Silas Weir Mitchell on NBC's "Grimm"

By Jamie Ruby

Silas Weir MitchellGrimm is NBC's new drama that is inspired by the classic Grimm's Fairy Tales. The show follows Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), who discovers he is a descendent of the "Grimms," who work to keep balance between humans and the mythological creatures that live among us that only they can see.

Burkhardt soon discovers Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed Blutbad, who ends up helping him with his cases.

Mitchell recently talked to the press about the new fantasy drama.

NBC Conference call
Silas Weir Mitchell

November 3, 2011

Silas Weir MitchellQUESTION: Could you elaborate on your character? And will we learn more about your character's background in future episodes?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Well, to elaborate more on my character basically I suppose everything you hear in the pilot is - that's pretty much as far as we get. I mean I'm a Bluebod and I am sort of a reformed Bluebod, I'm trying to live as a human on the straight and narrow.

And we will definitely learn more about my character in future episodes. But as far as family history, we're not getting into that yet, we do learn about the clock maker.

But it doesn't get too much into my history or anything.

QUESTION: Could you tell us a little bit about your experiences shooting the pilot episode for Grimm and maybe what were some of the initial challenges you found stepping into this role?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Well shooting the pilot was both - it was really, really exciting and it was really, really challenging. You're allowed more time to shoot the pilot than a normal episode, almost twice as much time.

So you can be more deliberate, but you also don't have an infrastructure that's set up, which you do once you get a production up and running.

So it was challenging on the level of the production value that NBC - that we were going for, so that was hard to try to make it the best thing possible without having a production infrastructure that had been working together for a while.

So that was a big challenge. On a production level for me specifically it was just the idea of...I've been on a lot of series but I've never been the central pillar of the narrative really. And I found that to be challenging in its own right, knowing that a lot was riding on it. That was challenging. But luckily we all have a great time working together. It was a really - it's a great environment to work.

So everything came out well, I'd say.

QUESTION: I'm a big fan from Prison Break and I noticed that there's a similar dynamic at play between Monroe and Haywire. How do you relate to both on a personal level?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I don't even want to talk about Prison Break because it's just a completely different animal. There's really no comparison for me except in the fact that being an actor and the way I work - I would do the same thing if I was playing Hamlet or if I'm doing a commercial.

It's just how I work. The only way to compare the two is to say that the same actor is playing them.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about your process when establishing a relationship with your costar?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: My process as an actor?

QUESTION: As an actor, just to establish that close relationship you guys are going to have to have to really make the chemistry work.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I can only talk about this case in particular but we're very lucky in the sense that we love working together and I have a lot of respect for David and I think he's - I think he's very well cast and I think he's just a lovely guy.

And he's a smart guy and we like working together. So establishing a rapport on-camera is not difficult because we have a very good one off-camera.

QUESTION: So you don't do anything special like hang out a lot more, do your lines together, any of that kind of thing?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: We have coffee every now and run lines once in a while if you have a big scene but one doesn't do anything calculated necessarily in order to create a rapport.

One either has one or doesn't, and we do. And that's a very lucky thing. They cast this show very well, they got the right people in and I think that part of getting the right people in involved the chemistry.

And somehow they managed to put a group of people together that has great chemistry. And I don't know how you do that.

I don't know if you can calculate that or not but in this case it worked well, the pairing of people. We all dig working together, we're all very happy to be here so it's not hard.

You know, we don't have to fake anything.

QUESTION: I'm glad to hear that we're going to be seeing a lot more of Monroe this season but is there any chance that we're going to be seeing any of his bad wolf-suppressing yoga techniques?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Did you say yoga techniques?

QUESTION: Yes, yes. You said you were into the yoga in the pilot.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: It's really more Pilates, I don't know if you picked that up in the pilot.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, will we be seeing any Pilates techniques?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, I think that it's not out of the question that you'll see some of the techniques that I employ to keep myself together, Pilates among them. That's a fair statement. I would say.

QUESTION: Good, great. You do a great job and you're hilarious, I love the character.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Thank you very much, it's lovely to be here and be working and we're all really hoping that this baby has some legs.

QUESTION: So in terms of how you use your body, how you use your physicality for this role, the werewolf tendencies that come out, can you speak a little bit to that?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I don't really know what the question is. I don't mean to be rude, I don't know what you - what's the question?

