Anthony Carrigan Interview
Q: How did you come to getting involved in the series this season?
A: Essentially they had a very specific idea for the part in mind, and this character is described in the script with a shaved head and no hair, and that just happens to be the look that I have, the look that I'm working with because I have alopecia. Being an actor with alopecia really lends itself to this character and the way he's described and the way he's written. When the script was sent my way, and I was asked to take a look at it, I immediately thought, Hey, this is cool. This is amazing, and what a fun character. So I was immediately kind of drawn to it.
Q: To clarify, does the character have alopecia, or was it simply he was bald and had no facial hair?
A: Each of the Vehm, the group of people who are committing these murders, they essentially are all hairless, but they shave themselves. It's almost like a kind of act of purification. So they don't have alopecia but it's kind of done for a very specific purpose.
And you know, it's funny, because I wasn't entirely sure how we were going to do that scene where he's being shaved and washed and getting ready, and we weren't sure if that was going to be like a big thing, and all of a sudden it was just happening, and they were like, 'Okay, take off your clothes, let's do this.' And I was like, 'Okay, here I am.' I was standing in this basement of a cathedral and I'm being shaved by all these bald men, being washed with water with rose petals floating around, and definitely one of the weirdest Mondays I've ever had. [laughs]
Q: Did they have to apply hair in order to make the scene work?
A: Oh no. I'm already pretty smooth. But it was more of the act of it which was kind of important. That was an interesting day – started off kidnapping a clown in the back of a van, then ended up being shaved by 15 bald guys. So definitely a highlight of my acting career. [laughs]
Q: In the context of that, you've already come in with a very specific kind of look. Were there other things you did, with dress or speech, to create this character, Harris Holt?
A: So we're talking about a group of people that were around in the medieval time. The look that the costume designers and creators came up with was this very, almost like a Knight's Templar kind of look, with white clothing, hooded and certainly a little bit dirty because of the horrific things that they're doing to these people.
Q: From what I understand then, they're like this holy order who are like vigilantes that Reddington and Liz have to stop before murdering other targets. But where did they come from, and on whom are they're seeking vengeance – what's they're backstory?
A: Essentially the origin of the Vehm, they initially began as this group that formed because there was such lawlessness in the land they were living in, so there was no protection from anyone who was going to try to murder them or steal from them, or steal the land. So they essentially banded together and began as a group that was protecting people and got support from the church, and by that point they really began to grow and thrive, and they began to get a little too out of control. They were essentially performing witch hunts at that point. Anyone who was had any possible connection to sorcery or devil worship or anything like that, people would be killed instantly. So they became a bit of a liability for the church.
Cut to present day, they were brought back into existence in order to achieve certain means, in order to kind of bump certain people off, and they utilize these really dangerous people who want to right the wrongs that they have done before, essentially taking these bad guys and having them hunt other bad guys.
Q: Since the Vehm have an historic background in reality, did you draw upon that for backstory for your character, or something specific in the script that you were pulling from in order to inform the character? Or did you just make things up as you went along?
A: There was a lot of it that was already supplied, but one of the really fun things about being an actor is fleshing out the life and the backstory of your character because you want him to be as embodied as possible so anything you can kind of come up with from the details in the script, that's all helpful.
I definitely went into the past, kind of, shameful acts that this character is essentially trying to get away from. Like he definitely has a past where he abused children, so, of course, that's a really messed up place to go in somebody's head, but instead of going to that place, I essentially sketched out the whole time frame in which he wanted to rehabilitate himself, and the time in which he found God, and to the time where he was offered salvation through the church and how he could contribute and how he could essentially relieve himself of all the sins he committed.
Q: How is Harris' interaction with Reddington and Liz?
A: It's more of a cat and mouse kind of thing, and my character and Red stay somewhat apart. But Red is also giving the information that is going to essentially lead to Harris' capture. And the involvement between Liz and my character, you'll see that these guys have been chasing this guy down and it's ultimately part of a much larger operation that my character is essentially a hired muscle for.
Q: You mentioned you were intrigued by Harris beyond his physical similarities. What was it that drew you in?
A: There's many different facets that really peaked my interest. One of them was the fact that this guy was a religious zealot. He believes so strongly in God, and believes so strongly in what he's doing that he feels capable of committing such atrocious crimes in the name of something larger, in the name of something really pure. And I think that makes someone incredibly dangerous when they're doing something that they believe is right, and they'll stop at nothing to accomplish that.
