Interview with Holt McCallany and Warren Leight of "Lights Out" - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

The TV MegaSite, Inc.  TV Is Our Life!

Happy Holidays!Happy Hanukkah!

Click here to help fight hunger!
Fight hunger and malnutrition.
Donate to Action Against Hunger today!


MainNewsReviewsOur ShowsEpisode GuidesBuy!CommunityPolls
AutographsPhotosWallpapersPuzzles & GamesLinksStarsVideosOther

Primetime  Articles & Interviews Page

We Love TV!

This is just an unofficial fan page, we have no connection to any shows or networks.

Please click here to vote for our site!
Click Here to Visit!

By Suzanne

Interview with Holt McCallany and Warren Leight of "Lights Out" on FX 3/14/11.

This is a great show. Unfortunately, it was just canceled. That's too sad to think about. I really loved it. Ah, well. Anyway, it was great to talk to the star, who was really enthusiastic and loved to chat, as you can see from the interview below!

John Solberg – FX Network
Holt McCallany – Patrick 'Lights' Leary, Lights Out
Warren Leight – Executive Producer, Lights Out


Moderator Welcome to the Lights Out FX Network Teleconference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we’ll conduct a question and answer session and instructions will be given at that time.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host and facilitator, Mr. John Solberg of FX.

J. Solberg Hi. Thank you very much and thanks for being on today's call for Lights Out. I want to thank the critics and fans that have been so supportive of Lights Out. It's been one of the most acclaimed new shows of the year. Warren Leight and his team of writers have done a phenomenal job and the performances of Pablo Schreiber, Stacy Keach, Catherine McCormack and the entire cast have been superb. Finally, our star, Holt McCallany has delivered one of the most outstanding performances of any actor on TV this year. I want to thank Warren and Holt for doing the call today to talk about episodes 10 through 13.

With that, we'll open it up for questions.

Moderator Our first question will come from the line of Mike Hughes of TV America.

M. Hughes Guys, I was just hugely struck by next week's episode the David Morse one. I did not see the ending coming at all which is a sign of great television. I want to write about it and yet I want to make super sure that I don't do anything that spoils the surprise to the readers. So, I'd like you guys both to discuss that episode in general terms. I mean it really seems to define Leary more than anything else as a conflicted character, as both good and bad person. Holt, why don't you talk about that first and then I'll ask Warren?

H. McCallany Sure. I guess the first thing that I would say is that we were blessed with a tremendous actor David Morse in that role. He really, really created a very, very special character—I mean very, very heartbreaking and very authentic. If you hang around boxing gyms, unfortunately, it doesn't take long before you meet guys that have taken too many punches and are in that kind of condition. What David was able to capture so beautifully was that there's very often this sort of sweetness about them. This kind of child-like, kind of gentleness, almost an innocence about them and it's really heartbreaking.

So I think for 'Lights' Leary, they're combination of emotions at play. First of all, this is a guy that I fought. This is a guy that I admired. Larry Holmes has spoken very candidly over the years about how difficult it was for him to punish Mohammad Ali in the way that he did when they fought because Ali had been somebody that he looked up to and somebody that he really admired. I decided that that's how I felt about the “Rainmaker.” You catch a guy at the end of his career who maybe stayed in the game a little longer than he should of and he doesn't move as quickly as he used to and he becomes easy to hit. Jerry got hit a lot and now he's in this condition that he's in and like so many fighters, he's broke and essentially abandoned. Boxing is not a sport where you get a pension when you retire at the end of your career. So I have all of these things— I suppose, on a certain level I feel a measure of culpability. I feel a tremendous amount of empathy and I also feel a great deal of apprehension because I don't want to end up like him.

M. Hughes That's a real good answer, so I'll just ask Warren just real briefly. Given all then, we really established 'Lights' as a very decent guy throughout this. Then, of course, we have the whipsaw at the ending, which shows that he also had a lot of pragmatic stuff that he has to do. Just in general terms, kind of how do you see him as just a classic good/bad guy?

W. Leight I think that 'Lights' is a hero as opposed to an antihero. I like that it can be gray. I love going—I go to my preschool drop-off and the moms are debating it every week …, so there's room for debate. But I think he has a big heart, it's generally in the right place, but he's in a terrible bind. Early on in the season and again in this episode you see him do something that you know— I think one way that you know a guy is a decent guy is there's regret for his action, right. I think we'll get a sense for his regret. If you stick with the series to the finale there's a beat where you understand he is aware of the compromises and the tradeoff's he made to get to the finale, to get to the Death Row rematch.

I think he's a good guy in a terrible situation who has a fighter's way out when he needs to and he can think strategically under stress. Sometimes he pulls a trigger he knows will get him to the next round but it’s—he throws a punch, he knows it’ll get him to the next round but he's not proud of it. We definitely wanted, with the David Morse character, a sense of 'Lights' is also aware this is one possible future for him, a ghost of Christmas future we talked about in the writer's room.

