I spoke with Wilmer Valderrama and Steve Harris about their roles on Awake. They are both detectives that share the same partner, Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs). If you haven’t checked out Awake on NBC, do so now because it is one of the best hours that you will ever spend in front of your television. It’s different, thought provoking, and Wilmer promises that a penguin will be involved, so what are you waiting for. I’ve been addicted to the Penguin Cam on Discovery so to incorporate penguins into one of the shows that I adore, well I think my head is going to explode. What more could any fan ask for? It was an honor to speak with Wilmer and Steve. I’ve been a fan of Wilmer’s since his guest spot on Grounded for Life and of course I was a fan of That ‘70s Show. Lately on television, it’s been a Wilmer explosion between his starring role on Awake, his guest starring roles on Suburgatory (dressed in white), Royal Pains (enjoying art), and a few other shows. Steve is an amazing actor, as well. I’m really enjoying Awake and I can’t wait to see how the series progresses. Don’t miss Awake, Thursday nights on NBC.
Lena Lamoray: Can you both talk about what Vega and Freeman go through being Michael’s partner, and how that develops as the series continues?
Steve Harris: Well I mean I think we – I think my character goes through a process of being with a partner where everything sort of made sense. Now since this accident things aren’t making nearly as much sense. I sort of compare to being married and you’ve been married with somebody for so many years, and then all of the sudden, you know, year 15 they want to try something new in bedroom, and you go, “Wait, wait, wait, where did that come from?” You know, for me. And I think that our relationship has that going on, but you have so much trust in each other. You have so much belief in each other that you’ve developed over the years, that I think as the show progresses you will see that bond get even closer. You’ll see that bond, and you know it will be questioned. They will be taken to certain extremes, you will see how – I believe you will see why these guys have been together for so long and have worked together so well for so long as the show progresses.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, and you know, for, you know, for my character for sure, I mean you’re going to see him being more and more, you know, invested into what, you know, into what, you know, Michael’s emotional journey is going to be. You know, but most importantly he wants to be the best detective he can be, so he’ll stay very consistent to, you know, to where, you know, where he wants to climb to. You know, and that is to be a detective respected by the force as well. I think it’s a fascinating journey for all the characters you know, and for me it’s just building toward that trust and foundation, you know, that he wants to be as a partner. But also he finds himself in this really – walking this really fine line between the Captain and Michael Britten. What does he actually report back to the Captain? Why does he actually confine into Michael Britten? And I think it’s that inner struggle thing. You know, I’m a rookie I want to do the right thing, you know, I want to follow orders, but emotionally I’m getting invested in the sense that I really – I’m now caring for my partner and I’m not sure what to do yet. And I think that is going to play out also throughout the arc of the character.
Lena Lamoray: What are some of the cases that we have to look forward to?
Wilmer Valderrama: We – I mean we have a lot of cases. I mean we have – by the way, we double up, we have pretty much two cases in every episode, so you can double that for sure. I mean we have a lot of great episodes. Don’t want to give up too much because all the queues are so unpredictable.
Steve Harris: Yes, I believe – I mean that’s the issue. You know what he’s dealing with and you know as it starts unfold, you know, that there’s an aspect of a conspiracy in play. There’s an aspect of him still trying to do the job. The value system of whether or not he believes in himself as it progresses.
Wilmer Valderrama: Right.
Steve Harris: It’s because the thing about BD and Cherry and what they provide is at some point when you’re dealing with this, you have to start question which world is really real if you have to deal with them. And I think that has a bearing on how his mind functions and how his mind works in future episodes, because you start to question that regardless of whether you want to stay exactly where you are, and you have two people that keep battering you with that, then you know at some point you have to sort of vibe and deal with it. And I think that trying to do all of things while working your jobs, both of our cases at the same time, I think it bodes well for a lot of quite creative and inventive cases further down the line.
Wilmer Valderrama: Right. That’s right. And I mean if I – if you must hear a little nugget, you know, I will tell you as you know that we’re going to find out more than meets the eye to that car accident and the conspiracy behind it, and why it was done. And also we’re going to find out, you know, a little – we’re going to get closer and closer why does Michael doesn’t really remember anything from that night. And then I’m going to tell you something else that’s going to sound super crazy, but we are going to have a penguin in one of the episodes. Do what you will with that piece of information, but I’m going say is that if a penguin is a hint of things to come, I think the show is going to give you the ability to live in a number of aspects. And one things that we’re definitely going to do is we’re going to have fun with the ability that we have to go through, you know, from one dream to the other. And that will play out in every episode starting, you know, next week.
