HitFix Interview: ‘Harper’s Island’s’ deceased Brother-in-Law speaks

05.26.09 9 years ago


Don’t you just hate it when you work for your demanding father-in-law and you’re pretty much his whipping boy and then he gets a garden tool through his skull and everybody suspects you did it, because not only do you hate the guy, but you’re also sleeping with his wife, which means you’re also sleeping with your mother-in-law? 

And you know what’s worse than that? When the only person willing to stand up for you, your creepy daughter, harshes your alibi and makes you look even more guilty? 

But there’s good news! You finally get conclusive evidence that you aren’t the killer running amuck on the remote fishing community of Harper’s Island.

But there’s a downside to that as well, specifically the harpoon sticking out of your chest, simultaneously exonerating and eviscerating you.

Such was the fate of David Lewis’ Richard Allen, who went from red herring to victim during last Saturday (May 23) night’s episode of “Harper’s Island.” 

Who says the CBS murder mystery doesn’t deal with universal issues?

Just days after his “Harper’s Island” demise, Lewis spoke with HitFix about why he’s so frequently killed on-screen, acting opposite creepy children and his own theory on who’s behind the recent run of murders.

HitFix: So how’d you watch your demise on Saturday?

David Lewis: I had a couple drinks. I knew I was going out, so I just watched it by myself. Actually, cuz I’m in Canada, they showed it in its original slot on Thursday, so I watched it on Thursday. But yeah, I liked it. I thought it looked good. Other than my sucking chest-wound from the harpoon, it felt good.

HitFix: How well had you kept the secret?

DL: Oh, I kept the secret. People were like, “So, should I keep on watching it next week?” And I’d say, “Oh, just keep on watching.” People would ask like, “Come on. You can tell me.” And I’m like, “I can’t tell you!” Especially with the Internet, you just can’t. You don’t want to be the douche who leaks the thing and they have to come to you like, “David, come on. What are you doing?” So I kept the secret. I kept it pretty under wraps.

HitFix: What were the reactions from friends and loved ones after the episode?

DL: There was a lot of “Dude, I thought you were the killer!” And I’m like, “Well, um, thanks.” And, of course, my friends and family wanted to see me go on, but they were impressed by the way I went out, literally. They were disappointed, but at the same time they were like, “Oh, that’s a really cool death. It’s a good way to go.”

HitFix: And was this your first time dying onscreen before?

DL: No, no, no, no, no. I’ve got red hair. People kill me all the time. That’s the thing about red-heads. They love killing us off. I’ve been gay-bashed. I’ve been killed by my wife. I’ve been shot. I’ve been run over with a car. 

HitFix: If you’re a veteran at it, is it easy watching yourself die on screen?

DL: I just wanted to see how they pulled it off, what it looked like. We shot it a bunch of times, but you never really know. How’s it gonna look? Well, it looked cool. I’ve got a whaling harpoon through my chest. Already, chicks gotta dig that. I mean, it’s a cool way to go. I get yanked out of frame and then they cut to my daughter. Yeah, it was pretty slick.

HitFix: A lot of the more recent deaths on the show seem to have been largely stuntwork, but that was mostly you, right?

DL: I’ve a couple of my own stunts in the past, but I’ve also talked to actors who have hurt themselves doing stunts and have a knee injury for life, or their back just not the way it should be. So I was a little tentative. It’s like, you know, I want to do my part, but at the same time, I don’t want to blow my neck out. I’m a golfer, so the last thing I need is to blow out a body part and you don’t want to get hurt. But the stunt people said, “Listen. If you’re uncomfortable, we can totally put in a stunt guy” and then, of course, my ego gets involved and I’m like, “No, no. I can do this.” We did it a couple times. One time it was too quick and it snapped my neck a bit and then they slowed it down. 

HitFix: How long did the harpoon-in-chest makeup take to apply?

DL: Not too long, especially when it’s like fresh blood. They can put it on more quickly. When you get into scars or dried blood that there’s a lot of texturing or layering that the makeup people have to do. In episode three or four, I had a scene where I had my shirt off and I’ve got some tattoos and the makeup girls were like, “Oh my gosh.” It took so long to cover up my tattoos, because they can’t just put makeup on. They have to layer it, so that was a nightmare for them. 

HitFix: Was there a gorier version that was shot that seemed to get trimmed down?

DL: I was surprised how much of the, um, entrails they left in. And my full space spewing blood. On a few takes, when the harpoon hit me, I actually spit blood out of my mouth and they seemed to cut around that a little bit, but that would be the only part they trimmed around. There was a lot of blood and the harpoon’s right in the camera there and there’s a part of my esophagus or my lower intestine or maybe my upper intestine that’s sticking out. I was actually surprised how much they kept in.

