Exclusive: Mitchell Loeb Interview ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Exclusive: Mitchell Loeb Interview

      Email Post       3/23/2009 10:00:00 AM      

Last week, the man behind the icy eyes of Mitchell Loeb, Chance Kelly, was kind enough to chat with me about his role and experience on Fringe. For a look at his work, check out ChanceKelly.com. Don't let Loeb's countenance fool you: Chance is a wonderfully nice, down-to-earth guy.
Adam Morgan: As an actor, what are the challenges in playing a morally ambiguous character like Mitchell Loeb?

Chance Kelly: Thank you for coming up with a niche category for Mitchell Loeb. I like that: “morally ambiguous.” I am happy to hear you describe him this way, because many people come up to me and simply say, “Oh, you’re a bad guy on that show.” The funny thing is, kidnapping, attempted murder and two (or three) other successful murders notwithstanding, Loeb is actually a fiercely patriotic and committed soldier in a very complex and multi-tiered predicament. What viewers should keep in mind is that behind every decision he makes, no matter how harsh it may seem (ie: “honey, you have to kill her”; knocking off that broad with the formula, or knocking off one of his teammates, etc.) there is a motivating factor stronger, bigger, and more compelling than anything we are seeing on screen. That is one of the keys to the success of this program. Follow the Pattern. All roads lead there. I would say the only major challenge is fixing in on the specific factor that motivates those specific decisions.

Adam Morgan: You do a great job making viewers empathize with your character (like your reaction to Loeb's wife's death), despite being portrayed as a villain. How do you strike that balance?

Chance Kelly: Again, I understand that on the surface, Loeb appears quite villainous, but trust me, he’s a good guy. Trust me. In war there are no winners, only soldiers. And in life, aren’t we all somewhat morally ambiguous? Regardless of what we may want others to believe?

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Adam Morgan: Did the writers give you a lot of backstory, or did you come up with a history for Loeb yourself?

Chance Kelly: The writers, I believe, give plenty if one pays close attention (and I would venture to guess that you do, Adam). I feel they have given me multitudes toward who Loeb is.

Adam Morgan: What was your favorite scene to shoot? Which was the most challenging?

Chance Kelly: Though there were many, let me share a few:
  • Lying on my back in a coma while John Noble talks about his whacky food cravings, intermittently petting his son with backhanded doses of affection. There’s something about that guy’s voice, his demeanor, his entire persona that I just love. He’s like that uncle that would take you to the movies your parents were on the fence about. He’s so damn cool and one of the best damn actors I’ve ever been around. I love that dude. He’s my hero.
  • Talking to Lance Reddick in his office before going into a convulsive seizure (due to a bio-engineered alien parasite strangling my heart). Again, though I never worked with Lance, we know some of the same people and it was as if we’ve known each other a long time. That went for Chance as well as Loeb. Just some connection that, kudos to the casting pros on this show, manages to pair individuals with fabulous chemistry.
  • Talking to Anna in my trademark prison orange: this chick is great. She is a pleasure to work with and is as humble as the day is long. Though Olivia is dynamic and at times near-superhuman, Anna also brings this humble vulnerability to Olivia which is much of what makes her character so compelling. Also, she told me while we were shooting that scene that she married John Scott. MAZELTOV! I just thought that was one of the greatest things I had heard in a long time. Though I don’t know Mark, and I only know Anna a little, I was so very happy for them and it just seems like such a great thing for something so real to come out of something so fantastical…or something like that (plus, I just feel a euphoric level of liberation getting back into my prison orange).
Adam Morgan: What's your experience been like with the cast? Any good stories from the set?

Chance Kelly: On that first episode I did [In Which We Meet Mr. Jones] (ie: The Boy In the Plastic Bubble), Anna and Josh were wheeling my comatose body in on the stretcher in the bubble and she was squeezing this breathing pump thing that was fixed in my mouth and every time she squeezed it, my mouth would puff up, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t realize that her squeezing it was actually doing anything. I think it was just one of those things we do while acting, trying to stay in the moment.

Anyway, in between takes I picked my head up, and having been laying there pretending to have been in a coma for the better part of two hours, my voice didn’t work so well. Plus, I was the boy in the plastic bubble so it was hard to be heard and to effectively communicate with the outside world (now I know how that poor boy so deftly portrayed by Travolta, must have felt). In the rush to set up for another take, I said it once unheard, and tried it again, again unheard, and then a third time, and this time it came out as a thunderous growl to this polite Australian girl who only now heard this large, gruff, double-agent with a bio-engineered parasite clutching his heart howl: “DON’T SQUEEZE THAT THING ANYMORE…IT’S BLOWING AIR DOWN MY THROAT!”
I’m not sure who was more mortified. Anna, for having unknowingly been doing anything that might have been bothering anyone, or me, who never meant to growl at that nice girl. It’s just hard to effectively communicate from inside a plastic bubble!

Pre-production for that episode also brings back funny memories. I told my wife (my real wife), "Yeah, I got this job on this new show." That’s about all she knew about it until she answered the phone one day and started receiving instructions about the preparations required for her husband’s portrayal of a man with something horrible happening within his chest cavity (the caller being very Fringe-esque by not getting any more specific than that).