More Press Conference Call Highlights:
Q: What is it about Michael Britten that makes you follow his orders without really questioning what he’s asking you to do?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, I mean I guess – yes I guess I’ll just from my perspective I guess. I play this young rookie detective, newly promoted to be his partner. And I think that, you know, there’s a certain protocol that comes with being someone’s partner where it’s not so much about questioning but it’s just kind of going along to see how it all pans out. And for me, as the season goes along you will see that I grow a little bit more and more frustrated about the fact of the matter that, which is you know, some of his reasoning seems illogical in my world, you know? And eventually that will play in as well. But I think that, you know, there’s – it’s – there’s some kind of unspoken, you know, feeling to the fact that you are someone’s partner and somehow you – there is a very fine line whether – how much you question and how much you go along with.
Steve Harris: And for me, on the other end, I’ve been in – I’ve been his partner for many years, and so there’s a trust factor that goes along with that I feel. But I also feel I do question him because it’s a different approach that we’re taking towards the cases now. So what – his way of working now is all panning out. It is all making sense. So even though my question, “Well why would we do this, why would we do that,” comes into play, he’s still my partner. He’s been my partner for many years. So when you have that sort of relationship, we’re more like brother than anything else. And so I will stick with him because he’s basically my brother.
Q: What is it like getting to work with Jason Isaacs? He says that he’s, “Very in the moment with his lines.”
Steve Harris: I had scripted to say so many things. But the fact of it is, you know, I actually like working with Jason. You know, Jason’s – I love his energy. I love what he brings to the table. Clearly you could see that he’s talented. He’s very collaborative type actor which is a precious commodity to have, especially when you know, the show really evolves around you and the whole nine yards. So he’s very collaborative, he’s a good guy. And I’m actually having a good time working with him. hat’s what they paid me to say though, here’s the truth. No, no really, really, it really is – it really has been funny. And really underneath all of that kind of stuff, he really is a nice guy. Straight up.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes. No, and to follow-up with what, you know what Steve’s saying, you know, to be honest I – you know, he’s single-handedly one of the big reasons why I signed on to do the show I think. You know, I love him in everything that he has ever done. You know, and I can honestly say that, you know, with a straight face. You know, I mean the guy is just a really, really solid and great actor. And you know, he really fights for authenticity. He really fights for our consistency, but most importantly for just, you know, the genesis and the journey of his character, that eventually you know, influences all of us as part of his initial chapter and journey. So to see him be so invested into the show, it’s really great. It’s really, really great because it’s contagious, you know, we love the show. We have so much fun working together. And I have a blast with him too man, like we were very silly him and I. And I mean all of us, the three of us, the three boys you know, are – have a really good, you know, a really good thing going man. And it’s very special and very rare when you can come to work and really love your crew and really respect and admire them. And for me specifically look up to people like Steve and Jason, you know, who are just arguably some of the best actors of our generation. And for me working with Jason has been very eye opening and seeing how invested he’s been with every word and every – and like he says, “Very collaborative,” you know he makes sure that every scene and every moment really works. And I think you’ll see that shine throughout the series for sure.
Q: Jason Isaacs told us a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t think Awake was really a high concept idea and that people would be able to get onboard. Do you agree that, regular mainstream audiences are going to understand the show and how it’s working?
Steve Harris: Of course. I really believe that. I don’t think for some way – some reason or another high concept has become a bad word in some lights. And I really feel that the show isn’t – I actually don’t feel it’s high concept it’s basically a show about a man dealing with a turmoil in his life where his realities are sort of construed in that one may be real and one not, and he’s living it as if both are real. Now to me with all of the stuff that’s on television now, with all of the things that people have available to watch, I don’t view that as high concept at all. And I think that people are showing that they want to watch something that have them be invested every week. And we want to give them that, and then in the same light give them something that they want to talk about on Friday, the next day, that they would like to talk about and have a conversation around the water cooler. And we really hope that’s what’s going on.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, and to you know, to compliment what Steve is saying, you know, I think that the writers have done an incredible job of just finding a very unique way of narrating his journey. And the thing that makes it fun and different, and most importantly just fresh, you know, is just it’s just very refreshing to see this the way that we’re telling the story, the way that we – that this procedural is told. You know, it has so much more heart than any regular procedural. There is so much more invested emotionally, not only in the cases, but in his personal journey. And I think that that’s what’s unique and original about the show is that, you know, as awesome and as cool and as rad and as hardcore, you know, some of our cases, and actually and thrill of the show would be, you know, there’s also this really great fundamental, you know, heart and soul and spirit to the show that’s very easy to relate to. But I think what Jason is saying is right, I think the writers and the producers have done an incredible job and I think consistent with a formula and a format that is easy to follow. And I don’t think, like Steve says, I don’t think high concept is a bad word, you know, because high – I actually – the phrase described as high concept as you know, something outside of the box, you know, something that is original, you know? And that’s one of the reasons why we signed to do this show man, because we weren’t going to be doing the same thing we’ve done for, you know, the last decade and a half of television that Steve and I have been working in .
