STEELE INTERVIEWS: Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe

Law and Order: Criminal Intent returns for Season Eight. Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe reprise their long-running roles of Detective Robert Goren and Detective Alexandra Eames while Jeff Goldblum joins the cast as Detective Zach Nichols. He will work alongside Julianne Nicholson (Detective Megan Wheeler). Eric Bogosian returns to play Captain Danny Ross.

Academy Award and Emmy nominee Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, The Big Chill) joined the cast for season eight and will be playing Zach Nichols, a detective who was born and bred in New York City.

Guest stars include Kathy Baker, Janel Moloney, and Lynn Redgrave.

USA Network will be airing 16 all new episodes for season eight of Law and Order: Criminal Intent is different from the other Law and Order shows in that it allows viewers to access the minds of the criminals by showcasing the psychological approach the Major Case Squad uses to solve the crimes.

LAW and ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT premieres Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 9/8c.

Recently, I had the opportunity to join a question and answer session with Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe about their roles on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Starry Constellation Mag: I was wondering, Kathryn, what about your role continues to challenge you?

Kathryn Erbe: Finding ways to – let’s see. That’s a very good question. I don’t know, every day we have new challenges, just in dealing with the new actors that we get to work with. We have new writers on the show, new producers and I feel like it’s a challenge just staying involved with the work that we’re doing and staying actively involved in finding ways for Eames to stay important to the stories and to bring a positive – just have a positive effect on what we’re doing.

J. Steinberg: And Vincent, after so many seasons, how do you all continue to maintain chemistry between each other?

Vincent D’Onofrio: I think it’s been eight years now, so I think that anything the audience sees is just whatever has happened naturally in the eight years. I think that both of us kind of just rely on that – the history of the show and the history of the characters – to just somehow translate to the audience in some way.

Media Blvd: This first question is for Vincent. You’ve played quite a variety of topics. What kind of role do you enjoy the most, or does like playing maybe evil have a different set of challenges than what you’re doing now?

D’Onofrio: Is the question which I prefer?

J. Ruby: Yes, what kind of role; because you play good and evil, so –

D’Onofrio: I don’t know, I think I’m – it’s the same as most actors. Anything that’s interesting, you know. Like whatever comes my way, like the most interesting parts of those are the ones that I would do. I don’t really have like a dream role or anything like that. I just go script by script and see what’s interesting, and if not, then I don’t do it. You know, it’s like that.

Ashley Aikens: My question here is for Vincent and I’d like to know, what is it like to be developing a character over several TV seasons as opposed to having to develop a character in a two-hour film?

D’Onofrio: Yes, it’s completely different. When I first started the TV show, I kind of thought it’s ostensibly about the character, and did a lot of planning and stuff. Most of the planning went out the window, and then I just kind of tried my best after that. With a film, it’s much more – it’s really planned out scene by scene and there’s a real solid arc hopefully most of the time. The structure of the film is in three acts, you know it’s going to end – it’s easier to plan out a role like that. It’s just as interesting but it’s a completely different thing.

With the show, it’s just wide open. We just keep doing it, and there’s different crimes, different little stories to tell. So it’s two different things. I think I just always will prefer films. I just think that’s my favorite thing to do. But Goren’s a great character, so it’s good to do.

Pop culture Madness: What do you feel it is about a show like Law & Order that resonates well with viewers?

D’Onofrio: I think in our show I think it’s the characters, and I think we investigate weird crimes and I think it’s a popular thing on TV, these kind of crime shows and – just like people were not – and still are – into like crime novels and short stories. That’s what we’re doing, but we’re doing like a TV version of that, so – you know, it takes off and people like it.

K Clarke: Do you have a favorite type of case to tackle on the show?

D’Onofrio: Yes, I like simpler stories. Like we just finished one like a spree killer type story about one guy doing bad things, and Kate and I had to like, you know, catch him. It was more direct, not complicated, and it had heart, and I like that kind of thing.

Examiner: My first question is for Vincent: Your character goes into some very dark places, and we’ve seen a lot of changes in him since the beginning in the last season, and I was wondering what kind of toll that takes on you as a person, what effect that has on you, if any, in your real life.

D’Onofrio: Well, it takes a lot of time. It used to take a lot more time before we started sharing the episodes with another detective. But – you know, it’s – how do I answer this? The first four years, or maybe the first three years of the show, when we were trying to make the show a show, you know, just make it distinct from the other Law & Orders and just a plain old good show that people would watch, that was – that was hard. It was like a 24-hour job and it was with me all the time.

But that’s a long time ago now, and we all know how to do the show, and we know what the show is. And so it’s not that exhausting anymore. The hours are long sometimes, and when we are working we don’t see our families as much as we want. But that’s part of our job, so we have to do it. And as far as Goren, bringing Goren home, that just doesn’t happen anymore. I’ve been playing him too long, and it’s – it’s not something that stays with me.

Stuff We Like: I wanted to know … all the Law & Orders deal with heavy subject matter and I was wondering what you guys do during downtime on the set.

D’Onofrio: What do we do?

Erbe: How do we deal with heavy subject matter and what do we do in our downtime?

