Not only has “Grimm” been a surprise success for NBC, but even a bit of a surprise for the stars of the show itself. Despite a former starring role on the TV series “Lincoln Heights,” Russell Hornsby’s new gig playing detective Hank Griffin may not be the lead, per se, but has brought him much more recognition than any other credit to his name thus far.
“I think any time you are on a network show, you are going from maybe half a million viewers to five to six million viewers a week. So it’s a numbers game.
“I also think that for the longest time I was a face that people recognized, but they couldn’t put the face with the name. I think now they have been able to put both of them together, and so now I see people and they say, ‘Hey Russell, how’s it going … love Hank … love Lincoln Heights.’ Before it was like “Hey, you’re an actor, right … I know you are on something … tell me what you’ve done.’
“So finally they now recognize me (and) as an actor they know my name, and that’s what I really appreciate. I have less autonomy that I used to obviously because of that, but that goes with the territory.”
Another thing that seems to go with the territory is being cast as a police officer, which seems to be a recurring career theme. Hornsby thinks it might have something to do with conveying an air of authority, and confirms the powers in charge did try to cast actors in roles perhaps not so far removed from their personalities (and yes, that includes Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe.) They also cast actors that really hadn’t had a breakout starring role prior to “Grimm.”
The lack of superstars has created a cool vibe on the set amongst cast members and crew.
“Number one, I think our heads are in the right place, and but also the fact that we are not in L.A. helps a lot because you don’t have the friends and the family members and the people that are whispering in your ear, and putting a wedge through the cast.
“Everybody comes to the moment very humble, very appreciative, very gracious of the opportunity. With the landscape of the television and the entertainment business now, people aren’t taking their opportunities for granted. I think that makes for a greater cohesion amongst the cast, and I also think that it’s going to make more of a creative environment and a more creative dynamic between us.”
Thus far, Hornsby’s character has been pretty much the “normal” guy in a world full of beasts. His partner, Nick (David Giuntoli), has a family history of slaying aforementioned beasts, or being a “Grimm.” Of course, Hank has no idea about this secret life his partner Nick has. But as the season approaches the end of its first run, Hank is going to find himself getting tangled up more in that unknown world, giving Hornsby a chance to get in on the supernatural fun of the show and get some “juicier” story lines.
He’s already had a run in with one toxic babe, which he barely survived.
“I think that the writers are doing a wonderful job of incorporating Hank into the world of Grimms, and allowing him to be affected by it. Hank is starting to question his life, his ability to do his job well — is he getting too old for this, has the world changed so much that he is not in touch anymore — so these are some challenging dynamics for the character, and for me to play.”
While playing a police officer may be old hat, Hornsby does want to bring a bit more to his character than the typical cop roles he’s played in the past.
“I mean the writers, Jim and David, had sort of said to me ‘You know Russell, this is your character — have fun with him.’ And that all trickles down into his way of speaking, his manner of speaking, how he walks, how he dresses. You know, sort of collaborating with the costume designers on things that Hank would wear, and things that are specific to Portland — it’s been a wonderful collaborative effort and working with the writers, and the directors, and whatnot to sort of bring Hank alive, and sort of see how does he fit into the story, and how does he fit into the world.
As “Grimm” is his first venture into a “genre” show, is he worried about the stigma some cast on anything related to horror, sci-fi or fantasy?
“I mean, of course, I love sci-fi and stuff like that, but I’m not, like, a comic book crazy guy. But now I’m able to appreciate the world of science fiction, and the fairly tale genre in a whole different way. So I’m really excited by it — it’s still very intriguing and very interesting to me as I’m growing into the character, learning more about the world of Grimm, and the world of fairy tales and science fiction.”
Beyond understanding the horror or fantasy genre itself, one of the pleasant surprises for Hornsby has been learning about the cult behind the genre, and specifically, the genre fans.
“The fact that we got a full season surprised me, but what’s even more surprising is just the following, and the real appreciation for the show, and for the genre. I mean, you have to understand this is new to me. I didn’t follow ‘X-Files’ when I was in college, I didn’t have a TV, and so I just remember people in the dressing room, or in the green room of the theater, and the ‘X-Files’ is coming on and all the crew members are watching. It’s crazy being on the other side now.”
Hornsby first got the sense he had signed on for some kind of strange phenomena at Comic-Con, where the fans showed tremendous enthusiasm from a two minute preview clip. But it was enough for the cast to see the beginnings of a cult following brewing.
“It was like, are you guys seeing what I’m seeing? Is this real? We were all literally pinching ourselves.”
With its character-driven story lines, the show has proven to carry a broader appeal than the typical genre audience, and even found itself being labeled a family favorite — at one of Hornsby’s favorite Italian restaurants in Portland, he often gets fed on the house by the owner.
“She says ‘Thank you for giving me something that I can watch with my family on Friday night.’ Every time I go in, you know, they put out some wine, an appetizer or salad, and she is like, ‘Here baby, this is just me saying thank you, thank you so much. My family loves you. They love the show. We can sit down and watch together.’
“It’s great — that happening on a Friday night, when the kids stay up a little later. I think that sort of helps our cause as well.”
The series is winding down on its first season, but there is still plenty of action to come.
“There are going to some wonderful cliffhangers. Nick is going to have to make a decision — a choice as to putting his job first and his commitment to be a Grimm over his love for Juliette, and his commitment to the friendship with Hank, and I think that’s going to lead to a very interesting cliffhanger for this season.”
Not too bad for a series that looked like it might be doomed before it started, after a disastrous set of circumstances led to Game 7 of the World Series airing at the same time as the premiere.
“Oh man, I thought we were dead in the water. You have no idea,” says Hornsby. “I mean, we were on set, almost in tears, Silas and I. I could not get over it. I said we were going to be dead before we even got a chance to get off the ground.
“But we’ve overcome many obstacles, and I’m having a ball, I must tell you. I mean, just going to work everyday is so easy. I think the fact that we are shooting up in Portland really helps because not being in the machine of Los Angeles sort of sets your mind at ease.
“The crew that we are working with, they are just gracious and wonderful people. And you know we also aren’t taking ourselves too seriously, either — we get to make movies. We get to play everyday, and just have a good time.”
“Grimm” airs Friday nights on NBC at 9 p.m. ET.