In Command: Andre Braugher Leads ABC's 'Last Resort'
November 8th, 2012 1:15pm EST
Andre Braugher's role as Captain Marcus Chaplin on ABC's Last Resort is a perfect fit for the award-winning actor. He may not be a household name, but television buffs know that Braugher is one of the most commanding folks ever to have graced the small screen. Whether it was as Detective Frank Pembleton on NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street, as Nick Atwater on FX's short-lived Thief, as Owen Thoreau on TNT's Men of a Certain Age or even in guest roles on series like House and Law & Order: SVU, very few people have the screen presence of Braugher. He's fully believable not only as someone who would be in charge of a Navy nuclear submarine, but someone that you'd want to follow into battle.
As Last Resort continues its impressive first season, Braugher recently took time to discuss what it's like for him to work on such an ambitious series and his thoughts on the character of Marcus Chaplin.
On face value, the role appealed to a common theme that the veteran actor knows well. "All the roles I’ve played, they really center around either the great conflict or how the great conflict affects the people that I love," he reflected. "When I go back to any of the miniseries I’ve done or the series I’ve done, the heart and soul of the show always centers around how the people that we love are affected by our decisions.
"I’ve been cast often times as a hard-nosed, hyper confident kind of guy and so this seems always to be the main consideration, how to help the people that I love live with the decisions that are necessary for our survival - so it’s a challenge that I’ve taken on before."
Yet there was also something distinctive about Last Resortthat attracted Braugher in a different way. When he was handed the pilot, "What was going through my mind is [that] this is really an opportunity," he said. "We do serialized television and really it’s an opportunity to explore a world that you usually don’t in procedurals. Procedurals always stand alone every episode is essentially the same. I mean, that’s true of Homicide - the episode is going to open with someone dead and we’re going to avenge that person. That happens again and again and that’s typical of SVU or the other cop shows that I’ve been on.
"But to absolutely do a serial means we’re going to go forward and we’re going to progress as characters and in terms of story. And so I look up and I just say to myself, Shawn Ryan was able to do that brilliantly with The Shield and so I’m going to take on the challenge of living and breathing in this character and growing with this character. He’s going to be transformed and I want to be there for every step of the way. Rather than developing a character and then freezing it, it’s just much more exciting to really live in this guy’s skin and go through the changes that he goes through."
Playing Chaplin also teams Braugher with - and has on occasion pitted him against - another experienced actor with his own strong presence, Robert Patrick, who plays Master Chief Petty Officer Joseph Prosser. As superb as they are individually, Braugher and Patrick together are a drama fan's dream team. Speaking on Chaplin and Prosser's sometimes contentious relationship, Braugher said, "Robert is a very intense guy, so this is what happens I think when patriots clash. We’re both very passionate about what it is that we’re doing and we’re both supremely concerned about the health and welfare of our crew.
"Chaplin needs Prosser very much, not only because he exercises discipline over the crew but because he is a touchstone for the crew. If the Chief of the Boat thinks that it’s right, then the guys have a tendency to fall in line. And so Prosser is very important to Chaplin and it's very important for Chaplin that Prosser understands that our whole goal here is to get back home and to get back home in safety.
"[Chaplin asks] Prosser to make sure that [they] get home - that it is important to help [him] get all of these men and women back home and I think he’s following through on that. [They] may disagree but I think [they] do understand that the whole point is to get back home."
And while Braugher has played his fair share of men in authority, there's something that stands out to him about Marcus Chaplin in particular. "I like the fact that he’s thinking ahead. It’s the strategic part of Chaplin that’s fascinating to me," he explained. "The fact that the next step may seem the next right one but when you think several steps out further it turns out to be a mistake.
"It’s something I read the very first time I read the script. After they discover the bombers are coming to make a strike on their position. During that time when everyone is saying to themselves 'We’ve got to get the hell out of here, we’ve got to submerge the boat, we’ve got to run,' it’s at that point that Chaplin was thinking, 'We’ve got to fire. We've got to put the fear of God into them so they understand.'" And if there's anyone good at putting the fear of God into people, it's Andre Braugher - one of the strongest actors, both in terms of power and talent, that we have on the airwaves today.
Last Resort continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on ABC.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit Digital Airwaves and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.
Photo Credits: ABC