QUESTION: When you're transforming into your werewolf side taking over, your shoulders are a bit more hunched, do you have a sense of what your body does to make that happen?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Oh I see what you're talking about, you're wondering about what I'm doing physically when I morph.

There's a thing that happens, just said it, The shoulders hunch a little bit, there's a little bit of a facial - you know, moving - since you know if the morph was expressed in my foot, my foot would do something.

You know what I mean? But because it's my face then my head does something.

SCIFI VISION: Can you talk about how you got involved in the show in the first place?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, I worked with Jim Kouf, who is one of the creators and writers of the show along with David Greenwalt. But I worked with Jim Kouf on a movie that he wrote, directed and produced called Fork in the Road in 2007, I believe.

And we just hit it off, we had a good working relationship and he and I have a sort of - I understand his sense of humor. And I was auditioning for a role where they expected a different kind of - really in their minds when they wrote it envisioned one kind of person that this character was.

And Fern Castle, who is the casting director, thought that I might be an interesting kind of other way to go. And casting directors try to do that, they try to give you the choices that you think it's going to be and then they always bring in the black sheep.

And a lot of times I'm the black sheep, I'm the "What about going this way?" kind of guy. And it doesn't really work out very often because people have their hearts set on one thing.

In this case, I was the way to go and it was the opposite of what he had anticipated and so I sort of struck a nerve with him and we had a great time. Then henceforth working on the project and so when this came along, they just called me in.

I think that they said "Oh, this guy would be good because we saw him, we worked with him before." So that's how it went, I happened to know Jim.

QUESTION: What attracted you to the role of Eddie Monroe and the show Grimm? Was there anything particular that you really, really liked about it?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Okay first of all it's not Eddie Monroe, it's just Monroe. Somehow in some very, very early draft of the script some - the name Eddie got out there but it's not Eddie Monroe, just for the record. It's just Monroe.

And as far as what attracted me to it, what attracted me to it was it was a job, really. There was an audition for one of the leads in the pilot so there you go.

I didn't seek it out, I got the call, hey there's an audition for this thing and I read the script and I thought it was cool. That having been said, what does attract me to the role, certainly I would have auditioned for it probably otherwise.

What really does attract me to the role is the inner conflict. That is rich territory for an actor to have that kind of secret.

Not only to have a secret but to have a secret that you're trying to deal with on a daily basis. It's not just a secret from the past. It's a secret that in every breath you're trying to maintain. And that's really fun to play.

I also think the mythological elements of the story are very compelling. Because I really feel like in a lot of ways the creature elements of the show, "creature" stuff is really to my mind an expression of the mythological underpinnings of - not to get high falutin', but really of the human psyche.

We all live in a world where there are monsters, monsters are real, and you look at murderers and people who are on death row and people who have done terrible things like the Richard Ramirez's of the world and the Sons of Sam and those people.

And I feel like the creature elements of this show in a lot of ways are addressing that mythical darkness. Because if you bring myth into it, you can discuss it in broader terms and not just make it about the procedural element, which is a huge part of the show.

Long story short, I think the mythology and the inner conflict.

QUESTION: A werewolf is a character we all know but very few actors get to be one. I'm wondering what kind of research you did or if there were any tests in werewolves that influenced your character?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: The research I did was really reading. I'm presently at arm's length of a book that was written in 1933, it's one of the classics, this is no joke, on lycanthropy and werewolfism and all that.

And it was written in - let me see here, yeah it was written in 1933. There are pages of it that are in Latin and pages of it that are in middle French, it's really fun.

Because the werewolf, like I was saying to the last caller about the mythological elements of this, the werewolf is a real thing. I mean there are stories that are not just occult lore where in France in the 18th century, there was a guy who terrorized the French countryside running around at night stealing children. And mutilating them. And what's our answer to that? Who do we - what is that? And one of the ways of addressing that is to say you're a monster, you're a werewolf.

And so the research for me was reading these stories sometimes when these were real. It wasn't mythological then. I think now we recognize that the werewolf is a myth.

But the research of reading stories from a time when the werewolf was a real thing is pretty intense when you really put yourself in the shoes of someone who believed that a transformation took place and that a beast roamed the hills.

That's pretty intense.

Silas Weir MitchellQUESTION: I love the show and Monroe is absolutely my favorite part of it, I really enjoy what you do with it. I was wondering if there's any makeup involved in your transformation at all or is it entirely CGI?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: No, it's not, it's both. It's - the idea is that it's CGI on top of makeup but you still can tell that it's my face. There's a lot of stuff that goes into it but the three ingredients really are prosthetics, computer graphics and my face.