Q: What kind of detectives do you think you both would be in real life? Do you think you’d have the patience for it?
Wilmer Valderrama: Really good looking ones.
Steve Harris: Very well dressed.
Wilmer Valderrama: Really, really good looking detectives. I’ll tell you that much right now. That at the very least I can tell you.
Steve Harris: You know what, I don’t want to take any person’s job – forsaking any person’s job, you know that’s a hard job to do. Nobody want to – nobody wants a police officer. Nobody looks for a police officer unless there is – unless there’s trouble or trouble has happened or some it coming. To answer your question, possibly, I believe possibly. But I don’t know if I could ever endure having that sort of vibe, that sort of negative vibe, around me 95% of the time.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, it’s – listen it’s – you – it’s a breed of human being, you know. It’s the same respect and the same love that we have for our armed forces and the men and women of the armed forces. Then they go to, you know, they go to Iraq and Afghanistan and they, you know, it’s just – it’s a – it’s just a soul. You know, it’s a soul journey that, you know, that is again, is a very powerful individual. You know what I mean. And we’re all powerful in our own unique way I think, and I think we all play to our strengths. But you know, to – as a detective I wouldn’t know what to do. You know, I mean to be honest I have so much love and respect for the people that really truly do it and my hat is off to them, you know, for how they look at life and the thankless jobs that they take upon.
Q: What is specifically about this show that made the two of you decide to do a weekly series?
Steve Harris: Wow, I – you know, I’m going to say that – to think we got a hit. When I read it I thought it was the best things I’d read. And the one thing that I learned from the previous series, and I think both of us learned from the previous series that we were on, was that if you have the foundation of good writing, creative writing I might add, then you want to jump aboard that ship. Okay, so clearly this show is one of those shows. You tie into the fact that you have somebody like Howard Gordon being attached as the executive producer, and NBC willing to give this a legitimate shot, looking at this to be part of their lineup strongly. Then you tie in all of us, the actors that we got, Wilmer, Jason, you go to Cherry and BD and Dylan and (Owen) and Laura, and I mean it goes on and on. When you start adding that sort of pocket together with everything else that they’ve put together, this is like a show you want to be a part of. This is the kind of show that not only would bring you back to television if you were out of it for a such a while as I have, and I believe Wilmer was for a while as well, it’s also the kind of show that you’re proud to be a part of and you really want to be a part of.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, no, and I’m, you know, with Steve. And I think that, you know, this is very rare, it’s very rare you have an opportunity to work with this incredible, you know, coalition of people that are just so prolific and everything. You know, I mean it’s, you know, from, you know, from Howard Gordon, you know, which I’m obsessed with the X-Files, I’m obsessed with 24, you know, I love Homeland. You know, to come from that great pedigree and great vision and tone is really, really ideal. And you know, Kyle Killen is really smart, and Jeffery Reiner who’s our show runner, who did Friday Night Lights and The Event. You know, he’s just – there’s just people that really love, you know, to conceptualize things. And – but I tell you, you know, one of the biggest selling points was, I mean I – it was a little scary for me to come back to television. You know, and I didn’t even want – I really didn’t want to come television with something, you know, that was predictable, that I’ve done before. You know, I was very blessed to, you know, to have received the script and to eventually join forces with everyone on this, because for me in my mind, it just – it couldn’t have gotten more of a solid team and more of perfect format to just return with something so different. You know, and I love working with these guys, man, and I’d go to work with these guys any day. And it’s just blessing to be around this much talent. And how could say no to something this special.
