Andre Braugher is one of those actors who inhabits his roles so fully that you can't imagine anyone else in the part. Maybe not in a Daniel Day-Lewis-thinking-he's-Lincoln kind of way, but whether playing a career thief, a doctor or a detective, Braugher communicates complete self-possession in every role.
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This fall he stars in the new ABC drama The Last Resort, where he plays a submarine captain of a renegade crew. We talked to Braugher about how he prepared for this challenging role, his struggle to juggle work and family, and where he stashes his Emmys.
Q: How did you prepare for this role as captain of a submarine?
A: I've talked to as many sub captains as I can, but mainly I've spent a lot of time with my books, trying to discover what's at the heart of a sea captain in the midst of a disaster. I've got Caroline Alexander's The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty, and Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea. I've got The Odyssey, and Moby-Dick — great tales about the relationships of men together at sea in the midst of disaster. But Captain Marcus Chaplain, my character, is still evolving, and it seems like he has many layers, so I'm looking forward to discovering what they are [laughs].
Q: You costarred in the TV series Men of a Certain Age, which was a really different, lighter kind of role. Do you find yourself drawn in general toward more serious parts, like this new one, and Detective Frank Pembleton on Homicide?
A: My criterion for choosing roles is pretty simple. I get to that last page, and either I do want to do it or I don't. I knew from the moment I turned that last page of The Last Resort. I was reading in bed and turned to my wife and said, "Wow. You've got to read this." I need her on my side, because unless she consents, it's not going to happen because she's holding down the fort while I'm gone. She read the script and said, "You have to do this."
Q: I've heard that you work hard to have time with your family despite your busy schedule. How are you doing that while filming the show in Hawaii?
A: So far I'm doing it poorly. I'm a long way from home and I miss those guys. But I've been blessed with a wife who understands that opportunities to play this kind of character are precious, and she also understands that we're going to be separated for a while. We took those lumps in order to accomplish something that we both feel is a great benefit.
Q: What do you like to do with your family when you do have some time off?
A: Well, I'm a watchful father, so I like to watch. I like to be around. We're doing homework together and we're riding bikes, and we're visiting people and we're doing it all together because I've got three boys. When they go, they really go.
I don't gallivant. I haven't been to a party in years. My oldest son, Michael, is a junior at Oberlin, and we text each other. He's a performer and a musician. Thirty years ago, I was where he is now, but I resist the idea of giving him fatherly advice because it's ridiculous. He's got to go out there and find his name just like I did.
Q: Where do you keep your two Best Actor Emmy Awards [for roles in Homicide and the miniseries The Thief]?
A: They were in my office gathering dust for quite a while, but we had a Christmas party and my wife said, "Bring those things down." I polished them up, and now they're sitting on the piano in the living room.
Q: You turned 50 this past summer. How do you feel about that?
A: [Laughs] What's the alternative? You know, life continues to get better — and I'm not talking about possessions or acclaim or anything like that. I'm talking about the fact that I'm slowly becoming Andre Braugher, and I'm liking it.
Q: Do you have a dream role that you hope will come your way one day?
A: I can't imagine what the next wonderful piece of storytelling is going to be. But when it comes along, boy, I'm going to jump in with both feet, because that's just my m.o.: I'm an all-in kind of guy. So I don't know where it's going to be or when it's going to happen, but when I turn that last page, I'll know.
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