One of the requirements of these preparations involved my reporting to this dude’s basement, somewhere in Jersey, on a Saturday morning to lay on a floor and have a couple of dudes pour goo all over my naked chest and form some kind of body cast. My wife: “What the hell kind of show is this!!!” Hey baby, work is work, you know? Anyway, the dude’s last name was Kelly, and you know, us Kelly's Semper Fi always roll strong in solidarity, so I figured what the hell. He promised me I could be done in time to get back to coach my son’s football game. So, I show up out there in Jersey somewhere, and if the dude wasn’t named Kelly, I would have thought I was in some re-creation of that Silence of the Lambs scene where...well, you know the scene.
Anyway, Steve Kelly and I soon realized we were kindreds-not-too-far-removed, so I trusted him to pour whatever goo all over my chest that he thought appropriate and necessary in the name of creating ground-breaking television; besides, he told me I didn’t have to shave my chest…not that I wouldn’t have shaved my chest, I mean, listen, Chance Kelly has always been a team-player and I’ve done it once or twice before, but frankly, I’m just not really a part of that sub-division that shaves chests and waxes and gets manicures (well, only if absolutely necessary). I am not really of the metro-sexual ilk, but more of a retro-sexual….a guy who probably should have been born in my grandfather’s generation (or somewhere between that and the Civil War), who feels more comfortable around a barbeque than a boutique.

So Kelly and the other dude spread the goo all over me, all the while we are discussing the lubricating prowess of the petroleum jelly that they had generously applied to my chest hairs in advance of the goo that was now hardening all over my chest and all the hair on it. I trusted Kelly with my chest, my chest hair, and pretty much would have trusted him with my life, until...

The first sign of trouble was seeing his reaction to my reaction when he first tried to remove the hardened plastic cast from my chest. Man, that hurt. Pulling out chest hair always hurts more than you think it’s gonna. Anyway, his wince from my wince caused more of a deep and prolonged concern from somewhere deep within my chest cavity (hey, maybe these preparations really had a higher meaning) that I was the dude connected to all that chest hair that this now-hardened plastic cast was so intent on ripping out of my very pale skin. But the truth is, we laughed the whole way through it and, take it from a man who knows, there is no stronger bond between two (heterosexual) men than meeting in a crisis involving the threat of having one’s chest hair violently removed from one’s body and summarily being rescued therein by the versatile improvisation of a tactful, resourceful special effects dude and a precisely navigated pair of tape cutters.

Adam Morgan: What's it like watching one of your episodes when it airs? Do you watch with your family and/or friends?

Chance Kelly: My wife and I love the show. We will always watch (and always is forever).

Adam Morgan: How was working on Fringe different from Generation Kill or Law and Order?

Chance Kelly: I'd never done sci-fi before. Not to pidgeon-hole it, because that doesn’t necessarily do Fringe justice, but there is a strong sci-fi element to the show and that element is utilized in such a powerful and effective way that I think it is a legitimate way of categorizing the show, along with calling it a great drama, a great mystery, a love story, an international thriller, and funny as hell, etc. The experience has been unlike anything else that I’ve worked on. The linear quality to most productions is simply absent from Fringe, and of course, this is ultimately a good thing…you never know what exactly is going to come next on this show: as a viewer, as an actor, as part of the production team. It’s a little unsettling at first, but isn’t it interesting how life imitates art around this show? My experience with the production is something akin to what I would imagine Loeb’s dealings with Massive Dynamic might be. An austerity that repels some is a relentless gravitational force to others.

Adam Morgan: You've become a fan favorite. Will we see Mitchell Loeb in any of these last six eps of the season? Would you want to be a part of the show if and when it returns for a second season?

Chance Kelly: I would love to continue with the show in the exact capacity in which Loeb figures back into the Pattern...which he does quite significantly.

Adam Morgan: What was it like working with M. Night Shyamalan on Unbreakable? How many takes did you shoot for that great one-shot fight with Bruce Willis? This is one of my favorite movies!

Chance Kelly: Working with Night was great. He is a super nice young guy. It was a great opportunity to die at the hands of Bruce Willis, who is another infinitely nice and infinitely young guy (six takes). I look forward to dying at the hands of both Bruce and Night many times more in the future.

Adam Morgan: Tell us about the project you're writing, The Soul of a Man. What makes you passionate about it? How've you found the challenge of writing different from acting?

Chance Kelly: As you can probably tell from these ridiculous responses, I am very much a frustrated writer. Yes, I am passionate about my project, The Soul of a Man. It was hatched many years back from my dreamlike concept of It’s a Wonderful Life meets The Sixth Sense meets Jacob’s Ladder meets Cool Hand Luke meets To Kill A Mockingbird.

Now, this concept was first born and summarily morphed into several incarnations as a feature-length screenplay. However, after working with it and developing it, I came to realize (and be convinced) that it is much more fit for episodic television. I am passionate about it because the title is what it is about and what it comes from: The Soul of a Man. This is the soul of a father, a husband, a brother, a friend, a son, a stranger, a neighbor, a Christian, a member of society who tried to be upstanding, in spite of prevailing forces and challenges, the soul of a man. There is so much to be passionate about within this story. It is as much of Chance Kelly as I can give while remaining effectively fantastical and worthy of 48 minutes of programming each week.
Also, check out this funny NCAA commercial starring Chance Kelly.


Anonymous said...

This interview was awesome!! Thanks!

Adam Morgan said...

Chance is a hell of a guy. Though as a Carolina fan currently living in Chicago, I'm worried he might pull me over on the interstate...

Karen said...

Great interview!! Can't wait for 4/7! Thanks for the pix!

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