Q: You’ve both been working for a while now, what if anything, would you do differently if you could do back and redo it?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes. It’s – I mean I’d say that for me there’s a few photo shoots I really didn’t want to do (unintelligible). I’ll take back some of those photo shoots, some of the really silly ass photo shoots I did on 70′s. Some of those trampoline shots, you know, some of those between the glass shots. I think I could take some of those back, I think it would be amazing.
Steve Harris: Yes, I did a photo shoot for People one time, and there’s a shot that I wish I could take back. But you know what I’ve had a blissful soul. Changing it, you know, there are probably are things if I really thought about it, but living it now I’m pretty happy the way things are turning out.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes. It’s hard to look back at your resume and say, “You know, I wish I’d – I wish I had done this and that.” But because everything has been such a stepping stone for the next, so I mean I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done so far.
Q: When you’re dealing with this split world and you’ve got the one reality and the other reality, when you read the script do you find yourself still trying to follow it? Are you trying to figure out what’s going on?
Steve Harris: It’s actually pretty easy for us to follow. Because we, you know, we’re living it every day. You know, so for us it’s very – and I think some of the components that the writers and the creators have put in to make it easier for viewership to follow the two worlds. I think people are getting it and getting into it. So we’re very happy with the way it’s turning out as such. So it really wasn’t that difficult to get into it because for us those worlds and the way they designed them, those are what we live in every day. So it’s really not that – it wasn’t that difficult for me I’ll say.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, no, exactly. You know for us, you know, as actors I mean look, some spectators, you know, you read it and you’re like, “Whoa I want to know what happens next.” You know, you’re really always, you know, really excited to see well what’s week’s episode, where we know how it is going to pan and how it’s going to play out throughout the series. You know, it’s all these some question, but when it comes for us as the characters within it, you know, we have to, you know, we kind of just tend to play immediately what’s in front of us. We’re living that moment in time. So we make choices based on what’s presented to us at that very moment, and what we get from our partner Michael Britten. So at the very moment we’re going to go along with this journey, in this self-discovery journey that he’s on, and let that somehow influence our thought and makes react to it a certain or create some kind of theory behind it. But yes, I mean I think that it’s pretty simple for us. You know, we – it’s very simple, it’s – you’re working in numbers, you know there’s two of everything, right? There’s two partners, two psychiatrists, two cases, you know, and two loved ones who are grieving and trying to cope. You know, and you just see the evolution of how they are intertwine together and eventually it just makes for great TV.
Q: Wilmer, with all your years doing pre-camera comedy in front of the audience, how is this a change of pace.
Wilmer Valderrama: The pace is – I mean it’s day and night for sure. I miss doing comedy for sure, but I’m so fulfilled and it’s so rewarding to be doing this drama. You know, I love – I’ve been doing film for a while now, so it really does feel, and I think probably still Steve feels the same way. You know, this is – specifically this type of show, it really truly feels like we’re shooting a weekly movie. You know, we do a movie every week. And every episode something, you know, beginning, middle and end, there’s something thrilling, we’re on location and all of that. And it’s been in amazing locations all over Los Angeles, so it’s just a very different experience, completely different experience. But the clowning around and the joking around in between takes is completely still the same. You know, that’s for sure. None of that has changed, we’re the craziest clowns in between takes, you know. But when it comes to the game play and you come to work and it’s just a really, really different experience. And it’s very fun for me and I’m having a blast.
Q: Do you have any funny stories you can tell us about that happened in between takes?
Steve Harris: Hey, don’t you dare tell that one. Don’t you dare.
Wilmer Valderrama: I know, I know, I know, I was trying to figure would be newsworthy to be honest. Let’s see there’s a lot of stuff that happens in between, you know, there’s a lot of funny outtakes. There’s a lot of funny situations. You know, I think the funniest things is I think – I’ll tell you the funniest stuff is basically Jason has a speaker. And in between takes while they’re setting up or turning the camera around, or something that, he’ll play music from his iPhone into this speaker. And you can really tell a lot about a person when you listen to the selection of music. And I’m just going to say one thing about Jason, Jason loves Broadway musicals, okay. That’s all I’m going to say. And I’m going to leave at that because everything else doesn’t matter, okay.
Steve Harris: That was so wrong, boss.
Wilmer Valderrama: I’m so wrong, oh my God he’s going to kill me.
Steve Harris: No, he’s going to (unintelligible).
Q: Do either of you know what’s going on with things? Have you been told anything, and if not, do you want to be or would you rather be in the dark?
