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Interview with Jeffrey Donovan of "Burn Notice" on USA
This was a great interview. He seems like a really nice,
down-to-earth, modest guy. This was a very long call and he
was very patient and gracious through the whole thing!
Moderator: Jeffrey Donovan
November 6, 2012
11:00 am CT
Sarah: Hi everyone. This is (Sarah) from USA Network.
Thank you for joining the Burn Notice call today and to
Jeffrey who is participating. As a reminder, Burn Notice
premiers this Thursday, November 8th at 9:00 pm. And we can
get started (Brandy). Thank you. (Brandy)?
Operator: Yes maíam?
Sarah: Are we getting started?
Operator: Yes maíam. Youíre in the main conference. Go
Sarah: Oh no. I already started. I already - now we should
- we should take phone calls.
Operator: Okay. At this time to ask an audio question please
press star 1 on your telephone keypad. And your first
question comes from Jamie Ruby.
Jamie Ruby: Hi. Thanks so much for talking to us today.
Jeffrey Donovan: Great. Whoís this?
Jamie Ruby: Jamie Ruby. I love Burn Notice and I love the
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, thanks. What - who are you writing for?
Jamie Ruby: Sorry. SciFiVision.com.
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, okay. Thanks.
Jamie Ruby: Sure. So itís obviously got to be really fun to
get to play so many different characters. Can you talk about
kind of that and I assume it keeps it interesting?
Jeffrey Donovan: Yeah. One of the fun things that we didnít
actually realize when we first the show was that even though
Iím a Burn spy and Iím trying to get back in, the kind of
fun of the show is always to help the person that no one
else can help and only Michaelís skills can solve his
So we thought itíd be fun if that certain cover ID just like
spies had to do, were taken on. And some of the things that
were asked of me were great. You know, if I had to do an
accent or some kind of character it was always fun to kind
of make that up with the writer at the time.
And then over the years they kind of evolved into sometimes
some wacky guys and sometimes some pretty sadistic guys. But
yeah, it keeps it interesting.
Jamie Ruby: Whatís been the hardest cover ID youíve had to
do from an acting standpoint?
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, the hardest ones were always the
ones that I hadnít ever done before. I mean just like a
writer might have a certain style that they write in and
theyíre comfortable and then someone says okay, I want you
to do a short story form. It might be out of their comfort
Those are the most difficult ones. And the - one of the most
difficult ones was this kind of character I did about - I
think it was Season 3, where I basically played the devil
and I think this name was (Louis) - almost like (Louis Cifer)
as in Lucifer.
And he was a cross between the devil and Clint Eastwood and
I played him - I mean I just went out on a limb and played
him. And Iíve never received better feedback from fans about
thatís their cover ID Iíve ever played.
But it was the scariest one because I thought it was so
different from anything Iíd ever done not only on the show
but as - just as an actor.
Jamie Ruby: Great. Well youíre great at it and youíre so
great at changing your personality because you become
somebody different, you know, so easily and youíre great at
all of the accents. So...
Jeffrey Donovan: Well thank you.
Jamie Ruby: ...thank you.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Anne Daly).
Anne Daly: Hi Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Donovan: Hi (Annie).
Anne Daly: Before I ask my questions I have two messages
for you. The first one is from (Seth Peterson). He told me
to tell you that he loves the watch you gave him with a
Jeffrey Donovan: Yeah?
Anne Daly: And the second one is from - there is a group
of fans on Twitter that call themselves the Dono Fans. And
they just want to tell you that they love you.
Jeffrey Donovan: All right.
Anne Daly: And my questions actually come from them so
theyíre more fun questions than anything else.
Jeffrey Donovan: Okay.
Anne Daly: The first one is who has been your favorite
villain on Burn Notice and why?
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, see now thatís really tough. Because,
you know, itís six years of actors that have come through
here and I - god, just let me see. I have to think. You
know, Iíd have to say Jay Karnes. He played Brennen.
Jay Karnes, I mean a wonderful actor and very well known and
he played for the first time - one of the things that I
always say to Matt Nix and all of the writers is never dumb
down the villain.
I think why James Bond is, you know, the 007 series always
works is because the villains were always these mega
intelligent villains. And I said when you dumb down a
villain then you dumb down Michael.
Always make the villains smarter than Michael but Michael
just figures out the one Achilles heel that the villain has.
And the closest person to ever do that was Jay Karnes. And
an actor like that is incredible anyway but to put him in
that role where he basically tells Michael, what are you
going to do?
Are you going to do this? Well then I have the answer to
that. Are you going to do that? Iím going to - then Iím
going to do this. He always was one step ahead of Michael
which was always the - kind of a great villain, a great foe
is that the villain is smarter than you.
Anne Daly: Right. Exactly. And then the second question is
another one thatís going to make you think. If you could act
with any actor living or dead who would it be and why?
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh geez. You know, Iíve been very fortunate
and blessed to be able to be directed by Clint Eastwood
twice. But, you know, he didnít act in either of those
films, in Changeling or J. Edgar and I would have loved to
have stepped into the ring with him.
Anne Daly: Yeah.
