EXCLUSIVE | 'Big Dogs' star Brett Cullen says Captain McKeutchen is a crass character, but with a heart
Based on Adam Dunn's books, 'Big Dogs' shows an alternate yet not so alternate history of the US. The economy has collapsed and crime and corruption are rife in the city of New York. Drugs are being transported through taxies. The NYPD desperately tries to crack down on these nefarious networks and realizes that a young boy Renny (Michael Richardson) is being forced by his boss to transfer these drugs. There's a larger crime syndicate at hand that wants to take over the city.
CAB, the undercover police unit headed by McKeutchen (Brett Cullen), needs to put their heads together and understand the method in the madness. In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Cullen, who played the role of Thomas Wayne in the Oscar-nominated film 'Joker', opens up about his experience of getting into the tough mindset of McKeutchen and exploring his emotional side. On the surface, McKeutchen is a coarse and crass man. But as the series progresses, it is revealed that he has a tragic tale to tell as well.
On how he feels about the show, Cullen says, "I think it's exciting. What I love about the show is that it's based on a what-if scenario that Adam wrote. What if we had not done the financial bailouts in 2008 and what the world would look like, which is what is central to what we are dealing with. So I think it's a really smart show. I think it's a very emotional show."
Cullen says that McKeutchen had lost his son and has a strong familial connection with the New York police force as they are all that he has. "My character's son had died in the war and all he has is the New York police force. So his police officers are his children. He's going to mentor them. He's sort of a crass character in terms of how he speaks, but (has) a lot of heart."
The showrunners had some important questions to ask him after he read the script. "The interesting thing is the first thing they asked me, they asked me if I had done Shakespeare. And I said, yeah, I was a Shakespearian trained actor, why? And they said, we're just asking. And then I read the script and understood why. I mean, if you see the opening, the first episode, the opening monologue, it's like five pages long. I know Tony (Glazer) very well and they're friends, so they know my history and that's why they came to me, I think, because they knew that I could tackle that."
Getting into the mindset of a tough New Yorker was an experience. "We talked about the New York accent. I'm not from New York, though I did 'Joker' there. I spent a lot of time in New York, so it's not hard for me, you know, and I studied, I was going to get my masters in dialects, so it was kind of exciting for me to jump into that world. That's how I got into the world of 'Big Dogs'."
Cullen says that he wanted to make sure that his character had a heart and soul. "I took Adam aside and I said, I need one thing from you. And he said, what? I said, I need to know what his soul is. And he said, what do you mean? I said, what's the one thing that he loves more than anything in the world. He answered his son who died. So that emotional kind of grief and loss is kind of what drove me as an actor when I was working."
On whether the show deviated from the books, he says, " Well, I think when you're carrying a tele-narrative series, you have to. It was more about taking the source material and creating a narrative. That would be interesting to an audience, not just a reader. So yeah, I think they deviated a little bit. I don't think they deviated from the overall story but in terms of the minutia. I think my opening speech was written by Tony. I don't think that that was in the book. If I remember correctly, it deviated some, but it was more about character and emotional aspects of the characters than really a structural change."
The grim reality of 'Big Dogs' is a little too close to reality, as Cullen says, "Not yet as dire, but almost there."