A behind-the-scenes look at filming around the world for television and movies, as seen from the streets.(Clockwise from top left: Steve Sands / GC Images/Getty Images; Bobby Bank / GC Images/Getty Images; GWR/Star Max / GC Images/Getty Images; Stickman / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images/Getty Images)
Actor Andrew Garfield, right, rehearses a scene with his stunt double William Spencer on the “The Amazing Spiderman 2" movie set in Madison Square Park in New York.(Ray Tamarra/Getty Images)
Character actor Donal Logue is performing the tricky but enviable task of juggling roles in three cable series — BBC America’s “Copper,” the History Channel’s “Vikings” and “Sons of Anarchy” on FX. He talked about the series that’s currently on the air, “Copper,” a day before flying to Ireland to film “Vikings.”
Let’s start with “Copper.” Is it true that you went after the role of ward boss Brendan Donovan?
No, “Copper” was something quite unexpected, literally a phone call on a Tuesday afternoon before I started shooting on Monday. I spoke to Tom Kelly, who’s the show runner, a super-bright guy. He was a sandhogger, the guys who were building tunnels in New York, and he taught at the [Harvard] Kennedy School. He knew how to have a foot in the rarefied Ivy League environment with a shovel in his hand. I just had to call Kurt Sutter [the show runner-executive producer] from “Sons of Anarchy,” because I knew there could be a little bit of dates mishmosh. The last month has been a real whirlwind of finishing “Copper” and getting “Sons” off the ground, but it’s exciting.
You’re an Ivy League guy with a metaphorical shovel also, aren’t you? You’ve got a trucking company?
Yeah, I definitely was driving a truck earlier this year. It’s funny because in this context, these stories become hyperbolic in a weird way. I’m from a small town near the Mexican border, and I always liked to drive trucks. I actually drove a 5-ton with my cousin James O’Shea. When I was in high school, we’d do these drives to L.A. from El Centro, where I’m from. I loved road-tripping with my cousin. I loved trying to figure out how to fix the truck. Then I started driving big rigs.
I have a hardwood company as well up in Oregon, which is our main family base, and to me it’s always fun. Even to my agents, they’re cool, they understand. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in Hollywood, but the reality is sometimes you do a pilot in November, they own you until June, you know it’s not going and you’re not working for seven months. I hate waking up feeling like I’ve allowed myself not to feel like I can make a decision to have a vital and full day. I can get in the truck and go back and forth on I-5 between our loads in L.A. and Portland, or I can write something. I wrote a novel last year that got picked up by Harper Collins Canada.
It’s a young adult novel?
I was living across the street from my son Fin’s school in Calabasas and he was skateboarding around this parking lot, and I’d just gotten this phone call where I thought I was going to be doing this big movie in Budapest, and they went with someone else. You get a lot of those, which is fine. It spurred me into immediate action. It’s called “Agua.”
I was so busy with the performing side of all this for so many years that [writing] was just something that had lain dormant for a long time. Honestly, it was what I wanted to do when I was young young, when I was 10, so it feels like it’s back to what I wanted to do.
Between “Copper” and “The Vikings,” you’re becoming the period drama guy, and I know you were a history major at Harvard. Do you think this is a golden age for period drama on American television?
Absolutely. There’s so many outlets on cable, everyone wants to do their own scripted programming, so it’s kind of a golden age for people involved in one-hour drama or comedy, and it’s an amazing time for writers and actors. There are so many venues you can explore these different worlds in, whether it’s contemporary crime drama, like “Sons of Anarchy,” which also has kind of an anachronistic feel to it as well because it’s based on Shakespeare. It’s easy to see how one could bounce between “The Vikings” and “Sons of Anarchy,” between Uppsala and Charming, Calif.
Did you model Brendan Donovan on anyone in particular, a relative perhaps?
Yes. Most of the people in Five Points were from Kerry and Cork and Sligo. And I thought, “Great, this guy is from where my mother’s from.” Both my parents are from Kerry. [Donovan] had been a copper. He answered the bugle call of war, and a lot of men were able to advance very quickly socially through warfare during the Civil War. So Donovan comes back as a general, and he steps into this vacuum — he’s the ward boss of the sixth. And it’s when Tammany Hall was ratcheting up its machinery and really taking advantage of the numbers of the immigrants. Boss Tweed historically would have been the character I would most have based Brendan Donovan on, although Boss Tweed was different in terms of his background. So I made a Boss Tweed-like character... from a place called Derrylee. The accent is very different. It was funny because Irish people on the set would say, “Wow, how did you know that?” I said, “Well, that’s where my huge family still is and I’ve spent my whole life around it.”
Let’s talk about the upcoming film “CBGB.” Who do you play and did you ever go to the real club?
I did go to the real club. When I was in college, my best friends were Jesse Peretz — now he’s a producer-director on “Girls” — and Clay Tarver, who’s the lead guitar player for Chavez, and he was in a band called Bullet Lavolta when alternative rock made its move into mainstream. I used to roadie and road manage for those bands. CB’s was definitely a stop we made a lot. I play this guy named Merv Ferguson who Hilly [Kristal] started the club with. He was enigmatic. He had an English accent, but it turns out he was born in New Jersey. People remember him because he wore this iconic yellow construction helmet in the club. The Talking Heads were living across the street. Now it’s super-iconic music, but at the time it was Tuesday afternoon and a new local band from across the street was trying their stuff out for Hilly and Merv.