“The Mentalist” will be kicking off its fifth season with new episodes Sunday, Sept. 30 at 10:00 p.m., but that’s not all that’s new. It’s a new night for the series, which will be up against stiff competition from NBC’s Sunday night football and ABC’s “666 Park Avenue.” Star Robin Tunney isn’t scared of no programming changes… oh, wait, maybe she is. I spoke to the actress at the TCA press tour and she discussed how she really feels about the new night, what she sees happening this season, and her feelings about Jane and Lisbon opening “the locked box.”
HitFix Interview: Robin Tunney talks changes ahead for ‘The Mentalist’
So, a new night for “The Mentalist”?
The interesting thing is we’re moving to Sunday night, which is scary. We’re on after “The Good Wife,” so we have to be even better because that show is so good. The actors are all so good on it.
Still, you guys are well-established. It can’t be too scary, can it?
I think any sort of change, you’re always like, oh, what’s gonna happen? It’s scary, but it’s exciting at the same time. I think the next season is going to be a great one. We’re getting more focused on Red John. It’s ramping up, and I think we’re gonna have more arc episodes that aren’t stand-alones. There’s always a crime.
It seems like this season is set up to go very dark.
Yes, it does, and Simon’s character gets very dark. I think it’s a testament to the network and the studio that they let that happen, because he’s such an intrinsically lovable guy and such a commercial persona. I think it’s going to keep going.
It Patrick Jane is getting dark, what does that mean for your Senior Special Agent Teresa Lisbon?
My character’s been getting angrier at all the stuff that’s going on, second-guessing him. It’s always fun to have change, not that doing the same thing for five years isn’t fun. But I don’t think Bruno Heller is afraid to mix things up and I think so often people just do what’s safe. And Simon Baker is so intrinsically charming and winning, you can have him smiling and being adorable, but at the same time having these revenge plots makes it surprising and different.
Before this, you were better known for roles in features like “The Craft” and “End of Days.” What’s it like for you to be in a long-running series from the jump?
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I’ve never been on a show for five years. I had no idea how this worked. I feel really grateful and blessed, and Simon [Baker, who plays mentalist Patrick Jane] is a very good friend, somebody who I value the opinion of and I enjoy the company of, which is really fantastic. But I had no idea how this process worked, and I was sort of shy about making suggestions, and then you get more comfortable. I think as an actor, I thought better.
Is there anything you’re hoping for for Lisbon this season?
I think finding out more about who she is and who she came from, I think that would be interesting, what her past was and how she became who she is.
Is there ever a chance Lisbon and Jane will hook up?
The locked box! The locked golden box! I don’t know if it’s at the end of the show, I don’t know. Because people’s interpretations of it are so much about who they are. Some people are like I don’t see it at all, and some people are like, I’m dying for it to happen, I think it’s romantic! Everybody’s different in what they see, like they’ve got no chemistry or they’ve got so much chemistry! It’s not romantic, it is! I don’t know what Bruno is going to do, but they’ve got to wind up the show somehow. Maybe with a handshake. I know him so well at this point it would be really weird.
Are love scenes really easier with complete strangers?
They are. It’s easier when you don’t know the person so well.
So where do you stand on Jane and Lisbon opening the locked box?
I sort of want what Bruno [Heller, show creator] wants, and I sort of feel the integrity of the show; it’s sort of nice to have a platonic relationship that’s very close. And it doesn’t have to be romantic to be intimate, almost. You can be very close with someone of the opposite sex and not have that be the driving force.
I’ve heard some fans are simply thrilled your show has one of the few strictly platonic male-female relationships in TV.
Yes! You need us!