Interview: Terriers' Donal Logue

Many will recognize as Donal Logue as Jimmy The Cab Driver from MTV spots that ran in the mid 90s. Others may know him as the father on Grounded For Life. Still more might know him from ER, The Knights of Prosperity or Life. A veteran actor who has been working on TV for 20 years, the man has been everywhere. Now he’s back at front and center in the new FX drama Terriers.

While on a set visit for the show back in June, Logue talked to journalists about the series, including the heavy drama, what it’s like to work with Michael Raymond-James, and how his character, Hank Dolworth, operates.

Fair Warning: In this interview, Logue gives out many details and spoilers about the first season of the show, which I have hidden by changing the font color to white. If you wish to read these parts, simply highlight them. You’ve been warned.

What happened to get your character kicked off the police force?

I was asked to leave. I was fired basically. But it's interesting, it's only really come to light in the last couple of episodes (even for me) why it happened. It's been interesting because you always to have a - whether you've established it in the script or in the broader arcs of what's happening in a season on television - every actor has to have a secretive little toe holds and footholds on that wall. So, I had my own kind of scenario of why I was fired and it turned out to be quite different.

Does that happen a lot?

In a way, it's not untruthful. As long as you have something specific to hold on to, it's this nebulous grey area that leads you. And it worked well. I think once you start to get to know a character... It's funny because probably the way that Michael works and the way I work and certainly... sometimes I work from the outside in. Like the greasy cab driver I did for MTV. It sounds weird, but the glasses and the hair... everything starts to make this person. And if anyone random has a suggestion "you're guy would do or say" I'm like "I know the type of soap this dude's grandmother uses." I know everything about this guy, whether it plays or it's discussed or whether it becomes part of something. And it's similar to the characters we play here. I draw upon a lot of different things to stabilize myself while remaining flexible to however the storyline goes. But I think it's just something you have to do because then everything you do becomes comfortable. You're not struggling to find this person all the time or feeling like you've been put in this compromised position.

And I think in fairness to Ted Griffin and Shawn Ryan and Tim Miner that they listen to a lot of that stuff and incorporate as much as they can or help us with things that we're really tied to and help us bridge the gaps to these new things. Because there's a lot of invention as you go along in television, which is exciting about it. I don't know any series that has started the season with all of the episodes and the arc completely figured out. So you have to be ready to shift into...

And I think what's interesting about this show is - and you would be better judges than I - but there was a disconnect when I first read it in the trades, like "Logue signs on to do Ryan post-Shield, the one hour laugher is being set up..." and I'm like "Okay, you can have that take on it through this, but that's not what we're doing down here and that's not the show we're making." And hopefully that's not the show where the episode that you saw. There is humor in it and I think our interplay produces that kind of stuff. But I think that for me it feels the most grounded... If there's a poignant moment, it feels that way. Hopefully if we're in danger you feel that we're in danger.

And there's a little bit of those shows, the really incredibly slick procedural shows where you just start to get a feeling like "dead people aren't dead people." They don't have that emotional impact on the people who deal with them. And we have these conversations a lot, on every level even for people in the background. I hope that there's a level of honesty and realism that we tried to achieve with this. [Whether] we have or not will be left for others to judge.

I did want to ask you about the tone of the show, because from what I saw, it did kind of flashback to those '70s and '80s cop shows. "Starsky & Hutch," "Simon & Simon"...

I also think there was a bit of an evolution from the first two episodes that you've seen. It starts to find more of its tone and I think its tone is more grounded in the drama of what's happening in these two friends' lives and these two men who are kind of put together with hydrologic pressure on them that forces these decisions to be made. In retrospect, I look back on [the first two episodes] and [they're] played more on the other side of the spectrum than other things that we've done. If you were privy to episodes 3, 4 and 5 where the stakes get a little higher...

I hope that there's a camaraderie between Michael and myself and there's an ease between us that reflects onscreen, as much as did in some of those great buddy shows. And look, at one level or another, I've always felt that everything is "One Life To Live." Whether it's "One Life To Live" or "The Sopranos," there's always an element of soap opera in serial drama and comedy. It's just the quality of how you deliver that and how much you fight to make those moments real.

We enjoy the ride so much. Hopefully it has that effect on people watching us go through that ride... I hope that people see Michael and I and feel like there's an element of this that doesn't feel like it's removed by three layers of glamor that's assessable in a way. I hope we've created a slightly more ascetically realistic version of that '70s thing.

I don't actually think that what we've made at the end of these thirteen episodes is going to be exactly what everybody thought was going to happen to it. But I'm really proud of the way it vibrated towards what it became.

