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 411mania » Movies » Columns

411mania.com Interviews: Russell Hornsby of Grimm
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 02.21.2012

Russell Hornsby currently stars in the hit NBC TV series Grimm. In the show, Russell portrays Portland police detective, Hank Griffin. Hank is partnered with Nick Burkhardt (David Guintoli) who is apparently the last Grimm in existence. In the world of the show, Grimms are the hunters of fairy tale-like creatures or altered beasts who hide amongst society in human form. So far, Hank is unaware of Nick's lineage as the last Grimm in the rather eerie and supernatural type of cases they tend to investigate involving the creatures inhabiting Portland. Recently Hank has also gotten involved with the lawyer, Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee), who unbeknownst to Hank is actually a Hexenbiest or in simpler terms, a witch.

Previously, Hornsby portrayed Eddie Sutton in the hit series, Lincoln Heights. He also worked on such shows as Gideon's Crossing opposite Andre Braugher, In Treatment, and Playmakers. In film he has appeared in such movies as Woo, Big Fat Liar, After The Sunset, Something New, and Meet The Parents. And in the video realm, he voiced Tyson Rios in the original Army of Two game. Recently, 411mania.com got the chance to catch up with Hornsby to talk about his work on Grimm:

Photo credit to Benny Haddad.

Jeffrey Harris: What was it like going from Eddie Sutton in Lincoln Heights to this show and playing a character like Hank?

Russell Hornsby: I looked at Eddie Sutton as a wonderful father figure and a family man if you will. And this time with Hank Griffin, I get to play a character with a little bit more edge. I don't want to say a dark side, but he has a little bit more swagger.

Jeffrey Harris: How do you getting to play around on set with the action scenes and fight scenes as Hank?

Russell Hornsby: Honestly it's every young boy's dream. You grow up watching Star Wars, Raiders of The Lost Ark, and Batman. You always want to be the guy with the gun. And you want to be the guy getting the girl and the kiss at the end. So you're living the dream. And its pure fun, it really is. It's pure fun.

Jeffrey Harris: You were getting beat up by that ogre though, it's a good thing that Munroe came in with his ogre-killing rifle with him.

Russell Hornsby: I was there though! I was ready. But no, I was really happy that Monroe saved the day.

Jeffrey Harris: So far Hank is ignorant to what is going on with Nick, the Grimms, and the creatures. How long do you think reasonably that Hank can be in the dark about this, especially being Nick's partner? I don't think this is a ruse they can keep up with too long over the course of the show.

Russell Hornsby: You know, I don't think so either. If we just allow ourselves to take the journey and not get ahead of the story, we can go for a little bit while longer because I don't think that I think as an audience we don't want to get ahead. We need to just allow the story to unfold naturally. I think we'll have a natural progression where he [Hank] may or may not find out Nick's true ability. I think it also just depends on the story that the writers want to tell. I think that the writers are doing a good job of sort of keeping Hank out of harm's way. It's sort of like that Superman moment where Clark Kent comes back and she says to him, "You just missed Superman, where were you Clark? He saved the day, what happened?!" So I think all in good time. All in good time.

Jeffrey Harris: Do you know if there will be a second season yet? Or what the status of the show is?

Russell Hornsby: You never know until you know. But I'm confident and hopeful that we will get a second season.

Jeffrey Harris: It looks like Hank has been flirting with and dating the Hexenbiest or the witch, Adalind Schade, played by Claire Coffee. So what's going on there? Are you dating the witch?

Russell Hornsby: Well I think that I can let a little bit out there is a spell that I think Hank is going to be put under possibly by Adalind. And there's a little of love befalls everyone.

Jeffrey Harris: Now you are sure this is not just Claire Coffee being her bewitching self? You sure about that?

Russell Hornsby: *Laughs* You never know! Life takes different turns. We'll see.

Jeffrey Harris: Is Claire perhaps actually a hexenbiest and she's been bewitching me the whole time?

Russell Hornsby: You know I think she's true to her human self, you know what I mean? I think they are examining is this possibility of bewitching and love between Hank and Adalind.

Jeffrey Harris: I think you have a great repartee in the show with David Guintoli as Nick. How do you like working with him?

Russell Hornsby: I really enjoy working with David. We have a lot of fun onset. And I think that's important to the roles and also for just work. We're here to tell stories to have fun. This is make believe. And so when two actors come in and be serious about the work, once you see that everyone is serious about the work that makes the action "let's play out and see what happens." And so we're both sort of eager to play which is just great for me and that goes for all the actors. We're all very serious about our craft. We all do our homework and we come prepared, but once we get there . . . we're in the sandbox baby. Let's have a good time.

Jeffrey Harris: I also really just want to compliment work that not just you and David do but also Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz, and even Reggie Lee. You all play solid characters and not these really cookie cutter or stereotypical characters. How great is Reggie Lee on this show?

Russell Hornsby: I think Reggie is amazing.

Jeffrey Harris: I remember seeing Reggie in all these big moves, and I'm happy we're just seeing Reggie play an Asian-American cop for once. I mean how great is that?

