Monday, August 15, 2011

Mentalist star makes a grown woman blush

Source : ONE News .
Date : August 15, 2011
By 20/20's Hannah Ockelford

Cosying up with actor Simon Baker inside his trailer, it seemed the opportune time to pop the big question.

Is this Aussie actor as good as the character he plays - the Mentalist's Patrick Jane - at gleaning information from people in an ever so unorthodox way?

The razor sharp mind and wit of his character are not needed on the set of the for the next 15 minutes, which gives me quarter of an hour to gather some of Baker's secrets - and upcoming plots - for 20/20 viewers.

"Nice ring..." he says, pointing to my engagement ring.

I blush. He laughs. Simon Baker, it appears, has mastered the technique both inside and outside of the Warner Brothers Studio; he just successfully threw me off my game.

"The thing about training for it, is if you're good at it it's kind of seamless. So for me it was more about learning how these guys presented what they do. And they present it in such a disarming, relaxed, comfortable way you don't feel like you're being conned at all. That's part of the nature of it."

And the California Bureau of Investigation's Patrick Jane is supposed to be one of the best. He says things that make you feel uncomfortable, sometimes it feels like he's simply gone too far. But it's always for a reason. The independent consultant gets a reaction, and with the reaction comes information. Case solved and viewers satisfied.

"I love it because he says often what people think and they're too courteous or polite to say it but most of the time, and this is always the hard thing, there's always meant to be a purpose behind why he does it."

The hunky actor's rise to the top in American prime time drama has not been as meteoric as you might think. It's been a hard slog since he began in the 1980s. Prior to The Mentalist, he was best known for his roles in The Guardian, The Devil Wears Prada, LA Confidential and The Ring 2.

Unlike many single young actors hell-bent on Hollywood domination, he's had to juggle family and career to make it.

"It has definitely been a process, I came here with a wife and a child, if I could make a living that was a good thing. I was more focused on that, that we couldn't starve my family and wait for the right kind of job that turned me into a movie star."

Despite his success Baker appeared shocked when I informed him that amongst the stars of ABC/Disney's productions, my friends - predominantly women in their 30s - were pretty smitten on him. It must be all that humble pie the blokes eat Down Under.

"Maybe it's more a brother, sister thing," he laughs.

Romance

Hmmm.... maybe. The 43-year-old is married with three children so perhaps he has an insight into the plotline concerning Jane's potential romance?

"I'm interested in knowing what you think," he says, once again turning the tables in our interview. "We constantly discuss these things."

He's talking about the flirtations between Jane and Agent Lisborn, his trusted colleague.

"There's more stuff to play out in that relationship, there's been little moments on the show, but nothing's been consummated. I think there's obviously an affection between the two of them; whether that's a lust or a love... or just a mutual respect... "

He continues to weave delicately around the question.

"Then you have to ask the question - is the Jane character a sexual character? You know he asked that woman out at the end of the second season which was a little awkward and heart breaking for him to do."

But here's the most concrete hint so far.

"Out of sheer boredom I want the character to develop and new things to happen."

According to Baker there's a true science to character development

"Once you have a character that the audience goes, 'I really like this guy,' you really have to be careful with what steps you take."

With the plethora of police dramas available to view, this show attempts a point of difference; at times it earnestly tries to be a police drama, while at the same time it parodies the genre.

"I think sometimes it does it successfully and sometimes it does it unsuccessfully. I think sometimes we get too broad, you can never make the perfect cake."

But no examples of the imperfect "cake" were forthcoming.

"Then I'm incriminating myself. It's a silly kind of cop show really but underneath what we're really dealing with is a guy that's really flawed who's trying to redeem himself. He's a really dark character, he just doesn't wear that close to his skin."

He's due back on set - but he's not rushing. Talent is God here in Los Angeles, especially talent like Simon Baker. He's cracked a city with a very tough exterior.

"I don't think Los Angeles is a place you actually fit in. You can make it work for you or just resist and it's sort of like to me there's no point in resisting. I'm not here on a holiday; it's where I go to work. Australia's so much more beautiful than it is here but if you scratch the surface there's sort of a beauty to be found."

Time's up, the publicist has knocked for the third time, but before leaving I have a point I need to clarify. I had to make sure that Simon Baker, aka Patrick Jane, knew that I never blushed when he pointed to my engagement ring - it was most definitely the blusher I'd applied earlier.

Baker simply smiles.

* The Mentalist is on TV2 on Mondays at 8.30pm.



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