For instance, Laura Allen who plays Katie. There's a scene where she discovers that Brit... she knew Brit was a burglar but what she didn't know was that he met her because he had broken into her pad once and saw her picture on the fridge and was like "man this girl is hot." There's a couple ways you could go with it, but at the end of the scene there's kind of this funny moment. You think she's pissed and then she's like "climb back into the window in five minutes." And I'm like "okay in a sick way there can be a laugh about a little bit of burglar rape fantasy thing, but she plays it so dead on that it reveals her id a little bit. And it reveals this off-kilter psychological damage in her that you were previously unaware of; and because she was so powerful in that scene, I think it led to what starts to happen to her character. Because she claimed it.

I remember there was a line earlier and it was a little bit glib about my sister. My sister Karina [Logue] is in the show as my schizophrenic sister Stephanie. I think she's a genius and actually Shawn had worked with her on Lie to Me before I actually worked with Shawn, so it seemed like a perfect match. And there was some line that Brit was giving me a hard time about these rules that I have when someone is staying with her, like no sharp objects, all these things because she's a cutter and she's schizophrenic. And then he makes a joke about her being a gremlin or a goblin and I call him on it. And he started crying. I knew he didn't want to do it in the first place, because I was talking to one of the writers and was like "I actually have family dealing with shit like this. Imagine coming home to find your sister with 120 cuts on her body. That's real, that's blood. You have written that, you set the temperature of the pool. Now don't force me to swim in it and fucking pretend that it's funnyland."

That's like a real conversation that happens here all the time that both sides are really open to. And that's the hardest thing with me. That's why I think our tone is actually fantastic. Because as long as the temperature is right, you can go anywhere you want. Just as long as it doesn't feel like we're suspending the drama in progress for Bruce Willis to say a cool one-liner while twenty men are firing at his head. I think we fought pretty hard to make something unique and interesting.

Who was crying in that scene between you and Michael?

Michael. He makes light about my sister cutting herself and the thing is, because Michael and I are so close and how they start to inform each other, I think Brit and Hank are really close off the bat. So, the rules about how you would behave around one of your best friends and how you would be sensitive to apply between us as human beings and us as characters. So, when us as characters are asked to violate one of those rules the way we never would as human beings it's always like a weird thing.

Another interesting thing about Michael is a real actor's studio kind of student of the craft and he really is one of those guys that's kind of like "you've got to treat it like you would die if you couldn't do it." And I've never, ever felt like I've been flippant about my approach to what I do, but my approach is my approach and everyone has their own. But I think for both of us, it's been this really good tightening of the screws on what we're doing and everyday you have the opportunity to do something. You're going to come here and the camera's going to be here and we're going to do the scene. We might as well go as deep as we can and make it as good as we can.

And having him around really helps us error on that side all of the time.

Have you had some big guest stars on the show?

Yeah, we've had some. Michael Gaston plays the big bad guy. I'll talk about the cast. Kimberly Quinn plays my ex-wife, Gretchen Dolworth who in the pilot, reveals that she is getting married. It's the kind of thing where I'm hoping that a year after the breakup that one person will come back to their senses and get back together. And she's like "someone had to be the adult and I made the move." So a lot of what we dealt with this season is her new relationship and my relationship with her new husband and ultimately there's a real tragic consequence to that.

Who plays her husband?

It's Loren Dean, who played "Billy Bathgate." Unbelievably sweet guy. Really good actor. And that was interesting because sometimes different groups of people are writing the scripts and it had been written more antagonistically. But when you do a scene... Loren is kind of very sweet, like an old soul, sensitive intellectual and it starts to inform the dynamic of the relationship. So, even in the last episode they were like "Do you guys talk?" And I'm like "Well, if screaming is talking..." We've never gone down the route of two guys barking at each other largely because Loren's got this kind of soft approach. So we always adapt to what's real as opposed to what we're thrown.

Laura Allen plays Katie, Brit's girlfriend. She's fantastic. Of course, besides Michael, I love working with Rockmond Dunbar, who is just a great guy and a super duper actor.

Your characters have a big history together.

We have a big history together. It's like we were a couple. You know what I mean? There's all of these weird bromances and romances and we have this thing where we each kind of... he felt like I had betrayed him, which in a way led to my dismissal from the police force. But then he saw that it wasn't so. And this episode [the season finale] is kind of our big super-redemptive... a lot of it comes out. And he's... to what we do as private investigators and this conspiracy that we land upon, he's crucial to us as an officer who can operate within the law. We're crucial to him to do things that allow us to operate outside of the law. But he's just been fantastic to be around.

