In Part Two of our exclusive interview with Garret Dillahunt, the actor reminisces about TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES and where the series might have gone, as well as talking more about his new Fox series RAISING HOPE which was recently renewed for Season 2.
ASSIGNMENT X: Who do you think is better equipped to deal with an infant, your character Burt Chance on RAISING HOPE or John Henry, your second cyborg character on TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES?
DILLAHUNT: Well, that’s so different, right? John Henry, in his way, he was just a brilliant child, but I guess he would learn faster. His curve might be quicker, but this guy [Burt] has at least done it before – successfully or not, he’s done it.
AX: You survived character destruction on TERMINATOR. Were you concerned when Cromartie got destroyed, or did you know that you’d be back as cyborg John Henry?
DILLAHUNT: I was concerned at Comic-Con. We were told that someone was going to die – we didn’t know who. It was like the Last Supper all of a sudden. “Is it me, is it me?” But they assured me that I’d be coming back as John Henry, so I wouldn’t freak out. Thankfully. I [had] such a huge crush on Shirley Manson [who played shapeshifting Terminator Catherine Weaver]– in the healthiest way, but I think she’s so much fun. She’s so well-read and so funny. I worked almost exclusively with her and Richard T. Jones.
AX: How did you feel about all the Terminator-esque violence as Cromartie?
DILLAHUNT: It’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to shoot guns with no consequences. I’d feel guilty all of a sudden like I should have, but I think the fact that it’s all make-believe made me feel it’s just a lot of fun.
AX: Did you miss playing Cromartie when that part of the job was over?
DILLAHUNT: Well, I did like Cromartie a lot, he was a lot of fun to play. There was no hesitation, but I guess that couldn’t last forever. He was a pretty durable Terminator – he had his head cut off, he traveled through time, he did all kinds of stuff.
AX: Did you enjoy getting to play John Henry’s innocence?
DILLAHUNT: I think that’s the fun part of John Henry, is getting to come at a real childlike sort of perspective. He’s like a super-powered infant. I feel he was more like Chauncey Gardner [from BEING THERE] almost, he’s a little more that kind of childlike, I think.
AX: Did you and your fellow Terminator actors – Shirley Manson, Summer Glau, et al – ever confer about how you’re playing different things, or do you all just go at it on your own?
DILLAHUNT: I think we all grew up on those movies, so I think we all have some pretty individual ideas about how to play a Terminator. And they’re pretty individual. Even in the films, they all had their own characteristics.
AX: Did you know where Season Three might have gone if there had been a Season Three?
DILLAHUNT: You know, it changes always so much, but the last I’d been told was that we were going into that future world, because remember, we’d gone through time at the end, and John Henry was loose and I would be a player for the resistance in the future, which I was really looking forward to.
AX: So you were going to come down on the side of humans?
DILLAHUNT: I believe so, yes. In fact, Shirley’s character as well turned out to be for the good.
AX: It was left a little unclear where your two characters were in the future …
DILLAHUNT: Yes, that’s what would have been answered and that’s what they hoped for, because I think also Derek [Brian Austin Greene] could have been there. He’d been killed in one of the episodes.
AX: Did you ever get confused with the time paradoxes in the storyline?
DILLAHUNT: Ever since the first movie. I was, “Wait, so the guy he sends back is his father. Does he know it?” It’s confusing. And who’s to say what’s right?
AX: You’re back on Fox now with RAISING HOPE. Did Fox come to you at any point when TERMINATOR was ending and say, “We like you and hope to keep you in the Fox family”?
DILLAHUNT: No [laughs], but I think they do. I work for Fox a lot. A MINUTE WITH STAN HOOPER was also for Fox, the last sitcom I did with Norm McDonald in ‘03. So I’ve actually worked for Fox a lot. I think I’ve just never burned that bridge and they seem to have confidence in me to do just about anything.
AX: DEADWOOD was pretty grim, THE ROAD was pretty grim, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES was pretty grim, although your second character John Henry was kind of upbeat, WINTER’S BONE was pretty grim. RAISING HOPE can be dark, but it’s not grim. Are you finding you have a preference for one over the other?
DILLAHUNT: I don’t have a preference. My preference is for change. I always try as much as I can to make the latest thing as much of a departure from the last thing as I can. I mean, it’s nice to go to work and try to make each other laugh, I’ll say that.
AX: Do you feel like your comic timing is getting better as you go along?
DILLAHUNT: My roots are in comedy. When I first started in television, I was doing sitcoms and comedies and I couldn’t get an audition for a drama to save my life. People said, “Oh, he’s a sitcom guy, he’s a sitcom guy, he can’t do DEADWOOD.” And then I do the audition and I get the job, and then you’re the drama guy who can’t do comedy. So it just seems like memories are short, and you’re constantly proving yourself. It’s just interesting. It’s a common theme in me seeking work. It’s like different styles of theatre, like one day it’s a farce, one day it’s Shakespeare. I like that each one has different requirements and I think it keeps you awake and makes you a better actor if you can try different styles.
AX: Do you have anything else you did that’s coming out?
DILLAHUNT: OLIVER SHERMAN is a film I’m very, very proud of. It opened in Canada [in February]. It’s me and Donal Logue and Molly Parker and it’s a beautiful movie. I’m really, really proud of it. We still haven’t found U.S. distribution yet, but that effort is just starting to step up, so hopefully it’ll be here as well.
AX: Are you surprised and/or gratified by the way RAISING HOPE has taken off?
DILLAHUNT: I’m not really surprised, because I thought it was good. I wanted to do it, but that’s no guarantee of success, just something being good, so I am gratified, yes, that people have taken it to heart. I hope more do. I love the show genuinely and I hope people watch.
Click on link for PART 1 of AX’s exclusive GARRET DILAHUNT interview on RAISING HOPE