Fans of Dermot Mulroney have seen the easy on the eyes, Virginia-born actor mostly on the big screen, in more than 65 (!) films including such crowd-pleasers as My Best Friend's Wedding, Young Guns, The Family Stone and The Wedding Date. The 50-year-old Mulroney, most recently seen last year in August: Osage County and Jobs, is tackling television now as the lead in NBC’s hostage drama Crisis, 10 p.m. Sundays. He talked about playing ex-CIA analyst Francis Gibson.
You’re known often as the romantic leading man, but this character is different. What attracted you to this darker role?
There are more hidden elements of the character of Gibson. There are incredible plot twists, and it's what makes this show so fun. I'm so happy to be doing a show like this at this time because it is different than it was even a few years ago in terms of the stories that a major network is willing to tell. To be honest with you, for a long time I thought it would be kind of a grind to play the same character over and over again, so that was one of the things that kept me doing films only. But I was wrong. I didn't expect to be gratified in the way that I was.
Do you always stick to the script?
You’ve always heard [TV] is a writer's medium and so forth, so I came in knowing that I would just be doing the job that I was asked to do. But that's how it's done really. This web of a plot was so intricate that there wasn't anything I could add. I mean, that wasn't my job either. I was reading the scripts like they were a spy novel and then just doing what they said.
What you admire most about Gibson?
Two things: his heart and his mind. I very much admire the reasons that he goes to the lengths that he does and makes the decisions he does, which is an intense and profound love for his daughter and his family. But probably the thing that most impresses me about Gibson is how truly genius he is. It’s fun to play a character that is vastly more intelligent than I am, to be frank. It made me feel really smart.
What’s the most challenging aspect of playing him?
I found it difficult sometimes to contain my evil glee as other stuff takes place later on. My challenge was to play it in a contained and controlled way. Just to be real cool, I guess.
Talk about challenges. Gibson’s pinky gets cut off. How did that work special-effects-wise?
By the sixth month of sort of tying my pinky down to my hand, I was wishing that amputation hadn't happened. I'll be honest with you, it made me a little cranky there. But I wouldn't change it, it was well worth it. It just isn't a slightly everyday [thing] to have the make-up man strap your finger down [laughs].
When you look back now how do you see “Young Guns” as the turning point in your career? Do you keep in touch with anyone from the cast?
Even when I was shooting it, I think I was 23 or 24, I knew it was going to be one of the best experiences of my life. And all these years later, I was right: It's still one of the most amazing things I went through. And the movie's really stood the test of time; it stands on its own still. It doesn't feel dated or anything. Whether I see any of the guys? Yes, we're all still friendly. I saw Charlie [Sheen] not too long ago, and it was like, you know, like seeing someone you went to college with.