Q: It sounds almost like what's happening in our world now with religious extremism be it Christian extremism or Islamic extremists. Does it draw on any real life parallels to things that are going on today?
A: There are absolutely parallels there, but there's nothing that's specifically saying this is what it's mirroring in society right now, but it just goes to show that people who believe strongly in something but are willing to forgo compassion and understanding can be extremely dangerous tools for the wrong type of group, absolutely.
And another fascinating thing about the character is that he has such a need to prove himself in the eyes of God and that's something that is an interesting topic right now in terms of how religion is being portrayed in the media, how religion is expressed worldwide, and it's something that I think is definitely worth looking at within politics, and also in art, television and movies.
Q: Many television viewers will know you as "Victor" from the series, Gotham, and now here you are playing yet another villain on another popular show. Do you fear being typecast? Or are you fine being the bad guy?
A: Well I think both are true. I just happen to really enjoy playing villains. I really do. So that works itself out quite nicely. Villains are fascinating characters because they believe that they are, in their own right, heroes, and they believe so strongly they're doing the right thing, or they can't see beyond their own pain. So they're ultimately going to cause conflict. So in one sense I really do love playing villains and I do my best to differentiate what each of these characters is about, and not play it in a way that's very generalized or, quote-unquote, 'evil.'
But I am looking to break through the mold of the bald guy being just a straight up villain as well, so I'm looking for those types of roles as well. It's hard. And it's certainly very easy to be typecast.
Q: How do you fight against that? I mean, you've done other roles with hair, like Parenthood. So do you feel you need to mix it up roles where you would have to have hair?
A: Well, that was during a period of time when I actually had hair, and eyebrows and eye lashes, and I could still play those parts and put on a wig or put on fake eyebrows and eye lashes. But I'm at a point now where I like the way that I look. I think it's really cool. So it doesn't just lend itself to the kind of strange or weird or fantastical, I can actually be just a normal dude and I think it lends itself to that because different is something that this industry doesn't necessarily jump to embrace, but I think it is the ingredient that really makes things interesting and makes things well rounded.
Q: Were you a fan of the show before you signed up?
A: Yes. Definitely. I'd been watching it, and I try to do my best to catch all the episodes, so when I heard that the offer was out to me, I was really, really pumped. I had always been a fan of James Spader, and of Megan (Boone) and Diego (Klattenhoff), so I was thrilled to know that I was going to be able to get a chance to act opposite all of them.
Q: Since the storyline has them looking for you, were you able to interact with them on screen as much as you'd like?
A: I definitely got to have some fun, dynamic scenes, and there were definitely very intense because they're mostly interrogation scenes. But I got to kind of hang with them off-camera, and they're all really lovely, really personable, and just as magnetic off-screen as they were on.
Q: As a young actor, is there take away from an experience like this, working with actors of their caliber?
A: Oh, absolutely. I think specifically this job, I certainly came away with how to be the most efficient with what I'm trying to convey. Because with a show like The Blacklist, it is so precise and so well-oiled, and it moves along, and that's great. It's a great thing to work with people who know what they want, who know what they want to achieve, and who essentially want to get the best thing possible with efficiency, so it's always a good lesson to come in with ideas, but essentially be ready to perform and try to get the best thing possible as efficiently as possible.
Q: As a fan of the show, did you have any favorite blacklisters?
A: 'The Stewmaker' (with Tom Noonan) was a good one. God, that dude was so creepy. Another bald guy. I thought he did a great job. And Ron Perlman's character, Luther Braxton. He was great. He was just awesome. Just takin' names. That guy is amazing.
Q: So what is it that you like about villains – specifically playing them?
A: I think everyone secretly roots for the villain. You just kind of love a bad guy. You kind of love to root for them. The coolest thing about playing a villain is being able to find the humanity in them, finding what essentially turned them into what they are now, and it's essentially this warped vision that they have which may at one time started as something good, and seeing how that humanity still exists within them, and how it's changed them.
Q: Did you feel you were able to tap into that humanity for Harris?
A: Yea, I was. We all have things about ourselves that we feel guilt or feel shame about. We wish that we could change things about ourselves, and this character had a very particular path in which he was trying to right the wrongs that he had done, and they were pretty horrific wrongs, so I think he justifies them with some pretty horrific acts.
Q: Of course with some blacklisters they meet a horrific end, and some endings are open-ended. Will we see Harris again?
A: My character survives, so as far as whether my character will be back, I'm not sure. I mean, I hope so because I loved working on that show. So it would be a blast. But as far as I'm concerned, it's a mystery; it's a big question mark.