If you’re a fan of Billy Brown, who’ll continue to recur as August Marks on FX’s Sons of Anarchy while costarring as one of the captors in CBS’ new drama Hostages (which debuts tonight at 10 p.m. ET), we have good news: His role on Hostages lasts longer than the one he had on Fox’s The Following last season (his FBI agent was killed off in episode 3). “Yes, as far as I know, I’ll be around for the duration,” Brown says with a laugh.
On Hostages, Brown plays Archer, one of the four kidnappers (led by Dylan McDermott’s Duncan) who holds a surgeon (Toni Collette) and her family hostage the night before she is to operate on the president of the United States (James Naughton). If she makes sure the president dies, her family lives. How does this turn into a 15-episode series? As Collette told EW in our Fall TV preview issue, “It’s not about a family tied up on their couch. They continue to be monitored, but the captors are smart and they know that the family has to get back out into the world and continue to look normal.” Viewers will also learn about the secrets family members are keeping from one another as well as more about Duncan’s crew.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you compare Archer to August?
BILLY BROWN: They share some commonality of intensity in certain moments, but August is still learning to be disciplined and focused through all storms. Archer’s that guy. He’s got structure and discipline, and that’s having the background in the Army, and then moving into the Army Rangers and contract work outside of that life — all of which adds up to a guy who is highly organized and supremely motivated. So the intensity can be transferred to aggression, as well as to the more intellectual side.
Will we see Archer’s past in flashbacks?
[Producers] been very cagey and not releasing a lot of those details of upcoming story lines to us. It comes up a lot at table reads. “Guys, where is this taking us? How is this gonna play out? What’s next?” They’ll give a nod and a wink and swiftly move the dialogue to another topic. They’re doing that for a reason. It’s smart, because what’s in front of us with every episode at every table read — it’s a belly full. I know we are using flashbacks selectively, very surgically. It would seem to make sense to get a glimpse into Archer and Duncan’s past, as they do have a connection militarily speaking.
What’s something you really wanted to bring to this character?
Always, for me, a 6’2″ black guy in America (laughs) you want to try to find a vulnerability whenever you can. The intensity, the heaviness, the brooding factor, or the badass, if you will — that can be not only easily attained by the actor, but the audience is looking for that. It’s the same way when a brother’s walking down the street and a nice couple crosses over before they encounter him — they’re projecting or expecting something that may not be there. They’re not seeing in me automatically that vulnerability, that tender side, the intellect, so those are the elements that I try to find in the scenes we have and explore them further. It makes everything more rich.
Can you give me an example?
Without getting too specific because I don’t want to spoil things, it’s in the voice, and it’s also how I deal with people and allowing the interaction between [Archer, Duncan, and fellow captors played by Sandrine Holt and Rhys Coiro]. Not being the one who is needing to drive the scene or the weight of it, but allowing the understanding and the connection when we learn the real reason why Duncan is doing this. On the surface, we have the president’s life at stake, and we have the surgeon who is to commit the act. But this is not a glory mission. This is not guns and ammo. There’s real human concern and thought and frailty behind it. All that in mind allows me to move forward scene by scene without just being the badass without a care in the world, an automatic killing machine.
You’ve been flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles shooting Hostages and Sons of Anarchy. How has that been?
One example is, I came in to LAX on a Friday night after filming Hostages, hung for the weekend and prepped for Sons. Monday I was out at Disney Ranch, up the 14 Freeway in the high desert, shot at 6:30 or 7 in the morning for about three hours, then raced back to LAX to make a noon flight to get back to New York to shoot at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. It’s a little nuts. But when the opportunity for Sons came along: I hadn’t watched the show, but I’d heard about it, and I’d worked with [SOA exec producer/director] Paris Barclay before on Cold Case and Dirt, Courteney Cox’s show for FX. You start to see how the DNA of various shows, networks, producers, and directors starts to intertwine. So I go into the room, and Paris is there, which is beautiful. We already have a great dynamic. I get the gig of August Marks. I get to know [creator] Kurt Sutter better. I’m telling these guys as we advance last season, “I’m here. Let’s do this. I’m lovin’ this.” And the guys on the show are great. As intense as the show is, the whole cast is very welcoming from the get-go. Kurt writes beautifully, and it’s a pleasure to bring his words to life, as any of the cast will tell you. With Sons, I say if I get the knife or the bullet, that’s cool — my time has been well-spent here with these guys, learning a lot and working alongside them. So when Hostages got picked up, I told Kurt, “Hey, man, if CBS and Warner Bros. is willing, fly me back and forth. I’ll hit my marks, say my lines, and be on my way. Let’s keep it going as long as we can.” We’ll see what happens the rest of the season, but so far, that’s been the deal — back and forth, in and out.
We’ll see August again in this week’s episode (Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX). I’m always surprised how much I like him. I somehow forget his involvement in the death of Tig’s daughter and just enjoy the vibe he has now with Jax. There’s a certain respect there, if that’s the right word.
It’s something that Kurt Sutter and I talked about in detail when I got word that Damon Pope had been killed. Kurt was letting me know that August’s dynamic with Jax had been set up and now we could really explore how you’ve got two young guns — if not in age, at least in their respective positions — who are coming to terms with newfound and great responsibility almost at the same time. So you immediately get that respect that you otherwise might not have if there was a greater disparity in experience or understanding of the game, so to speak. It’s easy to make everybody the adversary, but then you’ve got a one-note show after scene-after-scene. The complexity comes out of that understanding and mutual recognition.