Moderator Our next question will come from the line of Suzanne Lanoue of TV Megasite.

S. Lanoue I was going to ask Holt, I'm sorry you've probably been asked this a million times already, but did you have to do a lot of work to prepare for this role? Were you already really into boxing?

W. Leight I trained him.

H. McCallany Yes, I was in Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, I was watching Warren Leight up in the ring one day and he knocked out this journeyman heavyweight and I thought to myself, “Wow, if my showrunners have got that kind of punching power maybe I am really with the right guys.”

No—yes, I love boxing and boxing has always been my favorite sport. I was always into it and I boxed recreationally, all of my life. I always wanted to play a boxer because some of my favorite films as a boy were those great boxing movies, Raging Bull and Rocky and The Set Up and Fat City and Hard Times. I just loved those films and I just always wanted to play a fighter, all of my life. So, when this opportunity came along, for me, it was really like a dream come true. I have been wanting to play a character—they don't come very often, not roles like this one.

So, yes, I'll give you a brief answer. I had been in the gym training for many, many years but I definitely stepped it up when it was time to get into shape to play 'Lights'. I began trying to live the life of a boxer and that means everything that you would expect. Early morning road work, in the gym every day, lots of sparring and conditioning, watching my diet. I took an amateur fight and I fought in the master's division of USA Boxing, just because I wanted to have that experience. It's something that I've been wanting to do since my brother won the Golden Gloves back in the ‘80s.

So yes, I think I really—and to be honest, not to go on and on, but that was one of the most gratifying and exciting parts of the whole process for me because I love the atmosphere of the gym. I love the camaraderie of the guys. I love the whole world of boxing and the community, the sense of community I believe exists there. I love the fact that I was going to have an opportunity to focus attention on a sport that I love in a positive way. So, I was just thrilled, thrilled to do it.

S. Lanoue Warren, I was going to ask you, I don't know how much control showrunners have over the publicity …. Has FX done a very good job of selling the show to non-boxing fans or to woman because personally, I wouldn't have watched the show because I would have just thought it was about boxing, I don't like boxing that much, but it's a great drama. It's like kind of a soap opera in a way. It's great. I'd tell everybody to watch it.

W. Leight Oh, thanks and I guess it's a complicated question. I think that the push early on was strong. We saw Holt's mug everywhere. I wasn't one of those showrunners who go around gripping about why aren't they doing enough to promote the show. Holt's mug—I couldn't get on the subway, I couldn't walk on the street without seeing Holt's faces, which was of course, Holt, a tremendous pleasure for me.

In hindsight, would I like to have a larger audience with more women and would women have come to the show more easily? It's a second guess. I do know that when I talk to women, they came to the show at the behest of their husbands or at somebody telling them to watch it not because they were initially attracted to what they perceived the premise of the show to be. It was the strongest way to lead with the show coming out of the box.

I think that FX has in fact has since the premiere retooled some of the promos to show that the show—clearly it's not just a boxing show. This is, I think, a big canvas to write and produce and depict a family drama on and about a family up against it the way a lot of families are now. So I think that switch occurred. I guess the other thing I would say is I feel enough gratitude to these guys because the show wouldn't be as good as I immodestly think it is if they hadn't put it—these guys know how to put shows together. So I'm grateful to them for that. Do I wish more people are watching more initially and now? Yes, sure.

J. Solberg If I can jump in here, this is John Solberg—

W. Leight It's all John's fault by the way.

J. Solberg —from a marketing standpoint, from the very beginning first off the outdoor if you live in Los Angeles and New York that had Holt's image on there that's a very small part of the overall marketing plan. There were multiple television commercials that were created—television spots that were created—to target different demographics. There were male appeal spots that ran on FOX Sports and ESPN that were geared toward male audience, toward boxing fans. Yet, there were other spots cut that sold more of the family drama targeted in certain female programs and on other basic cable networks. So it was a pretty comprehensive marketing campaign targeted at specific audiences. There were a significant amount of commercials that ran off air and on air that sold the family drama of it.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of April MacIntyre of Monsters & Critics.

A. MacIntyre I'm fascinated with Billy Brown. He was not on my radar as an actor before this series and he's now really ramped up in the next three episodes. I wanted to know if you could talk a bit about working with him and finding him for this series.

W. Leight Well finding him was hard because I needed to find somebody who you could legitimately believe has been heavyweight champion of the world for five years and no one’s laid a glove on him. You need somebody in immediate and overt great shape who has physicality and can act. I didn't want and we didn't want to do a sort of a stock villain, maybe people framed him that way in the beginning of the show, but each week you get another layer peeled off of this guy. There's a lot going on with Death Row. He's a sophisticated guy with some early issues that are still affected his choices. So, I needed a guy—the same problems I think … trying to find someone to play ‘Lights’ trying to find someone to play Death Row.

