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Dylan Baker talks about Kings, playing creeps, and The Pitts - VIDEOS

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 13th 2009 1:03PM
Dylan Baker in KingsDylan Baker is one of those "That Guy" actors, a guy you've probably seen in a million different shows and movies, but can't quite place his name. But his "That Guy-ness" has a twist: he generally plays creeps, scumbags, pedophiles, and otherwise not-so-nice people. It's a lot in life he seems to be perfectly OK with. "I think they're more interesting. They're more fun to play."

In Kings (which Danny previewed earlier today), the Biblical-themed soap that premieres on NBC on Sunday, March 15, Baker finds himself in as equally reprehensible role: he plays William Cross, the head of a huge conglomerate that holds the purse strings behind the power of King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa (Ian McShane). The complicating factor is that he's also the brother of Silas' wife, Rose (Susanna Thompson).

I spoke to the 49-year old character actor about the show, how he thinks his character has a little bit of Dick (Cheney) in him, how he can play a child molester (fans of the 1998 movie Happiness will know what I'm talking about) and how much he loved working on the doomed sitcom The Pitts.

Obviously, Kings more than just alludes to the biblical story of David and Goliath. Did you go back to the Bible and read the story again to see if there was some comparisons?
Yes, I did. I mean, I went back and took a look at it, and soon realized that my character didn't really have a parallel that was real clear in the Bible, or at least in the biblical story. So I must say that my research went in a different way. I think I was much more interested in kind of figuring out what it is to...what do you need to be an incredibly huge, mega-millionaire guy who builds whole countries? Because basically my back-story is that along with Silas, I sort of provide the buck so that he can build Shiloh, and build the country into what it was. And in exchange for that, I'm expecting him to be at my beck and call, which provides most of my story for the first season.

No corporate warmongers in the Bible, I guess, huh?
None that were called that, at least.

Cross is also Queen Rose's brother, which further entangles things. Is there going to be more explored between him and the queen, and how their relationship goes back and forth? I know that Macaulay Culkin will be playing your son on the show.
Well, I would say there are three storylines for me. One is the whole thing with Silas and the fact that if he's not listening to me, then I want to see if I can't change the corporate structure so that I have somebody in place that has my ear...or you know, is listening to me all the time.

Two, there is a whole thing where the queen decides that one way she can get me to play nice with Silas is to say, what about if we bring Andrew back, your son. And that's a whole different storyline, which I promise you, becomes very interesting as we go on. And then the other story is just my sister. And she is in quite a position because she's no dummy. She knows that Silas, that one of the reasons he married her was because of me. But she also knows that she has had as much of a stake in building Shiloh, and building the sort of the culture, the heritage of the royalty factor as anybody in the country. She's really made it a place where you're proud of the king and queen, and give them great leeway.

So she's constantly trying to instill in her children that sense that you have gotta carry this on forever...our line has gotta extend. And that becomes a huge thing. And I think that's also important for me. I certainly want to be in the same boat. I want, and now that I've sort of latched my star onto this, I want to also be a part of a dynasty that goes on forever.

When you were doing the Q&A at a screening for online writers, you had some very funny lines about Dick Cheney. "We all need a little Dick back in our lives," I think is what you said. Did you use him as a bit of inspiration to play Cross?
I think more of that really came from, it became my wife's (Becky Ann Baker, who is also on the show) shorthanded way of explaining who my character was in the story. She was constantly saying it to people: "He plays Dick Cheney in the story." I must say that I think that Dick Cheney, one of his legacies will be bringing more power, individual power, to the presidency, and certainly to the vice presidency, than had been there in many, many decades at least.

Do you think the show, in part, is kind of a commentary on the corporatization of America's war efforts abroad?
You know what I would say? I would say less that that is what the focus is, but more that it's sort of what drives the plot. It's not about that as much as it's what's used to drive the plot and create the intrigue.

What are your hopes for the show? Where do you think this show can go if it goes beyond the first season?
It's funny, people look at it, and they say, "OK, he slew Goliath with the stone, and then he became the king of Israel." But you know, in those words "between the slewing of Goliath and becoming king," there was a whole lifetime in there. There was a lot going on. So I think that our show, taking off of that as sort of source material, David can go through a whole lot before he actually becomes king. And I'm not saying when that's going to happen, but when it does, there's going to be a whole lot of possibility for great television between then and then.

Do you like having that niche of being like one of those actors that people may recognize but not know by name?
I really don't mind it. I find I go in airports anywhere in the country, and someone's always coming up to me and saying "Hey, you're at my country club in Dubuque, right?" You know, because they kind of know my face, but they don't know why. And that's fine with me. That's fine with me. I'm happy to say "Yeah, yeah I am. I'm a caddy. I'm a caddy in Dubuque. That's it."

But this leads me to another question, because a lot of roles have been that kind of everyman, kind of Ward Cleaver-ish dad, or something like that who ends up being kind of a scumbag.

I mean, the role that I think of right away when I think of you is child molester Bill Maplewood in Happiness. When you get these roles, do you look at it and go, "Oh not another evil bastard."?
Oh no, not at all. I think they're more interesting. They're more fun to play, I think. But also, I strain with these roles to find kind of the humanity. I mean, with Bill Maplewood, it was finding the good side to this guy. And for me, it was that he really loved his family. He really wanted to do good things. He loved his wife, he loved his children, but he had this secret that he was nursing, and it became an obsession, of course, and it became a fatal flaw. But on the whole, there was also that part of him that wanted to be a family man and wanted to be the best father he could to his two sons.

How do you play a role like that? Outwardly, he looks like the All-American Dad, but inwardly, he's lusting after young boys.
Well I think, it's again, trying to find the positives if you can. And for me, it was that, oh this thing about the boys is just something I do, it's just my kind of hidden desires and it doesn't affect anybody else. It doesn't affect my life. And then, of course, when it gets out of hand, he realizes that he has really hurt these boys, and is destroying his family's life. And that's when, of course, it's too late.

When I was looking at your IMDb profile, I noticed that there's a remake of The Pitts happening?
That was going to be an animated version of The Pitts. Because it really started as a live version of The Simpsons, kind of. And then that was The Pitts. And then all of a sudden, the way television is, Fox is looking for animated shows, and they got interested in possibly doing an animated version of The Pitts, and I don't think it's going to happen. But I know it's still there on IMDb.

I loved The Pitts. I just loved it.

What was it about that experience that you enjoyed?
It was, probably the best thing was the Scullys: (Producer) Mike Scully and his wife Julie Thacker Scully. They are just such incredibly funny writers. And each week, they came up with more absurd stuff to do. And it was a great cast.

That's another role where it's kind of like the veneer All-American family, but there's something bubbling underneath.
Right, right. But again, it's this guy that thinks it's all good, and that he loves his kids, and everything's fine.

Right. But it's not fine.
Right. (laughing).

Do you think that the traditional multi-camera sitcom form is on its way back? Do you think you would want to do something like that again?
No. I don't think that form is ever going to work again. I really think that the one-camera sitcoms are the way of the future. But I know that they're going to keep trying to do those three-camera shows, or four cameras, whatever it is. And again, somebody'll come along and do it right. I guess Seinfeld still was a thee-camera show, wasn't it? So, I mean, it's possible, and it's certainly cost-efficient if you can get it all done in that night.

But what we found with The Pitts was that people were screaming. They were laughing so hard, they were laughing their heads off, and then we'd hear when people would watch it back, they'd say "oh, they have that canned laughter." It was not canned. People were pissing themselves they were laughing so hard. But people didn't believe that it was really real, true laughter.

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John Stewart

I recognized him instantly from Drive.

March 13 2009 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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