Silas Weir Mitchell has played memorable characters on television shows like “24” and “My Name Is Earl,” perhaps most notably as “Prison Break”’s mentally unstable inmate Haywire. Now he’s on every episode of the current show “Grimm” as Monroe, a wolf man trying to keep from wolfing out.
During the short break between seasons, Mitchell called us for an interview to talk about the first season finale of “Grimm.”
CraveOnline: You wrapped about a week or two ago. How does it feel to have the first season under your belt?
Silas Weir Mitchell: It’s really great. It’s a really interesting feeling. I’ve never been on the ground floor of one of these before so it’s very interesting to look back and see how far you’ve come.
CraveOnline: What’s coming up for the season finale?
Silas Weir Mitchell: There’s a lot, a lot of action. The last few episodes, there’s a lot of peril, there’s a lot of questions and answers, I think more questions. The writers have done an amazing job of weaving every episode there’s a crime solved, the procedural element with the mythological element. As the season gets towards the end, weaving those two narrative strains together, which of course creates major complications for the lead character.
CraveOnline: What sort of action and stunts does Monroe get to do?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Well, let’s see. There’s a really, really cool episode that involves the struggle that Monroe has which is the inner struggle. It’s an episode that goes along with the theme that these writers have of tying in a psychological real basis for “supernatural” elements. To me it’s like a mythical parable with creatures.
CraveOnline: What’s been your favorite thing to learn about Monroe this year?
Silas Weir Mitchell: What I’ve learned about him an what’s been great about Monroe is first of all, the inner conflict is what makes him fun to play. As far as what I’ve learned about him, I would have to say just the way the mind works, the way information is called up, the way the mind needs something to focus on, otherwise it gets a little distracted. It’s a fun firecracker place to live.
CraveOnline: What’s been your favorite episode so far?
Silas Weir Mitchell: They really do all bleed together. There was one episode that was called “Game Ogre” where this guy is on a revenge trip, trying to kill everyone involved in convicting and incarcerating him. It was the episode where I first go to the trailer on my own without Nick. I get this gun and I go save the day from the ogre character. That was fun. I thought it was a very well written episode, a very well directed episode and I got to kind of save the day. That was a long time ago.
CraveOnline: What is the makeup process when you are wolfed out?
Silas Weir Mitchell: I’ve only one it once. I only did the makeup chair once. It takes about 6-7 hours. You’re dealing with real professionals. The guys have been at it for generations, like it’s a son and his father. They were really good at it. You just sort of sit back and roll with it. It’s like mask work and mask work is really cool. You look into your eyes and they’re not your eyes anymore. Six or seven hours go by faster than you think.
CraveOnline: Did they shoot all your wolf scenes in one day?
Silas Weir Mitchell: No, no, it was one of these things where first of all a lot of it is CGI. The episode yknow that she was a Blutbad so she was kind of freaking out. She was wounded, she was morphing and she didn’t know what was going on.
We have this kind of morph off in the woods when I go out there with Nick and we’re chasing the girl and she turns around and she’s a Blutbad. So they wanted us both to be in the actual stunt. It was about Blutbad meeting Blutbad. So they put me in the makeup for that sequence but then while I was in makeup for that particular sequence in that particular episode, they also shot me on the green screen in various attitudes and behaviors that they can use to aid in CGI down the road so there’s still an element of me actually in there. It’s still a classic sculptural event and not just a purely digital one.
CraveOnline: And now they have plates to use later.
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, basically, they have these pieces they can fuse with other things. Frankly, I don't know how much of that they’ve really done because it still looks more CGI than actual.
CraveOnline: What kind of place does the season finale leave Monroe in?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Well, of all the cliffhangers, Monroe’s is sort of the least perilous in the very, very end. There’s a lot of peril on the way to this place, but basically Nick’s world is closing in on him. He needs to keep the elements of his life separate and they’re closing in on him. Monroe is a link between one world and the other world.
There’s an element attempting to get near to me. It’s very hard to explain without telling you what happens in the episode. All I can say is Nick needs Monroe to vouch for him basically. So for me it’s less guns ahead peril and more the poles of the universe are about to be undone.
The basis of what holds the world together is that these types of creatures, these types of people do not interface. So when you’re asking me to vouch for you, you’re asking me to basically turn the world upside down.
CraveOnline: What do you think is in store for season two?
Silas Weir Mitchell: I think the world is going to be turned upside down. I really don’t know. They’re moving so fast that the writers don’t even know yet what’s going to happen. We found out six or seven weeks ago that we’re renewed and that we come back in three months.
From now, we’re back in four weeks. So the writers have been buried right now. So I think there’s a “bible” of the show but the specifics are very, very few and far between for us. All I know is that I think it broadens out to be more global. In the last episode where the guy is running from the Verrat, he talks about the world being in peril as a result of a whole lot of forces that are not just about Portland. It starts to broaden out into the mythical underpinnings of the world.
CraveOnline: Do you get to have any break if you’re back in four weeks?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, I’m in L.A. right now and I have to go to ADR in an hour. I’m doing some press and ADR, but this is a break. I’m not at work.
CraveOnline: Would you have taken more of a vacation if it had been longer?
Silas Weir Mitchell: We started in October so when you start late and then you do okay and they want you to go right off the bat onto the next season, that’s six weeks. You start late one year, you start early the next year, you don’t have a lot of time in between.
CraveOnline: What have you liked about the Grimm mythology?
