Mark Deklin Interview: Actor Calls New FOX Series 'Lone Star' a Mix of 'Dallas' and 'Big Love'
Mark Deklin has worked on Broadway and at regional theaters across the country in addition to his work in film and television. He holds a MFA from the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program, as well as a BA from Penn State University in English and History, and is a certified member of the Society of American Fight Directors.
The critically-acclaimed actor’s television appearances have included Desperate Housewives, Big Love, Nip/Tuck, Sex and The City, CSI: NY, CSI: Miami, Guiding Light, Frasier, Las Vegas, and Charmed. On Broadway he has had leading roles in Sweet Smell of Success and The Lion King.
“I taught English, I worked for Green Peace, and went to Europe for a while. I dipped my hand in publishing. I was just trying different things.”
Deklin will star on FOX’s buzz worthy new drama series Lone Star this fall. The show follows a charismatic conman who has meticulously constructed two lives in two very different parts of Texas, and Deklin plays business executive Trammel Thatcher, brother-in-law of conman Rob Allen (played by James Wolk).
Veteran actor and Oscar winner Jon Voight also stars in the series that is being hailed as the new Dallas. Lone Star premieres on Monday, September 20 at 9:00 PM Eastern.
FOX will distribute a special DVD of the pilot episode in the October issue of Vanity Fair magazine and the full-length premiere show will be available to users who purchase and download the October issue through Vanity Fair’s iPad application.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mark, the new series, Lone Star, sounds interesting.
Mark Deklin: I hope so. We’re doing our best to make it interesting, that’s for sure.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I believe it has been dubbed the new Dallas.
Mark Deklin: I’ve been describing it to people as more Big Love meets Dallas, partly because the guy has more than one life and one wife. That’s the obvious comparison to Big Love. But I think it also has a cable feel to it. It has a certain edginess and a sort of underlying subtlety and intelligence that I love and that’s what drew me to the project.
You’ve got a protagonist who’s really not a good guy, but somehow you’re still cheering for him even though what he’s doing is despicable. As the show unfolds it’s going to be neat to see how people … we’re going to get more fleshed out as human beings. We’re going to see the various sides. There won’t be any clear-cut good guy or bad guy or anything black and white.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your character, Trammell Thatcher, is not necessarily good or bad?
Mark Deklin: I think my purpose, at least for now, is being an antagonist. But I think we’re going to see other sides of Trammell as the show progresses. Do I think that my character is the nicest guy in town? Absolutely not. But I think we’re going to see sides to him where we go, “Oh, there’s some substance there. He’s not a flat out villain.”
I think also we’ll see some selfish behavior from some of the characters who seem very likable. Nobody in the show is going to ultimately be black and white. I think we’re all going to live in a moral grey area and that will be what’s interesting about the show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James Wolk plays the conman. He’s relatively new to acting, isn’t he?
Mark Deklin: Yeah, but in fairness to Jimmy, I don’t know that he’s new to acting per se, but he’s certainly young. If you look at his IMDB page he doesn’t have a mile of credits, but he’s really good. He just has a natural charm and has really embodied what his character needed to be.
In life, Jimmy just has this sort of boyish optimism and it’s so great to watch. The character needs that in order to go along for the ride with this guy. I was telling a friend of mine that I couldn’t have played that role. I mean, I could’ve but it wouldn’t have worked because I’ve always had sort of a dark side to me. I’ve always had an edge and if I were to play that role you’d just say, “Oh, what a jerk!” You’d think I was just a bad guy. But, Jimmy brings a likeable characteristic to this guy who’s doing despicable things.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): He makes you see another side to the character.
Mark Deklin: Absolutely. I think he’s a guy … we have to remember the setup is that he’s not a malicious guy, he didn’t get into this with the intention of hurting people, it’s just all he’s ever known his whole life. His father raised him to be a conman and he was on the run his entire life. He doesn’t know how to do anything else except pretend and con people and he’s having a bit of an existential crisis. He’s suddenly going, “Wow, I don’t know if I want to live like this. I think I want to be a real authentic human being, but I haven’t the first clue how to begin doing that.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll bet it’s very interesting to work with academy award winner Jon Voight.
Mark Deklin: Its many things, interesting being one of them (laughs). It’s a funny thing because when Jon first came on board and we all met with him one night when he was undecided whether to do the project, we hit it off well. Jon’s a hell of a guy. He’s really the sweetest guy. Everything he does comes from his heart. We’ve actually become buddies. It’s cool.
Jon and I have this great relationship where we like to give each other a hard time and argue about things. We like to go head to head but we do it respectfully and rather lovingly and I think it really works for our characters because they have that kind of relationship also – an eldest son and a father. So it has been a treat.
Jon is an actor of great stature and he has a larger than life quality that he brings (quite appropriately) to this character. But, at the same time, it has stopped being surreal for me. Now I don’t look and go, “Oh my God, that’s academy award winner Jon Voight!” I just sort of say, “Yeah, there’s my buddy Jon.” It’s really nice.
Ultimately we’re a real team, all of us. There’s not a sour apple in this cast and that’s a rare thing. We’re all team players and want the show to be the best it can be. We’re all nice people, too. I know our characters are a nest of vipers but we’re actually a bunch of really nice people and we all genuinely like one another.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I hear some iPad users will have a chance to download the first episode.