Jeffrey Donovan: There is an authenticity and a reality that
he just brings because of the person he is. So I would have
loved to have done that. That would probably be - I would
probably consider myself accomplished if I could ever go toe
to toe with him.
Anne Daly: Oh, definitely. All right, well Iím a big fan
and I canít wait to see Season - the rest of Season 6.
Jeffrey Donovan: All right, cool. Thank you.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Jamie Steinberg).
Jamie Steinberg: Hi. Such a pleasure to speak with you.
Jeffrey Donovan: Same here. How are you?
Jamie Steinberg: Good, thank you. I was wondering - there
are some great locations you guys have been shooting in and
we know that Miami though has been a bit of a trouble area
for the Burn Notice team. Is there any idea of a possible
Jeffrey Donovan: Miami actually has been great. I think that
youíve read some news that was only recent regarding one
Jamie Steinberg: No, no. I mean for Michael and...
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh. Oh, I see. I was like god, what are you
talking about? You know, yeah Miami is obviously a hot spot
for Michael and all of the kind of agencies and the foes and
the villains all know heís located there so heís basically
an easy target, a kind of a fish in a barrel.
As far as story line, you know, the network and the studio
havenít talked at all about moving it to any other kind of
locale whether itís fictional or not. You know, whether we
shoot in Miami but we pretend weíre in Malibu, California.
I, you know, none of that has been talked about.
So I donít see him moving obviously this coming summer if we
get renewed for a seventh season which it looks like we will
be. So that will probably - weíll probably be staying put.
Jamie Steinberg: Thereís such great chemistry between you
and Gabrielle Anwar on the show. How do you continue to
Jeffrey Donovan: Spend as little time with each other off
the set. You know? When you play a role like Michael and
Fiona, there is an intimacy and a kind of spark that I think
is hard to maintain over seven years when you spend every,
you know, working hour with them and then every social hour
So we do our best to never lay eyes on each other after
Jamie Steinberg: That way you smolder on screen.
Jeffrey Donovan: Yes. Your words.
Jamie Steinberg: Well absence makes the heart grow fonder
Jeffrey Donovan: Exactly. Exactly.
Jamie Steinberg: Thank you.
Operator: Your next question comes from the line of (Carla
Carla Day: Hi Jeffrey. I was wondering, now that Michael
knows who burned him and heís tracked down in the episode
this week, his brotherís killers, whatís next for Michael
now that he doesnít have that driving force behind him to
kind of stay in the spy world?
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, great question. I think whatís
tough for this show is the title. You know, Burn Notice was
not only an unfamiliar word to me but I think to most fans
until they understood what the show was about.
And itís kind of like calling the show Escape from the Moon
and after the sixth season they got off the moon. Well what
next? I think that the fans are going to love this last part
of Season 6 because it focuses on Nateís death, finding that
killer and bringing him to justice.
And I think that youíll see a more of a hell bent Michael,
more personal than youíve seen him try to kind of navigate
the waters towards getting back in with the CIA and Burn
Notice. And then at the end of the season, you know, itís a
bit of a cliffhanger.
Thereís a huge event that happens between Michael and Fiona
that will propel Season 7 which if all goes as planned, will
be a very different kind of Burn Notice because of the
trajectory but no less kind of dangerous for Michael.
But I think itíll be more personal next year than it will be
professional, if that answers your question without me
Carla Day: Yeah.
Jeffrey Donovan: ...anything.
Carla Day: At the end of the two hours you kind of face
off with your - Michael faces off with his mentor. And I
just want to say I loved the way that you played that scene
and the emotion that, you know, just (propel)s on your face.
But could you talk a little bit about what it was like
(selling) that scene?
Jeffrey Donovan: Now youíve got to - now youíve got to
understand itís November.
Carla Day: Okay.
Jeffrey Donovan: So Iíve got to - youíve got to remind me
what scene particularly and with who?
Carla Day: With your mentor. The one that tried to kill
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, John C. McGinleyís character?
Carla Day: Yes.
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, okay. And do I - and then - well, you
know, going toe to toe with McGinley is, you know, you
should - though you will never be recognized you should just
win an award for going toe to toe with John C. McGinley. The
guy is such a powerhouse itís hard to keep up.
I mean heís a guest star that shows up and knows not only
his lines but your lines back and forth before you even
rehearse. Itís quite remarkable. So a lot of the things that
I kind of tried to bring to that scene was sheer fear of
please donít screw up in front of such a great actor.
So that kind of - me looking up to him that way, kind of fed
that fuel of wow, this is a great actor but now I have to
actually believe that heís someone that taught me so much
and has betrayed everything I invested in.
And so though it wasnít easy it was certainly much more
compelling because of McGinley himself.
Carla Day: Okay, well thank you so much and good luck with
the rest of the season.
Jeffrey Donovan: Thank you.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Paulette Kahn).
Paulette Kahn: Good morning Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Donovan: Good morning.
Paulette Kahn: You mentioned that this season will be a
little more personal because itís about Nate, also the fact
that your mom isnít really speaking to you even though she
did save your life - help save your life. Might Michael
makes some mistakes because the stakes are different this
Jeffrey Donovan: Yeah. Thatís a great, great observation. I
think anything thatís personal and emotional will always
cloud judgment. You know, one of the fun things Iíve kind of
developed with Matt is in real life, with a normal person,
you are in every day life with your family and thatís easy.
