Summer time brings in the summer fun with WGN America’s new drama series CARTER, a light-hearted tale of friends brought together again when famous Hollywood actor Harley Carter (Jerry O’Connell) decides to take a break and returns to his home town and decides to help his friend Sam (Sydney Tamilia Poitier) investigate a series of crimes and nudges their fellow friend Dave (Kristian Bruun) into joining the fun as well. In an exclusive interview, Kristian talks about how working on CARTER was a bit like life imitating art as he quickly bonded with his co-stars and all the fun they had bringing the show to life for screen.
Your new series CARTER looks like a lot of fun. What was the appeal for you to take on this new role and work on this show?
KRISTIAN: We had a blast doing it. I’ve done a couple sort of dramatic things, so I would like to do something that’s a little bit lighter. We filmed this up in the middle of “cottage country” in the most beautiful location in Northern Ontario for three months. Luckily, we all got along really well and just really loved working with each other. Essentially, it’s such a small place that we all kind of lived together and would see each other almost constantly. We really just for three months got to hang out, enjoy some fresh water swimming in Forks Lake. And just have a blast, doing this kind of fun summery light, “caper-y,” peppy show. It was a really nice break, it was like summer vacation. It was like summer camp, but making a TV show. [Laughs] I mean, you don’t really get much better than that.
It did feel a little bit like that. It was just a nice summer breeze, so to speak when you’re watching it.
KRISTIAN: Yeah. I think that’s what we were going for, so that’s perfect.
How would you describe your character of Dave? Who is he, and how does he relate kind of to the Harley Carter [Jerry O’Connell] story?
KRISTIAN: Dave is one of Harley’s childhood friends, along with Sam, played by Sydney Tamilia Poitier. We all grew up together, solved crimes together when we were kids, or got into a lot of trouble, in many cases. He was basically Harley’s right hand man and sidekick, though he would never like to admit it. And then they all lost touch in the university years and went different routes. Harley of course went to Hollywood, became a big name star. Sam became a police detective. And then Dave went off to university with a football scholarship, got injured pretty early and then started … got addicted to pain killers, essentially, become a drug addict. Dropped out of school, went back to the small town and ended up on the wrong side of the law for years, which of course put a lot of pressure on his friendship with Sam, her being a detective. When we first started the series, Dave is pretty estranged from both Harley and Sam. Of course, circumstance thrust all three of them together. And their sort of forced to make do and pass things off. It comes up a little later on in the season, a lot of their past and a lot of their history. And you start to see them start to work together. In the beginning it’s a little strained, a little awkward. But there’s a lot of love between the three of them. And definitely the desire to patch things up and get back to the way things were. He’s a little rough around the edges. He’s a bit of a Canadian lumberjack, kind of a guy. He’s got a big burly beard and wears a lot of plaid and a lot of what I like to call Canadian tuxedos. Which is the old denim on denim look with the jean jacket with the jeans. He’s a salty Northern Ontario dude, basically.
But he also has this coffee truck, which I just didn’t expect. That was very fun.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, he basically turned his life around and got out of the crime world and cleaned himself up and became an entrepreneur, as he likes to say. He drives around town with a coffee truck. And I can speak from experience, sometimes in a small town its hard to get a good cup of coffee. Coffee truck is a great business and if I wasn’t acting I would probably do that, I think that’s a great way to make a living. It’s mobile, the office is different everyday. He likes that.
It also had the cheeky slogan on it, “Good to the last stop.” I just cracked up every time I saw that.
KRISTIAN: It is a fun and cheesy kind of coffee truck. It’s brown, it’s not the prettiest coffee truck in the world. It’s very Dave. It’s something you’d never expect his character to do, which is why I love it.
Your character actually had one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while. It was in episode two, ‘The Astronaut and the Lion King,’ and Dave says: “For the record, that’s where I draw the line — stealing babies.” At the time, it was probably quite a funny line. But the time I was watching this, we of course had the issues in the news where children were being separated from their parents and it resonates a little bit louder now. I wondered what it was actually like to use that line when you were saying it in that episode, opposed to how we might see it today.
KRISTIAN: That’s a very good question. I personally think we shouldn’t be separating children from their families, not to get too political. I’m very much in support of reuniting those families. It’s funny, when you work on a show, you don’t expect certain things to jump out at you months later. So you just go through them, you say them and they become poignant later on. As weird as it sounds, I love it when that happens. Because it just shows you how quickly the world changes and how relevant good television writing can be in terms of linking itself to what’s going on in the world. I don’t think I thought much of it at the time. But I like being to look back and see how it impacts people when they listen to it. I love that you caught that. Like I said, I try not to be too political on these things. But another show I was working on THE HANDMAID’S TALE, I briefly pop up in there. When they first did the first season of that, they weren’t expecting the current government that we have right now in the United States. They thought it was gonna be a Hillary Clinton win, so it was almost like a cautionary tale. Then all of a sudden, while their filming the first season, things go very differently than they expected. All of a sudden the show takes on a whole other meaning. A whole other relevance. And it really changes things. I mean, it’s amazing to watch that happen on a small level with that line for you and then on a large level with a whole season on a television show. I always like that about television, it’s a little bit more immediate than say film. Films take a couple of years to come out. I like that with television, we have a quicker turn around and sometimes inadvertently and sometimes on purpose we can find great ways to put a little jab at social commentary.
