Sam Trammell is a total blast! We had spent a really fun day watching his series The Reckoning start to finish, (yes, it’s the kind of series in which we can easily do that), and had just finished the final episode when we spoke to the star of the mystery series that evening, and he was really animated and fascinating to chat with. We got deep into show about the mindsets of two fathers, played by Trammell and Canadian Aden Young, which filmed in Australia, and then we decided to go for it and we asked a number of questions about his turn as the President in Homeland, our favourite True Blood, The Fault in Our Stars and much, much more. The guy is in a lot of cool projects!
The following is a condensed and edited version of our scintillating phone conversation with Reckoning‘s Sam Trammell. *WARNING: major spoilers below*
Brief Take: You seem to always be filming. How are you enjoying some well-deserved time off?
Sam Trammell: Well, it’s really nice. Australia was amazing because I would shoot and I would be living alone in Manly and surfing the Northern Beaches, there’s all these beautiful north beaches where we shot, which would double for California, and I was very isolated there. It really kind of helped with doing the role because I got to go so deep with the part, which I needed to do. And then, yeah! For Homeland, to go from playing a potential serial killer, I don’t want to spoil it, I’m not sure how you want to word it, from playing this kind of dark character to going and kind of playing the President of the United States, who also in the same way that Leo has a very dark and good sides and bad sides and the President that I played was the same way, to yeah, going to Morocco, I was travelling all over the place, I was really fortunate. That’s one of the pros of being an actor, is that it’s hard to travel, you’re away from your family, I was away from my boys, but you get to see these places and these parts of the world in a way that you are not a tourist, you’re actually there. And then I was in Georgia, shooting The Tiger Rising, which is a new movie based on Kate DiCamillo’s book, yeah it is nice to be home and sort of not have the pressure because actors, even though we do have time off, we’re always looking for the next job. Even when we get a job, we’re looking for the next job because right now is a unique time for all of us, we’re all kind of really relaxed because there’s no job for us to get right now, really. [laughs]
BT: You really pulled it off with this series!
ST: Aw, thanks! I thought it was a great thriller, in the best sense in which it is scary and it keeps you on the edge of your seat and I loved it. I loved it.
BT: It’s a real departure from a lot of the good dad roles you have played, though it isn’t a complete departure…
ST: Obviously having kids, it gives me so much to use from my real life in these characters that I play, And playing Leo, obviously you just watched it, it was such a multidimensional character with a lot of grey. There’s a lot of good and bad but some in-between and you’re actually not sure, you’re like: “I really like him”, and then you’re not sure, you’re like: “Should I really like this guy?”. You sort of root for him and then you’re not and it’s sort of the same with the other character, with Aden Young’s character Dr. Serrato. I was almost like a Tony Soprano character, almost, like you know the guy’s bad [chuckles] but then you start rooting for him. And yeah, there were all these different facets of the character that I got to explore, through the relationships he had, like I got to explore being a father, as Leo, I got to explore being a son to a father and that showed a real vulnerability that he had – he has this relationship with his wife, that sort of has something on him, he’s got his relationships with the wrestlers that he pushes, with the kids he counsels, so that was one of things that I loved about this role is that it’s multidimensional and it wasn’t a clear bad guy, he also doesn’t want to have to be doing the things that he is doing and again, he’s doesn’t, spoiler alert, he’s not going out to kill, he’s going out to save, and that’s the irony, it’s sort of beautiful irony of what is happening, that he’s going out to save but that process of saving, he ultimately has to kill and it’s really a fascinating character study.
BT: The ‘Alaska’ episode is sort of the leaning into the craziness episode.
ST: Oh I loved it. That was one of my favourite episodes because it’s that thing of I’m almost out of there, but I’ve been inspired by this really beautiful soul. The nurse, she was such a great actress and a beautiful character, and totally innocent and she was just a good friend, and because I saw her after seeing my dad, and because she had that tattoo, she became, I couldn’t help myself to take her at that point, and it was just so tragic, it was a beautifully tragic moment. And you saw both sides of Leo, as well, you saw the innocent guy who wants to do what is best for his family and get away from this thing and then the addict, the guy who has to do this thing. It’s really great writing, great storytelling and it’s interesting. I’m very happy that we landed on Netflix because it leaves you wanting more of the show, people can binge it and you can keep going with it. It’s great, I thought that the storytelling in Reckoning was so interesting and there’s these little tragedies, like such a little tragedy to this guy.
