411mania Interviews: Eric Close (Nashville)
Posted by Al Norton on 03.27.2013
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Eric Close to discuss his scene stealing work on Suits, his cult favorite series Now and Again, and his current starring role in ABC's hit drama Nashville.
Eric Close has been a fixture on your TV screen for over 15 years, with regular roles on Without a Trace, Now and Again, Chaos, Dark Skies, The Magnificent Seven, and McKenna as well as memorable runs on Sisters, American Horror Story, and Suits. He can currently be seen starring in ABC's Nashville, airing Wednesdays at 10pm.
Eric Close: I'm so sorry I'm late.
Al Norton: No worries at all. My wife made a joke, she said, "he's the Mayor, he's busy."
Eric Close: (Laughing) You know what, I'm going to start using that. When I'm the late to work I'll say, "hey, I'm the Mayor, I had something to take care of."
Al Norton: Are we going to hear Teddy sing at some point?
Eric Close: Maybe in the shower or the car but I'm not sure you'll see him on stage at the Ryman or the Opry; that would be perhaps detrimental to the future of the show.
Al Norton: Were you a country music fan coming in and, whatever level you were at before, how much has that increased since you started filming?
Eric Close: I've been a country music fan for close to 20 years now, probably even longer if you include someone like John Denver. I've always loved country music. My parents listened to a lot of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson so I was always aware of it and then I really started getting into it while I was in college. This experience has really broadened my appreciation of it, so now along with just liking the music I am starting to understand the history of it. Being in this area where it was born is really exciting and I love it. I am enjoying watching my cast mates Connie and Chip and everyone getting the chance to sing and play the music. It really is a lot of fun.
Al Norton: What drew you to Teddy?
Eric Close: First, I was intrigued by the story in general. I always try to look for something that's new and different and I hadn't been a part of a show like this before nor had I really seen anything like it. I loved the writing and felt like it was the right time for something like this. Nashville is very hot and growing, country music is very popular, and I wanted to come to Nashville; I'd never been here before and that was exciting to me.
As far as Teddy goes, I was interested in the political arena. When I talked to them about the role I was so much interested in just being the husband, I was interested in what his journey was going to be and when they told me he was going to be running for Mayor and perhaps going to win, with all the good and bad that go with politics, I was in. In my career I try to find characters I haven't played before and I've always been intrigued by the world of politics.
Plus I get to play Connie Britton's husband, at least for a while (laughing). You never know, that flame could come back on in seasons down the line.
Al Norton: How much of the cast was in place when you signed on?
Eric Close: Connie as on board, which I was excited about. I believe Hayden was as well. The one that I didn't know about was Chip Esten; what was great about that was Chip and I have known each other for 20 years. We joke about how in the last 20 years we've probably spent a total of 15 minutes together but we've always felt like great friends. We'd run into each other – often on Halloween, bringing our kids out trick or treating because we both living the same general neighborhood – and we'd always say that we'd have to get together but now we get to hang out together all the time. It's been great for us and our families and I didn't know he was going to be on the show at the time I took the role.
Al Norton: And it's always great to find out you are going to get some scenes opposite Powers Boothe.
Eric Close: He's a tour de force. He's amazing. What a great career he's had, and is still having. I always feel privileged when I get to work with people who've been around and seen everything you can seen in this business; he's great to talk with, get advice from. He's worked with some legendary people and some incredible projects.
The other thing I like about Powers is that he comes ready to play; he loves what he does and is on his game from the moment he walks on set. When he and I get to work together it's always a pleasure.
Al Norton: Is it odd to be part of such a big ensemble in that you have a lot of coworkers but there are a chunk of them you don't actually work with?
Eric Close: That's true. It's my hope that that changes down the road. There was a time I was thinking I was pretty much only going to work with Connie and the two girls that play my daughters, which is great. Of course I get to work with Powers and Judith Hoag and Kimberly (Williams-Paisley). I'd love for it to cross over and get to work with Chip and Hayden (Panettiere) more. I'd love to work with Sam (Palladio) and Clare (Bowen) and Jonathan (Jackson). Except for a party scene or two I don't think I've gotten to work with them much.
