Don Harvey Interview
Q: How did you come to be on The Blacklist this season?
A: Well, The Blacklist is a great show, I love it, and ever since I saw it I wanted to get on it, so I asked my agents to keep an eye out for something that might look good, and they came up with a role which is perfect for me. I put myself on tape for it, I actually recorded myself with my iPhone, and recorded myself doing the scenes. I sent it in and they loved it.
Q: What is it about the show that you love and want to keep an eye out for a role?
A: I think the format is really great with a different villain every week. Keeps it really fresh. It's the same characters, but it keeps changing all the time, and they always get the best actors for it, especially for the villains. I've seen some of my favorite actors on there. So the thought that I could be one of those guys was really intriguing for me.
Q: Who are they?
A: Ritchie Coster (who played Anslo Garrick in season one). He's crazy. He did the two part one where Red was locked in the glass box. And that was just crazy. He plays that insane English guy who is Red's arch enemy. He's a friend of mine and I worked with him on the TV show Luck, and he was a great actor from the first time that I met him and the first time that I saw his work.
A: But I love them all. Robert Sean Leonard (as Frederick Barnes, season one) was awesome. Isabella Rossellini (as Floriana Campo, also season one). It's just a real high quality show, a lot of people want to be on it. It's just so many good people turning up on that show.
Q: So who is Eli Matchett?
A: He's a family farmer from Iowa, and has had a farm in his family for generations. He's the last of the line trying desperately to hang on, and he's dealing with all of the things that modern day farmers deal with - which is corporate take overs and trying to pay the taxes and the mortgages and everything else. There's a company which is developing genetically altered seeds, which is a very topical subject these days and a lot of people are concerned about that. What they do is take over the smaller farms, so he's very disgruntled because his family farm's been taken over by a corporation, and he's going to find a way to get revenge.
A: He finds a way to very seriously mess with the food supply globally, and then, of course, with all of the Blacklists, as you go into the story, you find that it's a little more complicated than that. They always make it seem pretty simple at the beginning, but then you find that there are a lot of other people involved in the scheme.
Q: What was the relationship like between Eli, Reddington and Liz?
A: They're [the CIA] really unaware of who he is at first, and then Red, of course, shows them who he is. But since Red is not working with the CIA per se, he's kinda out for his own interests at this point, but he's trying to do something to help them and get back into their good graces. He gives them this information which helps them to find out that this is all going on. They start trying to catch this Eli Matchett guy before he's able to do what he does and it turns into this big chase.
Q: In every episode this season, it looks like the cat and mouse game between the feds and Red and Liz continues to escalate…
A: In a way, the stakes are higher because they have to stop the blacklist villains from doing their thing because now they're really trying to save themselves as well, and not just working on behalf of the CIA. They're doing it in spite of the CIA who's trying to stop them, so there's a whole other layer. It's essentially two different entities that are chasing me through this. I have Red chasing me, but I also have Agent Ressler and the CIA group chasing me as well.
A: I think the motivation for Red is to help them find me so that they know he is not really guilty of all the things they think he's guilty of. He's trying to exonerate himself. If he can help them find me then perhaps they'll give him another chance to clear his reputation. It's a very interesting twist, because you find out later as it goes along that there are a lot more people involved in this plot than just me. They want to make it seem like I'm a lone wolf out there, but really The Cabal, they're all just using me to do something that's even more sinister than what you think in the beginning. By the end of the episode you find out that it's a lot of different layers, and he ends up catching some high level people, which is different. Usually the blacklist guy is about as high as it goes, but in this case, I'm almost like a pawn for a lot of other entities that come before me.
Q: What physical traits did you want to bring to the look of Eli Matchett, in terms of hair, make-up and costuming?
A: Well, he's a farmer, and he's from Iowa, which is good for me because I'm from Michigan so I just wanted to go back to my roots and look as natural and as rugged and as from the earth as I could. But then on top of that, you have the fact that he's a trained killer. [laughs]
Q: Then what exactly does a trained killer farmer look like?
A: You start with the farmer, then put on the trained killer. [laughs] You only really see it at certain points when you see the killing and then you're like, ‘Oh my god,' because at first you think this guy is just somebody who's angry and disgruntled, but then you see he's connected to the agencies up there, so he is trained to be doing what he's doing. He's actually more intelligent than you think he is and he's actually more diabolical than you think he is. At first, he just comes off as a crazy, disgruntled guy, and after a while he starts to get more and more diabolical.
Q: As an actor, what do you like about a character who evolves so quickly in the course of an episode?