And then you go to work and thatís hard. And you show the
strain at work because the stakes are so high. What was hard
to kind of convince a lot of directors who were coming in
was they would always want me to have kind of an intense
high stakes moment when I was being chased or shot at.
And I always though thatís wrong, it doesnít ring true. Itís
the opposite. Michaelís judgment is so clear when heís being
shot at or heís being chased or heís trying to figure out a
solution with a bottle of Clorox and a car battery. Thatís
all clear to him and itís objective.
When heís at home with his mom or heís talking to his
brother Nate or heís in a fight with Fiona, those are the
most subjective, emotional moments for him and he doesnít
know how to handle it.
So what I always said was heís out of his element when heís
with his family and friends and heís in his element when
heís being shot at and thatís kind of counterintuitive.
So this past - this last season itís all about his judgment
being so clouded and so subjective because of how his
feelings towards his brother are, what happens to him and
what his mother accuses him of. I mean those kind of - those
kinds of stakes Michael has never really dealt with.
Paulette Kahn: Right. Okay. And my follow up question is
so you mentioned the renewal. So how long can you see
playing this role and do you have a vision of how you would
like to see it end for Michael?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well, you know, first of all thereís
nothing official yet about Season 7 so I - I mean I donít
even know if itís going to happen. Iím assuming it is but I
have not received a phone call so Iím still, you know,
waiting just like everybody else is.
Whether an online magazine writes about it or not I donít
believe it until a contract is here because you never know.
So I donít know what Season 7 could possibly be other than
maybe a different kind of trajectory for Michael which has
to happen because him going after Burn Notice, him trying to
get reinstated has played itself out. But the only thing
that can happen is that it becomes much more personal.
It - now it becomes about his family, his past and his
friends. And I think that will probably be what Season 7 is
about. And I guess, you know, it will come full circle
because when Michael was burned he was plopped in Miami and
he had to deal with his mother and he had to deal with
And I think probably Season 7 will be our final season and
it will probably come down to those two people probably in
some devastating fashion.
Paulette Kahn: Okay. Thank you.
Operator: Your next question is from (Joshua Maloney).
Joshua Maloney:Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for your time today.
Jeffrey Donovan: Sure Josh.
Joshua Maloney:You know, Jeffrey as one of my colleagues
mentioned, obviously, you know, you have such good chemistry
with your cast mates, Iím wondering, you know, when you have
that kind of shorthand does it make it easier for you as an
actor or does it make it sort of more challenging to be
sharp from episode to episode?
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, you do run the risk of getting
into a monotonous rut because you shoot 70 hours a week the
same character and sometimes overlapping dialog from other
episodes kind of, you know, creep back in.
But whenever you show up, especially with someone like
Sharon or with Bruce, they have such a freshness when they
come onset and such a great attitude that it kind of
inspires you. So staying sharp is - I thank, you know, the
actors for being sharp because it can become kind of
Joshua Maloney:Right. You know, as you mentioned a minute
ago, you know, for another season to happen you do sort of
have to take the show and the character in a different
direction. What sort of is interesting or appealing to you
about going in a different direction from where youíve been
these six years?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well I think that not only am I kind of
tired of it, I think maybe the fans are a little tired of
just me trying to get back into the CIA and burned.
But I think that one of the things weíve never really
explored and Iím actually - this is my thoughts, no oneís
actually said this to me, is that the whole mystery behind
Michaelís past and his relationship with his father, I think
thatís an interesting road.
But I also think that weíve never really seen how dark
Michael can go when someone close to him has been hurt. I
mean when his brother is killed I mean you can see a rage in
Michael that - which hopefully the audiences kind of connect
But I think that thereís even something deeper there. And
not that, you know, where a show like Dexter where, you
know, Michaelís a serial killer and will cut people up but
for a greater good.
But I think that there is a side of Michael that would
channel some kind of monster if he felt like that was the
only way to get retribution for someone being hurt that he
Joshua Maloney:Right. That could be interesting. Very
good. I appreciate your time today. Thank you.
Jeffrey Donovan: Thank you.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Jerry Jacobs).
Jay Jacobs: (Jay). Yes, hi Mike - Jeffrey. Nice to talk to
Jeffrey Donovan: Good to talk to you.
Jay Jacobs: I apologize. I havenít seen the pilot - the
premier yet. We are in Philadelphia and we literally just
got the electric on - back on this morning. But I did just
want to say, you were just talking about how with Michael
having closer relationships that obviously clouds his
I was wondering how do you think the fact that Michael and
Fiona are finally, totally giving into their love
relationship, that will affect their relationship business
wise and do you also - how is the show going to keep them
interesting when theyíre together?
So often when couples get...
Jeffrey Donovan: That last - youíre breaking up (Jerry). Are
you still there?