Billy was a gift and I remember it was an audition tape watching it on the computer scan and I thought, “Okay we're done.” I just felt extreme relief when his audition came in because there are a lot of guys who look good who can't act and a lot of good actors who you just don't believe for a second would last 15 rounds or 12 rounds in a ring with me. But I had to work on his muscles and all that, get the training right for him, but other than that I think he was in pretty—it was a gift to get a guy like that. I think he was thrilled to be asked to do—as the character evolved, I think he was afraid that it was just going to be this sort of stock maybe an Apollo Creed kind of guy. His character has some dimension and every time we gave Billy more, he just ran with it. It was kind of great to watch.

You don't like him at all right Holt?

H. McCallany April, you know how I feel about Billy Brown. There aren't enough superlatives in the English language for me to describe this actor. I think that this is an actor that literally has it all. I mean he's got a great intelligence and humor and depth. He has a tremendous work ethic and he's a joy to be around.

From day one when I called him up and I said, "Hey, listen man, it looks like you and me are going to have to dance, so let's get into the gym and start working." This was a guy that didn't have a boxing background. Obviously, he's a very gifted athlete who's in just like super, phenomenal physical condition, but he committed to the work and to the training with such enthusiasm and with such dedication that I have to say, I fancy myself a hard worker and I've got to tell you I was so impressed with this guy. I just continue to be more impressed with him the longer that I work with him. I really think the sky is the limit for this actor. There's nothing that this guy can't accomplish in this business.

W. Leight The finale is Holt and Billy—I think it’s worth it to point out most of our fight scenes have been shot in one day. That one we had the luxury of actually two days. So it's amazing what these guys do in that amount of time, 14 hour days and just going at it. It's not the way film scenes are shot in the movies. It's really bloodier. We just don't have the time; they have to hit their mark.

A. MacIntyre Just a quick follow up, you had great guest cast, amazing. I'm optimistic for Season 2. I know FX is listening, so many critics, so many people that in the industry that report on what you guys do for a living are in love with this show and the audience is coming. So I'm very optimistic for Season 2. If that occurs, will you bring Bas Rutten back? Will you bring Eamonn Walker back in any capacity?

W. Leight Yes, I think that by the time we got there we've already figured out his arch, but I have plans for Season 2. I remain optimistic. Part of the reason we're doing this call today is to say we're still punching and there's still four great episodes left. If there's a Season 2, we invite Eamonn back. I haven't told Holt about it but there's a clear role for Eamonn in Season 2. Bas, I'd take any chance I could get. That guy—just to watch him beat the … out of Pablo Schreiber was thrilling.

H. McCallany I think he wants to be a good guy if he comes back ....

W. Leight Well, we have talked about—

H. McCallany “Can I be a good guy?” He keeps asking me. I said, “I don't know, Bas. I’ll have to run that up the flag pole.” But both of those guys that you mentioned for different reasons are—they really brought a lot to the parts that they played this season. The reaction to Eamonn Walker's performance was so positive. People just loved that character and our relationship and we work so beautifully together. Bas is an exciting guy. He's an exciting athlete, an exciting actor and whenever he's on film, you've got to watch him. Personally, I would love to work with those guys again.

Moderator Our next question will come from the line of Ernie Estrella of

E. Estrella My first question is for Warren. If there is a second season, the first season tag line was, “Everyone loves an underdog.” What would the tag line be for the second and if there's maybe a glimpse that you can give us what a second season would look like.

W. Leight I don't have a tag line but wait a couple weeks. I think what we're talking about for the second season in broad strokes is once you get there now what. I guess it would be, “Now what?” If you remember when Redford gets elected president—what movie is that, Holt?

H. McCallany The Candidate?

W. Leight The Candidate. I think it's like what the hell comes next for this guy? I don't want to say too much because if people haven't seen the finale, I don't want to spoiler alert it, but what happens to a guy—even though he's entered the boxing world, one of the realities of it for a guy like this is a $10 million purse by the time Barry Word takes half of it. By the time, the IRS takes a large swig of it. It's not like he's set. It's not like—$10 million an average boxer takes home less than the average—the take home is probably something like, it can be less than 15%. Some of the guys we've talked to talked about $100,000 purses and they took home $7,000. So, he's not out of the hole he’s in completely. He's also aware that he's made a couple of deals with devils in order to get to where he gets at the end of the season and I don't think he brought a long enough spoon, if you remember those old quotes. I think he's in deep with some bad guys as the season ends.

I think it's always interesting to see what happens to the rest of your family when your status changes. What happens to Johnny? What happens to the gym? When I was brought in, there was a sort of a pilot that wasn't fully successful and no one knew where the season would go. Now everyone goes, "Well, this season was obvious." I think Season 2, if we do it right, about midway through everybody will go, “Well, this was obvious,” but right now it's about getting to a Season 2.

I think we've also talked a little bit about the possibility of introducing MMA into Season 2 and that's an interesting place for the show to go. 'Lights' status amongst boxers changes as the season goes on and that's another place we would think about going.

Have you seen it all the way through, Ernie?

