'Deep State' actor Donald Sage Mackay reveals what to expect from the show and why he had so much fun with his role in 'Frasier'

Donald Sage Mackay opens up about his upcoming show, 'Deep State,' the most difficult role he's ever played, and why his education was so important to his career.


                            'Deep State' actor Donald Sage Mackay reveals what to expect from the show and why he had so much fun with his role in 'Frasier'

Fox's 'Deep State' will became the network's first-ever commissioned script outside the shores of the United States and will premiere in the country on June 17. The thriller series follows former MI6 agent Mark Strong as he's yanked out of his idyllic retreat with his wife and children and pulled back into a world of espionage and betrayal and made its bow in the UK on April 5.

With its release now less than a week away, we caught up with veteran actor Donald Sage Mackay to talk about his role in the series, what it was like working on the sets with so many talented peers, and the numerous roles he's had the opportunity to portray through the years.

Mackay plays Martin Collins in 'Deep State' (Source: Kamila Lobuzinska)
Mackay plays Martin Collins in 'Deep State' (Source: Kamila Lobuzinska)

1. You play the role of Martin Collins in 'Deep State,' which will be premiering in the US next month. Can you give us a little insight into your character? 

Martin Collins is American (as am I). He makes a rather mysterious debut and, over the course of the series, becomes more and more of a presence up through the climactic finale episode. To say much more would risk spoilers.

2. What was the casting process like for a show like 'Deep State'? Did you have to undergo extra training and preparation because of how action-packed it is? 

We had a wonderful stunt team but I ended up doing all of my own stunts out of sheer necessity for time and on camera continuity. I remember one particular scene involving combat in which my stunt double was going to be used.

However, his wig didn't match my hair color and we were on a time crunch so I just volunteered to get it done myself. I came out of it relatively unscathed except for some pretty big bruises and a few days of soreness. I'm not getting any younger.

3. 'Deep State' has quite the stellar cast. Over the many weeks/months I assumed you worked on the show, did you develop a close friendship with anyone? What was the camaraderie on the sets like? 

What an amazing and friendly cast and crew! Starting from the very top with our executive producer, Hilary Bevan Jones, our amazing creator/director Matthew Parkhill, director Rob Connolly and, of course, the amazing Mark Strong who all established an incredible camaraderie and work ethic on set. More than any other show on which I've worked I felt so welcomed and taken care of.

We didn't have much time for developing close friendships or even clowning around. It was a very tight shooting schedule and, more often than not, we were just trying to capture the highest quality we could before the time ran out every day. However the great spirit and fun at the wrap party exemplified just how special these people working on 'Deep State' are. I'm thrilled to hear that Season Two has already been greenlit.

4. 'Deep State' has already premiered in the UK. So, without giving away spoilers, what would you say fans can look out for when the show premieres across the Atlantic next month? 

I was able to already view all eight episodes and found myself completely hooked. The momentum and breathtaking storytelling, filming and editing are so gripping that I would be surprised if the audience isn't as swept away as I was.

I couldn't even recall what came next because it really does stay a few steps ahead of you all the way through. I had to watch the finale episode through the cracks between my fingers because it was that shocking and powerful.

5. You've done cameo roles in quite a few movies. Which one amongst those would you classify as the most challenging to portray? 

The most astonishing thing about working as an actor on TV and Film is the chance to act opposite legends you've long admired. Whether it be Martin Sheen in 'The West Wing,' Hugh Laurie on 'House,' Jeff Daniels on 'The Looming Tower,' or Kelsey Grammer on 'Frasier,' I pinch myself every time I'm on set for a day or a week or months, in the case of 'Deep State,' with someone like Mark Strong.

I think one of the most challenging experiences was working on 'Transformers 2' with Michael Bay. The script was so confidential that I didn't receive it until I showed on set at an actual working nuclear submarine. I got there early and memorized my Commander dialogue (which was quite technical and urgent) and then Michael Bay showed up and ripped up that script and turned to the actual Navy Submarine Commander and asked him what my character would say in this situation.

The Commander began talking and no one was writing down what he was saying so I did. Then Michael Bay looked at what I'd written, made a few changes, and I had to re-memorize fast and do a very close "walk and talk" filming inside the submarine with not an inch to spare for focus between me and the cinematographer. I had to get it right the first time because Mr Bay is apparently not known for his patience. Although luckily he was incredibly warm on the set with all of us.

6. Which was the most fun portraying?

The one I had the most fun playing was the gay bartender, Eduardo, on 'Frasier.' I never would normally get cast that way because usually, for some reason, I get typecast as law enforcement, military officers, dads and doctors/psychologists. Jeff Greenberg, the show's legendary casting director who also cast me on 'Modern Family' and other great shows, knew that theatre actors can do much more than their "type" and he gave me one of the most memorable moments of my career, just for the sheer fun of it.

I'll never forget cracking up Kelsey Grammer in rehearsal. Surprising someone like that and making them laugh in the final season of a long-running show was thrilling. Also, Sir Patrick Stewart was the special guest star so just hanging around in the green room for a few days with all of them was unforgettable. That episode also turned out to be a 'fan favorite.'

7. In the same vein, which TV show, besides 'Deep State' of course, would you say you had the most fun working on? 

Other than 'Frasier,' recurring on 'Scrubs' over two seasons and getting to work with every single cast member at some point. And recently 'The Looming Tower' because I was flown all the way to Agadir Morocco, and was put up at a five-star beach resort with time to go explore the Atlas Mountains and the bazaar and the city of Marrakech.

8. You completed your BA at San Francisco State University before graduating with an MFA in acting from the University of California. Could you elaborate on what you earned your BA? Would you say your education and degree helped get you where you are today? 

I really enjoyed focusing more on English and Humanities subjects rather than just focusing on Theatre in my undergraduate (BA) years. I believe that actors should be well-rounded above all. I remember someone saying to me that "actors need to know a little bit about a lot of things."

My main acting training came during my three-year intensive MFA program at University of California at San Diego/La Jolla Playhouse. It definitely gave me the longevity that I needed to keep going in an incredibly competitive field. I had to learn camera acting on my own and I'm still learning!