You seem to have an instinct on picking shows that have kind of the finger on the pulse. Which is kind of fun because you did that with ORPHAN BLACK and you did that with THE HANDMAID’s TALE and now you’re inadvertently probably doing it with CARTER as well. You’ve had such an interesting career. You have had a keen instinct of shows that might have a cultural relevance, so to speak.
KRISTIAN: Thank you. One thing I really like about CARTER is that it is lighter. It supposed to be an easy watch, something enjoyable, that you can tune into and find a fun mystery night. I always describe it as MAGNUM P.I. meets MURDER SHE WROTE. Because its got sort of that “action-y” fun adventure, that MAGNUM P.I. had, but its also got that small town city murders and everybody knows each other things going on with MURDER SHE WROTE. And those were shows, just like CARTER, were fun and easy to enjoy. You don’t have to sit in darkness all the time. Because, while amazing shows, THE HANDMAID’S TALE and ORPHAN BLACK are heavy and darker themed. So that is such an important and good trend and a powerful trend in television these days. Sometimes we need a little break from that and it’s nice to enjoy a lighter, fun, summer- camp mystery.
Do you find yourself drawn more to lighter things now that you have a little bit of a history with darker shows?
KRISTIAN: Yes and no. I mean, I find that even within dramatic shows, I tend to usually be more of the comedic relief on the show. With ORPHAN BLACK, it was a show that was quite heavy and quite dark. But Donny and Alison [Tatiana Maslany] would come into things and kind of brighten things up with their crazy high jinks. So I’ve always played on the comedy side. THE HANDMAID’S TALE is a little bit different. It’s much darker. But I think that’s kind of my wheelhouse is working within dramas, but on a comedic side of things. I really enjoy that challenge, I think it’s difficult to come into a heavy, heavy show and brighten the mood, but it’s also important. As an audience member, you really need to get just a bit of a break. Even within a one hour episode, you need a bit of a break every once in a while from all the heavy drama. I always love being a part of that. But, in terms of something like CARTER, I mean it was just pure joy to work on for 10 episodes. We had such a blast. We laughed so much, on-screen, off-screen, ruining takes sometimes. Comedy is one of my great loves and I’m always happy to work in comedy. And of course, I also love the challenge of working on dramas and being a serious actor, literally serious. Because people don’t always see me as serious and I like showing them that I can do that as well. Generally, I always lean towards comedy because life is more fun when you laugh.
Have you been surprised by your career? I mean its taken so many little interesting turns.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, but that’s what I love. I think, back in the day and I would say, “I’m a character actor.” I like to play types. I like to have fun with accents and different looks and it’s very easy to get pigeon-holed in this industry. So I’ve been so bloody lucky that I haven’t been. I’ve got to play a really wide swath of characters. That’s what keeps it fun for me. I love that I get to change up my look. I love that I’ll be some bearded Canadian hoser on this show and then I’ll be some suburban husband, just very average dude with a dark underbelly or a dark past going on. I’ll play a doctor, I’ll play lawyers. I’ll play old-timey cops. whatever I get to play, its always fun. Because its just dress up and make believe and I get so much joy from that. I’ve just been very lucky that I haven’t been pigeon-holed, and I hope I don’t get pigeon-holed. I hope I get to keep exploring different types of characters from different walks of life and different time periods. That’s what keeps the jobs so exciting.
Turning back to CARTER, maybe you can describe the dynamic or the relationship between Dave and Harley. It was kind of hard to get a finger on that initially, a sense of who they are to each other, other than they’ve known each other for a long time.
KRISTIAN: It’s funny, even with any TV show as your exploring each other in the first season — really in the first few episodes you’re kind of testing each other out. I didn’t know Jerry [O’Connell] before working on this. But of course was a huge fan of his. I knew him ever since I was a kid with “Stand by Me” and all the work he’s done since then. I didn’t know what to expect with him. And I was just very guarded at first. But he was immediately so warm and so charming and so much fun to be around that we just really buddied up. We had three months to spend in this small town and we really made it count, both on-screen and off-screen. In terms of the story between Harley and Dave, it kind of benefits us in that respect because they are estranged at the beginning of the show and they haven’t seen each other in like 10 years and Dave’s got a “beef” with Harley because he created a character named after Dave that was kind of an insult to him on a TV show. So he’s got a “bone to pick” with him and he comes right out in the very beginning and lays it out on the table with Harley. And Harley goes for it and Harley really extends the “olive branch.” And after a while Dave decides to take the “olive branch” and join Team Harley and they rekindle their friendship. Even with Sam [Sydney] as well, because it was a bit strained between Dave and Sam. Because its, him being on the other side of the law. It’s fun to see these characters over the course of the season warm up to each other, by the end of it, their inseparable. And I love that. Its takes them right back to their childhood. It’s like those old friends that you have that you might not see for 10 years, but you went through so much stuff together when you were kids. You kind of revert right back to that relationship, no matter how old you are, how mature you are, what happened in your life. It’s like old times. And that’s the feeling that we wanted to invoke when the three of us were to get together and start solving crimes and getting into trouble. I hope we achieved that.
CARTER premieres Tuesday, August 7th at 10:00 p.m. on WGN America. It is a delightful, breezy mystery-caper drama and it will make you smile and laugh along with Harley, Dave and Sam — so sit back and spend your summer Tuesday nights in “cottage country” with them as they catch a criminal or two along the way.
CARTER – The Making Of Trailer:
ORPHAN BLACK: A Talk of Clones with Kristian Bruun and Tatiana Maslany