Intervew: David Boreanaz and Julian McMahon talk 'Full Circle'
'Bones' and 'Nip/Tuck' actors face off on DirecTV's Neil Labute drama
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DirecTV's innovative "Full Circle," from playwright Neil LaBute, premiered last week and introduced a two-people-a-dinner format in which characters rotate, "La Ronde"-style, through the narrative with a slew of familiar stars appearing in two episodes in a row.
Last week, audiences met Julian McMahon's Stanley, a high-powered attorney dealing rather aggressively with his younger wife's (Minka Kelly) request for a divorce.
Kelly, who was in both of last week's episodes, doesn't appear on Wednesday's (October 16) two episodes. Instead, this week's double-performer is "Bones" star David Boreanaz, playing a particularly boorish shock-comedian who professional life is jolted when he discovers that his words, including words delivered on social media, have very real consequences. Boreanaz's Jace appears in his first episode opposite McMahon and then spars with Keke Palmer's Chan'dra in the second of Wednesday's 30-minute verbal meals.
All of the "Full Circle" segments are set in a restaurant and back in August, I sat down with Boreanaz and McMahon at the Little Door eatery in Beverly Hills to discuss this unique project. In the wide-ranging interview, the "Buffy" and "Nip/Tuck" veterans talk about the theatrical style LaBute brought to "Full Circle," the challenges of acting while seated and acting while eating and the advantages and disadvantage of public communication in the digital age.
Click through for the full Q&A.
HitFix: A project like this comes down the pike. Is it as simple as seeing "Neil LaBute" there and you know you want to be involved?
David Boreanaz: Obviously it's part of the whole. It's part of the dynamic of what's really going on here and it's part of your job to kinda investigate the whole piece first and then also the people that are involved. At the point I got the material, I started putting two-and-two together and realized how I met Neil back in the day, six years ago, for a project that I wanted to do with him and that came full circle to this full circle, which is called "Full Circle." But then it was also the people that I would be working with and the people that you see are having a sense of commitment to a piece like this. When I heard it was Julian and Keke, I was very excited about that and also the other actors that were involved. So that all helps in the decision-making process. Obviously being very afraid of the piece itself for me is a very motivating factor. So you take all that into place and then you just throw it all out and see what happens and here we are.
Julian McMahon: Yeah, kinda ditto with what he's saying. I'm a big fan of Neil's, obviously, in film and theater, but you also have to take a look at the piece and make sure that there's something you can contribute to it. Who else was in it was important. Conceptually, it was what the hell they were doing that was interesting. There are a lot of factors that go into making any decision. When I work on anything, I fully commit myself, so you want to make sure that you're doing something you're gonna get something out of yourself. Know what I mean? That could just be the accomplishment of it, which is what I was looking for, and that was this type of material.
HitFix: And you guys have both done a lot of TV. Has the medium changed significantly enough where you see DirecTV is the home, that doesn't give you pause? You don't stop to research who's gonna see it, how they're going to see it, etc?
Julian McMahon: I do that for sure. I think you factor in everything. Why wouldn't you? It's available to factor it all in. You can get all the information on anything you want and then you make choices based on all of it. I factor in absolutely everything whenever I'm making a choice to do something.
David Boreanaz: As far as pure viewership, from just watching it perspectively, you're also, obviously, as an actor, you're investing your time and your energy into a piece that you're extremely passionate about and I think you're going on this journey and, for me, it was also a nice card to have in my back pocket, it's a very cache piece. I enjoy that. It's like a theater piece. It makes you grow and become better as an artist in so many different ways. Coming out at the other end of this whole experience for me was learning about things that work for me and things that don't work for me. Again, it's being about being able to fall down and get back up and trust the other person who's across from you, because this has all the elements of being in-your-face, a theater piece, there's no real ropes to hang onto here. You really have to be prepared and you really have to have your instincts sharp with a piece like this. It's a test of where you are and obviously you feel good about that, because in early-on stages, you may struggle in a rehearsal process and feel like, "Am I doing the right thing? I'm never gonna get this!" and you have to arduously get through that in order to get out to the other side. I think with anything in life, that's the way it is and that's the biggest blessing, to be able to go through that with a piece like this and come out the other end better in certain areas and understanding your faults in other areas.
HitFix: How much rehearsal time was actually set aside on this?
David Boreanaz: It was pretty brief, right?
Julian McMahon: We had a week. It was a week, period. So it was Monday-to-Friday, but we both had two episodes to rehearse.
David Boreanaz: Right! We were rehearsing two episodes at the same time and then you would shoot one and rehearse for the other one. It was weird. There was a crossover period, when we were shooting ours, it was like, "OK. We're done ours," and then Keke comes in after.
Julian McMahon: We did ours on Friday and then I had the weekend and then Minka and I did Monday and you did Tuesday.
David Boreanaz: It allowed itself very little time-wise. And then the rehearsal process was about how much you want to rehearse into the words. I mean, we really didn't have much time to block a lot of this. I think we had one day on the set with us, but it doesn't necessarily need to be a lot of blocking. You're just sitting at a table, which I think helped in a lot of ways, too, because the immediacy and the freshness of it kinda kept us on edge a little bit and gave us that little bit of an edge. There are lots of moments where you're rehearsing and you're like, "S***!" And you're forgetting lines and you've gotta dig deep and just get in that place and you have to be very comfortable. I always say this, but I think you have to be comfortable in an uncomfortable place. You have to be able to get up to bat and hit the 3-2 pitch. I love using athletes as an example, because they're so physically gifted and mentally, the best can get up and hit at any time and they're very natural with it. If you try to push, if you try to grip your stick, it's going to be an issue. [He starts laughing.] I start getting into hockey, dude.