Jay Jacobs: Yes. Iím still here. Iím sorry. I was just
going to say how do you think that the fact that Michael and
Fiona are giving into their relationship completely is going
to affect them both personally and as co-workers?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well, you know, listen Michael and Fi are
as dysfunctional as they get. I donít think them becoming
closer or them growing apart is really going to affect what
probably is an ultimate time bomb between those two.
I think that - and thereís nothing written or any story that
Iím kind of referring to but I think that down the road
these two are going to combust. I mean they have to because
I mean sheís nitro and heís glycerin and they are going to
But how they blow up is going to probably be very unique to
them. Blowing up to them might be them getting married. You
know? And but blowing up may be also them, you know, killing
one each other - killing each other.
You know, I donít know but I know that the more conflict
that those two have I think the best for the show. I think
when they become romantic and, you know, cute towards each
other I think thatís where the show kind of gets boring.
So I think that youíre probably going to see more of a
combustible Michael and Fiona in Season 7.
Jay Jacobs: Okay, good. And I also love the way that the
villains all have sort of different characteristics. Like
Tim Matheson was almost sort of very good natured except for
when he was being evil. And John C. McGinleyís character
seems a little bit goofy before you realize how devious is.
But I really thought you did some really amazing work with
Jere Burns who obviously - his character was killed off. But
what was he like to work with as a villain?
Jeffrey Donovan: Jere is one of my favorites. Heís a
phenomenal actor and he has such a presence when you work
with him. I mean nothing, nothing affects him. I mean a
piece of equipment could fall on him and itíd still like
just be right on target. Heís an amazing actor.
I had a great time with him. And, you know, the sad part
about it is all the great villains die. Itís just killing
me. I mean John C. McGinley, Jere Burns, I mean these people
are awesome actors and they just - they get killed.
Ben Shenkman in Season 2 who was my, you know, CIA agent was
just an amazing actor and we killed him. I donít know why we
kill all the great actors. Maybe because they donít want to
show up me. You know, they keep bad actors around me so I
Jay Jacobs: And one other thing. You had just mentioned
that you thought that youíre sort of getting a little bit
bored and the audience might be. Iím seeing whether Michael
can just become a regular - get back into the CIA. Do you
think that Michael could ever go back to being just a normal
Jeffrey Donovan: I donít know. Good question. I think that
the end - the season finale which I think the audience is
going to be shocked at, Michael makes a decision which
affects not only his friends but mostly Fiona. I think
thereís going to be a huge betrayal that youíre going to
And I think the audiences are going to kind of be excited
about Season 7 to see where Michael will go once he made
this kind of - probably one of the worst decisions heís ever
Jay Jacobs: Okay. Well thank you very much.
Jeffrey Donovan: Thank you.
Operator: Your next question comes from Suzanne Lanoue.
Suzanne Lanoue:Hi. How are you doing today?
Jeffrey Donovan: Good (Suzanne). How are you?
Suzanne Lanoue:Oh, well thanks for taking this long call
Jeffrey Donovan: Sure.
Suzanne Lanoue:Now when youíre talking about Michael being
in a dark place with his brother being shot and everything,
how does that work for you as an actor? How do you get into
that mindset looking so sad and dark and...
Jeffrey Donovan: I just think of the long hours Iím working
and then I just channel that. You know, I think as an actor,
you know, not that Iím experienced but at least I have, you
know, about 25 years under my belt.
You know, just like any kind of pro athlete, you know, itís
like asking a pro athlete like David Ortiz who gets up at
home plate, how do you hit that home run? Itís just you do
what you do, you know? Itís kind of ingrained in you and
then you just try to find that kind of motivation that will
spark each take.
And it might be that, you know, theyíre out of M&Ms at Craft
Service and that really makes you sad. Or, you know, itís
something from your personal life that you draw on that was,
you know, maybe hard or devastating in your past.
But I mean I think that actors do what they do well when
they can just make it their own. And thatís up to them. You
know, the way my process works is very different the way
Bruce works and very different the way Sharon works but we
all kind of accomplish the same goal.
So itís hard but I draw upon different things, you know, per
day, per scene, per character.
Suzanne Lanoue:Right and - so when youíre done doing these
things where youíre supposed to be so upset like when you
almost killed the guy that killed your brother, is it easy
just to okay, scene over, no problem or does it kind of stay
with you for a while?
Jeffrey Donovan: It sometimes lingers with you. You know,
you might be in such an emotional state that you kind of
need a few minutes to just kind of recompose yourself,
especially if theyíre saying okay, moving on to the scene
where Michael chases the bad guy and grabs and ice cream
cone and licks it while doing it.
You know, and youíre like oh this is supposed to be slightly
comical at the same time. But, you know, thatís what we do.
Itís not brain surgery. And it certainly isnít on a level of
national importance, you know, like an election or disaster
But, you know, hopefully for those few minutes you believe
what Iím doing and youíre entertained and you kind of - you
can kind of escape that, you know, that world that youíd
maybe be bothered with for an hour and have fun.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Stevie Wilson).
Stevie Wilson: Hi Jeffrey. How are you doing today?
Jeffrey Donovan: Good (Stevie). How are you?