E. Estrella Yes, that answers and for Holt my other question would be we see on TV I think viewers maybe split his family in two, his immediate family and the one he grew up with. But does 'Lights' delineate a difference between the family? Does he put the priority, one over the other or does he truly believe that one big family?

H. McCallany Well, listen, it's a great question. I think that he is definitely a guy that is conflicted on a certain level and probably this guy would have been happier living in a neighborhood that he grew up in, in Bayonne, New Jersey, in a house down the street from his dads place, but he's got the McMansion. He loves his wife and children more than anything in the world, but you can take the boy out of Bayonne, but you can't take Bayonne out of the boy, if that makes any sense. So where is my heart? It's in two places.

Moderator Our next question will come from the line of Far Hossain of FarFlips and

F. Hossain First I wanted to talk to Warren about Theresa. Obviously, I think everyone wants Theresa and 'Lights' to be together, but they keep pushing all the problems under the rug. Where will that go?

W. Leight What we didn't want was a stock relationship and I don't think we have one. I don't think it's a predictable relationship. It's not a Leave It to Beaver time. She's just not a stock wife. At this point in the season, she's going in for it but I think we know her well enough to know that she just can't play along. She can't be the perfect sports wife and 'Lights' probably didn't want to marry that one. No one in 'Lights' life is easy. Why would his wife be easy? She's supportive. She's there when he needs them. What's kind of interesting to me with her is when the chips are down, when he's in legal trouble, when you think she should just hammer him, that's when she pulls the wagon in the circle and figures out strategy with him.

So I think they're bonded. I think they're enmeshed, but it's not a healthy relationship. They don't deal—he hid so much from her. I know everyone loves Holt and loves 'Lights', but he was lying to her for an awful long time and once you have that level of dishonesty in a relationship that poison just doesn't go away. She's got other things on her plate now. You'll see the episode that Nick Gomez directed that airs tomorrow night, she's graduating from medical school. They're in two different worlds and it would be interesting to see how the marriage can sustain the stress of the build up to the fight and then the post-fight, reaction. I think that's all stuff to watch. I think what it is, is an honest depiction of a complicated relationship. I don't think it's a perfect relationship and I think that's more interesting.

F. Hossain Holt, do you think 'Lights' has perpetual bad luck or I mean thinks that he has that or that he knows that everything happens because of his decision?

H. McCallany Wow! I suppose that if it's the debate between determinism and free will, then 'Lights' believes that he's master of his destiny, but at the same time you definitely can get into a place in your life where you no longer are in control of events. Events are in control of you. That's where I am.

W. Leight If I can jump in, we talked early on that 'Lights' makes a decision in the pilot to take that job to break that guy's arm, to break that dentist arm and that sends him on a spiral. It was a bad choice. You'll see it coming up again in the David Morse episode that follows the one that airs tomorrow, that choice got him down a bad path. Part of this whole season was an effort of recover from that choice, I think. … it’s the trails of ‘Lights’ Leary this year.

F. Hossain I actually thought that the episode … are we going to see more of Brennan after that?

W. Leight Oh, yes, Brennan comes back big in the last several episodes of the season. Actually beginning tomorrow night, I guess, his romance with 'Lights' sister is outed and that's not going to go over too well with Holt either.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Thomas Lewis with LAist.

T. Lewis Holt, I wanted to ask you in terms of your experience working in television—and I know you've had some experience with Warren before, but—what makes working with Warren different in terms of how you guys prepare. I know, obviously his background is on the stage but is there some things you can point out?

H. McCallany Well, I suppose I'm in a position where I'll have to say some very flattering things about my boss in front of him. But the greatest thing that any actor can ever hope for is to have good writing and have very bright, very talented writers who are passionate about the stories that they want to tell. Who are interested enough in you, as an actor, to try to understand what makes you tick and to try to create stories that you'll really be able to do justice to.

I'm a very, very lucky guy to be working with Warren. He's definitely the most talented writer that I've worked with and also as John Solberg or any of the other guys on this call with me will tell you, he's also one of the nicest guys in the business. Listen, let's be candid, there are many times in the television business when the actor is reading a script and thinking, "Oh, my God, what am I going to do with this?" You try to make lemonade out of lemons sometimes. You try to find a way to elevate the material and you try to—and often there’s no kind of— You understand, look, it can be very difficult for writers in TV to continue to deliver great scripts as the seasons go on and on and on and on. Everybody is under a lot of pressure and nobody has enough time. You have to keep working at such a fast pace and sometimes things don't really come out very well and you've got to kind of make the best of it.

I'm not in that situation here. I mean every single script—and we've touched upon some of it in this conversation. I mean think about some of these performances from some of these guys: Eamonn Walker and David Morse and Billy Brown. It's not just great writing for 'Lights' Leary. It's great writing for the entire cast and I include Elizabeth Marvel and Bill Irwin and my children. I mean what an extraordinary job Ryann Shane has done this season. Who knew when we were shooting the pilot that this young woman would shine in the way that she has?

So, we're very lucky. Warren and his team are very experienced and very, very good at what they do. It makes my job a lot easier. I just have to learn my lines and show up.