Jamie [Denbo] plays our lawyer. Anyway, I've loved Jamie forever. And Jamie is just what she is. She's funny and fantastic. She's incredibly bright and these people just show up and it's a weird world when I'm a little bit I think, because it's me and Michael two-headed monster doing everything. And then it's like they're coming in the basketball game for five minutes and then gone for two quarters or whatever. But they always come in awesome and do their thing.

We had Christopher Cousins who did a great job as [Robert] Lindus early on and a guy named Craig Susser who... I'll give you the lowdown. I got fired years ago and I was an alcoholic and it was because I was in such a deep alcoholic malaise in my life at the time, I actually didn't know what had really gone down. There were a string of rapes and the guy that I suspected had done them was a super rich kid from La Jolla and he was kind of like the frat king of college. And I realized that my wife had gone to school with him and then I found out that something had happened between them. I still think in reality it was a date rape situation although it's something that she can't really quite admit. And this fuels my personal revenge against this guy. And I'm so hell bent on this guy being the rapist that's it's discovered factually that someone had planted evidence in his car. And it happened on the night that I happened to be in a drunken blackout. So honestly, I didn't do it, I don't think, but I don't know. I didn't, but it was confusing because I was so messed up at the time.

And so Alison Elliott comes into the picture late in the season and she comes in to help us with this one conspiracy. But she's a local news blogger and she writes a well known blog in San Diego. And she thinks she knows who was responsible for this series of rapes. Not specifically, but she knows that they're in law enforcement. And what happens is that it turns out is that Gustafson (played by Rockmond), his new partner is the rapist. And knowing that I was so hell bent on screwing over the rich guy, he set the rich guy up and made it look like I set the rich guy up to throw everybody off. I've lost my career, the heat's totally off of him and so that all comes back. And that's when it's kind of like Rockmond, Mark Gustafson is like "I'm so sorry I ever doubted you." Meaning that you were the guy capable of doing that with evidence tampering and so forth.

Is that in the finale or something that comes out over the course of the season?

It comes out towards the end. Probably episode ten or so. nd then he really comes through for me in a big way here because he realizes that there's this massive conspiracy at play that is becoming very dangerous and it involves... the guy who has this development going on [from the pilot] and we come across this stuff and it kind of goes down this road where "ooh... it's got toxic chemicals there" and then my sister Stephanie, who is schizophrenic but also a graduate of MIT. She looks at these documents that we come across and she's like "this is bullshit. Because these compounds can't exist in this nature on Earth. Someone's trying to make it look there's cancer in the ground but it's not true.”

Then we're like "why would people be planting carcinogens to intentionally shut down their own resort?" And then we discover these other things. That these guys are basically trying to get up all the land in Ocean Beach - which is an actual community here - to build a new airport. Because San Diego has a one runway airport. It's the worst municipal airport in America. And it's always been a bone of contention. They want to move it to by Miramar Naval air base but they had problems with the military. And so this would be because it's not a high dollar part of town [and] that this would be the kind of place to do it. They're trying to clear all of this out and we stumbled upon that. People have been killed in the process and I'm blamed for it.

Now, I'm being sent off in this car to my certain death, but what I don't know is that Gustafson's arranged it to be like... they're basically going to let me go. And then they're going to deal with the problems as Brit and I are planning to go to escape to Mexico or something. And what happened was that Katie cheated on him and is pregnant. She doesn't know if it's [Brit's] or her veterinary professor's kid. And what was awesome about that was that kind of arc started with her little date rape fantasy. You start to realize that this girl had some fucked up shit going on, you know like people do.

That's what I like. You know, people have heavy stuff and I love it when people share stuff. Everybody's got their thing. Like they say in AA, you're as sick as your secrets. Everybody carries some kind of weight with them and when people aren't afraid to play some of that stuff... I've always felt that the most beautiful thing about The Sopranos wasn't tough guys shooting each other. But it was like a tough guy is gonna shoot another tough guy because he made a joke about the other man's overweight wife who he loves to death and it's beautiful and it's real. And he goes home and goes downstairs and she's hiding M&Ms in the laundry room. If you've ever come across an OA meeting, that stuff is as fucking real as heroin. All of these issues are real and they play in people's lives.

We've been surprised too. They've made a lot of great casting choices that aren't necessarily people that you know that well or whatever but they're really good. And a lot of San Diego actors are really good.

You wear your love for your ex-wife so strongly in your face in the two episodes I saw.

Yeah, it's gutting. She gutted me, but it's good because it's that thing in life where it's like it's what let's you move on and get strong when someone like her holds down this line... That's why I love doing scenes with her too because she's great and she's an easy person to love.

Terriers premieres Wednesday, Sep. 8 at 10 PM E/P on FX.

Read our review of the first few episodes of Terriers here.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.