While I was at LA Theatre Works to see The Hound of the Baskervilles, I was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with the incomparable Seamus Dever, who played Sherlock Holmes, but is better known to most of the world as Detective Kevin Ryan on Castle. He was a very gracious interviewee, and shared a lot of insight about being an actor and his work with both LA Theatre Works and on Castle.
Whedonopolis.com: To start off, congratulations on a fantastic show.
Seamus Dever: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Whedonopolis.com: How did you get involved with LA Theatre Works?
Seamus Dever: I did an LA Theatre Works play eight years ago. I did Mary Stuart, so I had a relationship with them from before. They’re always offering me things and I can’t do it because they don’t line up with my season with Castle. So this is a nice opportunity. It fell in the right, perfect time, and I got to play Sherlock Holmes, so like ‘yeah, oh my god, I’ve got to do that!’
Whedonopolis.com: When you started doing theater, was it more for learning stage work, or was it for film and television?
Seamus Dever: There’s a misconception, I think, about theater; that you do it in preparation for something else. Really, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s one of those things – that theater fills something in your life, and if you grow up doing it, there’s a tradition and a history of it. This is sort of rooted in one of my favorite things in something – one of my skills that I’m really good at – is being able to speak very quickly and with a lot of lines and a lot of things. It’s very verbal. It’s a verbal sort of history. It’s very English. This is something that’s not necessarily easy to do, but fortunately I’ve had the training to do it. It’s one of those things you can’t just throw yourself into. You have to have had some experience doing this before. Otherwise, it’ll eat you up. It’ll swallow you like quicksand. You’ll just be lost in all the words. So, it’s sort of one of those things that theater – I’ve done so many pieces like this, that it prepared me for material like this. So it’s great. And you know? There’s a lot of similarities to Castle with this. There’s a lot of words that I have to say in there; a lot of exposition I have to handle really quickly and deftly and move along, so it’s not really dissimilar from Castle in a lot of ways.
Whedonopolis.com: Do you prefer the seven/eight day shooting style for an episode of Castle to the week of prep and perform for LA Theatre Works?
Seamus Dever: Actually, [LA Theatre Works] gives me so much more rehearsal than Castle.
Seamus Dever: Yeah. You don’t get to rehearse. It’s TV; you don’t. You do all your stuff at home, you work out some ideas, you come to set and do it two or three times, you throw some ideas at Nathan [Fillion] or Jon [Huertas] or Stana [Katic], and you come up with a way to make it – if there’s an idea to change a line you ask the writer and you figure out a better way to say something, and you get their approval and film it. You make it as you go, and then just about the time you’re finished with the scene, you feel like you’ve done almost your best with it and [the directors] say cut, and then you move on. Then, you realize later that there’s probably something else you could have done to make it better. [laughs] That’s just how it is.
Whedonopolis.com: That sounds about right.
Seamus Dever: Here at LA Theatre Works, we’ve got three days to rehearse [the show], then we open, which is great. It’s like instant theater. You do it and you jump in – you commit – and you really don’t look back and it’s actually kind of fun because there’s no time for messing around, but there’s not six weeks of rehearsal either.
Whedonopolis.com: When it comes to Castle, you have one really fantastic episode where you got to be kind of evil and had an Irish accent. Everyone that I know loved it. Do you prefer doing that accent to the accents you used to be Sherlock in The Hound of the Baskervilles?
Seamus Dever: I don’t know. It was fun; they’re all fun. [pause] It was the Irish episode? Or, sorry, the film noir episode?
Whedonopolis.com: I like that one, but I was referring to the episode where Detective Ryan goes back under cover into the Irish mob.
Seamus Dever: Oh! I didn’t – I didn’t do an accent for that one! People think I did an accent for that one!
Whedonopolis.com: It really sounds like you did on TV!
Seamus Dever: Yeah, I didn’t. I honestly didn’t. I didn’t try – I only wanted to come across as a more confident Kevin Ryan, but that’s all I was really just playing with. I was working with the physicality and physical presence and being more secure, but it might have come across in my voice. I wasn’t trying to do anything else. I’ve heard that too, though, before. People have told me that they love my accent from when Ryan was in the mob, and I’m always saying “I wasn’t doing that!” I certainly wasn’t doing [a] Staten Island [accent], but if anything did help, it was that all the actors that were hired for that episode – that great actor they hired to play Bobby in that episode – had a real accent, and so I just followed his lead. It ended up being a case of ‘if he’s going to do it, I’m going to do it too.’ So maybe there was a little bit in that; you know I couldn’t get away with doing too much, so I didn’t do much. It was more about, I guess, a state of being, and it came through in my voice. It’s an interesting observation.
Whedonopolis.com: On that note, about playing around with your characters, did you have more fun being straight-up Sherlock or Sherlock in disguise?
Seamus Dever: Oh! In disguise! Because the characters, it’s so ridiculous and you do these really broad characters – you know, you play this really elderly clergyman – who I’ll never play until I’m maybe 70 or something – who’s got an English accent with a lisp, a speech impediment and everything… That’s so much fun! And then there’s the Irish tinker guy [speaks in that accent] it’s so much fun to play! And, yeah. It’s the really broad characters. Those are things that I’ll never get to play. So, yeah, they were more fun. I mean, Sherlock was great too, but the other stuff was pretty fun.
