Interview with Frank Harts of "Prodigal Son" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Frank Harts

Interview with Frank Hart of "Prodigal Son" on FOX 10/25/19

Here is the audio verson of our interview!

Suzanne: Congratulations on the show getting picked up for more episodes.

Frank: Oh, thank you so much. It's a very exciting time. I know everybody in the Prodigal Son family's very happy, especially me. It's always cool to be appreciated, right?

Suzanne: Right. Yeah, I enjoy the show. I watched the first episode a while back and reviewed it for my site, and then I watched the rest of them last night to prepare for this. It's really good. It gets even better as it goes along.

Frank: It really does. It really does. And that's the thing that makes it exciting about going to work every day is that it's hard to beat the previous episode and really there is no beating it. Everybody is just sort of keeping the bar set high each episode as we go along, and so it makes our lives as actors a lot easier. I looked at your site as well. It's a pretty cool site. It's been around a long time.

Suzanne: Thanks. Yes, it has. For the Internet, it's been a long time.

Frank: Oh, okay.

Suzanne: Yeah. So tell us about your audition for the show.

Frank: Yeah. Well first of all, I'd worked with Chris and Sam before on another show and really enjoyed working with them. And so when I heard about this, I was excited when Meg Simon called me in here in New York and had the audition for JT. So I read with her in the room, we had a good audition. I'd known Meg for a long time, so it was just like being with family.

Frank: I had a great audition and then, next thing you know, I'm on a plane to LA to meet with the team out there, and did the same thing again. We seemed to click, so here we are.

Suzanne: How long did the whole process take?

Frank: I'd say about maybe a week or so, week and a half, from what I remember.

Suzanne: Wow. That's fast.

Frank: And really it was just a matter of ... From the time that I went in here in New York to the time that I got the job. ... Yeah, yeah, I think it was about a week, from what I remember. It's been a while now. It seems like so long ago, because you go through so many hurdles just to get a show on the air and then to have it be such a success. I mean, you almost have to block out some of the things in the past just to make it to the next hurdle.

Suzanne: Sure.

Frank: Yeah. And to [inaudible 00:02:38].

Suzanne: That's good. And had you worked with any of the cast before?

Frank: No, I had not at that time. We all met for the first time on the show, and the chemistry was instant, which was another lucky thing. I know people always say, "We all get along so well. We're such a family."

Suzanne: Right.

Frank: I say that because it's true. There's nothing to lose by saying that and everything to gain. I think we click.

Suzanne: That's good. It's a pretty big cast. Did you all get to know each other at all before you began filming or just right away?

Frank: Let's see here. No. I think there were a few ... The great Lou Diamond Phillips sent out an email to everyone just saying ... No, I think it was a Twitter post or something, sort of welcoming us into the fold before we all met the first table read. So that sort of broke the ice and made us all feel real warm inside. And so the first day we had the table read everybody was feeling pretty good. So no, we didn't meet for lunch or do anything like that before. Just the first day at work.

Suzanne: Okay, well that's good. Yeah. He's very active on Twitter. I've followed him for a long time.

Frank: Very active.

Suzanne: Yes.

Frank: He makes it seem so easy.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Frank: It's a lot of work.

Suzanne: It is. Yeah. And takes time too, but he probably just takes it with him all the time, I guess on his phone or something.

Frank: He's at it. He's at it. Makes it seem so smooth and easy. I learn a lot from him.

Suzanne: You have some great talent on that show with some veteran actors. Have you been learning much from Lou and from Bellamy Young and Michael Sheen?

Frank: Well, I haven't had the good fortune of working with Michael yet. We're in separate camps on the show at this point. But I'm hoping that at some point those worlds will merge. But yeah, I mean, always learning.

Frank: I went to Julliard here in New York City and got to begin the learning journey from greats early on in my career. It taught me the main thing is to keeping an open mind, open ears, open heart when you go onto a set and never prejudge anyone or a script or character and sort of start with a blank slate, tabula rasa.

Frank: So what that allowed me to do is be in the [inaudible 00:05:27] of a great person like Lou Diamond Phillips and be open to learning through osmosis and making myself better, as opposed to just thinking that I know everything already.

Suzanne: Sure.

