PERCEPTION: Q&A WITH LEVAR BURTON
Q: How do you go about describing Perception to your friends?
A: I bugged them to death telling them how good I think this is. When I saw the pilot, I was like wow, I am really proud to be in this. I do a lot of fawning about Eric McCormack and the amazing performance that he gives on a daily basis. I talk about Ken Biller (Executive Producer) a lot because Ken and I have a wonderful history. It is so much fun over here.
Q: Tell us about your role and what first attracted you to the part in Perception?
A: Paul Haley is the Dean of the department for which Daniel Pierce teaches. What I like about this character is that these are notes that I haven’t played before. I think Dean Haley is a little bit officious, but in a humorous way. A lot of people don’t think that Kunta Kinte can be funny, but I get a chance to be a little bit of comic relief in some of these episodes, so I enjoy it.
Q: Why does Dean Haley want Dr. Pierce on his team at the university?
A: I think it was said in one of the first episodes that Haley puts up with his eccentricities because he is that brilliant. He’s a brilliant scholar and a phenomenal teacher. Also, he’s my friend. Haley, as much as he drags Pierce into situations that clearly make Pierce uncomfortable, also feels that he’s always got Daniel’s back. I think that is because they have this long-standing relationship. They seem to know each other incredibly well, and I love playing with Eric. The scenes that we do are really full of energy. I just think we bounce off of each other pretty well.
Q: Why is Dean Haley okay with him working with the FBI as a consultant?
A: I guess on some level Haley believes that it serves his ultimate purpose, which is always about getting funding for the university and for the department. There’s a little bit of selfish motive in there for the Dean. Also, I don’t know whether we will ever get close to revealing this, but I think he sees that it is good for him. It seems to calm him down, and a calm Paul is a good Paul.
Q: Will we ever see Dean Haley working with the FBI?
A: In one episode we give him a little opportunity to get up close and personal…perhaps for the good Dean it’s a little too close a little too personal. He has a little issue with the smell of a cadaver, and he doesn’t deal with it all that well. But he does fancy himself a bit of an armchair detective, so maybe they’ll give him another shot…as long as it doesn’t involve examining a cadaver.
Q: Do you have any good war stories from shooting the pilot?
A: I’d never met Eric before, so I flew into Toronto and had an opportunity to just watch behind the scenes for about an hour before I approached him. I was like wow, he’s really going for it…really going for it. I loved him in Will & Grace, but this is a wholly realized character that bares no resemblance to that guy from that other show. I think Eric is going to surprise a lot of people. He’s really putting it down.
Q: Do you have any favorite scenes so far this season?
A: Look for Dean Haley puking his guts out in the morgue. That has to be one of my favorite moments so far this season. As a good actor should be prepared to do, you can’t just puke once. You have to puke over and over again.
Q: What’s it like to work with the other actors on the show?
A: I love Arjay. I’ve worked with him before when I cast him in a project that I was directing. He’s terrific, and the dynamic between Lewicki and Dean Haley is pretty good. You know Lewicki is the one person in Haley’s immediate spear of influence that Haley didn’t hire. He was sort of forced on him by Daniel Pierce. So Haley tries to intimidate the crap out of Lewicki because he just doesn’t trust him. He’s always keeping his eye on him. And Maretti, it’s Rachel you know… enough said. She’s just lovely, and it’s easy to get lost in those brown eyes.