T. Lewis As a follow up Warren, you spent this lifetime in New York and again with a lot of work on stage. I think you did this fantastic job in bringing Bill Irwin in. He's a fantastic stage actor. I've had the pleasure of seeing him many times. I wanted to ask you about the presence of New York in this series. I think it's presented very realistically. It takes the guys some time to get to New Jersey. They don't just instantly pop up there. There's a process of getting there and the kind of environment that you picked for the show. How important has this been to you to have this kind of realistic portrayal of the town in the series?

W. Leight I think sense of place is very important. Actually, when I took over In Treatment, one of the first things I did in Season 2 of In Treatment was I moved Gabriel Byrne’s practice and his character to Brooklyn because I really didn't know where Season 1 took place and it bugged me a bit. I need to know—maybe sort of the limits of my—I don’t know—some sort of limit that I have. I need to know where I am before I could start writing. I need to have a sense of place.

I think the original pilot was set in Connecticut and I moved it to Bayonne when we reworked it. Bayonne has history and it's a tough working class neighborhood and it's isolated from the rest of the world. It's cut off from a lot of the culture blessings of the New York/New Jersey area. It's surrounded by highway and dirty water and people kind of don't move in and out of Bayonne that often and that easily. I like the tribal quality of that and so that we start in Astoria, Queens at the base of the Triborough Bridge surrounded by dirty water and housing projects and the ribbons of highway. It was a very good—I don't believe people can shoot Toronto from New York, but you can shoot Astoria for Bayonne and I think we did and we choose every location with extreme care.

To me, you learn a lot about class and culture from a place and just the exterior of dad's house, from Pops’ house tells us a huge amount that to think that the two big brothers and Elizabeth Marvel’s character grew up in that house with Pops Leary tells you a lot about what there life was like. We just saw that exterior from time to time and it tells us a good deal about who these guys are. To show that exterior of 'Lights' house in Far Hills, New Jersey—what we allege to be Far Hills—there's not much else around there. It's a lot of land. It's a big house and ‘Lights’ is—I think Tyson once famously said to somebody about, "Do you ever get lonely in the big house?" He's talking about himself and you worry what's that house like for 'Lights' when his family isn't there. What does he do? We don't have many traces of him in that house? So, I like setting up the world of Bayonne, setting up the world 40 miles away that's a whole other universe that 'Lights' is not as comfortable in.

Then from a shooting point of view, to get to shoot New York means I can bring in Elizabeth Marvel as his sister, Bill Irwin, Reg Cathey. There's a guy who plays Bill Irwin's concierge, Gus. This is a guy named Dan Moran. I've worked with him in various theater things for 30 years. I can kind of bring guys in—I have my own reparatory company with the Lights Out cast. It was very comforting for me to—we didn't really have much time to cast. We had to do it on the fly. We had a great casting director in Alexa Fogel, but I could get on the phone with Alexa and we can cast an episode in about eight minutes just from the actors she knows and the actors that I know and they're in New York and hit the ground running. In the David Morse episode, one of the toughest scenes anyone had to do all year was his first scene of the shoot. He came in fully prepared and nailed it. I don't know if you remember, Holt, the way he flicks the dime?

H. McCallany I do remember, yes. We had a lot of great actors this year. Alexa did a terrific job and Warren just listed a few of them, but there was nobody, nobody better than David Morse. I mean this guy—I would look in his eyes sometimes when I'm acting with him and he just would break my heart. He is a very experienced, very, very talented actor and it was really a privilege to work with that guy.

W. Leight So you get these guys in and they all kind of—in New York, word got out, “Oh, this is a good show to—” Everyone knew the actors we were bringing in and nobody wanted to be the guy who drops the baton in a way. There's a lot less shooting going on in New York and there's very little TV writing going on in New York. So to have a whole local production, the writer's room was here, it's what I’ve hoped for you don't get too often.

Moderator Our next question will come from the line of Stacey Harrison of Tribune Media.

S. Harrison I'm just wondering Holt you said you were a fan boxing enthusiast for a long time. I'm just wondering if either have you have gotten feedback from boxers and maybe what they respond to about the show if it's more in the ring action or outside the ring what life is like.

H. McCallany That was one of the most gratifying thing to me about this whole experience was that the real fighters have really embraced the show. We had a lot of them over the years, over this course of the season, Paulie Malignaggi and Mark Breland and John Duddy and Peter Manfredo. We did some work for our promotional campaign with Larry Holmes and with Freddy Roach and obviously our technical adviser is Teddy Atlas. So we had a lot of real guys and they really like the show a lot.

