Armchair Interview: Lance Henriksen (Excerpt)
TheManRoom: What initially drew you to the character of Frank Black? Was it his special gift to see into the mind of serial killers or something more personal?
Lance Henriksen: Chris Carter got the script to me and I read it and I thought it was a movie. I was really impressed with everything about it except that it was so dark and I didn't really know where the light was going to come from, I mean it was unrelenting. I thought it was a great script and I asked my agent if it was a movie. He said no it was a TV series and Chris Carter wanted to meet and talk with me about it. So we had lunch together in a restaurant and he started telling me his idea for what makes this guy a hero. And what it turned out to be was that he had a family, he had this yellow house, and that was the core of his life. And it was also patterned after a guy that actually lived. And it all seemed very right to me because when you start out this story, the pilot had a back-story of a guy who had retired from the FBI because he was working on so many cases. I mean some of these guys work on 100 cases at a time, it's not like they just do one that is wrapped up by 9 or 10 o'clock at night. They are spread over a period of years. And this guy had actually had a stroke in a hotel room when traveling and almost died. That's the real guy. And then he retired, but again, being a brilliant guy - almost a chess player - and trying to pull different pieces of information out of the thin air and put them together and really understand what is going on. You know how complicated some of the stuff became on the show. And I thought, I am not like this character, but it was a real challenge and I loved the challenge of it. And that's the reason. It had so much going for it. It was complex and had some very intelligent stuff.
TMR: Upon signing up, did you feel Millennium would have the same legs X-Files had and if so, were you prepared to film 7 or 8 seasons?
LH: I knew that would happen but one of the biggest shocks for me is when we shot the pilot it took a month. And at the end of it I was really quite tired because when you are shooting a pilot, or the beginning of something like this, what happens is you are readjusting the fiber of your being in a way in order to do it. So it's very exhausting; it can be very tiring. Especially a character that is so contained as Frank Black was. It was even to a point where Chris (Carter) never wanted me to move my hands while I was talking because he felt it looked like I was trying to sell an idea. So he was trying to sell me on that. So by the end of the pilot, I was so tired. I said “Wow, that was a lot of work. Are we going to have a month to shoot each episode?” And he said no, we'd be doing it in about 8 days. And I thought “Oh buddy this is going to be tough!” That was the first impact on me and the second impact was we started the first season, and I had already time between the pilot and it being picked up to learn the first script. So I memorized the script and started shooting it. Halfway through the show I got the second script. And I knew that in about 4 or 5 days I was going to have to start the next show, so while I was working on the one I was doing I am learning the second script. By the time the show was finished I got the third script and I thought, “Oh my God, I am going to have to grind these scripts up and eat them in order to learn them.” I mean that's a lot of work and the script was about 48 pages. Two scripts are a movie so we did like 12 movies a year. And I thought, “Am I going to be able to pull this off?” Just the capacity in your brain when they come up with lines like “I detect an unusual element of mind-fullness associated with the violence” you go, "Wait a minute! How am I going to get a wrap around that one?" The writers and Chris were so articulate and creating a new language, they were doing something really different. And it really was a challenge and I knew the quality was going to be there because Chris had already done it in the pilot, and I had seen it, and I wouldn't think that he would stray very far from the level of quality that he had already started. So I wasn't worried about that. I was worried more about whether I was going to be able to encompass this.
TMR: One thing Millennium will never be classified as is an upbeat story. Did shooting one grim and evil episode after another take a toll on your personal life?
LH: Well, not really. What it did was just tire me out. My wife used to say to me when I'd come home, “Frank, can Lance come out to play?” because I was living the damn thing. She would say to leave Frank at the door. I never saw it as only grim because one of the adjustments that I made personally was that this character certainly was not judgmental of anybody. You can't really delve deep enough into any issue if you start by judging. You just have to look at it objectively and try and see the elements involved. So it freed me up quite a bit, it didn't make me feel like the world was a totally wretched and dark place because there are an awful lot of nice people.
TMR: I'm sure you've been asked what your favorite episode was before so to put a slight twist on that, what was the single most memorable moment on set for you?
LH: It was the pilot, was my favorite. The better memories were all of the actors that came on, you know as guest performers. That's my favorite memory. They were all different, they were Canadian actors, they were actors from all over the world that came on that show and it was really exciting because it was what I dreamt of. I like actors and there is always an adventure. It was just like boxing; you get in the ring and either become better or worse depending on whom you are with.
TMR: We know how KISS performed in front of the camera in "13 Years Later", but do you have any off-camera KISS stories to share from the filming of this memorable episode?
LH: Oh God, I was so tired. When we were working we hung out and talked but it's all a blur. Believe me, it's a blur.
TMR: Was recording the commentary tracks your first exposure to Millennium on DVD and if so, how do you think it has aged?
LH: You know the truth is I occasionally saw snippets of the show but I never saw it on TV because we were always working Friday nights, working through the night. And then finally when the first DVD set came out I saw one of the shows and I thought, “Man, this is a really good show.” And then I didn't watch anymore of it as I got really busy and got back into working in films. When we did the commentary I hadn't seen anything in a couple of years. And I just went “Wow.” Especially the one where the first part of that season where I met Klea Scott for the first time and we started working together, it was an airplane crash, in the first show that she did. And it was really a pleasure; you know, she's a great girl and again the climate was changing because we had gone from the Millennium group going from friend to becoming foe.
TMR: Do prefer doing feature films or Television? Which do you think is more suited to you?
LH: Well I love films. I would do TV again but it would really have to be something I could connect with. I mean Millennium was absolutely a phenomenon. It would be hard; I may get lucky and do something like that again but I don't know because it's a real hard thing to think of doing.
TMR: Have you talked with Chris Carter about reprising your role as Frank Black and bringing Millennium back?
LH: I always thought if Millennium was brought back it should be on HBO or Showtime or one of the cable channels, or Sci-Fi, or one of those. Because if it had language, more language and more freedom, it would be worth coming back for.
This interview is courtesy of The Man Room.
September 22, 2005