Interview Sullivan Stapleton talks Blindspot

DIY had a chat with the jovial, down-to-earth Sullivan Stapleton who is basically the antithesis of his on-screen tough-guy persona.

The complete first season of Martin Gero’s fiendishly plotted crime series Blindspot is available on Blu-ray and DVD now and tells the story of a mysterious woman (Jaimie Alexander) who is found naked in Times Square, with her body completely covered in cryptic tattoos. With no memories of her past or who she is it’s discovered that one of her mysterious tattoos bears the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton). As Weller and his teammates at the FBI begin to investigate the map of Jane Doe’s strange tattoos, they are drawn into a universe of secrets and revelations which may have world altering consequences.

DIY sat down for a chat with the jovial, down-to-earth Sullivan Stapleton revealing he is basically the antithesis of his on screen stoic, tough-guy persona.

How punishing is the schedule on Blindspot?
It’s crazy. It’s gruelling but we’re on a hit show so I can’t complain! It is non-stop, sometimes we’re doing 15 hour days and as the week goes on some of the days get sort of pushed out due to actor’s turn-arounds and stuff like that so you get to Friday night and you can be working to 5am on Saturday morning. 

Did you get locked down to a multi-season contract?
Network TV is like 7 years.

Is this a character you would be happy to play for 7 years?
Yeah. I’ll play any character for 7 years as long as the stories stay true to themselves and it’s still interesting. It’s a pretty long innings but this show has the ability to go any way and every way and the team can travel the world, it doesn’t have to just be set in New York. Well we can’t go around the world as it’s domestic!

How much input do you have in Kurt as a character? He has a specific story line and back story…how much did you put in or was it all on the page?
Nothing! I just act [laughs]. We’ve got a great writing team and obviously it’s fleshed out for us by the writers and the creator Martin Gero. When we started we were just trying to find that character and how to fit him in with the other characters. To have that ability to explore his history, personal life and family life it’s a great place to be. He’s a great character to play. He’s got that hard, very focused exterior but he’s also got a very big heart, there’s a vulnerability inside of him. It’s nice to explore those aspects.

Do you feel a level of ownership of him now you’ve played him for a year and will be playing him for a while yet?
I guess I don’t own him myself it’s like I helped create him with the team. They created him at the start, Martin Gero created him and I’ve put my bit in to help develop him. 

Do you have an idea of where you want to see him end up?
No. I obviously want to know why he and Jane Doe are so linked and who she is, why she was placed with [him]. That I want to know! 

How much have they told you? When you first started did you have any idea how things were going to play out?
Nope! [laughs].

Do you feel like you need to know what’s likely to happen to play Kurt or are you happy to go on the same journey as the audience?
No, it’s like you just said, I am exactly the same as the audience watching the show. It’s a great point, as an audience member watching that show how would you react to that? And that’s me. I sit down and read that script and just go: “Shit! How would I react to that?” And then I can go over the recent past about how things have affected me knowing it affected Kurt in the show and then on that day I use what’s given to me in that scene and use that to react instead of having this well planned, thought out way. 

Speaking of the audience the show has some dedicated fans who have their own theories. Have you read any of these or do you consciously steer clear of that stuff?
Really? What do they say?

I chose not to read any as I thought they may ruin my enjoyment of the show, I’ve read too many Game of Thrones theories that have come true!
See that’s the thing! But you know what? Each to their own, everyone’s got an opinion. There’s that thing where you think: “Was that let out by people on the crew or friends of an actor or whatever and then people leak it?” Hence why I don’t want to find out shit!

You don’t want to accidentally leak it…
Well no but also for me I don’t want it leaking into my brain that I know something’s going to happen.

Would that affect the way you play him do you think?
If I knew too much? Yeah. If sub-consciously I knew she was lying to me or whatever and yet on that day we’re supposed to be friends and get on really well it makes it harder. 

And speaking of Jane Doe, how is it working with Jamie Alexander?
It’s great! She’s a cool chick. She’s a good actress.

You’ve done a lot of action before like Strike Back and 300: Rise of an Empire, but so has Jamie, she’s in Thor for instance. Do you think things are changing for women within this genre?
I like the fact that there is that strength shown in women in these roles, it is showing that women are strong. It’s great to see that in the show, the strength in Audrey Esparza and Ashley Johnson, they’re strong women. Seeing Audrey run around in a pair of heels and Ashley had a huge stunt, an explosion - I didn’t know this but it was her first explosion but she was as cool as a cucumber. We ran away from this explosion and she was like: “That’s cool!” and I said: “It’s awesome isn’t it?” she went: “It’s my first explosion!” and I was like: “What?!” [laughs]. 

What are the logistics behind filming big set pieces like that? You film a fair amount on location…
Most explosions are filmed on location and the logistics are actually pretty simple. Once they go: “3. 2. 1.” you run! It’s as simple as that. And don’t fall over! They won’t ignite anything if you get that close, there’s a certain distance [you have to be]. It is funny when you’re standing there and they’re giving that safety speech: “So basically the whole crew need to be like 200 metres away except for those two,” and they’re pointing at you….”Shit!” [laughs]. But that to me is fun.

Is it a bit of a schoolboy fantasy to play with guns and explosions for a living?
Yeah, pretty much. Dress up for adults. 

I was discussing with a friend that I was interviewing you and we agreed that your best stunt was running in flip-flops in Animal Kingdom which is hard to do!
They came off though! And then I had to run through that field barefoot, it fucking hurt! It’s really good that your friend remembered that, it was tough! And it was like guerrilla filmmaking at its best.

So that was a low budget, Independent Aussie film and now you’re doing a huge American TV show and Hollywood movies. Is that something you would like to get back to at some point?
Yeah, I can’t thank David Michôd enough for casting me in that and I couldn’t be more honoured to have been part of it. It was a great role and hearing that your friend remembers that after 6 years….it opened up the international door for my career which is great. 

So you’d go back [to Australia] and do something?
Shit yeah! I want to. 

Blindspot: The Complete First Season is out now on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

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