Billy Campbell in THE KILLING - Season 2 - "Bulldog" | ©2012 AMC/Carole Segal

Billy Campbell in THE KILLING - Season 2 - "Bulldog" | ©2012 AMC/Carole Segal

As the first season of AMC’s THE KILLING, adapted from the Danish series FORBRYDELSEN by executive producer Veena Sud, was drawing to a close, it seemed more and more clear that Billy Campbell’s character, mayoral candidate Darren Richmond, was guilty of murdering Rosie Larsen. But then it was revealed that one of the investigating detectives, Joel Kinnaman’s Stephen Holder, had tampered with evidence to incriminate Richmond, so THE KILLING’s first season ended with nobody knowing who killed Rosie Larsen.

This lack of closure angered a number of viewers, who felt they had been led to believe the killer would be revealed at the season’s end. Instead, there were even more mysteries, including why Holder tries to frame Richmond and why, in the first season finale’s closing minutes, Belko (Brendan Sexton III) shoots Richmond.

In Season Two,  airing Sunday nights on AMC, we see that Richmond has survived, a development that Campbell is clearly happy about. The Virginia-born actor, who is known for working as part of ships’ crews between film and TV gigs, sat down with a few reporters to talk about THE KILLING.

ASSIGNMENT X: Before you got the script for the first-season finale, did you think that Richmond had killed Rosie Larsen?

BILLY CAMPBELL: Actually, I watched the Danish series, so I had no illusions about the murder being solved at the end of the first season, because it wasn’t solved at the end of the first season of the Danish series. The show went along exactly the way it should have been.

AX: So you weren’t pitching your performance with the idea of, “Well, I need to put something in the performance that indicates this outcome, that Richmond did it or didn’t do it”?

CAMPBELL: No. I wasn’t – that’s been one of the really interesting things about the show, is that none of us can pitch our performances in any direction, because we don’t know who did it, so it’s been a really interesting acting exercise.

AX: As you watched the Danish series, were there any points where the hairs on the back of your neck stood up and you thought, “I don’t like where my character is going”?

CAMPBELL: [laughs] There were points when the hair on the back of my neck stood up because I did like where my character was going. But that’s about all I can say. [Season Two is] about as intense as you can imagine. The Danish [version] is our template, it’s not an exact thing, because that would be impossible. But the first season I thought, our show was so terrific, I wondered how in the world they would top themselves. And I can say that they have done an amazing job. The scripts have been astounding in the second season.

AX: Would you say Richmond seems to have a sinister side?

CAMPBELL: Well, you’d think it was this sinister thing, but he’s pretty well and truly messed up. His wife died and he feels entirely responsible for that and who’s to say he didn’t just go and throw himself into the company of a bunch of women in just a blind attempt to fill a hole, which you can say of most men who do that, but then again, he could be the one who did it. Maybe it’s much more sinister than I think it is.

AX: How did your real-life family react to your character in THE KILLING?

CAMPBELL: [laughs] My family were all like, “Oh, God, I hope [the killer is] not you! I hope it’s not you!” And my friends were, “I hope it’s you! I hope it’s you!” The reactions have been wonderful. And I’ve had that reaction from a few people. “I hated the ending!” And I was like, “So you’re not going to tune in next year?” “No, I’m tuning in! But I hated the ending!” I think everyone feels very strongly about the show. But by and large, I’ve had fantastic reactions.

AX: Some people were unhappy that the murder mystery wasn’t resolved at the end of Season One …

CAMPBELL: I can understand how the expectations were mismanaged, because the whole slogan was, “Who killed Rosie Larson?” But the show was always going to be what it was going to be. It’s not like we pulled the rug from under anyone. And I think that people’s really strong reaction to it is really just a measure of how invested they were in the show.

AX: How far ahead of time did you know what will be in the next episode?

CAMPBELL: Well, we get the scripts about a week and a half before we start shooting them, so that’s really it. And I don’t like to know beforehand what’s happening. To me, part of the joy of doing it is the joy of doing it. And so, I get the script, and to me, it’s like getting the next chapter in a really juicy novel, except that I’m part of the novel. And I treat it like a great book. I go home, I make a cup of tea, I turn on the fireplace, I get all cozy and I read the new script. So it’s really a pleasure to me in that sense. I read it a couple times when I first get it and then after that, I never read anything more than my own scenes, because I have to learn my lines. So by the time the show comes on, I’ve forgotten the whole thing already, so I’m really ready to see it again. It’s like a double treat. First is the awesome novel, reading one chapter every week, and then it’s this fun that I get to go to work and have great scenes with people, and then it’s this fun where I get to go see this awesome series.

AX: Have there been any scenes that have really stood out for you?

CAMPBELL: Well, the first thing that pops into my head is the pilot for the first season. If there has ever been anything on television as powerful as Stan [Rosie’s father, played by Brent Sexton] going to the crime scene while his cell phone is still broadcasting, [his wife Mitch, played by Michelle Forbes] is still in the kitchen, hearing him discover that Rosie is dead, and the children are standing in the living room, watching their mother discover that, it’s making my hair stand on end right now. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on television. I don’t know how you top that, but the show is filled with terrific scenes.

AX: In one of those terrific scenes, Richmond plays basketball in order to get campaign funding. When you went in for the part, did they ever ask you, “Can you play basketball?”

