Lou Diamond Phillips Talks ‘Blindspot’, ‘Longmire’ and ‘The 33’
“I love playing bad guys because, you know, the gloves come off and there are no rules.” – Lou Diamond Phillips
Lou Diamond Phillips must have a crazy schedule. He’s got the film, The 33, that’s about to open, his series Longmire was just renewed by Netflix and now he’s got a recurring role on NBC’s freshman hit, Blindspot.
The show, which also stars Sullivan Stapleton and Jamie Alexander, is about a mysterious tattooed woman (Alexander) who has lost her memory and identity. The FBI soon discovers that each tattoo on her body contains a clue to a crime they will have to solve. Phillips plays a well-known criminal, Saul Guerrero, who may have some clues about the woman’s life.
Phillips hopped on a conference call the other day to talk about his roles on Blindspot, Longmire and The 33.
Blindspot airs on Mondays at 10pm on NBC
Can you tell us what intrigued you about your character on Blindspot?
Lou Diamond Phillips: I was very, very intrigued by Blindspot just from watching the ad. I was going to watch the show as a fan, and then the call came to go on the show. They didn’t have a script yet, but they gave me a character description. I thought, you know, that sounds, you know, like a lot of fun.
I’d worked with Martin Gero, so I had a great sense of, you know, how intelligent the script would be, how much fun it would be. And I kind of jumped into the Blindspot, so to speak.
How many episodes will you be on Blindspot, do you know?
Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, I don’t even know if I can reveal that. All I can say is it’s more than one, you know? Yeah, no, believe me, you know, it’s a show about, you know, black ops and high intelligence. And, yeah, they – yeah, I’ve got a gun to my head right now. I don’t know if – you know, you can’t see that, but yeah, they’re watching every word I say.
There was that criticism by Variety’s co-editor in chief regarding the show’s age demo. And I thought that was hollow, because I know fans of all ages that like Longmire, and of course all the fans of yours, and Katee Sackhoff’s fans from Battlestar Galactica. I imagine you’ve met Longmire fans of all different ages. Do you want to comment on that?
Lou Diamond Phillips: You know what? I will simply say that it is inaccurate to assume that we appeal to only one demographic; and that our fans are incredibly loyal. They’re incredibly vocal. And this is the reason that we were not only picked up by Netflix, but that we have a Season 5. So any statement to the contrary is not only irresponsible, it’s inaccurate.
You know, obviously we could go into that a lot, and I actually do think that there’s going to be some sort of discussion toward that comment this weekend. But I need to leave that to our producers and to Netflix to handle.
This is going to be very exciting to see the Number 2 feared criminal on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
Lou Diamond Phillips: And I have to say yes, he might be the most feared, but he’s got a great sense of humor. And that’s one of the things that I really loved about the role. It was an absolute blast to play it. And, you know, that’s one of the nice things about bad guys, is you have a license that you would not necessarily have as a hero. So it’s always fun to come in and, you know, let the bad buy play a little bit.
I’ve been very, very fortunate recently in that, you know, a lot of the roles I’m getting to play have a lot of meat on the bone and, you know, are challenging to me because, you know, I’m doing different things.
The role in 33; Henry Standing Bear on Longmire; and now this guest spot on, you know, Blindspot, you know, they allow me to tackle the roles in different ways and to, you know, use different facets of my own personality, if you will.
Congratulations on the renewal of Longmire.
Lou Diamond Phillips: Thrilled, thrilled, thrilled about it. I think, as I said before, the fourth season was our best yet. It certainly gave Henry Standing Bear so much more to do, and has, you know, set the table, if you will, for, you know, some very, very interesting plot lines for the next season. So we’re all absolutely incredibly grateful that we get an opportunity to continue that.
You mostly played good guys throughout your career. So do you find you’re more excited to play the bad guy role?
Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, I love playing bad guys because, you know, the gloves come off and there are no rules. You can be as mean or as – I don’t know, irreverent as you want. And certainly the bad guy in Blindspot is part and parcel of that.
I mean I think he’s hilarious. You know, they gave me some very funny lines, and he’s incredibly talky. But yes indeed, he’s a bad guy. And, you know, it’s definitely different than Henry Standing Bear, or the very, very emotional and earnest role that I have in The 33.
Do you let your children watch your bad guy roles?
Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, it depends on the bad guy role. I mean this is one that I would certainly, you know, not have a problem with them watching. But I mean for instance, I played a serial killer/child molester in, you know – yeah, in Law and Order SVU. And that was one that was like no, you’re not going to be seeing that.
And I also – even though I have older daughters, I’ve warned them. I did an independent film recently where I played Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. And we’ll see that next year. So, you know, it’s not just a reminder to my fans, it’s a reminder to my family — don’t forget, I’m just acting.