Mark Deklin: Yes, the whole marketing campaign has been really interesting. I’ve never worked on a show where it has been marketed quite this way before. There was a great piece about it in The New York Times in the business section. It really wasn’t about the show per se or any or us. It was about the business model of how they’re marketing the show and the fact that Vanity Fair is going to include a free DVD and you can download the first episode on your iPad.
I think they’re being really smart at looking at today’s market and paradigm and saying, “Hey, let’s work with the current model.” Hopefully it will pay off. It’s neat and a fun ride to be on right now.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mark, have you always been interested in acting from a young age?
Mark Deklin: I have in terms of the artistic love of acting. But, I did not want to be an actor professionally. In fact, in my early 20s I tried very hard to be anything but an actor. I had people saying to me when I was growing up, “Oh you’re going to be an actor and go to New York or Hollywood.” I’d say, “No, certainly not. I’m going to do something meaningful and worthwhile.” So yeah, I spent several years running around and trying to do all sorts of different things.
I taught English, I worked for Green Peace, and went to Europe for a while. I dipped my hand in publishing. I was just trying different things. Finally one day I was actually in grad school for English Literature so I’d decided I was going down the academic path. I was also in rehearsal doing theater for fun.
I left the rehearsal and went back to my apartment, sat down at my computer typewriter for about half an hour, but I couldn’t type a thing. I thought, “Who am I kidding? I like this, I’m good at it, but I love acting. There’s nothing that makes me happier and there’s nothing I’d rather make a living at than acting.” So I called the head of my program and said, “Steve, I’m dropping out.” He was beautiful about it. He said, “I’m actually not surprised and was sort of expecting this to happen. What can I do to help?” From then on I’ve certainly struggled, that’s for sure, but I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been able to make a living for a number of years now.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was the daytime drama Guiding Light your first job on television?
Mark Deklin: No, that was actually a recurring gig. I was already in New York. I had done a couple of little guest star things but I was primarily making my living as a theater actor. I did do a couple of episodes on Guiding Light. I wasn’t a contract player because I actually didn’t want to go that route. I was offered a contract at one point and that wasn’t the direction I wanted my career to head in. So I passed on that and continued to starve for a few years (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you ever afraid you’d be typecast as the “Subaru guy?”
Mark Deklin: No, you know, the “Subaru guy” was a funny thing because it was something I never expected. It was a commercial and I was happy to have the money. I loved that it was in an environmentally aware campaign.
I own a Subaru and so I actually believe in the product so that was all good. But I had no idea it would turn into something that I’d be recognized for. My family and I were at a remote island outside of Seattle several years ago. We were ordering crabs from a local crab guy. The guy looked up and said, “Hey you’re the Subaru guy. I love my Subaru! These crabs are on me!” I thought, “Alright, that’s great. I’ll take it!”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You are also a fight choreographer. Is that similar to a stunt coordinator?
Mark Deklin: It’s like a stunt coordinator but there is a distinction. A stunt coordinator will be in charge of any number of physically dangerous activities. For example, a person on fire or falling from a building, or a car chase would fall under the direction of a stunt coordinator.
I have a very specific skill. My areas of expertise, as one director put it, are “European weaponry and good old American thuggery.” Of course, the guy who said that was British but that’s really what I do. A fight director actually coordinates swordfights or western gunfights and makes sure it looks dangerous.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have been a fight director primarily in television shows or films?
Mark Deklin: Primarily I did it in theater. I then shifted to independent film. I haven’t established myself as a fight director in television. I was never looking to have a career as a fight coordinator. It was just something that sort of came to me by accident. It was something that I was always good at as an actor and I was certified to do it and had a reputation for being good at it.
I was doing a production of Romeo and Juliet (directing a swordfight) and the director said, “Hey, you’re good at this! You should be directing fights for me.” I did and it worked out great. The next thing I knew a friend referred me for another job and I was a Broadway fight director.
It was just one of those things where I got a good reputation and it kept coming back to me or I would come in and sort of “save the day.” But in truth I was just there at the right time. I just came in and did my job but it happened to be exactly what they needed at that moment so the producer would say, “Oh he’s on my short list now.” It has been great. It’s one of the things that keeps coming back to me and I’m delighted.
A few years ago I got a call out of the blue from a producer I’d worked with before who said, “Hey, Kevin Kline wants to do Cyrano on Broadway. Are you interested in choreographing the swordfight scenes for him?” Of course I was. It was great because I had worked with these producers ten years earlier and it came back to me so I’ve been very fortunate in that regard.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What other Broadway productions were you involved with?
Mark Deklin: I was in The Lion King and Sweet Smell of Success with John Lithgow, and tons of Off Broadway. That was my primary living for about ten years. I was a stage actor first and foremost and I just sort of dabbled in television. Needless to say I was dirt poor but very happy (laughs). But I met my wife in New York while we were both doing theater so I can’t complain about that. I was in the right place at the right time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): She is an actor also?
Mark Deklin: She is a general performer, an actress, dancer, and singer. So yeah, we met while working on Broadway. That was a great way to have a courtship. She was off doing her show and I would be off doing my show.
We’d meet afterward at 11:00 or midnight for dinner and all of our friends from the Broadway community would be there. It was just exciting and a fun way to start off a relationship.
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