Frank: I've done pretty good. We're all sort of in the NBA of acting, so to speak right now. But just because you're on the court, doesn't mean you can't learn from your fellow players and make your game better each time, for lack of a better metaphor.

Frank: So that's where I'm at right now. And Lou's so funny too. I'm a jokester. I like to crack jokes. I think I'm pretty funny. But my God. I love to be on a set with somebody who also has a great sense of humor. And really everybody does. Tom Payne, Aurora, everybody.

Suzanne: Well, that's good. Yeah. That makes it more fun and relaxed, when you're ...

Frank: Yeah, it is. It makes it more fun and relaxed. And now that we're in sort of a rhythm, about 10 episodes in. We're on episode 10 now with filming and we're in a nice rhythm now with some great directors and writers headed up by Chris and Sam. And yeah, we're feeling good, feeling pretty good about things.

Suzanne: Good. Now, we've been slowly learning about each character in each episode. Your character is former military from Brooklyn. Did they say which branch of the military?

Frank: You know what, actually, JT is from Harlem, actually.

Suzanne: Oh Harlem, sorry. Sorry. I wrote the wrong thing down.

Frank: Yeah, he's from Harlem. No, that's no big deal. We really haven't gotten to talk much about that on the show yet. Just got to be patient, but you'll find out more about that soon enough.

Frank: But yeah, he's from Harlem, well, around 139th and Lenox he grew up. He didn't have a lot growing up, but he did have a loving family, loving mother and grandmother. And decided after high school that it was time to, shortly after September 11, to go and in 2004 actually, and join up with the Marines and fight for his country.

Frank: A few things you learn about over there in Afghanistan and in particular to begin with was what it meant to take a life as well as save one. I think that is the fading last part is what he's excited about doing back here with the NYPD.

Frank: I went through a whole character diary, which I won't spill onto you now, but essentially after the military, he came back and studied criminal justice for two years at John Jay and in the Police Academy. He signed up and he's been on the force for about 10 years, second grade detective. And his military training is still come into in handy. I think every now and then we'll see more of that as the show goes on.

Frank: We haven't really gotten into the military background much yet.

Suzanne: Right.

Frank: But it's coming. So ...

Suzanne: Did this diary, the writers give you that?

Frank: No, no. I do that for myself.

Suzanne: Oh, okay. Your own.

Frank: That's one thing I started back at school, just sort of learning. It's part of my process just to figure out, even if we never hear about it or think about it, just for me as an actor, it's helps me so I don't feel like I'm just saying lines. We obviously have more three dimensional characters. Just like any human being, we're a certain age, we have certain experiences, we know what kind of clothes we like, kind of food we like. We've had years put into our own lives.

Frank: So I tried to do a sort of a shorthand version of that, a character I know nothing about early on. Just spill as much of a lifetime onto a page as possible before we get that first take on set. And anyway, not to get off my pants. That's sort of where my brain is at.

Suzanne: Oh, that's interesting to learn about it. What any actor, what the process is. In one of the episodes, Malcolm tries to guess what JT stands for. Do you know what JT stands for or are they leaving you in the dark?

Frank: Well, I'm going to plead the fifth on that one.

Suzanne: Okay.

Frank: Because yeah, I mean, I'll say that ... I mean, yes, I do know. I do know.

Suzanne: You do know.

Frank: But what they also know and we'll see if we both know the same thing. I have an idea about what it-

Suzanne: Oh, they have told you or they haven't told you? If I can [inaudible 00:00:10:09].

Frank: Well, it's up in the air right now. So it's pretty good.

Suzanne: Okay.

Frank: There's a couple of options, but I have a pretty good idea of what it is.

Suzanne: Okay.

Frank: I'll put it that way to you.

Suzanne: Okay. And will we learn more about JT in the future episodes?

Frank: I hope so. Yeah. I mean, well, I guess I should say yes. I mean, I guess we're there now. It's still on, I guess we're going to have six on the air this Monday and we're going to learn. And like you said, there's so many characters on the show and the writers are just so wonderful about introducing the back story in dribs and drabs as we go along. There's so many characters and I think, yeah, JT has a lot more to explore and I think we're going to be seeing some of that soon.