Steve Harris: No, I mean we – I’m assuming you’re talking about the future episodes and that sort of thing, is that correct? Because what happens is we get the next script, the next script, the next script, and then we live in those scripts. So I really don’t know what the overall rainbow is for the arc of the show in regards to that. And to be perfectly honest, I really don’t want to know. I would prefer just play in the moment what we’re doing everything, and be excited by the next script, the next episode. And what we’re going to turn over next, what part of the mind, what part of the field, how visceral we going to get into it next? What kind of, you know, the whole process of doing this for me, especially a show like this, is that discover motion, and then getting your opportunity to perform it and to pull it off. So I love that sort of fell to it. It keeps it really alive.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, no, I’m with him on that. It’s really fun for us to not know because we as the characters discovery as – discover everything as we go, you know. And – but when it comes to the actual show itself, we have a pretty good idea, you know, of how things are being handled and sublimely, cerebral, you know, the process. You know, and we have a really good understanding of the type of show we’re on. And I will tell you this, the one thing that I can promise you from all of us on Awake is that no pun intended, that one day we’re going to awake and it’s going to be all a dream. You know what I mean. Like we’re definitely going to – you know, everything you see on this show from every episode to the arcs and all that will be some kind of clue. Will be some kind of, you know, hint that eventually create an equation that will give us a resolution we are going to be fulfilled about. And I’ve had the ability to – the opportunity to actually to talk to the creator and to Howard Gordon about where it’s going, there’s, you know, from this season to the next. And there is definitely a plan and that’s a fact. There is definitely something that they’re going to build towards. So, you know, this is not one of those things where like, nobody really knows, and then you know, I’ve been – I’ve also been heart-broken by many shows when you put your whole, you know, into them. And then when it ends you’re just like, “There goes six years of my life.” You know what I mean? But when he’s with this show, you know, we definitely took note of a lot of those and we have building some kind of structure where we’re going to build to a sort of resolution. Where we’re definitely going to be very much fulfilled as an audience.
Q: It seems like in each reality there are radically different personality types around Britten, like the psychologists, one is very confrontational, one is very supportive collaborative. And that seems to be the case also with his detective partners what with Bird being supportive and collaborative and Vega being very in your face. How do you develop these characters in this way without seeming too over the top, or too under the radar?
Wilmer Valderrama: Well, you know, for me as Detective Vega, you know, it comes from a number of places, right? You know, there’s a little bit of a question, I walk a very fine line. Was I really hired to just – as a rookie, you know, was I promoted as a rookie detective to be Michael Britten’s new partner. Or was I promoted as a detective to, you know, to pretty much report everything I see. From our point of view as, you know, from the inside of Michael Britten’s mind. So, you know, there’s a little bit of that fine line that played there, even though there’s an undertone of that my frustration comes from being a rookie and wanting to really prove myself. And wanting to, you know, to go along and be an actual partner. Unfortunately I find myself being a partner to someone that is either loosing grip, or has a really interesting theory of solving cases that I just never thought I would ever encounter in my detective career. You know, needless to say I’m really – some of the things that he’s going through whether this is a dream or not. Or whether he’s dreaming of these clues. You know, eventually we piece that together throughout the series. But for right now, for what you guys have seen up to now, you know, for my character is the level of frustration that he’s lacking communication that he wants. You know, because he wants because he’s eager, and he’s eager to be a partner. He’s eager to be a detective. So therefore he’s just more confrontational about it and he’s more frustrated because he doesn’t have the trust from Michael Britten. And because Michael Britten doesn’t trust him with things in general, it makes his job even that much more complicated and just inconsistent.
Steve Harris: Yes, I think for me being with a partner I’m just the opposite. But he’s a rookie joining forces with a seasoned veteran. Me and him, we’ve been seasoned veterans the – we’ve grown up together basically. We’ve been everything, we’ve been through our faults and ours successes and our failures, we’ve been through it all. You know, so sometimes – in speaking to actual police officers they will tell you that their partners sometimes are closer to them than their actual family or their wives. And I think we have that relationship. So that – though I do feel that I question him, I wanted to give him a little more rope based on our relationship. And then when I do question him it’s because it’s something that’s been violated by the – what we sort of set up over the years. So you’re coming up with this, this doesn’t fit the pattern and then I may question what’s going on. So I will give him more rope because we’ve been together to long and I think that helps – I think because of me and Michael being two people who are of the same age and actually have been in the particular game of acting for the same amount of time and dealt with some of the same things, it makes it quite easy to that. We all do it, we all do the same sort of things.
