USA Network's newest show from Shades of Blue producer Adi Hasak is Eyewitness, a psychological thriller about two teen boys (Tyler Young and James Paxton) who witness a grisly crime in a remote cabin in a small New York town. For fear that reporting what they saw will out their romantic secret, Philip and Lukas keep it to themselves. Meanwhile, the killer is still out there and trying to tie up loose ends...
Warren Christie plays Ryan Kane, a complicated character whose story will take you on a thrill-ride this season. In our exclusive interview, Christie (Motive, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce) explains how he approaches the multiple facets of his fascinating role, what it was like to work with Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, and how the remote setting of Eyewitness helped him get into character.
[Warning: Contains mild spoilers through Eyewitness episode 2.]
USA Network: We know you've done your fair share of bad guys over the years, but it’s safe to say that Ryan Kane is next level. How do you even go there as an actor?
Warren Christie: Yes, this is really a whole new level as far as the “bad guy” goes. It was a process of figuring things out and spending time speaking with Adi and crafting things with Catherine Hardwicke in the first couple of episodes.For me, what I found so interesting going in was that we were going to try -- even as bad as this guy is -- to find the humanity in it. I thought that was going to be the challenge. There are some things, as you know, that he does that are not the nicest of things -- to put it mildly! It's a process. It's about figuring out specifics of the background and why he is the way he is.
Any character is the same way. I mean, you start from the basics and then you start painting in the colors of it. But this was definitely something for me that was a challenge -- and a challenge, to be honest, that I was looking for.
I'm not going to lie, there were some days that were hard and you go home and you’re carrying a little bit of it with you, like, "Oh my gosh. What did I do today?" But in general, I felt the challenge of it from beginning to end to be really fascinating.
USA Network: Did you shoot in upstate New York where the show is set?
Warren Christie: We were in Canada and the closest town is Parry Town [Ontario] which is about 5,000 people. They were incredibly sweet and welcoming. And when you have 5,000 people, it's pretty obvious that we weren't from there and what's going on, but also, it's a bit remote so you’re kind of away at camp with your cast and your crew. I find that bonds people really quickly.
By the way, it was gorgeous there. We lived in these little cabins right on the lake and it was stunning, but isolated at the same time. Specifically, I spent the first couple of episodes alone a lot because my storylines didn't quite start to intersect yet. That was interesting, and honestly kind of helpful because of what was going on.
And, as strange as it is, even though there are so many dark moments in the show, I think we had a really good time!
USA Network: You actually look different from scene to scene. Sometimes you look very clean-cut, and then there are moments where you look downright ragged and your hair is sort of wild. The whole persona seems to shift. How deliberate was that?
Warren Christie: It was purposeful. Actually, all along -- and they might not even read all the time -- but there are subtle differences in trying to show the different sides of who this guy is.
It's funny because you mentioned the hair. As it goes along, the hair is a reflection of this character. I think that when he's clean-cut and pulled together, that's him trying to hold everything that he's got going inside. When I do look ragged, I feel like that's the inner side of him showing.
I should give credit to Catherine Hardwicke because my plan was originally to cut my hair, and she and I had a discussion. We were like, “Oh, okay. That's kind of cool" -- the idea that longer hair would give us a little more play with certain things. They're very subtle things. Sometimes they read; sometimes they don't. For me personally, it was just these little touches that I thought would help to fill in who he is.
USA Network: Speaking of Catherine, had you ever worked with her or met her before? What was that experience like?
Warren Christie: No, I'd never met her before. She was one of the pieces that drew me to the project. I went in and met with Catherine. We did a work session together for honestly maybe 15 or 20 minutes.
I met her, we chatted, we went through a couple of scenes, and then I left. Even in my own mind, I was like, "Well, that was kind of simple and easy and quick." It just worked out. You have to be quick with what they have in mind and maybe show something a little different. That side of it clicked.
Truthfully. She is just an artist. She is incredible to work with, she's got the best personality, and she's a lot of fun.
USA Network: Even though she directs only the first two episodes, would it be safe to say that her stamp is on the whole 10-episode run of Eyewitness?
Warren Christie: Absolutely. That's true of the first episode of anything -- you set a tone and a look -- never mind the first two. She was huge in that. Her eye is incredible. There's not a lot of standard, "Let's set up a two-shot" or "Punch in for a close-up." There are all sorts of different angles.
For me, trying to make sure that we got across the idea of who this guy is without really saying much at first was a great challenge that she had a really big hand in helping with.
USA Network: People are going to really respond to your character in interesting ways. He's such a complex villain.
Warren Christie: We, as an audience, are getting so smart that you really have to dig in. More and more people want to know why. I will say that one of the interesting things I read and had a discussion about leading up to shooting was Ted Bundy, this horrible murderer. Everybody thought he was the most charming person. He had a bright future in politics and everybody thought he was the most interesting guy -- people who were a part of his life before it was found out that he was a mass murderer.
I think that that's what people are starting to crave -- a fully realized character. That's what's going to keep people around. That was what drew me to this series as well. I'm hoping that we captured that to a certain extent. As it goes along and things start to kind of unwind, you find out more and more. Hopefully the audience enjoys it!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.