Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baker jumps behind camera on 'The Mentalist'

Source : Star Telegram
Date : Nov. 16, 2010
By David Martindale

Simon Baker, who plays the title character in The Mentalist, says he isn't completely satisfied with the work that the director did on this week's episode.

Not that viewers will notice a thing wrong with it. It's a perfectly fine hour. But the director had a grand vision of crafting something "tonally a little different," only to feel "a bit rushed" in the edit room.

"But that's the nature of what the beast is," Baker says. "Television is a train that keeps moving."

The director's name? Simon Baker.

Baker is in his third season of the hit series as Patrick Jane, a consultant who uses extraordinary powers of observation to help the California Bureau of Investigation solve crimes. Baker gave directing a try "to keep stimulated creatively," he says.

"The character is fun to play, but I've been doing it every day for three years," the charismatic performer says. "To act and direct at the same time is a nice challenge. And I enjoy the process of telling the story through my eyes, having it unfold my way."

We chatted with Baker last week about The Mentalist, which airs at 9 p.m. Thursday on CBS.

What did Simon the director think of Simon the actor? Did the two get along on the set?

"We got on OK. Simon the director didn't give Simon the actor too many notes about his performance. Simon the actor was grateful for that. Of course, he knew what the director wanted. The hard part as an actor is getting all the directing ideas and decisions out of your head between the words 'action' and 'cut.' But at the end of the day, I think it made me focus more."

Viewers love to watch Patrick Jane on TV. But he's a showboat and a narcissist, someone they probably wouldn't want as a friend in real life. Do you find that interesting?

"I just find it kind of real. He's true to who he is. He's not there to win over everyone all the time, unless there's something in it for him. He always has an agenda. What I admire about him is he doesn't give a damn what other people think about him. At the same time, there is a level of empathy within him. And I wouldn't say that he's full of himself. In fact, I think most of that stuff is born out of self-loathing. The guy doesn't like himself very much. Most of the time, it's bravado."

What initially drew you to the premise and to the character?

"The main thing was the character was a blank slate in the original script. In fact, the Lisbon character [played by Robin Tunney] was better written. That was exciting to me because it gave me the opportunity to get invested in the creation of the character. Sometimes a character is drawn on the page to the point where there's no room creatively. This character was kind of under-drawn on the page, but with a good set of circumstances surrounding him, which gave me room to create the character in a lot of ways."

Given that Jane's prowess as a crime solver comes from his powers of observation and an ability to read people, how observant are you and how good are you at reading others?

"I've always been pretty observant, kind of to the point where it's distracting. I see things and pick up little details that constantly distract me from what I'm doing. Sometimes I have to quiet that in myself and let things go. But am I good at reading people? Not necessarily. I'm kind of naive in the sense that I try to see the good in people. I'm always hopeful. And that can be a problem when I misjudge somebody."


How much longer can Red John, the serial killer who murdered Jane's family, continue to torment our hero before that story is resolved?

"I have opinions on it, but I don't have the final say. Often I get concerned that we flog things a little too far or play the same beats with Red John again and again. But he's successful as a dramatic device as long as the audience feels those beats are authentic. That's always going to be the tricky question. How long can that go on? We're also hanging a lot on the idea that Jane will be healed if he gets revenge. And I think we all know that things are not that easy."

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