When we had our premiere, we had Wladimir Klitschko and Lennox Lewis and Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney and Mickey Ward. Afterwards, I was talking to some of the guys and Lennox Lewis said very, very complimentary things about the show. Larry Holmes was cracking up and he said, "Man, that's what happens to me when I try to make love to my wife something that bugs me every time, man, every time." They just loved it. Wladimir Klitschko was very, very complimentary and they all—you know what they say to you? They say, "Listen, if you need me, I'd love to come on. If there's anything I could do—"

If I had a dollar for every guy—I can tell you who they are. Lennox Lewis wants to come on. Sugar Ray Leonard wants to come on. Gerry Cooney brings it up to me every time I see him. So if that's any indication of what they think of the show—they not only love the show, they'd love to come work with us and do anything with us. For me, that was one of, as I said, one of the most gratifying things about the whole process.

W. Leight I think these guys—a couple of them have said to me and a couple of the journeymen guys have said, "Thanks for telling our story." Because I think people think we all know boxers from the moment they step into the ring till the end of the fight. I think what we're trying to do with the show, that's part of the show, but these guys live full lives and they're not brutes. They're complicated guys with gentle sides and tough lives and no union protection, and there in with a den of thieves. We try to tell that story as realistically as we could. A number of guys have said, "Thanks for showing more than what they usually show," which we take some pride.

S. Harrison You had mentioned earlier about how great boxing movies and obviously with the success of The Fighter recently, I was just wondering if you guys noticed any bump in awareness from that or if there's been any effects from the success that that movies had on people coming to your show.

W. Leight I would hesitate to say it drove people to us. It's seems like it’s the two—the movie and the TV show have existed in parallel universes. I remember being very anxious when I saw the promo for the movie in the early fall and I thought, "Well, is this show going to somehow get confused with that or are people going to feel like that satiates their appetite and not realize this show is about more than just boxing?” I think that certainly there was the illusion of oh we’re—we’re part of the .... So there's a sense that maybe something's going to pop because of this and there was a couple of boxing documentaries, but I don't think we benefited from that movie coming out when it did. I think it didn't make people want to see our show more. Maybe it compartmentalized an audience or satiated some people, but certainly it didn't give us a bump that we all might have hoped for.

H. McCallany I think Warren’s definitely right. Those guys are friends of mine. I know David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg for a long time. I did a movie called Three Kings with them back in the ‘90s. I know Mickey Ward really well because we're on the same charity together and we sit next to each other every year at the big annual dinner and I followed his career and stuff. I was really rooting for them. I like those guys very much and I'm happy for their success, but I will confess to you that there were several occasions particularly in the early stages, when the show was first coming up, where people would come up to me in restaurants or airports and stuff and they would say, "Hey, you're that guy from The Fighter.” And I’d say, "No, I'm Lights Out." They’d say, "What? No, you're from the boxing—you're from the boxing movie." I say, "No, well I'm from the boxing television show." They'd be like, "The television show?" “Yes, my show is Lights Out. It's on FX every Tuesday night at 10." So I think that there was some confusion. I mean obviously, there's a sophisticated portion of the audience that does understand, but I think that there was a little bit of that going on.

S. Harrison By the way, there's no question in my mind that Holt could take Mark. I just want to put that out there right now.

H. McCallany Well, thank you very much. I've only got 60 pounds on him.

S. Harrison Okay, that's why there's no question.

H. McCallany No really. But Mark is a good athlete. Listen, as I said in the past—

S. Harrison You could take him.

H. McCallany Yes, I don't know anybody wants to give up 60 pounds—but I take my hat off to him because I think that he accomplished something very admirable. He really worked hard to get that movie on and it's been a qualified success. I thought that Christian and Melissa deserve their Oscars. I'm very happy for Micky and I'm very happy for the sport of boxing but now that that film has kind of subsided a bit in the public consciousness, hopefully we won't. And in a world where we get to come back next year and for additional seasons beyond that I hope, there will no longer be any confusion in anybody's mind. As I said before, I love what they did but I also love the fact that with our show, we're going to have the opportunity to explore this world in a much greater detail over a much longer period of time, at least I hope we will.

Moderator We'll go on to the next that comes from the line of Lena Lamoray with

L. Lamoray Holt, when you first read the script for Lights Out, what did you think about … and has your vision of him changed throughout the development of your character and the series?

H. McCallany You very rarely as an actor have the experience of picking up a script and getting a few pages into it and realizing that what you're holding in your hands is not just a role on a TV show. But it's one of those special parts that comes along once or twice in a career, if you're lucky, an opportunity to do something, something really memorable and to be part of one of those rare shows that kind of passes into that special category. I understood right away that this was something that I had been waiting for and hoping for many, many years and it's proven to be that and more.

As time has gone on and I've had the opportunity to work with Warren and with the other writers and the other great actors and directors, the experience has just gotten better all the way along. Somebody, a moment ago, made the observation that they felt like the episodes have continued to improved. Well, my experience on the show continued to improve and my desire to play this part and to work with these people just continued to grow throughout that whole time too.

L. Lamoray Warren, I love Lights Out. It has to be my favorite series that you've worked on. What can you tell us about the knowledge that you've seen over the years has helped you make Lights Out such an incredible series?