Julian McMahon: The moral of the story is "Don't grip your stick." Don't grip your stick.
David Boreanaz: I'm blaming the coffee. I have a cup of coffee and I start flipping out.
Julian McMahon: That's right, though, because the thing is, right? You have a hockey team or a football team or a baseball team, all the preparation you put in is for you to be able to go out there and be relaxed on the day. We had very minimal preparation, but you still had to be that relaxed on the day, because if you weren't that relaxed, you weren't getting the best out of yourself. I don't mean sitting back and smoking a stogie. I mean relaxed in yourself that you could perform what was in front of you.
HitFix: Given that you're working with material from a famously exacting playwright, how much room do you have on the day of shooting to actually be free?
David Boreanaz: Well, that's the thing. The challenge is to keep the lines consistent and true. You cannot change "ands" or "buts." We talked about this. You can't make a sentence start with a pronoun, when it should end with a pronoun.
Julian McMahon: But only because that didn't work. It just works the way he has it written.
David Boreanaz: There's a reason behind it.
Julian McMahon: It's not because we couldn't change it or not because somebody's somebody and you can't change it. That had nothing to do with it. What has to do with it is that it's so well-written the way that it is. It flows beautifully if you get it down, but what I've been saying all day today is that you had to learn your lines. Know what I mean? You really had to know your lines. I remember reading a book that Jack Nicholson wrote, years ago when I first started acting, somebody wrote the book, but he was asked, "What's the most important thing about acting?" and he said, "Know your lines." I've been through my own evolution of knowing and not knowing and this and that and whatever, but this is a piece where you really had to know those lines. If you did know them and then you were comfortable with us together and the director and the camera guys and whatever, then you could do whatever. I found it extraordinarily explorative. That's something I wasn't quite prepared for, because that's so much fun and you very rarely get to explore in film or television these days.
David Boreanaz: Once you have that down, you have the ability to work inside the words. You can see the word, you have the word on paper, you've got it down, but then you can really start to see the details in the moments and play those moments and really kind of express them, hold the moment, f*** with the other person's mind and manipulate them.
Julian McMahon: And find things that you weren't prepared for.
David Boreanaz: Yeah. And then find like, "What you did that last take was great!" I was tripping on something that was completely in his, in Jace's head, that he would do and just be so enamored by a specific subject matter to his right and he's so planning and calculating and to get to those places, you have to know everything and you have be able to play inside of that. It's like a playground.
HitFix: David, you mention that the blocking is obviously somewhat limited when you're acting-while-seated, but what other muscles are you using when you're doing an entire 27-minute performance and it's all just you in a chair? What are you getting to work through that you don't in a different project?
David Boreanaz: The whole inability to move is a powerful tool to use and it's a technique that's been used in improvisational acting and it's a technique that you can use to excel what you're feeling inside. That's purely done through circumstance and repetition and however you want to use it, but it can be more subtle. Sometimes the easiest thing is the hardest thing to do, because that catches everything -- whether it's a glance or a look or a moment of feeling inside of that moment, you can get really deep with it. But you're supposed to. [He starts caressing the broad, old wooden table we're sitting at.] It's like the table here. You've gotta get into the grooves. You've gotta get real deep into the cracks of what's written and then you find really fun stuff to play with and then you start to work off each other and then you start tossing things around and it's fun and it becomes very enjoyable.
Julian McMahon: Have you ever seen the movie "The Birdcage"? Do you remember that scene where Nathan Lane's up rehearsing and there's that guy who's trying to do something and Robin Williams comes on-stage and says to the guy who's in the short pants, he says, "Alright. Look, I see what you're trying to do. You're trying to do this. Fosse! Fosse! Fosse!" And he says, "Alright. Do all that, but keep it inside." Right? It's kinda like that.
David Boreanaz: It's true!
Julian McMahon: There's all this stuff going on, but you're staying pretty much... I don't think I left my seat. I didn't leave my seat in the whole two episodes. He did twice, but aside from that, it's all in that containment. So what are you doing? You're doing it all here. [Points to his head and his eyes.] I thought that was interesting and interesting watching it. You get into your piece and you're doing it, but I was interested watching the two of us and the episode before, just seeing our mannerisms, because we are here at this table.
David Boreanaz: You start to work out inside yourself. It's a mental workout. You're seeing the scene evolve and you're playing the personality and you're playing against what you're hearing and you're listening and it's effecting you. And the beauty of it is that the way a waiter can cross or somebody can look at you or the way he looks at you through his character's eyes, that will obviously effect the way that you're going to respond to him. Whether he's cutting his steak and green beans in a particular order, the way he's eating it or the way he reacts to something that I say can create a moment in Jace's experience that can elevate his humor inside or you can have that euphoric rush. It's a great drug.
On Page 2, Boreanaz and McMahon discuss eating-on-camera, Twitter and more.