A: I like it to be a bit disguised at first, which is really fun because it's a surprise. You think it's all going to go one way, like you've seen it before, but then as it goes on you realize it's a little bit different and I love that. It allows you to just have all that in your mind, but not reveal it until later - almost like you're playing a game of cards where nobody really knows what cards you're holding. That's what this show really embodies, that you think you know what it's about but as it goes on you see that it takes a lot of twists and turns, and the cards are not revealed until the end of the whole story, which I find really interesting.
A: Of course, there's always a fight on The Blacklist and usually Ressler's the guy who fights so that was a lot of fun to be able to do a really great fight scene. I always look forward to doing one of those especially with people who work on that show. The stunt crew's just amazing. They really make it easy for you, they do it in such a way that even if you haven't done fighting - and I've done a lot of fighting in my career, but I don't keep up on it all the time but I'm in great shape - they made me look like I was a real pro.
Q: How do you keep in shape?
A: I swim almost every day, and I run a lot. I lift weights, I do all of those things. But also I do yoga. Yoga keeps you stretched so you don't have the injuries because you never know what you're going to have to do in a role: you may have to fight, you may have to dance, you may have to jump off a building, so I do yoga at least three days a week.
Q: One of the interesting things about the show is that the episode titles are typically named after the blacklister featured - so it's like you have your own episode. Does it feel like that in terms of prep and workload?
A: Well, there's a lot of other stuff going on as well. At this point, there's several other plots happening concurrently, so by this third season all of the characters have an alternate story going on. I think Eli Matchett really just becomes one of the stories in this show. But that did feel very special to have the episode was named after my character. That made me feel really special.
A: They really do a lot with just a few scenes; they get a lot of plot happening with just a few key scenes and then it gets very interesting so I felt like it was an honor to be considered the Blacklist man! [laughs] I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.
Q: Will Matchett be coming back?
A: It's possible, because I don't die. I end up getting arrested, and anytime anybody gets arrested you know they're available for questioning so there's a lot of information that I have about a lot of people that are all trying to catch. It's possible that I could provide a lot of information to them, but as of yet, I don't know if that's going to happen.
Q: But you'd welcome that?
A: That'd be great! Are you kidding, that'd be fantastic! This was one of the funnest jobs I've ever done. It's an amazing set. Everybody there is just so close, everybody works so well together. I think the fighting was the best part. I had this anticipation of rehearsing; learning a scene and then rehearsing for hours and hours and hours to get the fight scene perfect. But we just went out there and started fighting right from the word go, and the way that they did it was so easy because I didn't have to know the fight from start to finish, back and forth, they just made it look so effortless the way it was shot. It was a lot of fun. It was the funnest fight scene I've ever done.
Q: Talk about working with James - although you don't really have a lot of scenes together.
A: Yeah, I mean, he's just like no other actor. He's so cool. He's got such style, and he's go so much going on underneath. Everything he says is never totally on the surface, there's always about six different things going on underneath. And since he never really catches up with me, I didn't have to stand toe to toe with him but it was amazing to be there on the set with him and watch him work because I could just see that everybody around him has so much respect for him, so that's really great.
Q: In terms of working together, there wasn't much with Megan either.
A: Basically I'm mostly with Diego Klattenhoff and those guys, because these are the guys that are actually closest to me and catching up to me, so the big finale is with them. But I was on the set everyday with James and Megan, and it was great to watch them work. Just to be there and see what they were doing was pretty intense. It's hard to imagine too many other actresses being able to hold their own with James Spader. He must have been helpful to her over the years, being open to her and giving her a lot of room to grow because she's just really blossomed into this role beautifully. If I do come back, maybe I'll be in a room with him trying to interrogate me. [laughs]
A: It's funny because sometimes the character is not as important as the project itself. If the project is really good, then I'll play just about anything in it because I just want to work with a lot of really good people. Even if you have the greatest character in the world, and you read it and think, ‘Oh my god, this is so great!' if you don't have really great people working on it, it might turn out to be not very rewarding. It starts with the studio itself, the executives and the people who run the studio, if they get good people involved, like a director, writers, and then other actors, it all adds up. The most important thing is that you have a good experience with it, because if everybody's having a good experience then it turns out to be a good end results.
A: Sometimes you come into something and you think it's going to be so fantastic and it just turns out that people don't work well together and it doesn't turn out as well as you'd like. So when I'm looking for a project, I always look at the names involved and then if the names are good, and boy, if I can find a good character on top of that, a character that has some depth and has something to do with the main story other than just move the plot along, or just incidental in the story, I like to be a part of what's happening; somebody's that's got some interesting character revelations. Those are always great.