. Itís a little cycle. And Iíve been lucky to be able to do all three.

What do you find more exciting, producing or directing? And will you toss script writing into the mix any time?

I love directing. One of the great pleasures and honors I had was to direct Bruce in the Sam Axe movie and try to show a little more humor in that show than is on Burn Notice because of the great talents of Bruce. I loved it. I have a more of a comic sensibility, though you wouldnít really see much of it on Burn Notice because lately itís so dark. But youíd see it in the early seasons. Iím working hard right now on developing my own material and down the road I think directing. Not so much writing. Iím not a good writer and there are so many great writers out there. But Iíd love to be able to develop some talent and create a TV series or create a film. Iíve talked with people and Iím working on something right now that hopefully will work out in the next year. But I love directing. I absolutely love it.

Whatís your advice to actors?

Donít. (laughs) Oh, itís such a hard profession. I donít wish it upon anyone. I donít know if I have advice but Iíll just give you this comparison. I graduated high school considered the best actor in my high school. I graduated college the best actor in my college. I graduated NYU with 18 other actors that were all considered the 18 best actors in the country and three of us are working from that class; just to show you how difficult it is. If you want to be an actor I think that whatís dangerous is that you act like what you see. Itís like seeing a baseball player go up and hit a home run. They just go "oh, you just hit the ball," and you donít realize the years since they were five years old of hitting a ball to make that look so easy." Itís a lot harder than it looks. The great ones make it look easy. And to be great I think you have to just study. You have to study like thereís no tomorrow. I donít think a lot of actors these days think that thatís the way to become an actor.

As one of the showís producers, what are your responsibilities and how much input do you actually have in the development of the show as it goes on? 

Basically my role as a producer is to make sure the pretzel jar is full. No, Iím kidding. My role as a producer on Burn Notice is very specific. Itís maintaining the creative truthfulness day in and day out. One of the things that weíve found is that the tone of the show is very difficult to grasp. We watch it and you watch it and youíve watched it Iím sure every season, you get the tone. Itís high stakes and dangerous but it has a little cheekiness to it. Itís very hard to act that. Amazing actors have guest starred on our show and the first day usually what comes out of their mouth is: "is this how fast weíre going to do this or do you really want me to say these lines this quickly but with a smile even though Iím saying Iím going to kill you?" Thereís a paradigm that is going on in the scene always. Itís a two-tiered journey. One is how am I going to act in this scene and two, what do I ultimately want in this scene. A lot of time itís very duplicitous. So me pointing [that] out occasionally to some guest stars is really my job. For the most part everyone is incredibly receptive. They know that Iím there just to help them with a very difficult tone. There are a few actors that say "screw off, Iím going to act it the way I want to." And theyíre never asked back.

Are you going to be doing any live Tweeting during the episodes this season again?

No. Not this season. That was fun to do and I enjoyed it but I was doing that I think while I was shooting so it was in a work mindset. But since this is my hiatus, itís the off season, I kind of unplug and decompress and go away from the business world.

How are you most like and most different from Michael?

Iím as super intelligent as him. Thatís probably the most likely. (laughs) No, you know what? Iím nothing like Michael. I canít operate on his level. That guy is like a master chess player. Heís thinking ten moves ahead while he speaks and I canít even think one sentence good at a time now. See? Look at that sentence. I couldnít even make it up.

Since youíre on hiatus, what are you doing for you in terms of just chilling out and having fun and all that good stuff?

(laughs) Well, I get away from Miami. I have a house in the woods, literally and we kind of retreat there. It couldnít be further from Hollywood as far as lifestyle. I get away from all of the business and especially Miami. Itís a very hard shoot down in Miami. We shoot at the hottest time of the year, March to September. And then I just basically go away and I find some time in the woods.

Jeff, I loved you in J. Edgar as Bobby Kennedy. Tell me, as a Massachusetts native, what did you take from growing up in the Kennedy world to make the role yours and not formulaic?

Well first of all, thank you. I read that and I begged Clint to play the role and he thought about it. While he was thinking about it I actually worked on the role as if I had it. I didnít care. I just wanted to play the role so badly. Then I sent him a videotape of me playing Bobby just out of an office in Miami and he hired me. One of the things that I found out later was there was actually an actor he was going to go with because they thought literally he was Bobby Kennedy. I mean he had the right hair, he had the accent. But they felt like it was so authentic it looked like an impersonator. I love that he went with me not just because I could do the accent but because I was trying to find the spirit of who Bobby was. If you know your history I think Bobby was one of the greatest of the Kennedys. He would have probably been our greatest president in our history. He was such a smart, intelligent and philosophical man. It was a tragedy to lose him. So I just tried to honor the spirit of who he was rather than try to impersonate and put fake teeth in and put on a fake nose and all of that stuff. I really wanted to get to the essence of who he was and ultimately not disgrace his name or insult the family in any way.

With the relationships with Gray and Michael are kind of endeavoring on at the end of the season premiere, what can you tell us about how theyíre going to kind of gel together throughout the rest of the season?

Well I think youíre going to be in for a big surprise with Gray. And itís going to be very shocking. Youíll realize after you see what happens, why thatís a difficult question to answer. I will say that the relationship that Michael has with Gray and Card is going to turn Michael down a path that even Sam will question Michaelís integrity. I think thatís what the fans are going to really be interested in - how dark will Michael go? I think that the fans are going to enjoy seeing Michael go down a very dark path and thatís whatís going to be enjoyable about the rest of the season.



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