Stevie Wilson: Iím good. Iím good. You know, itís sunny in
Los Angeles and we keep wondering about how the East Coast
So this season seems to be so pivotal in how it all has
rolled out and particularly the way it was left hanging that
at the end of last season the finale was kind of like going
youíre leaving it there?
And now youíre picking up and going forward and thereís so
much - kind of I get the feeling that thereís so much stuff
thatís been buried inside Michael thatís suddenly starting
to come out that how - kind of how are you - I mean are you
- have you plotted out - are you - how you play - obviously
youíre farther down in the season.
Have you - did you plot this out how you were going to
unroll this emotionally?
Jeffrey Donovan: I kind of...
Stevie Wilson: (Unintelligible).
Jeffrey Donovan: I kind of go episode to episode because
unfortunately we donít see a script until about two days
before we start shooting. So itís difficult to kind of do an
overall arc to track your character especially emotionally.
I mean we would love to but the writers donít give us any
material until, you know, basically right before we start
shooting so itís difficult to chart emotionally.
So what we do is that day we kind of look at the script and
then I kind of plot through well if Michael gets to here
letís say - letís get - letís say he gets to Z at the end of
the episode. Then I want to start as far away from that as
possible. So I want to start at A and hopefully youíll see a
kind of journey.
And now unfortunately with that is once Iím done with Z how
- where can I go in the next episode? I mean I canít start a
new alphabet. So thatís kind of difficult. But whatís great
about the show is that, you know, itís a TV show.
Once we do it itís gone for that one episode and we can kind
of pick ourselves back up and start over again and create
another hour of entertainment. But as far as the dark
journey overall I mean Michaelís going to go down I think a
dark hole, especially from Bruceís character.
I mean, you know, the way Bruce plays Sam is so incredible.
Heís so observant of Michael because heís his best friend.
And I think youíre going to see so many indictments from Sam
that Michael - it will actually reflect on how dark Michael
is getting because Sam knows the kind of dark person
Stevie Wilson: Well thatís just it. It - the journey that
where you saw after Nate was killed and you see some of the
light parts come up but thereís still that journey that
Michael is taking is very evident and itís so - and for the
viewer. And Iíve been there and watched probably every
single season at least twice.
It has been so intoxicating and so addicting that itís like
when you - as you get to the season finale for Season 6 then
weíre just kind of going - you kind of go wait a minute,
wait a minute, we canít live without this.
Jeffrey Donovan: You sound addicted and you may need help.
But admitting it is the first step as they say. Well that -
well thank you (Suzanne). Thatís awesome. I - I mean (Stevie).
Sorry. I donít know if Michael will come back from this
emotional hell that heís gone down.
Heís lost his brother. The only family he has left is his
mother. And I think heís losing his friends. I mean I see
this journey eventually compromising his friendship with Sam
and with Jesse. And ultimately probably being the
destruction of his relationship with Fiona.
But I have to. You canít just keep a show going after six
seasons and go yeah, everyoneís just the same. After Michael
has seen his brother die, his father die, I mean thereís
just too much death that has kind of gone inside Michael
that you wonít be able to just kind of pass it off.
And I think maybe Season 7, if we finally get that order and
create that, I think thatís what Season 7ís journey is going
Operator: Your next question comes from (Diane Morasco).
Diane Morasco: Hi Jeff, how are you?
Jeffrey Donovan: Good. How are you?
Diane Morasco: Good. I have to ask you since your mom
raised three boys alone what did you gift your mom with when
you became financially stable?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well first off, thank you for, you know,
obviously having interest in my family and where I came
from. But, you know, my mom and my family has never really
been talked about that much and Iíd kind of like to keep
that that way. No. Youíre very welcome. I respect that.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Jim Gardner).
Jim Gardner: Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for joining us this
Jeffrey Donovan: Sure.
Jim Gardner: So I definitely respect the privacy - the
family privacy part. I was going to - my question originally
was going to actually be you do such a great job of
channeling a closeness with Sharon Gless as far as the
mother/son were you - can you say whether or not you were at
least close to your mom growing up?
Because I really donít know much about it. And, you know, it
definitely comes - it seems to come through and I just
wanted to see if thatís what Iím sensing.
Jeffrey Donovan: Well I can talk about Sharon and first of
all, she is like a second mother to me. You know, sheís an
extraordinary actress but even more so sheís an incredible
woman. She took me under her wing since day one and has
always protected me and kind of sheltered me in the greatest
I didnít have an experience like she had with all of the
history she has in television and so sheís been such a great
educator and her husband, Barney Rosenzweig, he is an
incredible producer and Iíve learned so much. Theyíve become
kind of like my second family and I could talk for hours
Jim Gardner: Well you guys do a great job on screen. My
mom passed away earlier this year and she was so much like
Sharon Glessís character that I actually get a little
homesick every time you guys are together on screen.
So you guys do an amazing job and I just wanted to let you
know that it really does come through.
Jeffrey Donovan: Well I really appreciate that and Iím sorry
for your loss and you sound like a smart, kind young man and
Iím sure your mother was very proud of you.
Jim Gardner: Well she loved your guysí show and so we used
to talk about it every, you know, every Friday morning on my
drive to work. We used to talk about Burn Notice because
sheíd watch it where she was at. So I...
