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Matt Nix Talks 'Burn Notice' and Dark Deeds for a Noble Purpose

by Allison Waldman, posted Feb 25th 2010 2:02PM
matt_nix_usa_network_burn_noticeMatt Nix is the man who single-handedly entered the term "burn notice" into the American pop culture lexicon. In a recent conference call about the current season of 'Burn Notice' and Michael Weston's spy games, Matt Nix reflected on the past, gave us a glimpse into the exciting last few episodes this season, and assured us all that despite the torrid chemistry, Bruce Campbell and Sharon Gless are not going to hook up as Sam and Maddie. Michael and Fiona, on the other hand, that's still a flame that's burning... if you don't mind the pun.

Q: What can you tell us about upcoming guest stars that you have lined up?

Matt Nix: In the finale, we have Garret Dillahunt coming and doing a pretty amazing bad guy. Let's see, the guy who played Tony Almeida on '24' Carlos Bernard, is playing a bad guy who... under other circumstances he could have been one of the team, but he is willing to do certain things that they're not willing to do. He's a guy who's really committed to what he's doing. It's a pretty devastating performance. He's pretty awesome.

michael_fiona_bed_burn_noticeQ: What's the romantic situation with Michael and Fiona?

There are people that you can care for deeply, but for one reason or another, having a conventional relationship no matter how much you might want it, is extremely problematic. What's emerged for us is that Michael and Fiona are two people who have a really hard time being with other people and at this point, there's no question that they've acknowledged how much they care about each other. They're not really built for stable romantic connections.

When people talk about relationships on television, it's always the Sam and Diane model [from 'Cheers'], which is that there's romantic tension between two people and then that romantic tension gets released and then it's all over, right? We're sort of doing the exact opposite of that, which is nothing gets released. When people get together, it is not necessarily true that suddenly everything becomes simpler. Often times everything becomes more complicated.

Q: Are there plans for Sam and Madeline to have any sort of romantic relationship?

MN: I can absolutely promise you that Sam and Madeline will never have a romantic relationship. That is creepy and wrong and we would never go there. Sam is kind of Madeline's best friend. And Madeline is Sam's best friend. Michael is Sam's best friend mostly, but when it comes to a certain kind of stable, count-on friendship that doesn't have all of the baggage that comes along with being friends with Michael. It's not something that you see a lot of -- an adult man's friendship with his best friend's mother -- but it works for us.

Q: How did Chris Vance get cast as Gilroy?

MN: Chris Vance was the star of 'Mental,' which was made by the same studio as 'Burn Notice.' So they all spoke glowingly of him. ...When we're doing those arcs, we like somebody who has a lot of range, can play with things, can have fun with the role and is someone that we really want to work with. Chris was somebody who just hit all those marks for us and we're really excited to get him.

Q: He seems like the kind of character that could go for more than just one season... or do you have someone even more diabolical lined up to bring the pain to Michael?

MN: Well, I don't want to give too much away but I'd expect option two. The fun thing actually about Gilroy's character is this sort of snuck up on us in the execution. He's a really, really bad guy and it's fairly clear he has a sort of flirty energy with Michael. His relationship with Michael in the penultimate episode takes a really unexpected turn. It's actually one of our more touching moments in the season, but we didn't think of it that way, it just sort of worked out that way. So he's a villain who over the course of his arc comes to have an odd affection for Michael.

michael_sam_burn_noticeQ: In the episode, 'A Dark Road,' with Tyne Daly, we see Michael arguing with Madeline that he helps people... is Michael able to settle with this kind of living as opposed to working as a spy?

MN: Michael has been kind of coming to terms over the course of the last three seasons with the fact that there is a part of him that has to do this, and that if you look at the first season, he tends to take this attitude of this very reluctant hero.

He's doing dark deeds for a noble purpose and just because he lost his job doesn't mean he stops doing that. He is sort of a guy who is willing to use the dark to save the light. That's a pretentious thing to say but it's true.

Q: At this point in the series, how necessary is it since Michael to deal with who burned him?

The question of who burned Michael is no longer the central question for him. It's really more, what do I do about it? If the first season was who burned me, the second season is what do the people who burned me want with me? The third season is can I get unburned and if so, at what cost? So, we're kind of examining that question from different angles.

By the end of this season, we answer a very big question about Michael's burning. It's not necessarily the question that people would have thought to ask, although I think that it is a very interesting question to ask, but it is not who burned me.

Q: Will Tim Matheson be back as crazy Larry in future episodes?

MN: One of the things that we're conscience of in working with characters like Larry and Jay Karnes' character, Brennan, is that these guys operate on Michael's level. Those characters whose primary focus is on Michael, well, you can't do that every week. In the writer's room, we always joke that Dr. House can't operate on himself every episode. Those are special episodes and you love them, but you can't do them every week.

