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Dennis Quaid and Christian Cooke on Antiheroes, Binge-Watching and ‘The Art of More’

Dennis Quaid and Christian Cooke on Antiheroes, Binge-Watching and 'The Art of More'

Dennis Quaid has done it all. The Golden Globe nominee, who became a silver screen star in the ’80s, has worked in TV, movies, theater and more over the course of his prosperous career, but now he’s trying something new: streaming. In an interview below conducted with his co-star in “The Art of More,” Crackle’s first original drama series from creator Chuck Rose, Quaid mentions how he first binge-watched a show only two years ago. Now he’s hooked and starring in a season of television set to be released all at once November 19.

When Indiewire spoke with Quaid at the Summer TCAs in July, Christian Cooke, an excited young actor fresh to many viewers in “The Art of More,” joined in, providing an ideal contrast to the older, wiser and more succinct rhythms of the veteran beside him. The duo discussed Quaid’s last stint on TV in the short-lived CBS drama “Vegas,” the rise of antiheroes on cable and what it means to be binge-worthy in 2015. From the man who’s done it all to one who’s just getting started, the two actors covered a lot of ground. Below is the slightly edited conversation.

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Mr. Quaid, the last television show you were on was “Vegas” on CBS, and now you’ve come over to Crackle with “The Art of More.” What sort of differences have you noticed production-wise and in terms of awareness?
QUAID: Well, I really like working in this venue better. I enjoy it more than I did in network. First off, there’s 10 episodes compared to 22, which is really hard to keep the quality up over time. We had basically one writer, and we went into this first season — and we will in the second season — knowing the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story that we’re trying to tell, which is a big deal. I found myself in network always trying to play catch up because once things get going there’s no time to fix this and that. And also the writing, it was more inclined to be by committee in network which drowns out the purity and the voice of the show. We have Chuck [Rose] who basically wrote all 10 episodes, and it shows.
COOKE: It almost feels like a movie or a– I know it’s been said many times — that cable television is the new novel kind of thing — but it does feel like that. Obviously, it’s not cable, it’s streaming, but it’s the same format. It’s the same 10 episodes. It feels like cable as opposed to network. We have a plan. You can see Chuck wrote an extensive series bible, actually for multiple seasons. […] I was just saying before that before I stepped off the plane to Montreal, where I shoot the show, I’d read five episodes — which kind of never happens. It wouldn’t happen in network. You’d get the pilot and then week by week. I have a friend in a network show, and I said […] I wanted to see if he wanted to come to dinner last night, and he couldn’t tell me ’til the day before whether he’d be working or not. 

Speaking specifically to your character a bit, Graham isn’t necessarily your typical straight-laced hero type. He’s got a bit of a nasty side to him — a darker edge. What is it about Graham that you think makes him worth investing in? 

COOKE: I don’t think you have to like a character, but if you can understand why they do what they do, or the position they’re in or why they make certain choices, then you can get behind them. But Graham, he operates in the gray. He’s not black and white. His moral compass is temperamental. He feels very real. He feels like a real human. The writers aren’t trying to force you to like him. They aren’t trying to make this straight-laced protagonist who everybody has to get on board with. He’s interesting because he’s complicated, and there’s a lot of things going on with him. From the military, he has the post traumatic stress which comes out and continues. He’s trying to juggle all these balls and keep his head above water and survive and essentially, deep down he’s a good guy, and he means well and he’s sensitive. He wants to be a good person, but he’s tempted by things. […] He’s the kind of kid that got into crime and got into doing sort of dodgy things when he was a youth, so he falls back into it.
QUAID: But is he digging a hole or a tunnel?
COOKE: Exactly. Exactly. Definitely both.
Mr. Quaid, when your character is out in public — especially when he’s talking to Graham — he seems like he’s just a very straightforward, crass playboy type. But when he has his one-on-one encounter behind the scenes with Kate Bosworth’s character, he seems to have a little more going on behind the scenes. Is he more one person than the other?
QUAID: No. I think he’s both. I think it’s what he chooses to hide, what he feels that he lets out. He wouldn’t want people to know what he’s feeling because that would make him vulnerable. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable. 
A trend that was brought on by cable and a little bit by streaming was the idea of an antihero. Seeing only one episode, I don’t think that we’re there just yet, but I was curious if you felt he’d fit that label.
COOKE: I personally find it for more interesting to watch and to play what you’re talking about. I don’t mind mentioning other great shows like with Walter White or Tony Soprano–
QUAID: And half the great movies of the ’70s. 
COOKE: Right. And film. This medium that we’re working in — film and television — for an audience, it’s like you live through these characters because it’s things you can’t do in real life. Places you’re not prepared to go in real life as a decent human being, anyway. Because if you’re a conscientious person, so you live kind of vicariously through these people. But I much prefer following a lead character that is doing morally questionable things. How much do you get on board? Do like that? Do you hate it? Does it matter? Ultimately, if the character is interesting and you said that before: It doesn’t matter if it’s likable. That’s really what it is. If they interest you. If the context in which the characters are set interests you then I think then you’re pulled in by it. 

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How do you both find new shows? What services do you use to watch them on and how do you make the decision to invest in a new show? Obviously, Crackle is up and coming. It’s free. People can get to it. But considering how much content is out there, I’m curious how you guys find shows. 
QUAID: Do you remember the first time you heard the term “binge-watching”?
I couldn’t give you a year, but I always associate it with Netflix. 
QUAID: So, you’d say it’s been about a year?
Oh no. it’s older than that. Probably 2010? 
QUAID: Yeah. Well, I first came to it really with “Breaking Bad” about two years ago. I was behind the curve for getting Apple TV. I hadn’t watched any of “Breaking Bad.” My wife and I, in two weeks, laid in bed and watched the whole thing. It was wonderful. I loved it.
COOKE: I remember I was shooting in Hungary and someone had been talking about “The Sopranos,” and I was at Heathrow Airport and bought the first four seasons on DVD and I went through them all in these two weeks that I was in Hungary. That’s when I first thought, “This is the only way to view television now.” And that’s why I think that Crackle and Netflix and the idea of putting 10 episodes or 13 or however many out at once it’s what everybody wants. And it’s up to you how much you stretch them out.
QUAID: You can still make it a weekly show if you want.
COOKE: My girlfriend just got into “Peaky Blinders,” which is on Netflix and I’m dying to talk about the final episode of Season 2 with her because I’m like, “The fucking last scene is unbelievable.” And she says, “Don’t tell me. I want to save it.” But she has that choice. She sort of watched them all and she’s saving that last episode because she loves the show so much.
That’s kind of the hardest thing about it — finding that conversation to have with people about a show because you never know how much they’ve seen when you’re talking to them. 
QUAID: Little kids already do it. Little kids probably invented binge-watching because they’ll watch a movie 40 times over.
COOKE: But the thing is if you’ve got an hour to sit down in front of a television, then the likelihood is that you’ve probably got two hours. So why wouldn’t you, if you’re enjoying it not want to watch the other one? And so, this is the future. Ten episodes at once is what everyone wants, and then it’s up to you how you spread those out. 

“The Art of More” releases its entire first season on Crackle November 19.

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