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, thatís so...
Jim Gardner: ...just wanted to let you know that.
Jeffrey Donovan: Thank you very much.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Rainier Polland).
Rainier Polland: Hi Jeffrey. Thank you for taking the
Jeffrey Donovan: Sure.
Rainier Polland: You directed two episodes of Burn Notice
(unintelligible) Sam Axe. What were the major challenges you
experienced while directing?
Jeffrey Donovan: Sorry, you broke up slightly. I know itís
about directing episodes and also Sam Axe. What was the
Rainier Polland: I was asking what were the major
challenges you experienced while directing?
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, whatís tough about episodic TV
and also about Sam Axe was a deadline. You know, the scripts
are huge. You know, typical episodic scripts are about 46 to
50 pages and Burn Notice tends to write between 52 and 58
pages. And thatís difficult to shoot in a cable studio
Weíre constantly running over time and out of money. So that
- those are the big challenges. The actors are always the
easiest thing. The cast is great. I donít actually even have
to direct them except Bruce. Heís an awful, awful actor and
he needs all the help he can get. I donít know how he got
But thank god Iíve been directing him for years.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from Jamie Ruby.
Jamie Ruby: Hi again. You were talking a bit before about
Sharon Gless and everything. Can you talk about how Michael
and Madelineís relationship is going to change this season?
And I mean can they ever get back to where they were do you
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, I think that youíll see mending
in the latter part of the season. And I think that
Madelineís love for Michael is unconditional in the best
But what I think is the hardest thing on Madeline is not
seeing Michael go back into the CIA or do a job or maybe
cross the line in accomplishing some kind of mission. Itís
when he hurts his friends.
And I think at the end of this season youíll see Michael
make a choice that I donít think that Madeline will be able
to justify. And but like her love has been for six seasons
itís unconditional and I think that sheíll try to find that
But Michaelís going to put his friends and his mom in a very
difficult position at the end of the season.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Monique Jones).
Monique Jones: Hi. How are you?
Jeffrey Donovan: Good (Monique). How are you?
Monique Jones: Iím good and Happy Election Day.
Jeffrey Donovan: Yes. Happy Election Day. Did you vote?
Monique Jones: Yes, I did.
Jeffrey Donovan: Did you early vote or were you not allowed
by the RNC?
Monique Jones: Well I didnít early vote. I was allowed to
but I didnít. I just wanted to do it with everybody else and
that was probably a mistake since there were a lot of lines,
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh yeah?
Monique Jones: ...itís done. So I saw the season premier.
It was a great season premier. And the one thing I noticed
is how I guess violent realistic the scenes - especially
when you and Gray are getting beaten around. What does it
take to get to that kind of mindset to make it look so
Jeffrey Donovan: Well thank god the camera can lie because,
you know, weíre safe and nothingís happening to us. But kind
of imagining all of that violence kind of coming down on us
itís, you know, Iím sure every young boy has been in a
fight. I certainly as growing up, quite a few, lost as many
as I won.
And you kind of just channel all of those kinds of bruises
and punches that you had over the years and put it into that
kind of - that emotion, you know? Itís not that hard to
imagine yourself getting beat up.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Guillermo Pas).
Guillermo Pas:Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for taking this call.
Jeffrey Donovan: Sure (Guillermo).
Guillermo Pas:There are questions about where the story
is going but a few days ago I caught a rerun of Sam Axeís
film. Would you like to go into any other of the charactersí
back stories and what would you like to learn about them?
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, I donít think so. I think what
was great about the Sam Axe story was, you know, based on
Bruce. You know, Bruce has such a huge following from all of
his Evil Dead, you know, film stuff and heís just a kind of
a cult hero.
So I think that that was kind of interesting to kind of look
into where did Sam Axe come from and why was he forcefully
retired from the Navy Seals. I think that that was
interesting. I donít think that any other story would be as
I mean Iím sure Sharon would have no interest in going back
and showing herself 20 years ago and trying to figure that
out. So the back story stuff I donít think is going to
happen about anybody else. I donít think it would work.
Guillermo Pas:Okay, yeah. Youíve had Jere Burns this year
and John C. McGinley or Ben Shenkman previously. How can you
top that with the next villain to bring in? Who would you
like to have?
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, thatís a great question. I mean theyíre
so good, I donít know where the next villain will come from.
You know, weíve always done a great job in finding some
interesting actors. Hereís the irony about the actors who
play great villains. Theyíre the nicest people, you know?
They really are.
I mean Jay Karnes, Jere, Ben, I mean youíre talking about
guys who are just the salt of the earth and they show up and
play such dastardly characters. Itís always fun. I know itís
fun for them to come out. Next season who knows? I mean I
think weíre going to have to go, you know, raise the bar.
Thatís certainly because these actors are so great.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Toby Jeffrey
Toby Jeffrey Grier:Hi.
Jeffrey Donovan: Hi (Toby).
Toby Jeffrey Grier:Hi. Iím still crying about that nice
young writer whose mommy died.
Jeffrey Donovan: I know.