BT: Wasn’t it incredible that The Order was like the biggest series in the world at one point?
ST: It was just the biggest show I think on Netflix for two weeks. And yeah, they write this really cool philosophy professor, and it was such a great part, I was like: “Yeah, I’d love to do that”. It was a trip, and I don’t think that the second season has come out yet, I think that I keep getting notices that it will come out at some point, but we did shoot a second season and it’s fun to dive in and out of these different characters and see how people respond. I love going from this serial killer suspect to the President, I love doing different kinds of things and I see myself as a character actor, more than anything. But people really responded to The Order, It was a real success and I think will be again. Actually, I am going to show up on the second season in a really interesting way, in a really [chuckles] interesting way, in a way that nobody will be able to predict.
BT: It must be great to have shows like The Order and Reckoning in which fans are hooked?
ST: Oh, it’s thrilling, it’s really thrilling. I’ve been hearing a lot from fans on social media about how they loved Reckoning and binged it and loved it. It’s a really fascinating setup and also, I feel like because we shot it in Australia, because we had an Australian crew and a lot of Australian actors, even though the writers are American, there’s something about that show that’s a little different, it’s kind of hard to put your finger on it, there’s a sort of vibe and an air that it’s not European, but not American, and I feel like that adds to the mystery of it and satisfaction that I got from watching it- it felt a little off in an interesting way. And it’s a great setup, having these two families in the same town and this guy with catching me, it was like we were going to church [laughs] and the wives getting to meet each other and as you saw, it’s such a great setup.
BT: What are some of the other roles that have stuck with you?
ST: Well, I did a little movie called Hospitality, which was great, with Emmanuelle Chriqui, that was a really good thriller and I’m sure that it’s going to be streamed, it’s going to be out. And that was a really good, small movie. Yeah, there’s a bunch… Breakthrough was a great film, I got to play the doctor in that, and as I told you, The Tiger Rising is coming out, I have a bunch of movies that are coming out. Imperium was really great…I got to play of off Daniel Radcliffe in Imperium and got to play a white supremacist. [laughs] And my Dad’s a surgeon, so that really helped with Breakthrough, I got to ask him about how to say certain things and how he approached patients and that sort of thing. My parents are very supportive of me and it’s nice to get to use them when I can for their knowledge.
BT: I wanted to give a shoutout to The Fault in Our Stars as well.
ST: Of course, The Fault in Our Stars brought out a lot of teen fans. It introduced me to a whole different generation of kids. It’s funny, because if an 18 year old now comes up to me and they instantly recognize me, I immediately think True Blood, but then I go: “Oh no! They were too young to watch that, this is The Fault in Our Stars“, [laughs] depending on the age and what kind of show it was.
BT: The Fault in Our Stars was an awesome movie.
ST: It was amazing and such a good book. The book was amazing. I cried about five times reading that script.
BT: What are a few of your quaranstreams?
ST: That’s funny, I hadn’t heard that term yet. I just watched The Outsider recently, which was really great. I watched Waco, which was unbelievable, I had never seen that perspective of it. I watched Flashdance. I had never seen Flashdance. Old movie, it’s great, Jennifer Beals is in that. She was so great in it, and she is of course in The L Word on Showtime. And, God, what else have I seen? Of course Tiger King was amazing and I watched Cheer. There’s so much. I also watched The Last Dance, but that’s ESPN and Netflix, the Michael Jordan story.
BT: Who have been some of the best people with whom you have worked?
ST: Well, Laura Dern for sure, The Fault in Our Stars. She gets it on so many levels and she’s such a great actor and she also just gets the business in a great way, and is friendly and inclusive and smart. And for that matter, Shailene Woodley as well, both of those two actors, Shailene and Laura Dern, that was really an incredible experience working with them. They were really, really good, and also Daniel Radcliffe in Imperium. I didn’t get to work with Claire Danes, but Claire Danes is one of our greatest actresses. She’s amazing, I think that she is still underrated, even though she’s won awards. She’s one of our great actresses, in my opinion. I think that she’s fantastic in the show. I’ve got to give credit also to Aden Young. Aden Young in Reckoning is so good. I’ve also got to give credit to my co-stars in that show. Most of them were from Australia, they were brilliant. A lot of those young actors are really, really good.