W. Leight It’s funny, part of it is understanding that—a lot of it has to do with writing for your actors is one of the things I've learned that I try to impress upon with the rest of the writing team. If you have a good scene and it's not right for your actors, you don't have a good scene. That's just it. So when Stacy came onboard, when Billy Brown came onboard, when I saw what Holt to do it made my job much easier than other jobs I've had because there was no limit to what these guys could do. I never wanted to turn in a bad scene. The thought of getting Stacy at this point in his career a bad scene was just disturbing to me. I just didn't want to do it.

I guess the biggest thing I've learned, overtime, is your actors after a while know their characters. What they're bringing to you and what they know about their characters is at least equal to what you know about their characters. It's your job to see the whole story line but write for your guys. I think it's what Ellington did for his musicians. Score for the guys you have and that frees them up. They're not fighting it, try to give them as much back story as much possible so they don't have to manufacture stuff. You can always see when actors are kind of pushing because they're not on a firm foundation. They don't really know who—their character hasn't been thought out well enough.

So I just try to make the characters as three-dimensional as possible and then I try to listen to the actors, the read-throughs we had were thrilling for me and also very informative. I sometimes have to chase somebody down and say, "What was bugging you?” because this is not a cast that complains, and try to illicit— Stacy or Holt would say, "No, no, I can make it work." I have to pressure them to tell me what was bugging them and of course, they were most of the time right.

So that's something you learn I think overtime is to don't stand for your material. When you get into the editing room that's another re-write and it doesn't matter what a brilliant scene you wrote or someone else wrote if for some reason it didn't come together, move it, chuck it, reorder it. So, I don't think I could have done this job— I've had a strange career because I was in theater for a long time. I wrote movies that didn't get made or humiliated me when they did get made and then moved into TV. You learn a lot in the ... organization, but you're part of a machine there. So getting to find my own voice overtime and getting to spend time in the editing room and then to finally for the first time in my TV career get to choose music with a good music supervisor and that I think is a big part of the show too. Anthony Roman did a great job there.

I just felt like I had enough of the skill set when I got to the show that very little surprised me while we were going on. I didn't get … I never got to the scene and thought, "Oh, God, I don't know how to write this," or "Oh, God, I don't know how we're going to shoot this." There's some value to hanging around long enough that you have some experience and then to be blessed with these actors and also a world that's inherently dramatic. Boxers just get screwed and they just have a tough time with it. I'm always more interested in guys on the margins than even a heavyweight champion and this is one of those few fields where you can be at the top of your game and be penniless three years later and left for broke and nobody cares about you. I find the stories of these guys more interesting than the story of hedge fund managers, so.

J. Solberg We've got time for a couple of more questions.

Moderator The next question will come from the line of Chris Radtke with UGO.

C. Radtke Holt, this weekend Three Kings was on cable, man. It was good to see you as a 16-year-old in ....

H. McCallany Thank you. I love that movie man. I tell you what, David O. Russell is the real McCoy. He is a very, very interesting director with a very unique style. I know you don't need me to tell you this but I think we're going to hear big things from that guy in the future. He does great work.

C. Radtke It's such a good movie. I forgot how much I loved it, but seeing you was awesome, man and before I saw it, the night before powered through a bunch of episodes and just congratulations on this role, man. No matter what happens with the next season or not this—you've killed it this season. It's one of the best shows of the past couple of years.

What I really love about 'Lights' is after like—in the first couple of episodes, he is a hero. He is not an antihero. He is a guy that is honorable, a guy that does right by his family, and you're really watching him go through these really tough decisions. There are three kinds of things: there's the boxing life he has, the family life he has, and the kind of the dark places where he goes. What inspiration are you pulling on for each one of these three areas because they're different facets of the character and it's cool to see somebody that's not a real scum bag and that's the guy that's really trying to do what's right?

H. McCallany It's a great question. I looked at the lives of certain boxers that it seemed to me have been unable to reconcile themselves with certain losses that they had that kind of haunted them and I think made them bitter because I didn't want to make that choice. I thought, listen, we're going to follow this guy around and really get to know this character well. I think it's a more interesting choice for me as an actor and for the audience as well if he's fun to be around. If this is a guy that we're going to really like, if he's able to put behind him the bitterness about the loss.

Look, I'm a big fan of Smokin’ Joe Frazier and I have been for 30 years. He came to my premiere the other night, back in January and we got to hang out and fool around. I just think that he's one of the most nicest guys that you'll ever meet, but there's no question that Joe is still haunted, still haunted by all of the controversy that surrounded his fights with Mohammad Ali. He said to me one time—because we were talking about the show, when the dementia and all this stuff—and he goes, "They say Ali got Parkinson's, but he got a left hook-itis. He got Smokin’ Joe left hook-itis." I thought to myself, "Wow, man!" I mean these fights were 40 years ago. Do you know what I'm trying to say? Or Marvin Hagler when he lost that very controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard and then put himself in kind of self-imposed exile in Italy and seemed unable on a certain level to get passed it.