Toby Jeffrey Grier:I know. Itís like I have to follow
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh, I know.
Toby Jeffrey Grier:I know, right. I do have to tell you,
and this is going to be the least professional thing Iíve
ever done in my 20 year writing career. When - I have 17
year old boys. When they found out that I was going to talk
to you today they completely lost their nut.
Jeffrey Donovan: Oh. You should have brought them on.
Toby Jeffrey Grier:Just - well see, one of them tried to
sabotage going to school today.
Jeffrey Donovan: Well I hope he tried to sabotage in a
Michael Westen way.
Toby Jeffrey Grier:Well no, no. Heís not that smart. He
was like I think Iím sick. Youíre not sick. You were Skyping
your girlfriend at 1:00 this morning. Iím not stupid.
Jeffrey Donovan: Heís got to watch more shows...
Toby Jeffrey Grier:Heís like I think I have to stay home.
Jeffrey Donovan: ...if all heís going to use is...
Toby Jeffrey Grier:Yeah. Heís going to, you know,
sabotage the truck so I couldnít drive him. No. Heís not
that smart. But yeah, they were - and like when I told them
that I was going to talk to Gabrielle a couple of months ago
they didnít care.
You know, I told them I was going to talk to Elijah Wood,
they didnít care. And I had to watch those stupid Lord of
the Rings movies 800 times but, you know, theyíre 17.
Nothing your mom does is cool. But...
Jeffrey Donovan: Except now.
Toby Jeffrey Grier:...Iím going to talk to - yeah, now.
You know, if Iím going to talk to you, completely went
Jeffrey Donovan: Tell them I said hi and if theyíre not so
smart tell them to study harder.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from (Rainier
Rainier Polland: Hi Jeffrey. Thank you for taking the time
Jeffrey Donovan: Sure.
Rainier Polland: I was cut off during my last call. My
question is which do you enjoy most, television or film, and
Jeffrey Donovan: Iím sorry. Say that question one more time.
Rainier Polland: Okay, great. Which medium do you enjoy
most? Is it television or film and why?
Jeffrey Donovan: You know, Iíve answered this before and it
hasnít changed. I always enjoy what I havenít done in a
while. I grew up actually in the theater. I did my BFA at
UMASS Amherst, I did my MFA at NYU and I got classically
trained. I was doing Shaw, Ibsen and Shakespeare.
So when I got out of school I though thatís what I - my
career was going to be. I got on Broadway right away and
then I started doing a little bit of television and a little
bit of film. Itís such a different world. Itís very, very
technical what we do in film.
And then theyíre asked, while all of the lights are there
and all of the crew members and hanging instruments and
cameras and directors staring right at you, you have to be
honest. Itís a very difficult but technical medium.
With theater itís a feedback and a reciprocation that you
get thatís immediate every night. And now that Iíve done the
show for 6-1/2 years, you know, Iím missing theater. And if
I get on a Broadway show and Iím doing that for half a year
Iíll probably miss film.
And itís a little cycle. And Iíve been lucky to be able to
do all three.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from (Diane
(Diana Morasco): Hi Jeffrey. I want to ask you what do you
find more exciting, producing or directing? And will you
toss script writing into the mix any time?
Jeffrey Donovan: I love directing. I mean, you know, I - one
of the great pleasures and honors I had was to direct Bruce
in the Sam Axe movie and try to show a little more humor in
that show than is on Burn Notice because of the great
talents of Bruce. I loved it.
And I have a more of a comic sensibility though you wouldnít
really see much of it on Burn notice because - lately,
because itís so dark. But youíd see it in the early seasons.
And, you know, Iím working hard right now on developing my
own material and, you know, down the road I think directing,
not so much writing. Iím not a good writer and there are so
many great writers out there.
But Iíd love to be able to kind of develop somebody - some
talent and create a TV series or create a film. And Iíve
talked with people and Iím working on something right now
that hopefully will work out in the next year. But I love
directing. I absolutely love it.
Operator: Your next question is coming from (Lance Carter).
Lance Carter: Hey. Nice talking to you.
Jeffrey Donovan: You too (Lance).
Lance Carter: So most of my questions, actually a lot of
the questions, were - I was going to ask were asked. So Iíll
just ask this one. What is your - whatís your advice to
Jeffrey Donovan: Donít. Oh, itís such a...
Lance Carter: Well thank you. Goodnight.
Jeffrey Donovan: Yes. Itís such a hard profession. I donít
wish it upon anyone. You know, I donít know if I have advice
but Iíll just give you this kind of comparison. I graduated
high school considered the best actor in my high school.
I graduated college the best actor in my college and I was -
I graduated NYU with 18 other actors that were all
considered the 18 best actors in the country and three of us
are working from that class; just to show you how difficult
I think that if you want to be an actor I think that whatís
dangerous is that you act like what you see. Itís kind of
like seeing a baseball player go up and hit a home run.
They just go oh, you just hit the ball, and you donít
realize the years since they were five years old of hitting
a ball how - to make that look so easy. Itís a lot harder
than it looks. The great ones make it look easy. And to be
great I think you have to just study.
