After a few
years of playing the title character in the popular sitcom My
Name Is Earl and starring in such kid-friendly comedies as
Alvin and the Chipmunks and Underdog, Jason Lee is taking
a totally different tack for his return to series television.
is a moody and slightly downbeat, yet rather funny in its own way,
police procedural about the southern musical mecca. Lee plays
Dwight, a smart-but-unconventional detective who solves murders by
day and impersonates Elvis by night.
With a quirky
and smart supporting cast which includes Alfre Woodard, Abraham
Benrubi, Celia Weston and D.W. Qualls, the series has a smart,
bluesy vibe that feeds off of the city and the soul of the people.
Lee sat down
with us and a few other websites to discuss the series a few weeks
before it was set to premiere on the TNT network.
like working without the mustache?
nice to have a completely different look. Yes, it is.
you want to be a part of this show?
character was very appealing and the fact that itís a very different
and unique show. And certainly that he performs Elvis songs at
pilot, we didnít get to see a lot of side-by-side interaction with
Dwight and Whitehead. In other cop shows like
Law & Order
detectives are rarely seen apart. Will we see more of that or will
they work together and separately both each episode?
connected. Theyíre joined at the hip for the rest of the series very
well. Yeah, thereís a lot of interaction with those guys.
wondering about the format of
Is it going to be more like a procedural format where itís a new
case every week or will some of the case kind of take multiple
episodes to resolve?
take multiple episodes, yeah. Thereís still a lot to explore. Weíre
only shooting nine episodes for the first season. Itís also very
much about the characters and the relationships, as it is the cases.
So weíre trying to make it as well rounded a show as we can.
doing mostly comic relief things like
My Name is Earl and The Chipmunks lately. Is it nice to be
able to do a more dramatic role again?
fantastic. Itís definitely something that Iíve never done, a role
like this. Itís a great opportunity for me. Itís nice to have a
balance. This is definitely providing that balance for me. Iím
really pleased with the work so far.
you approached to star in this role? How did this role find you?
Josh Harto and Liz Garcia, they came to me with a very beautiful,
passionate letter, a very personal letter about what the project
means to them and why they created it and that they would very much
like me to come on board and play Dwight. I was very flattered and
coupled with the material itself, it was something very important to
if we would get to see Dwight with a love interest at all this
Yes. There are
many, many things taking shape in that area, dealings with his
ex-wife and we see what ends up happening with that. A lot of
surprises, a lot of interesting angles. Thatís a big part of
Dwightís life and of course the other woman in his life, his mother.
We see some interesting things with that relationship as well.
city also plays a really big role in the show. I read that you guys
were actually filming in New Orleans, but Memphis recently had all
that flooding. Is that something thatís going to be worked into the
show? Or do you know if that will be part of the story line?
I donít think
that will happen. You know, weíre shooting sort of part time in
Memphis as well because, you know there are just certain things that
youíve got to get and Memphis is such a great city, you know. So we
want as much of real Memphis on the show as possible. Weíre going to
be going up to Memphis and shooting up there.
mentioned the singing and I was wondering if thatís something thatís
going to happen every episode. Are we going to see him sing every
Yeah and in
different ways. You might see him rehearsing. You might see him just
playing guitar and singing at home. You might see him performing at
the beginning of an episode or at the end. Yeah, so I mean itís a
big part of his life, so we will see that side of him in every
up on the singing, you have done a lot of singing in the past in
the Chipmunks and particularly in Almost Famous which
I loved by the way. Is that something that you really enjoy? Is that
something that youíd like to do more of?
know, Iím always up for it. I like playing guitar. I love music and
Almost Famous was an opportunity for me to play guitar as a
character, and try and sing. Now with Memphis Beat and I get
to play guitar on the show. Thatís always nice when itís you doing
the singing yourself, as the character. So thatís been good for me.
guitar, what other instruments do you play in real life? Will you
have the chance to play something besides guitar on the show?
No. I normally
just play guitar and I just kind of fiddle around here and there
with it. But, yeah, Iíd like to be able to play it stronger but I
just canít do it. I wish I could but Iím a little limited musically.
been a lot of talk lately of the blurring of the lines between
network television and cable stuff and
Now that youíve kind of been in both areas, do you see that you can
do more with this show because itís on cable? Or do you think that
there is no difference?
I donít feel
much of a difference. Itís tough to say because these two shows are
totally different. Earl - theyíre just two completely
different worlds. We actually had a good deal of freedom on Earl.
They were very kind and let us do what we wanted. TNT is also very,
very supportive of us here creatively. So itís really hard to say.
Both have been great opportunities for me. They both feel like they
are what they are and they are what they should be.
Do you feel
that there is some boundary-pushing though with
Yeah. I mean a
lot of this stuff could be done elsewhere. Itís not a show that
really needs to prove anything or that needs to be raw or rough or
tough or gritty. Itís a fairly gentle show thatís very character
driven. I think weíre at a good home and I think weíre just about
where we should be.
that Clark Johnson is a really terrific director as well as a good
actor too. Had you dealt with him before? What was he like to work
with on the show?
No, I hadnít
worked with him before. He was very excitable and he pushed a lot
for the pilot to be different and unique and with a great energy to
it and depth. The whole energy was - everybody was really, really
excited and really wanted to make the best pilot that we could make.
He certainly pushed for that.
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