David Giuntoli plays Det. Nick Burkhardt on NBC's "Grimm," which is one of the struggling network's bright spots. The supernatural procedural tells the tale of a Portland police detective who discovers that he's a descendant of the Grimms, who not only chronicled strange beasts in their fairy tales but also hunted them to keep the human world safe. He can see these creatures, called Wesen, even when they hide in human form, and many of them are out to get him. Show Tracker was able to talk to the busy actor before the second half of the season begins March 8.
Your earliest fairy tale memories are ...
Either seeing drawings or watching movies where I was physically attracted to Cinderella or Snow White. I didn't get out of the house much, and those were some fine-looking cartoon ladies. Being afraid was [also] a huge part of my childhood and my psyche. I would get read stories and my mind would kind of wander and I'd just get destroyed. Very active imagination -- thinking that these animals were in my room. The erotica and the fear of fairy tales are what's stuck in my mind.
So for your first day on set ... did anything freak you out?
The idea that I was the lead of a show. It was all a blur. It was 16-hour days, 15 days in a row shooting the pilot. I remember I was in bed shooting a scene with Bitsie [Tulloch, who plays his girlfriend, Juliette], and I'd worked with her before, and we just looked at each other and said, 'Oh, this is happening.' Then Russell [Hornsby, who plays his partner] and Silas [Weir Mitchell, who plays a werewolf named Monroe] came up to watch us cause they weren't shooting a scene. It was just kind of surreal.
Talk about preparing for the role, as both a cop and a supernatural enforcer.
The cop thing. Well I did ridealongs with the Portland Police Department, and they've been amazing. That was very helpful. As far as the supernatural part ... I didn't want to watch other supernatural shows like "Angel" where David Greenwalt came from. I kind of wanted "Grimm" to become whatever it was going to become. People would ask is it going to be like "X-Files" or like "Buffy," and I didn't want to answer those ... I didn't want to put the cart before the horse. So I stayed away from that stuff as much as I could.
There've been some twists in the show. Did the writers surprise you with anything?
There were some moments where I realized that the character was -- at the end of the first season -- starting to enjoy this crazy thing that happened to his whole life. There was a scene at the end where he was telling Juliette everything and it was kind of like realizing how amazing the whole phenomenon is -- that he can see these people. It was fun to find that and realize that this is the point where he likes it -- this is where it all changes.
And then the floor falls out from under you.
Yeah, exactly. But that's like every day -- even for me. Sometimes we get these guest stars.... They get these full bodies made up in Burbank and they bring them up to Portland, and then they kill the fake guest star. So, I just met this dude in the trailer, or some woman, and then I'll turn around and see their corpse torn apart. It's very bizarre and ... jarring.
PHOTOS: Creating cadavers by makeup artist Barney Burman
Do you give input on the creature side of things and how Nick reacts to them?
I don't get in the way of the expertise of these guys -- this guy named Barney Burman who's won award after award for making creatures -- I don't want to get in the way of that at all. My input is in how I react to these things now. I'm always thinking, 'I'm not at all afraid of these things anymore.' I mean, I hate them, but I'm not afraid anymore. Sometimes we have discussions creatively about that, but I let the experts do their expert thing.
Many shows don't fare too well on Fridays, unless you're "X-Files." What do you think is the key to your success?
I worship the law of low expectations. I bow at the alter of low expectations. Friday was a gift to us in a lot of ways. I don't know if it signifies anything from the network -- what they think of the show or what they think is going to happen with the show -- but weren't expecting it to be this breakout Friday hit. When it was, it was so wonderfully sweet. I don't think it's a show that belongs on any other night of the week. It's Friday night fantasy and horror ... I love the fact that families stay in to watch it together. What does it take? I don't know -- it takes a good show. It takes creativity and you need good people. All the pieces have to work. You can't throw a [bad] show up on Friday night and expect it to succeed. It won't. But, I love low expectations, and I love being a surprise.
What should fans expect for the last part of the season?
"Grimm" likes to ... there are very deeply disturbed men and women in the writers' room, and they keep getting more and more stomach churningly gross with the murders and the crimes. Expect gorier stuff in general, grosser creatures. But in the story arc, you're going to learn a lot about the greater world at large, and the reason for the key and why all of these creatures are trying to kill me. There are greater power structures at play that I don't even know about yet ... but really, what you can expect is more blood.