I think you have to study like thereís no tomorrow. And I
donít think a lot of actors these days think that thatís the
way to become an actor.
Operator: Your next question comes from the line of (Sheldon
Sheldon Weebie: Hi there. Thanks so much for doing this.
Jeffrey Donovan: My pleasure.
Sheldon Weebie: First, I just have to say that I have been
following your career ever since you were Kyle on The
Pretender and I love that you got to play so many complex
and interesting characters. It seems to be kind of your
But my question is, as one of the showís producers, what are
your responsibilities and how much input do you actually
have in the development of the show as it goes on?
Jeffrey Donovan: Basically my role as a producer is to make
sure the pretzel jar is full. No, Iím kidding. My role as a
producer on Burn Notice is very specific. Itís maintaining
the creative truthfulness day in and day out. And one of the
things that weíve found is that the tone of the show is very
difficult to grasp.
We watch it and you watch it and youíve watched it Iím sure
every season, you get the tone. Itís high stakes and
dangerous but it has a little cheekiness to it. Itís very
hard to act that.
Amazing actors have guest starred on our show and the first
day usually what comes out of their mouth is, is this how
fast weíre going to do this or do you really want me to say
these lines this quickly but with a smile even though Iím
saying Iím going to kill you?
Thereís a tone that is very - thereís a paradigm that is
going on in the scene always. Itís kind of a two tiered
journey. One is how am I going to act in this scene and two,
what do I ultimately want in this scene.
And a lot of time itís very duplicitous. So me kind of
pointing out occasionally to some guest stars is really my
job. And for the most part everyone is incredibly receptive.
And they know that Iím there just to help them with a very
And there are a few actors that say screw off, Iím going to
act it the way I want to. And theyíre never asked back.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from Jamie Ruby.
Jamie Ruby: Hello again. Are you going to be doing any live
Tweeting during the episodes this season again?
Jeffrey Donovan: No. Not this season. I - that was fun to do
and I enjoyed it but I was doing that I think while I was
shooting so it was kind of in a work mindset. But since this
is my hiatus, you know, Iím - itís the off season, I kind of
unplug and decompress and go away from the business world.
Jamie Ruby: Okay. And how are you most like and most
different from Michael?
Jeffrey Donovan: Iím as super intelligent as him. Thatís
probably the most likely. No, you know what? I could - Iím
nothing like Michael. I canít operate on his level. That guy
is like a master chess player. Heís thinking ten moves ahead
while he speaks and I canít even think one sentence good at
a time now.
See? Look at that sentence. I couldnít even make it up.
Jamie Ruby: All right. Well thank you so much. And once
again Iím a big fan.
Jeffrey Donovan: Thank you.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from (Stevie
Stevie Wilson: Speaking of that and since this is - youíre
on hiatus, what are you doing for you in terms of just
chilling out and having fun and all that kind of good stuff?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well I am - I kind of get away from Miami.
I have a house in the woods, literally and we kind of
retreat there. And it couldnít be further from Hollywood as
far as lifestyle. And I kind of get away from all of the
business and especially Miami.
Itís a very hard shoot down in Miami. We shoot at the
hottest time of the year, March to September. And then so I
just basically go away and I find some time in the woods.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from (Diane
Diane Morasco: Jeff, I loved you in J. Edgar as Bobby.
Tell me, as a Massachusetts native, what did you take from
growing up in the Kennedy world to make the role yours and
not a formulaic footprint?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well first of all, thank you. I, you know,
I read that and I begged Clint to play the role and he
thought about it. And while he was thinking about it I
actually worked on the role as if I had it and I didnít
care. I just wanted to play the role so badly.
And then I sent him a videotape of me playing Bobby just out
of an office in Miami and he hired me. And one of the things
that I found out later was there was actually an actor who
was going - he was going to go with because they thought
literally he was Bobby Kennedy.
I mean he had the right hair, he had the accent. But they
felt like it was so authentic it looked like an
impersonator. And I love that he went with me not just
because I could do the accent but because I was trying to
find the spirit of who Bobby was.
And if you know your history I think Bobby was one of the
greatest of the Kennedys and he would have probably been our
greatest president in our history. He was such a smart,
intelligent and philosophical man. And it was a tragedy to
And so I just tried to honor the spirit of who he was rather
than try to impersonate and put fake teeth in and put on a
fake nose and all of that stuff. I really wanted to get to
the essence of who he was and ultimately not, you know,
disgrace his name or insult the family in any way.
Operator: Your next question...
Sarah: We have time for one more question. Iím sorry.
Operator: Your next question is a follow up from (Monique
Monique Jones: Hi. With the relationships with Gray and
Michael are kind of endeavoring on at the end of the season
premier, what can you tell us about how theyíre going to
kind of (gel) together throughout the rest of the season?
Jeffrey Donovan: Well I think youíre going to be in for a
big surprise with Gray. And itís going to be very shocking.
So the - youíll realize after you see what happens, why
thatís kind of a difficult question to answer.
But I will say that the relationship that Michael has with
Gray and Card is going to turn Michael down a path that even
Sam will question Michaelís integrity. And I think thatís
what the fans are going to really be interested in is how
dark will Michael go?
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