On BBC America’s COPPER, which has its first-season finale tonight at 10 PM, Tom Weston-Jones plays the title character, Kevin Corcoran. Corcoran is a police detective who patrols the extremely mean streets of the Five Points neighborhood in 1864 New York. He gets a lot of help from two fellow Union Civil War veterans. One is African-American medical doctor Matthew Freeman, played by Ato Essandoh. The other is the well-bred and wealthy Robert Morehouse, played by Kyle Schmid.
Schmid, born in Ontario, Canada, has compiled an impressive resume of films and television roles, including work in ODYSSEY 5, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, David Cronenberg’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, SMALLVILLE and the THREE INCHES pilot.
However, COPPER’s Morehouse is one of Schmid’s favorite characters, as the actor makes clear during an interview at a party thrown by BBC America for the press at the La Boheme restaurant inWest Hollywood.
ASSIGNMENT X: You seem to be doing a lot of period characters lately. Last season on BEING HUMAN, you were in the present and the Thirties and World War One, and now you’re in COPPER in 1864 New York. So you’re going backwards in time, actually.
SCHMID: Yeah, from World War One to 1864. [The Civil War] still going on. Parts of it lasted for years upon years even afterwards. The South rebelled. It was a very troubled period of time.
AX: What is Robert Morehouse’s connection to Kevin Corcoran, the COPPER of the title?
SCHMID: I met Kevin Corcoran during our time in the Civil War. My bond with Dr. Matthew Freeman [Ato Essandoh] developed then as well. So the three of us have this steel, impenetrable bond that [formed] during the traumatic experience that happened while we were over there. Now, I think Morehouse as a character, with that experience, decided that the life of Fifth Avenue and industrialism and making money off of the war and so many other negative things that were happening during that time period wasn’t exactly who he wanted to be, and he found a new moral compass that is guiding him to make some more difficult decisions in his life.
AX: Did the three characters all know they were all going to see each other back in Five Points, or were they surprised when they met up again after their wartime experiences?
SCHMID: Well, that’s the thing. Our walks of life never would have crossed before the war for any reason. There’s no reason why I would ever have been in Five Points, or ever have met any of those characters. Those social divides were very serious divides back then. So that meeting and going back to Five Points – it was circumstance, it was chance that we all came from the same place, but so many of these units during the Civil War were [composed of people from the same geographic area] – the Seventy-First Infantry, they were all New Yorkers. Those infantries were all from certain places. So people knew each other, they felt like they were fighting with one another for a cause.
AX: And did you do research into the period or your character?
SCHMID: Of course. Everybody did their own research, I think from watching Internet documentaries to reading books to looking up old newspaper articles to having long, in-depth conversations with [show runner] Tom Fontana [who co-created COPPER with Will Rokos], who’s almost this walking encyclopedia of knowledge. It all just kind of became stepping into the shoes of somebody who was from Fifth Avenue, who understood that walk of life.
AX: As far as what you learned from that, what were you able to take from that into the performance?
SCHMID: Everything. I like to develop a character with a history, a past, something that gives me as an actor something to draw from, a reason for being. Because we all are who we are presently because of what we’ve experienced in the past. So it was that research and those conversations with Tom Fontana that allowed me to create a history for Robert Morehouse, that allowed Morehouse to be in the show [in the way that] everybody will see. He’s from the upper class. His education’s much better, he’s a Harvard boy. There are small nuances to certain things that he says. He’s got a limp, he lost a leg in the war. And wearing those clothes, wearing a cashmere suit every day and three-hundred-dollar boots, it’s easier to stand straighter, it’s easier to walk taller, it’s easier to have that confidence that somebody from Fifth Avenue would really have.
AX: When you’re playing Morehouse, do you have anything on your leg to make you walk as if it’s an artificial limb?
SCHMID: I do. I wear three braces. I wear a knee brace, which tightens up the knee, and then I wear an ankle brace, which tightens up the ankle completely so that it’s not pliable, and then I also wear a leather thigh brace. The detail on the show went so deeply that there’s leather lacing on the leather thigh brace that I wear above the knee brace that I use to create the limp, that you can see in detail through the cashmere pants I wear, because that’s exactly what would have been holding a contraption of that sort, a fake leg, onto my character. So that’s pretty cool.
AX: Does the actual discomfort help you get into his mindset of, “I’m really pissed off that I lost my leg”?
SCHMID: [laughs] I think the funny thing about Morehouse is the fact that he’d never even admit that he even has a handicap. He’s a very arrogant, egotistical, proud, proud person, who’s worked his ass off to be everywhere he is.
AX: COPPER is the first scripted drama made specifically for and by BBC America, as opposed to the series they show that originated on the BBC in the U.K. Is that affecting the people making COPPER in production and on set in any way, or is that just an interesting fact about the show?
SCHMID: No. Our show runners, [executive producers] Barry [Levinson], Christina [Wayne] and Tom [Fontana], have been doing this for years. They know exactly what they’re doing. For BBC America, I think it’s something special, because this is their baby, this is their child. They care very much about what it is and what it became and what it’s becoming, but as for the act of actually shooting everything and the creation process, it is a professional world that Tom, Barry and Christina [deal with].
AX: Did you have a good time playing the vampire Henry on Syfy’s BEING HUMAN?
SCHMID: I did. I had a wonderful time on that.
AX: You also played a vampire on BLOOD TIES?
SCHMID: I was Henry Fitzroy. Two vampires by the same name.
AX: I think Henry on BLOOD TIES one was perhaps a little more moral?
SCHMID: It was. [BLOOD TIES] was a different take [on vampire mythology]. It’s very different from BEING HUMAN. There was a love triangle nonetheless, which most good television is based off of, a very simple love triangle. But yeah. That was kind of my first introduction to the sci-fi world, which I was very grateful for, because I’ve had people behind me for five and six years now, who are just some of the greatest fans in the world. I’m very blessed.
AX: Might you show up again on BEING HUMAN?
AX: They have a lot of flashbacks on that series.
SCHMID: They do. Science-fiction shows, unless you disappear into dust, there’s always a chance you’ll come back.
AX: Since you’ve played contemporary, Thirties, World War One, Civil War, do you have a favorite time period, either to act or just in terms of the costumes?
SCHMID: In terms of the costumes, I think the best costume I’ve worn so far in my entire career has been COPPER.
AX: Anything else you’d like to say about COPPER?
SCHMID: COPPER is truly a dream come true for me, from the writing and the characters to what we’ve accomplished. I’m very lucky and blessed and happy to be who I am today.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with COPPER actor Kyle Schmid