Q: Also in the pilot right near the end we see Vega as a uniformed officer in the Red reality. I’m just wondering if Bird will ever bleed into the Green reality and if we’ll see more of these kinds of bleeds to the point where maybe it might affect Britten?
Steve Harris: You – this might not be too much, I don’t know but, you will see us go into each other’s reality as it progresses. And that will be a definite – you know, we dropped a hint in, just a hint, in the beginning where we pop into each other’s reality. And then down the line, you will see us popping in and out. And of course it’s going to have an effect on Michael and his character, because, you know, it’s – because then he has to deal with us in a whole different world. And how’s he going to – so you will gravitate towards that. And I think because the audience will have established with us being in each – in our separate worlds, and that we can cross over, is much easier down the line.
Wilmer Valderrama: Right and for sure you’re definitely going to – excuse me, you’re definitely going to see it break through and it’s going to play some kind of factor as well. As Michael Britten’s condition gets more and more evident you will see some of these things intertwine with one another that eventually would make it just a little bit more colorful, let’s just say, for Michael to experience. And for my character, I mean I have fun because I’m an LAPD officer in one reality and I’m a detective in the other. So I get to play two different relationships to Michael. You know, one that – his partner, and the other one he barely knows him. You know, so it’s really fun to play those dynamics too. But for sure you’re going to see the intertwine of a lot of the stories, you know, that are going to be for one another, specifically in his detective world.
Q: Could you talk about, without giving too much away, maybe some episodes or scenes you’re really looking forward to in this season?
Steve Harris: Well, I look forward to the whole show, thank you very much. So I mean I think it’s hard for a show like this answer that and not give away too much. Because it’s like as you see as it progresses, we keep peeling and peeling and peeling things away. And there are a couple of episodes here that I think are really going to drive people to question which one of these worlds is real, and which one isn’t. I think it’s also going to drive people to choose which one they’re going to choose to be real. Because they’re going to – because you get so invested. And it becomes – you keep dropping these tasty little morsels week after week after week, and pretty soon, you know, you kind of full. You know, you ought to be in this and I think that’s what we do. Not to be too nebulous but I feel like with us keep peeling away that it really is the kind of show that if you watch every week you want to get a different taste of something good.
Wilmer Valderrama: There’s a bunch of episodes that, I mean, I’m not going to lie, are just – are going to blow your mind. I mean the show is going to a place where you know, you’re – it’s – they’re going to be unpredictable. They’re going to be fun, they’re going to be a little bit of a puzzle. But also they’re going to be so thrilling and emotional, and I mean we’re going to play a lot of emotions and it’s going to be great. I mean I’m with Steve on this, it’s just the show just gets more and more fascinating and unpredictably mysterious.
Q: Do we see more of maybe Vega warming up a bit more to Britten later in the season? Do we get to see him in a different light? And how do your characters evolve throughout the season?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, for sure. I mean I think that at the beginning is a little bit of that frustration for a new partnership, new relationship, you know, building trust with one another. And he’s obviously at a place where he’s really trusting a lot of people considering that, you know, he’s, you know, he’s – he doesn’t trust, you know, Bird plants the seed in his head that I might be not someone that he wants to trust considering that, you know, he’s being transferred and they probably don’t want anybody to report that he’s not fit for the job somehow, Michael Britten that is. And throughout the series you see my character really fighting for that loyalty and fighting for that respect that wants from Michael. Most importantly that trust. And throughout the series, you know, you see them, you know, work the case and eventually, you know, that relationship evolves into something, you know, into something that eventually will play out more through, you know, the – of the series where you’ll see the true dynamics and how it all going to affect, you know, Vega and Michael. You know, there’s a big – there’s something big that’s going to happen between them, and there’s going to be a lot more than meets the eye to this entire undertone conspiracy. You know, and how it all plays together. And all of us somehow have some kind of role within that entire big picture. And you’ll see it play out, but you’ll for sure, you’ll see that emotion, you know, evolving manifestation throughout the series for the characters for sure.
Q: Wilmer, most of America was used to seeing you on That ‘70s Show, we’ve seen you in other things of course, but this show really gets to show your range as an actor. Was this the part that you were looking for?