So, the answer is yes, Larry will factor into the series in season four. We haven't exactly figured out how but we have a basic idea and we love him. He loves Michael. Part of what's fun about Larry for us is that he's a guy who's primarily motivated by his love of Michael, which is a really odd thing for a bad guy. He's sort of like, "I love money and I love killing people, but mostly, kid, I love you, let's just hang out."

tim_matheson_larry_burn_noticeQ: So he loves matching wits with him? Is that what it is?

MN: Yes, he loves matching wits with him. But I think at a really deep level one of the things that we look at in this series is the idea that this job is really lonely. If you're Michael, you don't get to go to spy conventions and talk to other people who do what you do. It's a profoundly lonely gig. Michael gets to hang out with people who are reflections of him in a certain way. Sam has certain skills that Michael has. Fiona has certain skills that Michael has. They both have inclinations and a world view that is not precisely Michael's.

But Larry looks at Michael and says, "There's the one true friend that I ever had, there's the one guy who really understands me and yes, he thinks I'm a psychopath and he sort of hates me, but he gets me, man. That's worth something." That's what makes him so much fun to write. He's sort of arrogant, but he wants to be Michael's dad.

Q: As 'Burn Notice' progresses, does it get easier to write the episodes since you have established characters?

MN: We can do an episode now where people really violently disagree about how to pursue a particular problem and whereas if we had done that in the first season, people might have been confused as to what the relationships between the characters were.

Another thing that we're exploring in episode fifteen of this year, the episode before the finale, is Fiona. It's not fundamentally Michael's case. It's a big challenge for Michael when Fiona's going into stuff and doing things alone and facing her own challenges as a person and he's just got to be kind of sidelined and do whatever he can to protect her, but knowing that, ultimately, she is going to have to save the day in a Fiona way.

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This show is SINGLEHANDEDLY reaffirming my faith in TV programming. When all the network shows go on "winter break", I know I've got "Burn Notice" to get me through the season. The chemistry between the main three (well, four if you count Madeline) is dynamic, and the writing is witty and crisp. Plus, while I'm always pretty sure things are going to work out in the end, I don't feel pandered to with this amount of predictability.

I'm sad Gilroy bit it -- he was starting to grow on me (and was WAY less irritating than Carla or that weaselly "handler" from last season). But Simon seems to hold some promise. I can't wait for him to make Michael jump through some serious hoops before they have their final showdown.

And per the comment about cancellation, I always assumed this show would be maybe five seasons. I mean, like Mr. Nix noted, Michael found out who burned him, he tried to get back in, he's still saving the world. At some point, he's going to have to retire, preferably with Fiona on some beach somewhere in South America.


P.S. Incidentally, I feel "Royal Pains" completely ripped off the Jack-of-all-trades bit the trio from "BN" has and merely reset the scene in the Hamptons with doctors.

February 26 2010 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Daune Calovini

WHAAAAAT?? Garret Dillahunt? A BAD guy????? No way!!!

February 26 2010 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree...

February 26 2010 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

URL's : michael and fiona need more seduction scenes and Fi' needs help physically...she can be attractive ,but both of them don't know how to be seductive in short segments leaving you like URLS wanting to see the next one...more passion...Sam and Michael's MOM -I can see that..URL's...

February 26 2010 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yes, I agree that Fiona is looking physically awful; and very unattractive ; and the scenes that are created with Michael and Fi' are not real looking or sensual enough. Sam needs more with Michael's MOM ; I think that would bring Michael and his MOM alittle closer. Michael doesn't have to be so stern and serious all the time; but needs lessons on romance and seduction..

February 26 2010 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this show and will watch every episode gladly until it is no longer made, but.

Seriously, Gabrielle Anwar looks *sick*. As in ill. As in she needs professional help for what is clearly some form of body dysmorphic disorder. From her unhealthy thinness to the leathery tanned skin, something ain't right with what used to be a beautiful woman.

Get. Her. Some. Help. It's become distracting how skeletal she looks, not to mention how hazy the lens has to be every time she's in the shot.

February 26 2010 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just got finished watching the latest Burn Notice.... YOU GUYS ROCK!!! Thursday nights just are not the same in between seasons. I heard a rumor that this show was getting canceld at the end of the next season, is that really going to happen.

Ever since Michael, Fiona, and Sam became part of the USA network family, TV has just not been the same.... Hope the rumor is not true...
Great job!! Great Show!!

February 25 2010 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Chris's comment

I can honestly say I didn't see that coming with the end of tonight's episode. Considering how smart Gilroy seemed, the ending kind of came out of nowhere. Now we'll never know what Gilroy's motivations were to bring Simon over to see Michael. I'll definitely be tuning in next week.

February 25 2010 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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