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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
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
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
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
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
Moderator Our next question will come from the line of Suzanne Lanoue of
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
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
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
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 FranklyFar.com.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Lenolamoray.com.
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
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
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
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
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.
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