HitFix: So how do you view Richard? Was he a bad guy, or was he just misunderstood?

DL: Oh, I don’t think he was a bad guy. Not at all. He had the father-in-law who was belittling and demanding and talked s*** about Richard behind his back all the time. I was basically his whipping boy and I think this was just the male ego. I took as much as I could take and there was an opening to get some retribution, even if he would never find out, I would know what was happening. I felt that this relationship with my step-mother, it was going to end. It wasn’t going to go forever, but it was like, “Yeah. Take that, buddy.” So I don’t see him as a bad guy at all. He made some bad choices, but there’s only so much you can take. 

HitFix: Did you ever think that you were playing him as a red herring?

DL: It’s interesting, because in the second episode there’s a scene where I’m talking to one of the other characters, the Paris Hilton-esque character, and I was shading it with just a bit of edginess to it and the director was like, “No, no. Don’t do that. Just play it nice. He’s just a really nice guy who’s listening to this girl tell her story.” And I was like, “Oh. OK. That’s kinda boring, but he’s the director, if that’s what he wants, what the producers want, I’ll play along.” As an actor, it’s like “Eh. Whatever.” But then I saw where they were going with this guy and I went, “OK, so he’s actually a bit of a deviant.” But that was the red herring for the audience. I think you have to play everybody pretty straight-up unless they give you some direction, because they’ve got the bigger picture. As the actors on the show, we get one script at a time and they didn’t really tell us anything.

HitFix: Did that make it harder for you, playing a character without really knowing what’s going in in his mind?

DL: It’s exciting. The joke on-set was that all of the actors showed up on time and they all knew their lines and nobody complained about the food, because you complain too much, buddy, and you’re gonna get… well… a whaling harpoon through your chest. You’d get your script and all of the actors would flip right to the last two pages to see who’s going. When your time was up, you got a call from Karim [Zreik], one of the producers and he’d call you a couple of days before that episode started shooting and when you got that phone call… It was funny, because he was like, “Hey! How’s it going!” and I said, “OK. Drop the niceties. We both know why you’re calling. Let’s get down to the brass tacks.” It was pretty funny. You’re always wondering when the axe is gonna fall. I had a pretty good run, so I’m not too disappointed.

HitFix: There’s always that truism of acting opposite children and you had to perform opposite a spooky child, at that.

DL: What a rock star this kid is! I’ve got kids, so I know how to talk to kids and talking to her? No problem. Such a non-actory kid. The cameras aren’t rolling and she’s just talking about her normal life and going to school and the kids at school. I’m playing her dad and I’m around her a lot and we had some great conversations. She’s just a down-to-earth kid. If she’d started talking about The Method or the Meisner System, I would have had to walk away. But no. She was just a normal kid and then the cameras would roll and man, she’d just hit it out of the park every time. She knew what she was doing, but she wasn’t a jerk. She was creepy, though. Real creepy. I’d like to see a paternity test, because she was too creepy for my blood.

HitFix: But not creepy in real life?

DL: Not at all. What a doll. Great kid. But you see her on screen and she’s just creepin’ it out. The magnifying glass and the sun with the ants? That’s just kind creepy. And the freckles, too. That’s even creepier.

HitFix: So what do you know going forward? 

DL: I don’t know anything. Once I died, that’s all I knew. 

HitFix: In that case, how about some theories. Who do you think is doing it?

DL: Well, if it’s a female character doing it, there’s gotta be two people, because people are being hoisted up into trees and there’s some heavy lifting involved, so if there’s a female, maybe it’s two females involved, or maybe a female and a male character? You know, I’ve got my eye on [Christopher Gorham’s] Henry. He’s a little too nice. Then you’ve got to starting thinking back, like when that person died, where was that other character? The show is nicely layered and I think the producers have had to be on their game, because they have to make sure they can track back. You can’t cheat the audience. I’m edging toward Henry. And if Bea Arthur hadn’t died recently, I kinda had my eye on her making a surprise appearance at the end.

HitFix: How do you think viewers would respond if Henry was behind it all along?

DL: I don’t know. You never know how they’re going to respond. He’s played such a nice guy so far and Christopher’s a great actor and he’s a great guy, too. But you never know. You never know what the zeitgeist is going to be with the fans, if they’re going to go, “What the hell is this?” or “That’s awesome! I never saw that coming!” I’m sure when they reveal the killer, they’ll explain his twisted backstory or her twisted backstory and it’ll be like, “Oh yeah. That kinda makes sense.” Or at least that’s what you’re hoping for.

“Harper’s Island” airs on CBS on Saturday nights at 9 p.m.

Previous “Harper’s Island” Death Interviews: 

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