CAMPBELL: No. I never went in for the part, to tell you the truth. I read on tape for Junie Lowry, I never got to meet with the director or the producer, and then I never heard about it again. It’s actually pretty funny how I got the part. [After reading on tape], I lost a series of other jobs, and then finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back is, I lost LUCK, which was a job for HBO. [LUCK was produced by] Michael Mann, who directed the series [CRIME STORY, 1986-1988] that I was on twenty years ago. [LUCK was also] starring Denis Farina, who was the star of [CRIME STORY], cast by Bonnie Timmerman, who cast me in [CRIME STORY]. And I thought, “My ship has come in!” And I didn’t get the job. So I thought, “Eff it, that’s it, I’m going sailing for a year.” And I was on my way up to Vancouver to give my apartment to my pal Colin Ferguson, who does EUREKA. I said, “I’ll let him have my apartment for a year and I’ll just go off sailing.”

And unbeknownst to me, and I never knew this until I was in Vancouver, I stepped on the plane in L.A.with Patty Jenkins, who was directing the first episode [of THE KILLING]. I had no idea who she was, and she was just in flip-flops and shorts with her husband. She looked like a backpacker. I mean, I remember seeing her, but I didn’t know it was Patty Jenkins. And I got to Vancouver, and my agent called me an hour-and-a-half after I got home, and he said, “Do you remember that series for AMC that you really wanted that was shooting in Vancouver that they didn’t want you for?” “Yeah, thanks for reminding me.” He said, “They just offered it to you.” I was like, “What?! I’m going sailing for a year.” He said, “No, you’re not.” And I said, “How did that happen?” And he said, “Well, you got on the plane with Patty Jenkins.”

She started calling [KILLING show runner] Veena Sud immediately, even before I got on the plane, and I remember this gal in flip-flops, and she was chasing her little kid around, and she was on the cell phone, and it was Patty Jenkins, and she was calling Veena, going [clenched whisper], “He’s right across the way! This is the guy, this is the guy! I’m telling you, get out the tanks – it’s the guy! How did we miss him?” If I had taken a later flight or the next flight, I would have missed it.

AX: How do you feel about the two main detective characters in THE KILLING, Mireille Enos’ Sarah Linden and Joel Kinnaman’s Stephen Holder?

CAMPBELL: They’re phenomenal thespians. Character-wise, they both really need each other, and in this really weird way, without even beating it over the head, they kind of complete each other. And one thing I love about this show, it’s not all this hokey TV writing where they just lard it on, how good they are for each other. They hardly even speak to each other, and when they do, they’re like [picking on each other sound], “Eh, eh, eh, eh.” But there’s this overwhelming sense of how much they need each other, and I love that.

AX: Season Two is described as the answers where Season One was described as the questions. Can you tell us anything about those answers?

CAMPBELL: Are you trying to get me killed?

AX: We wouldn’t want that. Okay, is it safe for you to say how you feel about Season Two?

CAMPBELL: I got the first script and my jaw was on the floor and I had to read it again right away. And [when] I got the next to last script, and my jaw was on the floor. I don’t know how they do it, but they do it. It’s amazing. I dug [first season]. This season, they have upped the ante, they really have.

AX: It’s the tenth anniversary of the end of ONCE AND AGAIN, the romantic drama you did with Sela Ward. Do you remember what were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working on that show?

CAMPBELL: The most rewarding thing about the show was working with those people for three years. I’m still in touch with all of them – I just had a four-hour lunch with Sela. I’m still in touch will all the kids and that to me was the very best thing about that show, and that was the most rewarding thing.

What was the most challenging thing? The challenging thing was the frickin’ network, ABC, who said they loved us, and yet we had seven different time slots in three seasons. If you love us, put up or shut up. But saying you love us and making us go all over the map – one day my mom, bless her, said, “When are you on? When are you going to be on?” I said, “Mom, tell you what, I’ll call you back in twenty minutes. I’ll find out when we’re going on this week.” And I ran out in the hall, and the first person I bumped into was Marshall Herskovitz [with Edward Zwick, creator and executive producer of ONCE AND AGAIN]. And I said, “Marshall, Marshall, when are we going to be on this week?” And he goes, “Let me get back to you. Because I don’t know.” And I’m like, “You know what? We are in so much trouble. The executive producer doesn’t know.”

AX: Is one of the good things about being at AMC, that you know when you’re on and you know you’re in that time slot for the whole season?

CAMPBELL: [At AMC], they love moviemaking, they love movies. That’s how they started – they love storytelling. And it’s so obvious. And I know this from talking to them – they make stuff that they would want to see. So [writers/producers]come to them with projects, and they say, “Great, we love it.” And the person is like, “Okay, but what do you want to change about it?” Because that happens no matter where you take a project. Except, apparently, at AMC. And they’re like, “No, don’t change a thing. Just make it.” And that’s why they do great stuff.

Related: THE KILLING’s Joel Kinnaman Says the Viewer Will be Rewarded in Season 2 in Part 2 of this Exclusive Interview

Related Link: Interview with THE KILLING star Joel Kinnaman on THE KILLING Season 2
Related Link: Exclusive Interview with Bill Campbell on THE KILLING – Season 1

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Article: Interview with Billy Campbell on THE KILLING – Season 2

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