Dawson: Yes. What do you do like on breaks from filming?

Erbe: Lots of different things. Eat, read, I walk my dog. What do you do, Vin?

D’Onofrio: We run our families, over the phone. We try to participate in our lives out of our dressing rooms. Mostly that’s what I do.

Erbe: Yes, exactly.

D’Onofrio: And then if we can, if we have a moment of relaxation, like Kate said, we read or Kate walks her dog or something like that, exactly.

The deadbolt: When you guys first took on these roles, did you go into it knowing full well that this might become like a lifelong fulltime job … Law & Order franchise –

D’Onofrio: Lifelong, huh?

Erbe: I don’t think either of us thought that we were going to be doing it for eight years.

D’Onofrio: No way.

Erbe: No. They never would have gotten you to agree to that.

D’Onofrio: No way. And the first – what did we do, we did 13 at first, Kate?

Erbe: Right, yes.

D’Onofrio: The first 13 was such a blur that I don’t think either of us was even thinking about – I don’t think it was – I don’t know, it wasn’t weighing heavy on me what was going to happen. Was it weighing heavy on you, Kate?

Erbe: No. We had no idea. It was just getting through each day, really, trying to make it to the end.

D’Onofrio: The first 13 scripts were really, really good scripts and maybe there was like one clunker out of the 13, but they were really good scripts and very tough to figure out how to pull the show off while we were doing them. The last thing on my mind was like – it was just a blur. I wasn’t thinking about whether the show was going to run, honestly. That’s the honest truth. And I think we knew earlier than most people do with a – when you shoot 3, right? I think we knew pretty early that it was going to go.

Erbe Yes.

Moderator: We have a question from Amy Steele with Entertainment Realm. Please go ahead.

Amy Steele: Vincent, I have to mention The Whole Wide World is one of my favorite films. But I wanted to ask both of you what you like best about your character.

D’Onofrio: What do you like best about your character?

Erbe: What do I like best about my character? What I like best about my character is she usually has the right thing to say. She knows what to say; she’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t seem to have difficulty making choices. Nothing like myself in real life. I rarely know the right thing to say and she seems to almost have infinite courage and she’s sort of like my fantasy of what it would be like to be like that – strong all the time and know what to do all the time and have a clear idea of what the right thing is to do and that sort of thing. So I like that about her. I like that she’s a strong woman in a tough job and a scary job. I think they’re both courageous. I think most of NYPD is very courageous. So that’s what I like about her.

Media Blvd: This is for both of you: What got you started in acting in the first place?

D’Onofrio: I was introduced to it by my dad at a very young age, because he was always involved in community theater and stuff. So I used to run lights and sound and stuff like that for plays and things. But I really didn’t think of acting until I guess I was like 18, and then – I don’t know, it just – I just thought I’d try it out. I don’t really know why. I think it was just in my life, really. I think it’s my dad’s fault. So I just thought I would give acting school in New York, in Manhattan, a try, so I did. And then I guess I just caught the bug and went for it.

televisionwithoutpity: I just wanted to follow up on some of the stuff you guys have been saying. Vincent, Kathryn said that if you’d known it was going to be eight seasons, they probably wouldn’t have been able to lock you into the character. Why – I guess I have to ask – how have the managed to keep you two on and interested for so long, especially you, Vincent? You’ve certainly looked for a lot of variety in your film roles. Is it a love of the characters or is it a comfort zone or are they writing you the big checks, or is it a combination of all three?

D’Onofrio: For me it’s a combination of all three.

Erbe: Yes, for me too.

D’Onofrio: I have a lot of freedom because of Law & Order. I have a lot of creative freedom. I have a lot of creative freedom on the show and I have a lot of creative freedom with my own time to do other films and do anything I want, so – it’s a very good situation.

Erbe: Yes, and it gives us a structure for our lives. I mean, as actors, I never – I was ready to give up acting because I could not handle never knowing when I would have a paycheck or where the job would be, where it would take me; and having a daughter and now my son, I just couldn’t – it was just too hard of a life. And this gives us a – when we have time off, we know that it’s time off; it’s not time out of work, looking for other work.

And it’s really such an amazing experience to work with the same people for this length of time. It’s challenging and it’s so gratifying to know everybody’s families and – it’s just a very different experience from the sort of crash and burn of going from one job to another and really never knowing – this like gypsy lifestyle, never knowing where you’re going to be when. So it’s a very different, much more stable, if it’s even possible to say that – a stable environment.

Media Blvd: Do either of you have any new, I guess, acting projects coming up?

Erbe: You have lots, right, Vin?

D’Onofrio: Lots?

Erbe: You did like 17 films on the last hiatus – directed, starred.

D’Onofrio: That’s good, I’ll talk about that. I directed a film over the summer, a kind of new genre that I invented, slasher musical. I just finished it, and we’re taking it to L.A. in a week to sell to a distributor, so it’ll probably be out sometime, I hope, soon. I have a movie, The Narrows, coming out, and a movie called Staten Island coming out that I acted in – both of those. And that’s all.

Erbe: And I have a movie with Edie Falco and Elias Koteas called Three Backyards.

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