Wilmer Valderrama: Well thank you. I think for me, I’ve been – had the opportunity to do some interesting characters on my independent film work and some of the feature films that I’ve released in the last years. But to come back to television with a character like this with a – on a TV series like this, you know, was really a different and exciting new chapter for me. Because I’ve got to tell you, you know, to come back to television after 10 – you know, 8 years, 200 episodes, I mean pretty much a decade of comedy, you know, you often – it’s a little nerve-racking, I’m not going to lie. It’s a little – it gets a little scary because you don’t want to recreate.
You don’t want to feel like you have to recreate that experience or that legacy you left behind with your last series. You want to just make sure you embrace a new opportunity. And hopefully I and you honor a new color change, you know, returning back. And you know, I couldn’t have dreamed it better, I couldn’t have – no pun intended I guess. But I couldn’t have dreamed, you know, the show that actually brought me back to television to be more ideal than Awake. And to join forces with a cast like Steve Harris, you know, and Jason Isaacs who – the three of us are, you know, the Three Musketeers, you know we’re – we love you know, what we do and we love acting. And we care. It’s a very, very great environment to learn from. And to learn from Steve and Jason has been amazing and to, you know, and also to have a cast like Cherry Jones, you know, BD Wong, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette, you know I mean, you’re looking at a cast that is just so solid about everything they are and they’re about. And they’re in it for the same common goal so it becomes this great team, you know, this great Navy Seal team that comes back to television to tell a story that’s compelling like this. You know and, you know how could you say no to something like this? And it’s very fulfilling man, it’s very fulfilling. And I’m excited to be able to show, you know, my old school fans, my new fans, you know, and just people in general, you know, a different side of me, but also you know, a different character. You know, and for me that’s important. it’s important that people know that acting is what I do and it’s what I love. And I took a long break; I took a six year break from television and returning was ideal, only because of this television platform called Awake.
Q: Since you guys are pretty much counterparts to one another do the two of you ever get to catch up and compare notes and see each other on set.
Steve Harris: Yes we do. And let’s be clear about this, sometimes we’ve been known to show up on the set when the other person is working just to rib them. Yes just depending on what that show – what take that show has on it. So yes, you know, sometimes – honestly sometimes you do go a long time without really seeing each other or passing each other in the trailer because we are in the two different worlds. But oftentimes because of how this thing is setup, you know, we still end up sharing the same space. And it’s a joy. You know, I want to be point blank about this, it is a joy to work on that show. We have a ball. I know it’s a serious show, I know it’s labeled a drama, I understand what I’m getting paid to do, but the joy that we bring around doing our work I think infuses the process as well.
Wilmer Valderrama: I agree. I agree.
Steve Harris: Because we all try to put our hard hats on, you know? But we enjoy being around each other and I think that, you know, that’s really been a pleasure to be a part of this show for that factor – for many factors, but definitely for that factor, it’s one of the top ones.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, 100%. I mean 100% I’m with Steve on this. You know specific, when they – when you shoot a show as dramatic and as emotional, you know, as Awake is, and as mysterious and as unpredictable as the show is, it’s so important and it’s also considered such a gift to be able to come to work and really actually be, you know, there for each other. You know and I, you know, when I’m on set and I’m not shooting, I’m just waiting around or whatever, I’ll just go and (unintelligible) some of Steve’s scenes, you know, from behind the monitors or we’ll see some of Jason’s other scenes and stuff like that and it’s fun. We’re truly intrigued by the show’s journey, we’re truly intrigued by the premise of the show. And I love everything these guys do man. When I see Jason and Steve go to work man, it’s like watching, you know, the best acting class you could be in, you know, I mean it’s just great. So for me, I really enjoy them, you know, I’m their – you know, I’m some of their biggest fans. You know I mean, and it’s just really, really like he said, “It’s just so refreshing to be able to work with a group of people that are in it on the same level and that are working as hard as you are too.” And it’s just a gift.
Q: What would you say that you guys have learned and taken away from your time on the show so far?
Steve Harris: I mean there’s so much. But the simplest thing, we pointed out, the relationship we have behind the scenes. We’re proud of the reputation of what we’re putting on screen. The process has been great, from both NBC and 20th Century in dealing and relating to us as a show. I think when you tie all of that together, especially the aspect of the – I’m proud to say that I’m on the show, the respect that I have for the people on this show, that you can do a show like this and you can present it to people in America and so far they’ve given us a favorable view that they’re actually watching the show and want to be invested. And I think that that’s a – I don’t know how to put it, but it really I sort of an honor to come back to television and to represent a show that I can hold my head up high again as I’ve done before. So I’m really – I’m – it’s really is – it really is an honor to be back on TV with a show – connected with this type of show.