Russell Hornsby: It is man, it is. I think you really got to commend David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf [the show's creators] for that because they had the vision and they said we have to cast these roles with real three dimensional people. You can make a three dimensional or that's your hope, but I also think that the characters come alive by the actors who play that. And I think each and every one of the cast members are three dimensional people. They are interesting. They are smart people. And that's what helps the characters come alive, and it helps by making the show the type of interesting, smart, and witty show that it is.

Jeffrey Harris: It's not just the three-dimensionality that I appreciate but also the diversity because that's how the world is, and I enjoy seeing a really diverse and fleshed out cast of characters on TV. And I think you guys do a really great job with that.

Russell Hornsby: You know what you are absolutely right, and I appreciate you reiterating that. Diversity is important because that's a reflection obviously of our world of our country. And allowing not only the actors to be diverse, but allowing people to be diverse. And that's what I mean by being three dimensional: by allowing Reggie to be that Asian-American in all of his quirks and allowing Reggie to bring elements of who he is for that dynamic as an actor but also as an Asian American; same thing for me playing Hank. I'm an African American actor so there are character traits that I have as Russell that someone else playing the role wouldn't. And obviously the writers embrace that. They say, "You know what Russ? Bring you. Do you. Bring that stuff. All that you have, all that extra stuff, that je ne sais quoi, that swagger you have, bring it. We love it. Come on! Let's work it into the role." And I think everybody said that. It's amazing. Everybody has some wonderful traits that are specific to them and cultural specificities that I think helps the show come across that much more interesting.

Jeffrey Harris: What would your parents say to you Russell if they found out you were dating a witch or a Hexenbiest?

Russell Hornsby: They'd say, "Wow. Took you this long?" No *laughs*. I think if I were in my twenties they'd say, "Hey you know what? Experiment, have fun, try it." But I think now they'd say, "Didn't you get this out of your system?"

Jeffrey Harris: How was it like going with the show to San Diego Comic-Con last year?

Russell Hornsby: I had a ball. And I can't wait to go back. Those people are nuts! It was great! I love the fanaticism and the joy of the audience gets just from being in the world of comics and sci-fi. It's great. It's a little awkward because I'm not used to it. It was like my first time, but I can't wait to go back. I'm really excited. And to know that you have fans and people that really love the show and that they're really excited; I appreciate that.

Jeffrey Harris: How do you like shooting the show in Portland which is a really cool setting.

Russell Hornsby: It's a very cool setting, and I think it serves as another character in the show especially when we're up in the woods and you see the lush greens and what not. Also just personally, it's a lovely change of place from Los Angeles or New York. There's still a lot to do here. You're not overwhelmed but at the same time . . . you're not inundated with fanfare and autographs and stuff like that. The city just lets you be regular people and I appreciate that.

Jeffrey Harris: What's it like working in front of the camera compared to doing a voice acting role like Tyson Rios in Army of Two?

Russell Hornsby: Well I don't have to get dressed and look nice and all that kind of stuff. It's actually a lot more difficult to do the voiceover acting because you really have to be engaged vocally and very aware of to what you are trying to say. Because all you have are the words and your intentions to sell the material. There are no facial expressions. There's no body language, nothing like that, and it's very difficult. And I think the good ones who do it well, that's why they are so time honored like if you look at a James Earl Jones historically even going back to radio personalities like Ken Nordine. I love how expressive they are with their voice. And even with such a kind of such a rich timbre, usually baritone voices aren't as generally expressive, but you can really here these wonderful modulations and levels that they have in their voices. It's tender and sensitive and gentle at the same time as firm. And I love it. I'm really working hard into doing more voiceover but that's a craft in itself.

Jeffrey Harris: I also really enjoyed the short-lived TV series you were in wasGideon's Crossing, with Andre Braugher. That must have been a cool experience to work with him right?

Russell Hornsby: That's where I hit the lottery . . . It really was. I was like 25 or 26 years old, just a babe in the woods, and I was sitting here working with Andre Braugher. I had to thank my lucky stars to be able to work with this man. And what better way to be introduced to the business than with a veteran such as Andre? And working with Paul Attanasio as the writer and creator of the show, I got in at a very high level, and as my mother would say, I was "swimming in tall cotton," from the outset. And that's the thing, I was introduced to the business at such a high level and I kept that high standard meaning the projects you work on but also what you bring to it because Andre really how to be a professional: how to come to work on time; how to be prepared; how to treat the crew; how to treat your other cast members; how to be welcoming and warm to guest cast members. All of those things that people take for granted, and it's the minutiae all those things that we do that make a difference in the next person's life. And when you're 1-4 in a call sheet, when you're looked at as one of the stars of the show, people look to you. And people look to you to lead and to guide. And I was able to learn for a year under Andre what to do and what not to do. And that helped me in my career going forward to this point.

Jeffrey Harris: Thank you so much for your time and congrats on the show and the great job you are doing.

Russell Hornsby: Absolutely, thank you Jeffrey for your time.

Photo credit to Benny Haddad.

Grimm airs Friday nights on NBC. Thank you to Russell Hornsby for taking the time to speak with us.


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