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Peter Sarsgaard on His First Regular TV Role and His Big Moment on 'The Killing': 'I Actually Blacked Out'

By Scott Neumyer | http://www.scottwrites.com July 29, 2013 at 1:15AM

Peter Sarsgaard talks about this week's major episode of "The Killing," why he decided to give a regular TV role a try and the only time he's chosen to act in a project based on pay instead of quality.
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Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard in 'The Killing'
Carole Segal/AMC Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard in 'The Killing'

That moment, seeing Adrian, it's like you were both just born again.

I was so psyched that they did not write a scene for me and my son. I couldn't imagine what it was going to be without it just being the cheesiest thing imaginable.

This is the first lengthy television role that you've done. Why did you decide now to do TV while you're still working heavily in film?

Because it was good! [laughs] I pretty much do whatever the best thing that comes along is, unless I get paid a lot -- then I will consider knocking off something in exchange for paying for my kid's education. That's really only ever happened one time, where I picked something that was clearly not as good because it was a movie that paid well and the thing that it was up against was an off-Broadway play. The off-Broadway play was absolutely amazing.

"I don't like the idea of being caught up in something for years on end and it being not that great."

My wife [Maggie Gyllenhaal] did a Tony Kushner play twice. The second time she went to do the play she was being offered several films and had just come off doing "Secretary." She did the play anyway. Just very bold of her. But that was pre-kids. Kids change everything. I'm not much of a consumer in my life, but I have kids.

Did working on "The Killing" make you want to do more television work?

It did. I'm not prejudiced against it at all. If it's good, I'll do it. I don't like the idea of being caught up in something for years on end and it being not that great. The same thing is true with a play. If I'm going to do a play, it better a really good play because I'm going to have to do it for a long time.

You got to work closely with Mireille Enos throughout the season, but this tenth episode really belongs to you two. What was it like working with her, especially since she was so ingrained on the series already? It was really her and Joel's [Kinnaman] show.

I really like her acting. I like Joel's acting too. When I first acted with her, early on, I could tell that she already had "who am I?" down. It was already flowing easily for her, and I was still putting it together. I actually think that my performance gets stronger as the series goes on because we shot it in order. In a movie, it's all shot out of order so I'm not necessarily better in the last scene than I am in the first. But in this, because it's all shot in order, you see me become me more over the course of the show.

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And it works because Ray becomes more comfortable in jail as he's in there longer.

Exactly. You get to know him more. He's more removed at the beginning anyway. It worked out well that way.

You didn't get to work with Joel at all though, did you?

I didn't, and I really like his acting. I actually am going to check out "Easy Money" -- I really want to see it.

Did you guys get friendly on the set though?

Yeah, he's such a cool guy. Brendan Sexton (who was on previous seasons) was on "Boys Don't Cry" with me and we were good buds on that, and he and Joel had become friends, so that was our segue into getting to know each other. I was actually not in town very often, though, and when I was in town, I was either filming or running -- I run a lot, so I was in the mountains of Vancouver, trying to avoid bears waking up in the spring.

I really allowed myself to be a loner a lot of the time. I was staying with this Japanese woman who's a friend of my mother-in-law's. She's in her late 70's and she's traditional, so I slept on a tatami mat and there was a river outside my window and she would make me Japanese baths. It was amazing. I lived like a samurai.

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And then you got to go be in a jail cell all day.

Yeah, I didn't mind being a cell and, actually, being in the one room in her house felt really nice to me.

Do you have a favorite moment or scene from your work this season, either on screen or off?

I don't think it did show up on the screen, but that scene where Mireille first tells me that she thinks that I'm innocent. My reaction to her saying that felt very spontaneous and right. I felt furious. [laughs] You know, she's one of the people that helped put me away! I'm in jail so I don't get to have a scene with everybody. Same thing is true with the Woody Allen movie I just did ["Blue Jasmine"]. Everybody else gets to play with each other and I'm off in my own little private world. [laughs]

You're also in "Lovelace," which is coming out soon. How do you approach playing someone based on real life like Chuck Traynor as opposed to a fictional creation like Ray Seward?

It's not different at all for me, in that situation, because Chuck Traynor's not known in the world really, and also because the film is so subjective. It's totally through Linda [Lovelace's] eyes, so the film is not interested in all sides of Chuck Traynor. In that scenario, I'm going to play what suits the story. I'm not going to try to represent the real-life guy, because it would be hopeless. It's easy to show the bad sides of someone like that.

The struggle in "Lovelace" was to show anything else but the scumbag. I wanted to play him as a little boy. I thought of him as 14 years old. A time like in "Boogie Nights" was a happy time in porn. It was much different than it is now. That was back when people watched it together in a theater. [laughs]

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Peter Sarsgaard, The Killing, AMC





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