Wilmer Valderrama: And you know, just to complement what Steve is saying, you know, I – I mean I’m – I feel the same way. You know, it’s – to be able to do the work that we do, you know, and to be part of a team like this is just amazing. But you’re right, it’s like a weekly movie, you know what I mean? It’s something that television has never seen. And I think all of us, you know, thankfully and you know, and feeling really blessed, you know, that we’ve been part of some iconic, you know, legacies you know, from Steve’s you know, previous work to some of my work and Jason’s work and Cherry’s work and BD’s work, you know I mean, you look at this cast and everyone has some really serious experience, you know and we feel the same – just you know, we show this specific show is just as special as everything we’ve done before, then otherwise we wouldn’t be in it, you know what I mean? And thankfully, and in the most humble terms, you know, we have some choices. You know, we had choices and this was just the, you know, was just the ideal and just perfect way to unite.
Q: Did either of you do any research before the show, maybe hanging out with some real detectives or anything like that?
Wilmer Valderrama: I mean yes, I mean I – for this show I definitely try to sleep as much as possible, making sure that I stay consistent with what dream is about. But I think that aside from liking to sleep in, we definitely did a lot of stuff when it comes to the detective part of it all. I mean I know I did a lot of my ride-alongs I talked to a number of detectives, you know, and making sure that, you know I had that swag, as we say, you know. And we have this amazing guy named (Jessie Escorta) who is a awesome detective, you know, a consultant that’s on set with us, you know, pretty much every day, making sure that we are authentic and that the cases feel authentic and that the procedural stuff with the – all the actual cases, you know, feel you know, as accurate as possible. And so we – accuracy and authenticity is something that we take really, really, really serious on the show. And we do our best to come so close to detectives that the goal is that when a detective watches the show that they go, “Yes, I hold the pad on my left hand,” you know, “Yes, I don’t button my jacket.” You know what I mean? Like there’s all these little things that a detective, you know, has to keep in mind, you know, as he makes things easier for him. And we try, we’re really trying to be as real as possible.
Steve Harris: He’s mentioned (Jessie) who’s our detective consultant on the show, and you know, he has a – you know, he knows what he’s doing. And I think that we tend to follow that. I didn’t do the ride-alongs and the things of that nature, the going on a – either fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you listen to. I may have been on the, you know, different sides of the police here and there. So but…
Wilmer Valderrama: I just got that like a second later.
Steve Harris: Somebody please throw the rope.
Wilmer Valderrama: Man, can I – boy can I relate to that.
Steve Harris: So I really can’t – I really – so I like the consultants, I like the guys that we use. A lot of the guys that we also use in the show as the detectives or police officers are former detectives and police officers. So it has a way of keeping that reality in place. And you know, I want – part of my thing is sometimes I may keep (Jessie) on his toes by sort of maybe playing around and violating some of that, and he always comes and he’s right on point, he comes and gets me. I’m messing with him most of the time. So it really is a lot of fun.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes I know for sure. And he’s a really nice guy too so it’s – it makes it really fun man. We’re having a really good time with them. But you know, it’s really cool. But you know, when you have as much of a presence and as much swag as Mr. Steve Harris, you know what I mean, to be completely honest, no matter what comes out of his mouth, you know, you either – it’s either authority or he’s narrating The Lion King, I mean so one of the two. The man cannot do anything wrong. Steve Harris, he sits there, he’ll shoot somebody and he’ll have this face that looks so cool that you go, “Detectives wish they have Steve Harris’ face when they shoot somebody.” I mean, Steve Harris’ voice is so prolific, I mean to be honest, the guy doesn’t need any research.
Steve Harris: You know, I’m not going to get you on this radio shot – show, but I’m going to get you. That was (unintelligible).
Wilmer Valderrama: I love Steve, you know what man? I mean I love this man to death man. We have a really good time.
Steve Harris: Yes.
Wilmer Valderrama and Steve Harris Interview
Wilmer — “Detective Efrem Vega”
Steve — “Detective Isaiah ‘Bird’ Freeman”
Awake Thursday Nights at 10 EST on NBC
March 19, 2012