BT: Was it like doing two different shows for Homeland?
ST: We were really compartmentalized, for sure, even the scenes in the situation room in which I was talking to Mandy Patinkin’s character, I was just looking at a screen, I wasn’t with him, he wasn’t in the room, obviously, so I wasn’t even with him then. Yeah, it was totally odd that I would get on a plane and fly to Paris and then to Mohammed V Airport in Morocco and then get driven in a van [chuckles] in this African country so far away and then put on an American suit with a American flag pin on it and be in the White House, which they had already built and I guess was in Richmond at the time and they flew it there, I guess it was the economics of it, that’s the way it works. It’s cheaper to shoot it there with the set and to fly the set, rather than fly the whole crew to the United States, it was totally odd, being in Casablanca and being in the White House was really funny. But yeah, I never had a scene with Claire (Danes), you know? A couple with Mandy in the room, but it was like we had our own little show, our own White House show [laughs], it was fun.
BT: What about the Chris Bauer episode, again you must not have intersected?
ST: Yeah! Yeah, it was great to see Chris Bauer. Chris is such a great actor and he shows up in many quality things and yeah, he’s amazing, but I didn’t get to see him either. I talked to him about it, though. [laughs] I didn’t get to work with him.
BT: What was the Showtime celebration of Homeland like as you have become friendly with Costa Ronin even though you didn’t get to act together in the series?
ST: Yeah! It was really amazing to see Costa, we had a wrap party in Morocco. We weren’t even done with the show yet, but the being in Morocco, as we were going back to the States to finish. It was great to finally meet Costa. I was a huge fan of his, I mean he’s so good on the show, the second he showed up, I thought he was great. And then Claire, I got to see Claire a little bit, and I got to see her a little bit with Hugh, but it was great to see her, and Mandy and of course, Maury Sterling, who was the other person who has been on forever. But yeah! Like I said, it was an intimidating thing to come on in the eighth season of a show that’s finishing and being on the finale of it. I was grateful for it, I did seven years of True Blood and I know how impactful a show can be on everybody’s lives when it goes on for this long, and yeah, it was really an honour, honestly. It was really an honour and then to play the President as well [laughs], it was really a blast.
BT: Did you take home anything from the set of True Blood?
ST: Oh my God! I lobbied for it and I got the menu that was in the bar, with the picture of the crawfish on it and the pie, it says: “Ask about the pies”, and it’s got all the menu written up with chalk prices written next to them, like Fried Cheese, Popcorn Shrimp, etc. I really wanted that menu and it was a big menu that sat above the bar, and I ended up with that. And I got a ton of Merlotte’s matches.
BT: It must have been a blast to do Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase and work with Sophia Lillis.
ST: Oh, yeah! It was, she’s such a great actress and it was another kind of great Dad to play. It’s something that my boys can watch, there’s little that I do [laughs] that’s appropriate for my kids. That was great, we shot that in Georgia and it was a really nice story, and I thought that the director was great. He did a really quirky job on it, and it fit really nicely, I thought, for the demographic. It was a really good one.
BT: What are you doing to find all of these cool projects, besides chasing the story, as you were a theatre actor before this run?
ST: Yeah! I did, I started on the stage in New York, doing Broadway and Off-Broadway. And it really got me…I love doing different characters, I did all of these different characters on stage with accents and things in which you are making big character choices and I don’t know, I’ve been very lucky. A lot is being lucky and a lot of it is that I have done some holding out for good things. I think Alan Ball saw me on stage before he cast me in True Blood, he knew my work, and it’s one of those things in which you look out for things that are inspiring to you and that’s what you really go for, you don’t go for the things that aren’t inspiring to you. But in acting, there’s a lot of stuff and there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it and part of it is the good fortune of having projects that you like. [laughs] But it’s been a really great run of things. I got to work with Helen Hunt recently as well on this thriller called I See You, and I have this show called Generation which is coming out that Lena Dunham is producing and I get to play opposite Martha Plimpton, and it’s a great project for HBO Max and it’s another good one with such great writing. Zelda Barnz, a 17 year old wrote it, with her father Daniel, and it’s kind of insane, which is great. I’ve done a lot of drama, it’s fun to mix it up and do something different.
Reckoning is now streaming on Netflix. The Order season two begins streaming on Netflix on June 18.