I didn't want to play that. Don't get me wrong, nobody wants to go out on a loss especially when you feel like you won the fight. It's not how I wanted to finish my career, but there was something else in my life that was more important to me than boxing and that was my family. Once I decided that I was going to play a character for whom his family was the most important thing in the world, then it was possible for me to move on in my life and to try to get over those feelings I just described. Also to get passed the need for the adulation and the spotlight and all the things that I think fighters sometimes miss when they go into retirement.

C. Radtke Warren, you brushed on New York and the New Jersey feel of the show, which is great and being able to work with some actors like Dan Moran and Bill Irwin. Bill Irwin plays a great villain but he's also Mr. Noodles on Sesame Street. How did he get their role?

W. Leight I just called him up.

C. Radtke He's so sinister, yet he's such a—

W. Leight Bill is—in New York, he's done a lot of great stage work. I had a play called Side Man years ago and he did a cold reading of it at a festival once and was just ridiculously good. I've known him a bit socially. I've known him a long time and I always liked—it's interesting when you get a guy to go against type. I know he's got great acting chops and he's very good about playing secrets. If you saw him doing any of these Virginia Wolf, he plays secrets very well and so that's what Brennan has. Bill and I have talked a lot about Brennan's back story. Bill wanted to know everything I had on it, but what you get from Brennan is one of these guys— There's a line on this week's episode because ‘Lights’ took a stab wound last week and there's a line about, "You've got to be careful with those knife injuries into the stomach. They can really cause a lot of internal bleeding." Now, why does he know that? He just knows a lot of stuff and I wanted a guy who could—he's very attractive, handsome looking guy, but there's something interesting about Bill. There's something always going on.

Part of what we're trying to do on the show is not hit the cliché on the head. So we've got a show that's set in New Jersey and there's a mobster. That's treacherous for me. That's bad terrain because that's been done really well by other guys. So I thought well Bill Irwin, I haven't seen that kind of mobster. There were guys we researched—there's a guy that sits on a stool—I think he's still there—on First Avenue in Second Street who's one of the biggest sport bookies in America. He's now like 85 year old guy and he's been on the same stool at a coffee shop down there and nobody lays a glove on him. He runs a lot of the book out of New York and he's a legend and he's scary as all hell. If you didn't know who he was when you walked by him, you’d think there’s just another old guy—was that Stanley Elkin who used to write about the dignity of men seen eating alone on national holidays? This is like an old guy with a cap on who controls a quarter billion dollars of book a week out of New York and nobody touches him and everybody fears him or at least respects him enormously. Those were the guys we were looking at, the less flashing mobsters. The flashing guys have been done and done to perfection, so I just had to go the other way.

C. Radtke And Dan Moran is as heavy is fantastic, man.

W. Leight Yes and Dan brings a lot to it in just little, little pieces. He has a line in the—I guess it's the David Morse episode coming up that tells you a lot about his character too.

J. Solberg Just so everybody knows, we're going to have a transcript available probably in the next 48 hours that we'll be able to e-mail you. Again, we want to thank everybody for being on the call. Holt or Warren, are there any final things that you'd like to add before we get off?

W. Leight The one thing I want to say is we've been really grateful to all of you guys. It was obviously disheartened to open with the numbers we opened with and it felt to me like—it was a real opportunity for the critical and blogging community and press community to sort of dance on our grave. Everyone seemed to appreciate that the show had good intentions and we’d worked hard on it and you stuck by it. I think things are beginning—it's obviously—it took a while. It stabilized.

We were in, and remain in, a very difficult time slot, I would take, basically, any other time slot day or night over the one we ended up in and nobody anticipated that slot being that way. But what we're beginning to hope—we’re seeing are just a lot of signs that it's beginning to turn around. I also think that the schedule have the potential to slightly ease up for us over the next few weeks. There are a lot of good dramas that have either played out their runs or are coming to the end of their runs and we're still going. These last four episodes—I think, most of you on the phone call have seen them or have them—they're pretty strong and we need to go out. We took the series—we went out as strong as we could with the series and if audiences come, we think they'll stay. We think that we may get a little bit more of a window than we've had. So we appreciate you taking the time out of your day to still stick by us. We believe in comebacks at Lights Out.

J. Solberg Holt?

H. McCallany Everybody loves a comeback.

J. Solberg Which by the way was the tag line for the show this first season. Alright, gentlemen thanks very much and again, thanks everybody for joining us for today's call.

W. Leight Thanks guys.

H. McCallany Thanks John. Thanks a lot.

J. Solberg Thanks everyone.

Back to the Main Articles Page

Back to the Main Primetime TV Page

We need more episode guide recap writers, article writers, MS FrontPage and Web Expression users, graphics designers, and more, so please email us if you can help out!  More volunteers always needed!  Thanks!

Page updated 12/4/13

ComedyDramaSci fi and FantasySoap OperasCompetition

Bookmark this section!
HomeDaytimePrimetimeTradingSite MapBuy!What's New!
Join UsAbout UsContactContestsBlogHelpCommunity