Silas Weir Mitchell: I didn’t grow up with the Grimm fairy tales but what I like about it in the iteration of this show is the fact that the writers, the creators have always been adamant about one rule. It’s not fantasy reality. It’s just reality that is especially heightened for this guy who’s a Grimm because he can see these demons that the human mask sort of obfuscates.
What I think is the coolest about that mythology is the idea that the Grimm were literally in the real world, historical figures, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were ethnologists in Prussia before it became Germany. The idea that these guys were collating and gathering mythical information in the sense of fairy tales and myths. They’re stories that we tell ourselves to help explain why certain things are a certain way.
Granted, Grimm fairy tales are a little more obtuse than Aesop’s fables I would say, but the idea that these guys were actually couching real events in fairy tale terms is a very cool idea to me because these creatures exist in the world. Jeffrey Dahmer is a creature. He is a monster. There are good creatures and bad creatures and this is all true in the world. So the idea that these brothers were actually telling the truth and that these elements of the human psyche are totally real is where it’s at for me because there’s a kind of psycho mythological truth to what’s going on.
I know that sounds really highfalutin to talk about a show on Friday nights that’s about a cop, but for me playing Monroe because that’s where Monroe lives, Monroe lives in this tension between one element of the human behavior or tendency and another element of human behavior and tendency which runs counter to the dark one. That’s where it lives. It lives in the sense that monsters are real. Things that go bump in the night are real.
CraveOnline: Would you have liked to continue playing Haywire on “Prison Break?”
Silas Weir Mitchell: No. Look, Haywire was fun. Haywire was a good gig, but they were writing the same story over and over again with Haywire. First I see the map on his chest, then I see the map in the painting. At the beginning Haywire was fun because he was off beat. I could do anything I wanted really. He was sort of a wild card. Then in the second season it became kind of a gag.
CraveOnline: Did you really pay your dues doing episodic television?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, I’ve been knocking around for years. I really like where I’m working and who I’m working with. I really like the character. It’s a good gig. I feel very thankful that I landed somewhere where I really like the people and the story and the locations. It’s a great gig.
CraveOnline: Did those episodics mean you had to play lots of bad guys and crazy people because they’re mysteries and cop shows?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, it was always cop stuff. I mean, it wasn’t a ton but there were some very fun ones. I did a “Crossing Jordan” that was totally a gas. It was great. I did a “Medium” that was not that kind of crazy criminal guy but always generally sort of the type.
CraveOnline: Are you really a totally super nice gentle guy in real life?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Pretty much. I mean, I have an angry streak in me like everybody does but I’m a kind person.
CraveOnline: Do you ask your agent to send you on different types of calls?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Well, yeah. That’s why I kind of stopped doing that stuff after “Prison Break.” I’m done. When I was shooting “Prison Break” I was like, “Well, this is a good job, but I’m not going to be able to play a normal person now. That bird has flown.”
Luckily it stopped. I personally feel like it’s just laziness. People want to finish, they want to be like, “That’s that guy, we’ve got ‘em. We don’t have to think about it anymore. We know who he is, we know what it is.” People don’t want to use their imaginations. Have you ever been to a commercial audition? I don’t do commercials, but I’ve walked by rooms where commercials are auditioning. It’s people dressing up as the characters, people going to the audition in costume fully. You’re playing a clown, you show up as a clown, dude. You go in for a cowboy, put on a cowboy hat, a vest, a little bandana around your neck because people need to see exactly what they think they wanna see.
And there’s a little element of that, not quite as bad as the commercial world, but there’s an element of that in Hollywood where it’s like once the establishment sees you in a certain way, it’s very, very hard to undo that. So I feel very lucky again for Monroe because Monroe is definitely other.
CraveOnline: Do genres like science fiction and fantasy have more imagination to go against casting types?
Silas Weir Mitchell: No, I think it transcends genre. It’s just an ideology that is entrenched. It happens even with audiences. It happens to audiences and people that are making stuff. People become identified with a role.
They can become identified with a type so it’s harder for people to believe an actor is something other than what they’ve already seen. It’s human nature but it runs deep in Hollywood as far as trying to change the way a person sees an actor.
CraveOnline: Was it fun to be in a Steven Seagal movie, The Patriot?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Oh yeah. That was early on. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m in a Hollywood movie. Yee-haw!” It just so happens that it was his worst movie ever.
CraveOnline: It was the first one that went straight to cable.
Silas Weir Mitchell: It was a train wreck, unfortunately for me. It was a fun character too, but it just wasn’t any good. It was the first one after he’d split with his producing partner. He produced it and it just was sort of a mess on the page and also in the making of it. The director was a gas. I remember working with him. He was great, but the whole thing didn’t work.
CraveOnline: That must’ve been a real education at that pointing your career.
Silas Weir Mitchell: I just remember, again I was away on location for like 16 weeks in Montana and I was just trying to keep my head down and do the work. It was fun. It was really fun, just the show didn’t wind up working. It wasn’t like it was tragically disorganized or something. It just in the end didn’t pull itself together.
CraveOnline: And how about playing a small role in Private Parts?
Silas Weir Mitchell: That was my first job. I think that was literally my first job. I don't know, it was so long ago, man. It was one scene.
CraveOnline: I have to admit, I’m getting that from IMDB. I don’t remember what your scene in Private Parts was but I do remember The Patriot really well, the terrorist gang.
Silas Weir Mitchell: It was building off of this milita craze, these guys who were holed up in the woods. That was a big thing back then.