You were just saying that doing the same thing is boring. So I’m curious, you’ve been in a lot of different projects, but is there like a type of role or maybe some character that like you would really love to get to play?
Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, the one thing that I don’t get to do enough of is comedy. And I absolutely love that. I cut my teeth on it, you know, when I was doing theater back in Texas. Actually my first paying role ever was part of a sketch comedy troupe called The Zero Hour, where we used to do comedy in punk clubs. And if you weren’t funny, they threw bottles at you, you know?
And, you know, fortunately I’ve had great success in drama. I’ve had great, you know, success with intense roles. But, you know, I like to get away from the brooding ethnic every once in a while and, you know, bring the funny.
You were just talking about that you had been intrigued by the show and wanted to watch it as a fan. What other shows — new shows this fall or other shows — have you been intrigued by or following recently?
Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, because I have been so busy, I’ve pretty much been going back to a lot of my favorites. I mean like a lot of people, my jaw’s still not off my chest from The Walking Dead. Huge fan of that. And, you know, looking forward to bingeing some other shows that I need to catch up on — big fan of The Good Wife; Ray Donovan — I mean just a stellar cast. And I actually did an independent film with Dash, who I love.
So, you know, unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of down time to catch up on everything that’s out there. And, you know, and Gotham I’m a huge fan of. So right now I can’t speak – other than Blindspot, I’ve been sticking with the tried and true.
You have played so many different roles. Would you rather have played a different character? Or do you really like what your character is doing in this series?
Lou Diamond Phillips: I absolutely love what my character is doing in this series, because it’s different than, you know, what I’m doing on Longmire. I mean it’s 180 degrees from him. And it’s a different kind of bad guy than I’ve played, you know, recently. And so, you know, there’s a certain charm to him.
There’s definitely a sense of humor. There’s this off-the-cuff, cavalier quality about him that I found, you know, very refreshing and a lot of fun to play, especially when, you know, everything else is so life and death for the regular characters, you know? So many times the process of filming can be an incredibly enjoyable one. And this was one of those situations.
As to The 33, I have a quick two-part question. I was wondering if you got to spend any time with any of the actual survivors. And what was it like being directed by Patricia Riggen?
Lou Diamond Phillips: First of all, yes, the miners were involved in this process from the beginning. We actually started filming in Colombia before they had a chance to fly some of them up. Mario Sepulveda, who was Antonio Banderas’ character, was there almost constantly. And he had been magnanimous and bigger than life, as Antonio plays him.
And I had the great opportunity to spend some time with Luis Urzua, my character, and just soak up the man’s, you know, quiet dignity and his reserve. And it really helped me, I think, approach the role in the right way.
And I will say that Patricia Riggen was absolutely the best choice to direct this film. She obviously brought a woman’s sensibilities to it. She never forgot the heart and the soul. She never forgot the importance of the families — the wives, the sisters, the mothers, you know, that were keeping hope alive in Camp Hope.
And I also think as a Mexican, she brought a real cultural sensitivity to the story, and that the authenticity of the Chilean people, you know, was not lost. So to me she was the whole package, and she and I had just an absolutely wonderful collaboration. And I’m quite proud of what we put on the screen.
As many times as you’ve played Native Americans, including recently on Comedy Central’s Another Period, which was hilarious…
Lou Diamond Phillips: Thank you.
I’m curious if you have any personal affinity towards any one particular tribe, or if any tribes have made you an honorary member.
Lou Diamond Phillips: Well absolutely. And, you know, I mean honorary member’s actually an understatement. After Young Guns films, I was adopted into the Lakota nation on the Pine Ridge Porcupine and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota, and given a Lakota name.
And just last year, the Cheyenne people of the Lame Deer reservation in Montana adopted me, and also gave me a Cheyenne name. In both cases I went through a naming and blessing ceremony.
So, you know, much like when I represent, you know, the Latino community, you know, be it Mexican-American or Puerto Rican or, in the case of The 33, Chileans, I try to be specific. I try to be respectful and accurate, because I know I’m representing a community, you know, of people who have, you know, pride and dignity.
And, you know, fortunately I think the acceptance that I’ve received from any number of these communities is affirmation that, you know, I’m approaching it in the right way.
Someone spoke with actor Eric Balfour and he was talking about the Tao of Surfing, and how shooting on that was especially sporadic. Can you tell us if the shooting has concluded on that piece?
Lou Diamond Phillips: No, unfortunately we have not finished that film. It’s one of those little films that has struggled, and still trying to get the finishing funds on that. So, you know, hopefully sometime in the future, because it truly is a beautiful little piece. But the state of independent film in the world right now is, you know – it’s difficult. It’s like getting blood out of a turnip.