Because the idea is that when someone morphs, they don't just turn into a werewolf like generic or someone is like a - I don't know, a beetle creature or whatever. They don't just turn into a beetle, they turn into their beetle, you know what I mean?

They turn into what they would look like as this creature so they really make an effort to fuse the prosthetics and the CGI in such a way that you can tell that it's me underneath it.

And they do that with other creatures that are coming down the pike.

QUESTION: Which totally makes sense if they're supposed to be human-looking to everybody else all the time.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, those are the rules...if you think of it in terms of a murderer or a kidnapper or something, that they look like a human.

You look at Charles Manson, you see a human. But if a Grimm looked at Charles Manson they would see the beast that the guy is underneath the human mask.

That's only if you have the perceptive powers of a Grimm.

QUESTION: What's the prosthetic process like for you?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Long, that's what it's like. It's like long.

QUESTION: What you can you tell us about the upcoming episodes of Grimm and if you have a favorite fairy tale that was covered?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: All I can tell you is the episodes get sort of deliciously dark and creepy. And NBC is letting us go there, so to speak, which I think is fantastic.

I didn't really grow up on fairy tales per se. I kind of grew up on - there was one book that I had as a child which I've mentioned in other interviews which was called "Slovenly Peter."

It's also known as "Shock Headed Peter" and it's an old German book, forget what the German word is for slovenly or shock headed.

But it's - I forget right now, you'd have to hypnotize me but it would come to me. Anyway, it had cautionary tales in it and they were pretty grisly. And the idea was the cautionary tale of what - you know the little girl who played with matches?

And what happens if you play with matches, and in the end of the story she's burnt to a crisp, she's like a pile of ashes. So that was the German fairy tale book that I had, it wasn't Grimm but it was grim, if you know what I mean.

QUESTION: What was your biggest challenge? Or did you find anything in the pilot when you were filming it to be a really challenging - did you have a tough time with any of it?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, the thing that was the most challenging was it was really practical. It wasn't challenging in an aesthetic sense, the challenge was knowing that you're shooting a pilot that you really want to do well.

And from an actor's point of view it's lovely to be employed, it is lovely to be employed in a part in a role that you find rich. It is lovely to be employed in a role that you find rich working with people that you actually like, okay?

So you got all these things lined up, then you have to shoot a six-page scene in four hours. And so that was the only challenge.

And that's - for the record that is a lot of pages and not a lot of time. So to me the greatest challenge was even though we had more days than we would normally shoot the pilot, I found the challenge to be living honestly and having fun keeping the stakes of the thing at bay, i.e. wanting it to be good and get picked up and all that ja.

Just trying to get through a very long scene without rushing it and still making it good. So the challenge was a very practical one.

QUESTION: Did you find that your background in theater helped you with that?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Not any more than it usually does. I mean it's just that that background is just there and that's just part of my makeup. But I don't think in this particular instance I was calling on that, no.

QUESTION: Hi Silas, greetings from your home town of Philadelphia.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Oh wow, you're in Philly, where?

QUESTION: I'm in south Philadelphia actually near the stadiums.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Very cool. I'm sad the Spectrum got demolished, I had some good times in that building.

QUESTION: I'll bet you did. Are you going to be able to keep your werewolf tendencies under wraps going forward or are we going to see your inner beast popping out every now and then?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Oh the inner beast pops out every now and then.

QUESTION: That's cool. Well, it seems to me that your character has quite a sense of humor, are you like that in real life?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I have a very, very good sense of humor, yes, ask any of my friends. No, I don't know how to answer that really, I like to laugh and I have a sense of humor about myself, let's put it that way. I don't take myself too seriously.

QUESTION: Well that's a good thing to have, don't you think?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I do. What did Ken Kesey say, lose your laugh, lose your footing?

QUESTION: I know that you've played a lot of disturbed characters before and yes, Monroe has his dark history. But I feel like he's more of an endearing, fun character. Hhas that been a nice change for you? Or is something interesting for you to do as an actor, changing up some of your typical type of roles?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I think that's a great question and I appreciate that awareness of yours. But yeah, it is, it's lovely to play someone who is not crazy, any more than the next guy.

