Fred Weller On Being Marshall Mann   

Fred Weller stars as Marshall Mann on IN PLAIN SIGHT, the new series premiering Sunday, June 1, at 10/9c on USA.Before I introduce you to another member of the In Plain Sight cast, let me point out Alan Sepinwall’s review of the show in today’s The Star-Ledger. I have found that my taste almost always coincides with Alan’s so I’m happy to hear he thinks the show’s “a definite for any summer TV To-Watch list.”

Ok, now on to our next Q&A! Since we started with Mary’s “partner” away from work, I figured we should move on to her partner at work, Marshall Mann played by Fred Weller. Marshall is a fifth generation US Marshal and he’s never questioned what he’d do in life. He knows a little bit about everything, which is bound to come in handy when he and Mary are working cases. He and Mary are great partners but they’re also great friends. Despite being polar opposite personalities they make a great team and, in their own way, take care of each other like no one else can.

Here’s what Fred had to say about his role:

How did you get involved in the project and what attracted you to the project initially?

Well, I auditioned for the show and it really jumped out, the script. It was during pilot season a couple of years ago and during pilot season an actor auditions for several TV shows per day. It’s really kind of a frenzied month. And this script just immediately popped because of the originality of the tone and the humor. It’s very rare, to say the least, to get to play a character on television who’s as complicated as Marshall, who gets to be a bad ass and a dork at the same time.

I think it’s a very original project. You don’t often get to do drama on television that has this level of humor. In that, it’s similar to theatre, which I have spent most of my career doing. In the theatre most of the time what you’re doing is drama with humor. In television usually you’re doing broad comedy like a sitcom or even a single camera or you’re doing one hour drama, which can be kind of humorless at times, but this is really closer to a theatrical tone, I think. And the character is not the cookie cutter television cop character. I mean he’s extremely original, to the point of being kind of weird, which I really enjoy.

How did you prepare for the role? how do you prepare to be an agent in the witness protection program?

Well, I had read a couple of books prior to shooting, but they really weren’t nearly as helpful as talking to our technical advisor, who actually was the head of the witness protection program. And he also took me out to shoot guns and just was there on the set available all the time and so Mary and I picked his brains.

And at one point another marshal was helicoptered in, someone who’s not retired, who’s still active. And it was interesting, she actually didn’t know where she was going when she was helicoptered in to talk to us because their job is that secret, it’s on a need to know basis, so she didn’t know until she arrived what her mission would be, which would be to talk to a bunch of actors. I hope she wasn’t disappointed. But I really had no idea just how bad ass the US marshals are until I talked to these people. They do a lot of undercover work. They are the best in the world at protecting people, at kicking down doors. They’re frequently borrowed by other branches of the U.S. Marshal Service just to do SWAT-related work. It’s a really cool job.

What do you like best about being on the show?

Well, I like the mind of David Maples. He stays close to the show and keeps it with the original tone and keeps the unique flavor with his sense of humor. And another element that makes the show original is that there’s no real formula from week-to-week because it’s not a cop show. It’s very different from the usual procedural, in that you can’t begin each episode with somebody getting killed because then it would be kind of a lame protection program. And so David and the writers have to reinvent the wheel every week, which I think makes their job very challenging, but also makes the show very fun to the viewers. One week it’s a family drama, the next week it’s a who done it, and the next week it’s an action adventure. I mean it really does vary from week-to-week.

How much is comedy going to be a part of the show? Just your character’s name for example: Marshal Marshall Mann.

Yes, that sets you up for some comedy right there; it puts a lot of pressure on a guy to be funny. I think it’s an extremely funny show. It’s created by David Maples, who use to be one of the head writers on Home Improvement. And he’s just a very clever and very funny guy and I think that he is able to find humor in every situation. There are some episodes that are a little bit more funny than others, or rather a little more light-hearted in tone in general, the plot and so forth, but overall I think you’d call it a dramity in the USA vein. That’s USA network, not the country.

In your interviews on USA website, you mention that there’s a lot of sexual tension between Mary and Marshall. How does that play into both your character and your work relationship with Mary?

Well, it’s critical to the character. For me the romantic tension between them is one of the escape from Gilligan’s Island elements to the show. That’s not to say that there won’t be any payoff on it, I feel there actually is some payoff here and there in the first season. Mary McCormack doesn’t acknowledge the extent to which her character reciprocates those feelings. There’s definitely at least one episode in which her character gets a little jealous of one of Marshall’s love interests, which to me is pretty telling.

In terms of our relationship, I think our relationship off screen is informative of our relationship on screen in that we get along very well in a kind of brother/sister trash talk way. And I think she’s an extremely attractive woman, obviously, so it’s easier to imagine being in love with her because her character is very desirable, as is the actress. I think she’s a very attractive, very intelligent person.

How does that play into your relationship with Raphael, if you interact with him much?

Well, any interaction between Marshall and Raphael would certainly be fraught with tension. There isn’t really any interaction between us during the first season. There are some references to him in scenes that I’m in; I notice that he’s been called up to the majors at one point when I’m reading the sport pages and I’m with Mary, and I think my feelings toward Mary inform my attitude towards him. So yes, there would definitely be kind of a love triangle vibe there if we ever do cross paths.

If for some reason you had to go into witness protection program or go hide and you could choose where you could do that, where would you choose?

Let’s see, the trouble with that is you have to go someplace where you’ve never been before. So all of my favorite places, New Orleans, where I’m from, or Charleston, I would not be allowed to go to. So just picking someplace where I’ve never been that I’m intrigued by in the United States, I guess Seattle, I’ve never been there. I hear it’s fun.

There’s actually one episode in which we interview these witnesses and we try to get them to divulge where they’ve been and where they have connections by offering to send them someplace that they might like to go, and so they disclose well, we’ve got some cousins in San Francisco, that would be nice. Chicago, I spent some time there, I thought it was great. I spent a few months there. And so we write down all these places they’ve been and then we rule them out, and they don’t realize that that is what is happening, and that’s apparently a common practice in the witness protection program.

What’s your favorite episode this season?

Well, there’s one episode with Dave Foley, and I enjoyed doing that episode because it really explored my relationship with Mary and the tension between us, and Dave Foley was brilliantly funny. And Mary and I got to shoot our guns.

Don’t forget to check out In Plain Sight: Sunday, June 1, at 10/9c on USA!

One Response to “Fred Weller On Being Marshall Mann”

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    [...] Fred Weller – He plays Mary McCormack’s partner on USA’s In Plain Sight and in addition to his thoughts in the joint interview with McCormack linked to above, RTVW has more from him. Find out how he prepared for the role, what his favorite episode is and more. In Plain Sight debuts tomorrow, June 1st on USA. [...]