Suzanne: Good, good. Now, I read that Michael Raymond James joined the cast as a new serial killer. Have you gotten to work with him at all?

Frank: We haven't had a chance to work together yet, but I'm hoping that it'll happen.

Suzanne: Oh, yeah, he's great. Did you ever see him in Trueblood when he played the killer there?

Frank: You know, I didn't get a chance to see True Blood at that time, so, no, I guess, but [crosstalk 00:11:30] great things.

Suzanne: That's fine. Yeah, it was, it was great because he seemed like a really nice guy and then the shock of finding out that he was a serial killer was, Oh no, not him. You know? So ...

Frank: Yeah. I mean, I'm such a huge fan of everything that HBO does. I worked with Damon Lindelof on The Leftover for HBO and just excited about his new show, watched it as well. You have your own great thing going, doesn't mean you can't love others too.

Suzanne: Sure. Right. Yeah, no, I have a friend who really loved The Leftover, so he's going to be really jealous that I talked to you I think.

Frank: That's was fun.

Suzanne: And do you have any other projects that you're working on or that haven't come out yet?

Frank: Basically right now I'm just focusing on this and I had a few things that I was going to be doing that I had to say no to, unfortunately, because of the scheduling. But that's fine with me because I'm just happy to be right where I am right now.

Suzanne: Sure.

Frank: And during the hiatus I'll go back to maybe do a little Shakespeare in the Park again. I always enjoyed going and doing that. Maybe a little movie or something next summer. I don't know. Things are pretty open right now and we're just focusing on Prodigal Son and we'll see what happens during the time off. I'm sure there's something fun and exciting, whatever it is. I always seem to end up in the middle of something pretty wild and crazy.

Suzanne: Yeah, I read that you're a writer. Are you still writing?

Frank: Yes, I am. Absolutely. In the downtime that we really don't have, I'm trying to keep up with myself. But I have some things already finished. A few pilots that I finished before we started shooting. And now, during my days off trying to, in between raising my 14-month-old son with my lovely wife Shelly, trying to do rewrites on those shows, as well as a play that I wrote about the great jazz legend, Charles Mingus.

Suzanne: Oh, okay.

Frank: So yeah, you know. Just always have something brewing. But right now just focusing on the show and trying to keep ... It takes most of your time and attention.

Suzanne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Frank: And then I'll get to get back to that stuff when the time is right.

Suzanne: Right. And thank you for telling me about your family, beaus I never, I never liked to ask about that because you never know. People are weird about things like that sometimes. So ...

Frank: Oh, I love them. I love them. My little boy, Hendricks Harts is the light of my life. And again, my wife Shelley's amazing. We were happy to shout it from the mountaintops.

Suzanne: Sure. Yeah. And is there anything else that you'd like to tell fans of the show or of you?

Frank: Oh, I mean, I just appreciate the loyal fans that are out there already that are supporting us every week. And expect a lot more from character development and history from JT. And always expect me on my part as an actor to bring my full self to the screen.

Frank: I don't go into this thing to play games. I mean, we could be doing anything. I could be an accountant. Actually, I'm not that good with numbers, so I couldn't do that. But if I'm going to do this acting thing, I might as well live this character's life to the fullest.

Frank: So I'll have to say I promise I'll always bring my best to the work and to the writing. I think together we'll all continue to make a really good show, because I think everybody's on that same page where they're all pros and they all come to play and play hard.

Suzanne: Great. Yeah, yeah.

Frank: I'm happy to be a part of it.

Suzanne: You use spoke before about the chemistry and I really love when you have those moments where you guys are joking around and they have the humor scenes, like between you and Bright and that kind of thing. It really makes the show a little extra special.

Frank: Well, I'm so glad that you said you mentioned that, because it really does. Those moments have a special place in my heart, especially with a few episodes ago we had a ... it was a short, but a really lovely scene in a car with me and Bright talking about respect and the way he views police officers and law enforcement.

Frank: I love those quiet moments on screen between two people where you can really just connect and bring an audience on that journey with you. As well as the big fun explosions and ensemble stuff as well. But those quieter moments can be so touching. Right?

Suzanne: Yeah, they are. And they have so much humor and they lighten up the rest of it.

Frank: Yeah. That's important too.

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