I mean that might be debatable, some people might say "Well, he is a little crazier than the next guy." But not in a kind of the way you're talking.

Monroe is definitely a unique person. But not crazy in the way that you're talking and it is nice to have that change, to not play someone who's feverishly disturbed.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Or evil, for that matter.

QUESTION: Yeah, and not to be necessarily typecast in one role, to be getting a little bit more trust in your abilities of changing it up I guess?

QUESTION: It's nice to have someone interested in you to do something a little bit different than what you're known for doing.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, absolutely and that's what I was talking about earlier when I was referring to Jim Kauf and how I - we get along really well, I understand his sense of humor and he writes to my sense of humor.

And so that really is a good fit and that helps with the characterization a lot.

QUESTION: I know the show is located around Portland. But do you think they will be going in other areas or other cities or towns?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Portland has so much going for it, I would be surprised if we went too far afield. But I wouldn't put it out of - it's not out of the question that we will go farther outside of Portland than we've gone.

But I don't see us shooting in Eugene or something, I don't know why we would do that.

But [do you] mean, would we shoot in another town?

QUESTION: Yeah, for example if the storyline [says] something unusual happens in another town...

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I wouldn't say that's out of the question at all, but I certainly - I don't think the writers are aiming to do that right now.

I think Portland is so varied in its various environments, it has a downtown, and then 15 minutes you're literally in a rain forest, in an hour you can be at the beach. In an hour you can be on Mount Hood. And it has lots of different neighborhoods. You see what I mean, so there's so many various types of looks and places to shoot that I think it's not something that they're hell-bent to do, you know what I mean?

Because we've got it all here. It's really a lovely place to live and work, I'll tell you.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the conflict within Monroe and what you like about his struggle to contain his aggression and what he's capable of?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, I mean capable of extreme violence, first of all. And keeping it under wraps is a universal struggle. And that way Monroe is no different than anybody else.

SCIFI VISION: Are they open with your input on the script and the character?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Oh the lines, yeah, they're very open to that, they're very open to that. It's not like working with David Milch. You know who David Milch is?

David Milch is the creator of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue and Deadwood. He is someone who is a brilliant writer but he's also a real stickler for word-for-wordness. These writers are not like that, at least they're not like that yet.

So there's plenty of leeway to move things around if you need to, if you feel as though - it's not willy nilly but it's certainly they're more sticklers for uh's and duh's.

QUESTION: I was doing a little research on IMDB in preparation for this call, I came across a posting on the message board from someone named Simon Roper. Do you recognize that name?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, I don't really have any comment about that at all.

QUESTION: Well my question was do you have any creepy fans...

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I don't really have any comment about it at all.

QUESTION: No, I don't want to ask you about him, I just want to know if you have to deal with crazy fans with him a lot.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: I guess you could say it's part of the job, that's really all I want to say.

QUESTION: The pilot was pretty shocking as far as the shock factor, the scare factor, I don't know what to call it, from the very first scene. And it made me wonder what frightens you?

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: That's an interesting question. I'll tell you when I was a kid what frightened me, it really had to do with the power of suggestion.

And I lived out in the country and summer nights sometimes you wind up far away from the house suddenly and it was dusk and then it was dark and you had to get back home.

And it's pretty scary walking through the woods alone at night when you're little. And one of the things that really scared me was if I started thinking about the guy who was chasing me or the guy who was in the woods. If I started thinking about it, it was scary.

But really if I started behaving as though the guy were really there and I started running, and if I started running the behavior of it actually made me really scared and I would have to get home immediately.

So that was one of the things I remember from my childhood that as I think back on it was very apropos of Grimm, sort of running through the woods.

Because if you just went slowly and calmly and realized that it was just in your imagination and walked you would be fine. But as soon as you actually start running you're done.

GrimmQUESTION: That's true, I totally get what you're saying, it happens to me a lot.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, it's like if you - you know the imagination is very powerful weapon and people use it against themselves all the time.

You see people imagining things that are terrible or think - you can use the imagination in a lot of ways and humans a lot of times use it against themselves.

And that's one of the examples of...people can scare yourself, you know? If you went to bed every night imagining that there was a guy with an ax in your closet you would start believing it eventually.

QUESTION: Yeah, true. There's got to be a help line for people like me. Thank you so much.

SILAS WEIR MITCHELL: Yeah, you don't want to do that to yourself, you know?

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