AQUARIUS -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: Grey Damon as Shafe -- (Photo by: Jim Fiscus/NBC)
Los Angeles in 1967... long hair, drugs, crime, free love, and protests. This is the window NBC is giving us a glimpse into with new series Aquarius, and Grey Damon's 'Shafe' is at the center of it all. Enlisted by David Duchovny's 'Hodiak' to help infiltrate this new counterculture to help find a missing girl, 'Shafe' finds himself undercover mixing with 'Charles Manson's' (Gethin Anthony) band of drifters.
The series is dark, intriguing, and one that is hard to turn away from. The cast delivers incredible performances, particularly Damon, who is simply perfection as 'Shafe'... to the point where it's hard to see at times where Damon stops and 'Shafe' begins. Not an easy feat and one that clearly required great preparation and research. I had the chance to speak with Damon about how he prepared for the role, his favorite music from the '60s, and what it was like working with the equally fantastic David Duchovny.
The Reel Spin: I'm really excited about your new series, Aquarius... such a unique concept, so well done. How would you describe the show?
Grey Damon: Yeah, thank you. I guess like you said it's a unique, really cool concept. It's a cop show, but it's a period piece... it's procedural, but it's not. I don't know... I guess it's captivating. Even as an outside viewer, I think it's just a captivating thing... the whole premise and idea of it.
TRS: One thing that I like, and you can tell me how you feel about this, is that it almost plays like a film. I forget sometimes that I'm watching television...
Damon: I think that was deliberate. Our producers John [McNamara] and Marty [Adelstein], I think they are big fans of the old school film. The content we got to sort of study up on that they had given us was a lot of movies that I can totally kind of reference. I think that's also what's very intriguing about it. It's like a film... like an old school film . . . I think it's so beautifully shot. I love it.
TRS: I think a lot of people when they first hear about this show, they're going to think it's a show about Charles Manson, and while that certainly is a backdrop of it, I feel like at its core the show is more about the two partners and their connection... and maybe even a glimpse of where the country was at this time in the late '60s. Would you agree with that?
Damon: I kind of feel like each character represents a part of the '60s, and I think that Marty and McNamara had an idea of what they all represented. For me, I think it's a little open for interpretation. I think that's the artistic aspect of it. I think we definitely all represent a very key thing of the '60s and Manson sort of being the thing that destroyed the '60s.
TRS: And how would you describe your character, 'Brian Shafe'?
Damon: He's a family guy... loves his family. I'm not sure he loves his work, but he definitely wants to do the right thing and thinks that he can make a difference. This is what I believe about 'Shafe'...and I think that he cares, and not a lot of people do. He's cool like that. I was asked in another interview, "how do you describe him?" I still can't quite figure it out, because I think I go into it as more of a feeling. It's like there's a thing that I lock into and it's sort of a feeling, and I try not to think about it too much to try to give it sort of an authentic thing, but she said she thinks he's an idealist, and I think that kind of puts it on the head. He's a real idealist.
TRS: He definitely has an idealistic quality to him for sure. He also doesn't seem like your typical cop, even though he definitely seems to want to do the right thing by people and understands right and wrong. I think the undercover world really seems to suit him, because I don't think you can put him in the typical cop box.
Damon: I think that's what was so appealing about the role for sure... the not cop box [laughs].
TRS: Definitely. He's not your typical cop [laughs]. I would think the research process for this role was sort of different too, because you're not just researching how to be an undercover cop, but you were also having to figure out how to be one of this period. So, what was that process like?
Damon: It was interesting, that's for sure. I was moving, and I had three weeks to study before I was going to be going to work. So, that's what I did for three weeks straight nonstop. Documentaries, books, movies, and music... just '60s music. '50s and '60s, because I wanted to listen to what 'Shafe' would have grown up with not just what he would be listening to currently. I fell in love with Otis Redding. Had a lot of nightmares about Manson. I'm still confused about why we have wars. Yeah, it was three weeks of that and moving at the same time, so it completely consumed me for those three weeks... and of course throughout the shooting of it.
TRS: I imagine you probably also did a lot of research about Vietnam and things like that too...
Damon: Yeah, I read a few books, and documentaries. Yeah, you know, it's heavy stuff. It never gets easy to watch anything on war.
TRS: No, never.
Damon: I guess for season 2, if we get one of those... fingers crossed... I think we're really going to dive into 'Shafe's' 'Nam world and what he experienced in that and how he was a vet of that and how it affected him and what not.
TRS: You said that you really got into the music, like Otis Redding. Do you feel like listening to the music ahead of time really helped you get into character?
Damon: I think that Otis in particular kind of sang to me... to my soul I mean. You would think that I would want to listen to music every day to get into character. I actually just sort of listened to it anyway. I really got into a lot of the bands and stuff. Bands I'd never heard of... music that I think 'Shafe' would probably be into and listen to. Otis was the guy though... Otis was the guy that really I connected to most I think.
TRS: He spoke to you the most.
TRS: You know we also see fairly early on that David Duchovny's character, 'Hodiak,' realizes he really needs 'Shafe' to help infiltrate this hippie scene to try and find his friend's missing daughter, and your character doesn't really seem to mind that... he sort of likes not having to cut his hair and to be a little offbeat. How do you think he likes being the undercover guy?
Damon: My theory about people is that nobody is one and the same. Everybody is a little bad, everybody is a little good. We all have the capacity to be something other than what we think we might be. With that said, I think 'Shafe' is just a guy who really cares about what he does and cares to make a difference, and cares to do the right thing, but I think there are little pieces of him that enjoys being able to sort of break out of what's expected of him, you know?
Damon: And yeah... not cut his hair or anything. He tries hard to be a good Samaritan.
TRS: I also really enjoy watching the way you and David Duchovny play off one another. You guys have this really interesting chemistry and banter between the two of you. Are those scenes as fun to play as they are to watch?
Damon: Yeah. I definitely had a blast. Duchovny knows how to keep it light. He knows also when to leave you alone if you need to be pissed off or something. I mean he's been doing this forever, so I totally get it. It was cool too, because he let me sort of do my own thing in a way. If I had an idea or whatever he would totally be rooting for me. We would always try it, and sometimes it would work, and it was cool to have that... to have that kind of partnership both on and off-screen.
TRS: The show is also pushing boundaries a little bit. The show is allowing viewers after the May 28th premiere to download the entire first season on NBC.com and the NBC app. How do you feel about that... do you think other shows will follow suit? This is pretty unprecedented, right?
Damon: I feel very good about it actually. I think that is where we are going. This is the first network to do it, I guess people are gonna see how it works, and I think it will work, because Netflix works. I think there's nothing more that drives me crazy than watching a television show and having to wait a week to know what's going to happen. To the point where I literally have stopped watching shows, because I'm so sick of waiting to see what's going to happen. I think it's very smart. I think it's awesome to do something like that, because some people just want to get lost in these worlds and you don't always get the opportunity to, so I think it's the future for sure. The irony is I'm talking about a show in the past.
TRS: Like we said, this show in particular sort of plays out like a film, so I think it's an awesome idea for this show to kind of set the way and break this new ground, because I think it will lend itself truly to this whole binge-watching experience that everyone seems to love now. It's really exciting.
Damon: Yeah... it's very intelligent on their parts for sure.
Aquarius 2-hour series premiere airs Thursday, May 28 at 9/8c on NBC. Watch the entire series online starting May 29.