‘Grimm’: Silas Weir Mitchell on being a good big bad wolf
On NBC’s “Grimm,” Silas Weir Mitchell plays what is essentially the big bad wolf — albeit one who would much rather restore grandfather clocks than eat grandmothers.
Mitchell, who may be known to viewers from popular stints on “Prison Break,” “My Name is Earl” and “Burn Notice,” admits that being on the “ground floor” of a series has made him, and the other cast and crew members, more connected to “Grimm” than other work he’s done.
“It’s not just some fantasy show. It’s a show that looks at the real world that we live in through a different lens,” says Mitchell. “We’re all very invested in the imaginary world that we’re in. Everybody knows that we have this weird little world that we want to enrich.”
Recently renewed for a third season, the show has seen a May ratings bump due to a move to Tuesdays behind “The Voice.”
A kind of supernatural procedural, it follows Det. Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a cop who discovers that he is an integral part of a hidden world populated by creatures called Wesen who hide beneath human faces. As a Grimm, he can see them as they are, and tries to make the world safer by going after the bad ones.
It is in this capacity that Nick meets Monroe, whom Mitchell calls a “recluse.” He’s a werewolf-like blutbad, which literally means blood bath, who eats quinoa and tries to stay low-key — until a Grimm shows up on his doorstep.
“The Wesen are the boogie men to the normal people, but to the Wesen, the Grimms are the boogie men. They’re the ones that we were told about,” says Mitchell. “Slowly I realize that he’s actually a different type of Grimm. He’s doing good in the world, and he is a cop first. What matters more are the actions in the world that these Wesen take, not just the pure fact that they’re Wesen.”
The character, like the show, is a definite melding of twisted fairy tales and the real world that, to Mitchell, helps place the show in a more grounded setting. Monroe is slowly integrating with mainstream society, even now having a romantic involvement, after leading a much-sheltered existence as he battled with his internal “rapacious proclivities.” He’s become a renaissance Wesen, and as with any good show, the writers and showrunners have learned to tailor some of the quirks and mannerisms to the actors.
“There are definite similarities between myself and Monroe. I like old things — antiques and books .... Oh, my thing is boats, though, and teak. I restored a teak swing when I got home.”
Staining the wood, treating it with a mix of apple cider vinegar and lye ... it’s a very specific and unusual hardwood hobby, but one that would also seem to fit Monroe just as well. The show is on just as solid of a tropical hardwood-based foundation as Mitchell’s projects, but its popularity is not something that Mitchell expected. Engaging with fans at events like Comic-Con, Mitchell is happy that others can be so involved in the Portland, Ore.-based magical tale they weave -- even when those tales turn to a darker premise.
“There was a thing in the newspaper that was apropos of our show. The dude who had held those women in Cleveland for 10 years ... a neighbor said something like ‘That’s a pretty great human mask to cover a monster.’ That’s what the show is about. That’s what I love about it,” says Mitchell. “It doesn’t shy away from the ugly.”
Though he closely follows the show’s ratings — says they’re “crushing it” in the targeted demographics — and appreciates the fandom surrounding it all, the actor never strays too far from the craft and his own almost supernatural reasons for getting into this business in the first place.
“I think it’s literally the fact that I am susceptible to the power of suggestion ... to the point where [suggestion] became my career. That’s what actors do. They avail themselves to an imaginary event to the point where that imaginary event becomes real, which is really just the power of suggestion.”
It’s that kind of soul-gazing that has helped the writers connect the introspective actor to his introspective character. As “Grimm” enters Tuesday night’s Season 2 finale, though, the actor is happy to let go, not knowing what his character’s next steps will be, but teasing that viewers will be wanting more.
“The corner that they’ve written us into ... I don’t know how we’re going to get out of it. That’s one of the fun things about serialized TV: you have to kind of wait and see where you’re going,” says Mitchell.
“As long as something is mysterious and fun, that’s hard to turn away from.”
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