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Marcus Hester Interview
Question: The episode is called "Kings of the Road." What's the name of this king you're playing and what's his story?
A: I was Cash, like money. He's the leader of a kind of a, bunch of a backwoods gypsy-type grifters who abduct people and clean their bank accounts out; snatch their jewelry, their credit cards and then dump them somewhere on the side of the road.
Q: How does he come into contact with Reddington and Liz?
A: Reddington and Liz are on the run clearly, and they stop to get gas and when Liz walks out of the gas station Red is gone with no explanation and he wakes up in a trailer with all of these folks wondering what Red's story is, and why this really well-dressed fellow with a bag of guns is driving around in this old beat up sedan with an obviously bogus identity.
They're very unaware of the consequences of who he is. So in the first couple of acts, they're trying to decipher who he is and what he's doing. He's clearly not the normal type of citizen that they usually grab.
Q: What was it about either the character or the story that made you want to get involved in the episode?
A: Well, I'll tell you the truth, I was just offered this part from a previous work that I'd done and so, yeah, of course, I knew it was one of the most popular shows on the globe right now. I could hardly turn it down, I guess, regardless of what it was. But it turned out to be a part that I was allowed to kind of play around with a good deal, instead of just playing the mustache twirling villain. He really has some colors and levels that aren't necessarily provided for you in a script, things like a sense of humor and trying to play away from the idea of the villain per se, and add a kind of humanity to the character because I suppose the bad guy doesn't necessarily consider himself the bad guy.
And, of course, it is mentioned in the script, there is a whole historical romantic idea of the Robin Hood type characters who steal from the rich, and as Reddington said, in the grand old tradition of the highway man; the gentleman pickpocket, an ideology from back in the 1600s to 1700s in Great Britain.
Q: How did you approach playing someone who is obviously bad, but being able to play the humanity that he has?
A: I wish I could tell you. [laughs] I think it's similar to playing someone with a sense of moral bankruptcy, it's like doing a dialect or playing someone with a physical malady or injury; a physical handicap, say, if you walk with a limp, someone with have a handicap like that wouldn't necessarily want to pronounce it. It's the kind of the whole adage, the trick to crying on camera is to try not to cry. I always kind of equate it to Hamlet, when the king and Polonius are trying to decipher what it is exactly that's gnawing at the title character, they say: "We don't know what's wrong," or "what he's upset about, but we do know that he's fond of my daughter. So we'll send my daughter in because we know he likes her," and then by indirection find direction.
So I don't know the exact trick to it other than to say playing someone who is morally bankrupt, that person doesn't see it like that. It's a matter of perspective. You're playing against the other person's reality, as opposed to just playing the bad guy. [laughs] I know that was fairly extensive. I don't know the trick.
Q: Did you have any sense, or were you able to create, any kind of backstory for this guy?
A: I don't tend to work like that. I generally like to just deal with the place that I am. I'm here, and react to the current circumstances. I tend to think that people get too involved in backstories, they can try to invent things, try to ascribe things, they can try and superimpose ideas that aren't relevant or aren't necessarily there.
Q: I know in previous roles you've had, you bring varied looks to the character. Did you have a specific idea of the look you wanted for Cash?
A: They did quite a good job, in wardrobe that is, of giving everybody in the band -- in the gang-- a different identity as far as what their wardrobe was, and so they had a vague idea and, of course, had a number of items, most of which were in the same vein, but just in so far as they liked the jewelry I wear. I wear jewelry and so I walk in and they say, ‘Oh yeah, jewelry. How ‘bout that?' We found out in the fitting, we should go in the direction of a red neck Johnny Depp, with my particular character having a little more panache or flair with the tattoo sleeve and everything, and, of course, that was makeup's gig. But just adding little things like, they found this fox tail that we kind of draped from off the belt which I felt was kind of a nice little touch. I think there's quite a bit of vanity to this character, a kind of narcissism, so to speak.
Q: So he's kind of a bike dude who's a bit caught up in his appearance. I mean, why would he even care about something like that?
A: That's exactly it, I personally am not a guy who looks in the mirror, and I do play a lot of very similar characters and regardless I think of whether or not it translates through the camera to the people watching, they always say you should have, as an actor, you should always have a secret, and there's something in the room that kind of keeps you alive, that keeps you in the moment; I'm in the room, and I know something that nobody in this room does. Things like that, like I said, I play a lot of similar characters, and I always like to have one thing that I can concentrate on, that's very specific to this one, that keeps it fun.
Q: What was that secret thing you focused on for this one?
A: In answer to the question of how this kind of trailer trash, vagabond would care about how he looked, that would be something. I like to add certain things that wouldn't necessarily be the norm. I like to play against types. That's what makes it interesting. That can work either way, someone, like you said, living in a trailer, why is he so elaborately accoutered, he wouldn't care anything about that. Or if you can pull it off, that adds something new. It's something you wouldn't have imagined, and whenever you're kinda pokin' at somebody's brain like that, like I said, it's different and it could be different for the sake of being different but if you can ground it in and successfully create the reality of this person that you're making believe that you are. I think that's quite interesting because you're breaking the standards of Central Casting-type of things that, let's be honest, you do see a good deal of in television.
Q: What was it like going toe-to-toe with James Spader in this role?
A: I'm not going to even lie to you, it doesn't happen often, but it's quite intimidating because I can tell you right now, I've never seen an actor just from minute one who was so completely prepared. It was quite impressive. I can also recall another actor who was like a huge wake up call to me. I'd done a film a number of years ago with Guy Pearce and he's another guy; the both of those guys, their level of preparedness and dedication and seriousness, it demands the same from everyone else, and when you're talking about the product as a whole, that's a very good thing to have something like that. And if they're number one on the call sheet, it's even better.
Q: What then are the takeaways from those experiences as you move forward in your own career?
A: You don't come in to a rehearsal to rehearse. You come in as close to, more than a hundred percent prepared. Not so much what your ideas are, you've gotta know your lines back and forth, and if you come in as prepared as you can possibly be, when you get into the rehearsals you'll discover so much more. So once you get to the shot, once you get to close-up coverage and what not, I think you're that much better because if you're coming into a rehearsal to learn your lines then you're that much less prepared when it comes down to your particular coverage. You're much less prepared by how the geography of the scene evolves and the different layers of the relationships and what not, you come in the way that those guys do, you just discover so much more in the moment, and the more complex the scene becomes the more that takes you out of it and stops you from thinking and gives you an opportunity to react to what's going on. That helps in the Wizard of Oz type sense, because if you can see the man behind the curtain, it shatters the illusion.