It can be a little strange when you don't see them very often so you have to make plans outside of work. For example this weekend I texted Chip about having dinner and then we started forwarding it around and the next thing you know you've got seven people saying they'll meet us at the restaurant. It's nice to find time to connect. Usually the times I see Hayden are when she's arriving and I'm leaving or vice versa.
Al Norton: You film on location in Nashville; how has the city responded since the show started airing?
Eric Close: It's been unbelievable. I am in Nashville right now. Not sure if you can hear the train in the background but I live near Union Station so for 24 hours a day I hear the trains. During the day it's not so bad but at 4:00 in the morning it's not so good (laughing).
The city has responded in a really positive manner; they've given us the keys to the city in a sense. They've been really kind and excited about the show. I was just hiking and this lady came by with her baby and we had a quick conversation and when I said, "I have to go, it was nice talking to you" she said, "I just want to tell you I love you show." We ended up walking and talking for another 15 minutes, and that happens to me and the entire cast all the time.
It's not just Nashville; I've been traveling back and forth to LA and other places and I'm getting the feeling that people all over the country are enjoying the show.
Al Norton: Every so often I'll write a piece about shows that got cancelled too soon and when I make my list, Now and Again is inevitably near-or-at the top.
Eric Close: I would agree. That was a heartbreaker. It's funny you bring that up; I have that one and only season on DVD and I've been watching it with my daughters. It's been a lot of fun. The only hard part about watching the show now, other than that it got cancelled, which was unfortunate, is that I was in such phenomenal shape then and now I have to compare that to me now (laughing).
I loved chewing on Glenn Gordon Caron's words every day, working with Dennis Haysbert and Margaret Colin every day. It was amazing. It's tough in this business; networks are constantly working on new pilots, trying to find the next big thing that will stick and that one unfortunately didn't stick around. Hopefully this one will.
Al Norton: I would think that one of the hardest things for someone who does what you do for a living is to be a part of a project like, say, Chaos, where you know the quality is good and the failure of the show isn't because the audience rejected it but it's really more about scheduling.
Eric Close: That's the tough thing as I really do believe that CBS and all the people involved wanted the show to work – I don't think any network picks up a show they don't think is quality – but it's difficult, especially on CBS, because they have a really solid roster of shows and giving one of those coveted time slots to a new show is tough because the shows that are in them are doing well. Sometimes shows get lost in slots that are hard to build an audience in. I loved that show and was really disappointed it got cancelled but I wasn't surprised because of the difficulty it was having finding an audience.
I was proud of Chaos; we had a great writer and a great cast. I think it could have found a home, maybe on cable where we could have played with things even more.
Al Norton: Your role on Suits must be fun for you in that you get to play a less than earnest and trustworthy character.
Eric Close: It's funny you bring that up; I was in Oregon recently with some friends and someone asked me, "in your career, what's your favorite role?" and without hesitating I said, "Travis Tanner on Suits is probably the favorite role I've ever played." I've played a lot of fun roles but there's something about Travis I just loved. I'm very fortunate to be working on Nashville but if I get the chance to reprise that role on Suits, I would love to. People come up to me and say, "man, I love Travis; when's he coming back on Suits?" It's a great part and it's an extremely well written show. I've worked with all the regulars on the show at one time or another in my career so I'm so happy for them that it's doing so well.
Al Norton: You and Gabriel (Macht) had some amazing toe-to-toe scenes.
Eric Close: Gabriel is such a cool guy. I love working with him. He's absolutely a team player and he made me feel very welcome and comfortable up there in Toronto. I'd love to work with him again, absolutely.
Al Norton: Can you preview the rest of the season of Nashville?
Eric Close: At this point Teddy is major and he's decided to move on for his marriage so we're going to see a conflict of he and Raina trying to balance their work and their kids. They're sharing the house but taking turns who stays there with the kids and trying to work that out. Teddy is going to have some big time conflicts with Lamar; Teddy is trying to take charge of his life and is trying to avoid being used by Lamar, who is very powerful.