Whedonopolis.com: How about your cast mates? Was it fun working with them?
Seamus Dever: Oh yeah! We got so lucky with this cast! They were so much fun, and great people, funny as hell… Geoffrey Arend is so damn funny! Henri Lubatti, Wilson Bethel… They’re so funny. I have a hard time, you know, being serious… [laughing] Moira Quirk, she was so funny too. It was just really, really funny people, really funny actors doing a play together for a week. It was great.
Whedonopolis.com: In general, if you had one role besides being Sherlock, what would you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
Seamus Dever: Oh boy! Well, um, someday I’ll play Hamlet… maybe… Jeez, how old am I now? Um, we’ll see if I have the energy to play him when they ask me, whenever that might be.
Whedonopolis.com: You sound like James [Marsters] with his love of Macbeth.
Seamus Dever: Yeah, yeah, yeah… Those are great roles. Those are the things that you always have on your list. Jeez, you know I’ve always said that there’s… Jack Nicholson in Chinatown – it’s one of my favorite films – and so the Gittes character, uh… There’s another script that I hear is out there that was a thought for a sequel to The Two Jakes to make it part of the trilogy so that that same character, the Los Angeles private detective – would be awesome to play that, so, um, Jake Gittes, probably, in this rumored third installment of the Chinatown series, so yeah, it’ll probably never happen.
Whedonopolis.com: Are there any other places, besides Los Angeles, that you’d like to do theater when you get the chance?
Seamus Dever: I really have only done theater in LA aside from school. Uh, I mean New York has some great theater and eventually I’ll do something there because there’s always great theater going on. So, eventually New York. … I have done a bit of theater in other places, actually. I’ve done Texas, Moscow, Pittsburgh… It’s sort of one of those things that I haven’t had that extensive of a life outside of Los Angeles.
Whedonopolis.com: After Castle ends, which I hope won’t be for a long time, what do you see yourself doing?
Seamus Dever: Probably another TV show. I like television, and I’d love something with more responsibilities than I have on Castle, which would be great.
Whedonopolis.com: Fair enough; I think you’re my favorite on the show.
Seamus Dever: Oh, well thank you! Thank you very much!
Whedonopolis.com: I mean, I love Nathan [Fillion] as Castle, and I love everybody, but I consistently am going “please give me more Ryan!”
Seamus Dever: [happy laughter] Ryan’s fun, and there are sections of responsibilities on the show that have been carved out that Ryan is never going to have. Like at the beginning, they wanted Ryan to have more smart-ass things that he says every once in a while, and more knowledge that he comes up with out of the blue, but that’s Castle. That’s his responsibility, you know. And then there’s Esposito, who’s the tough guy, so okay that’s carved out there. Then there’s Beckett, who’s ultra sharp, being a detective, so what does Ryan do? He comes up with things that women like every once in a while because he had sisters, so there’s that. So it’s funny, that everyone else is carved out, but what does Ryan do? He’s sensitive and he loves his wife, so it can be tricky to play him.
Whedonopolis.com: There’s another Castle episode that showed off your acting prowess, where Ryan is with Esposito and the building is on fire – where you’re calling your wife… How hard was it to film that?
Seamus Dever: Yeah, yeah! That wasn’t hard at all! It was so much fun! You’re surrounded and covered in filth. I think we shot that on a Friday, and it was a long week, so you’re just tired exhausted. We shot that scene at about 3 in the morning, I think, and I had been on the phone during my wife’s side of the phone call two days prior – Oh! Because we were on location that week too! So there were four exhausting days on location with fire and, actually, rain coming down and we were kind of trapped downtown. So it’s been a long week, and you’re filthy all damn week long and you reach a point where you feel there’s nothing to do but relax. You know, at the end of the week, when you’re sort of just like, “Ahh, I’ll have a good cry.”
Whedonopolis.com: Was it hard to get yourself to cry like that?
Seamus Dever: I had already rehearsed it and heard my wife’s voice doing it. Actually, on her side of the phone call, I was in a cop car, on my phone, calling her directly. It was actually really me on the other end of her phone call. So I got to rehearse that. I used that as, you know, you have to rehearse whenever you can. Like I said, TV, you don’t have that opportunity all the time. When you can rehearse, you do it! I had that experience, and so it was really easy. I fell right into it. After the first take, the director asked if I wanted to do another one. I was like, yeah, and so we did a couple more and they got better and better. It was good; it was actually good. But you learn that from doing theatre; you rehearse something enough, it doesn’t have to be your first impulse to do something. You can let the work settle in and get deeper and heavier and take it to a different place, and that’s what we did.
Whedonopolis.com: For any other work besides Castle and LA Theatre Works, is there anything you’d love to have a guest appearance on right now?
Seamus Dever: Oh my god, yes, Game of Thrones! Jesus! Who wouldn’t give their arms and both their legs to be on Game of Thrones? I’d also love to do something funny like on Modern Family or something. That’d be great too. Um, yeah, those kinds of shows. Those are my two shows right now.
Whedonopolis.com: Thank you so much for your time, and congratulations on completing your run as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. I also can’t wait to see what happens next for Detective Ryan on Castle.
Seamus Dever: Absolutely, and thank you guys. Thank you!