In his new series, "My Own Worst Enemy," Christian Slater has gotten used to bad guy pursuits down dark alleys and secret agent intrigue in international settings. Prior to his agreeing to star in the new NBC series, however, he was also being sought after in his real life and told our Jim Halterman who was after him.
"Ben Silverman was relentless in his pursuit," Slater said, speaking of the time before he agreed to the series when Silverman, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, worked hard to convince Slater to come on board with this project. Slater backed up a little to explain how things played out. "I was in London doing a play over there and (NBC executives) Teri Weinberg and Katie O'Connell came over. We had a meeting and I think they had seen the play and got a sense that ['My Own Worst Enemy'] might be something I could participate in. And they told me about this particular story and it sounded very interesting to me." Once Silverman stepped in and aggressively made a case for Slater to headline the series, Slater couldn't help but admit that the project "was just one of those opportunities I think would've been crazy not to agree to."
In the action/spy series, Slater plays two roles � Henry, a mild-mannered businessman with a wife and two children, and Edward, an international spy who travels around the world on whatever life-threatening mission he is given. The catch is that the two roles are not different people physically but, in fact, inhabit the same body. To explain, Slater explained that the pilot episode, "is called 'Breakdown.' [In the episode] the microchip that is implanted in Edward's brain has started to break down and the two personalities are beginning to merge and a lot of chaos starts to ensue."
With the plot device of Henry and Edward becoming fully aware of the other's existence, each personality needs to find a way to let the other know information throughout the course of each episode. Slater talked about how Henry and Edward end up being as inventive as possible in leaving the other vital messages that sometimes can save their lives and the lives of those around them. "They do find different ways to communicate with each other like writing signs on each other's hands so when they do come to they can see what they've been up to. And as the show develops they find much more technological ways to stay informed."
Playing a character with a Jekyll and Hyde disposition has lead to some interesting moments that are evident from the first episode. "We've gotten to do a lot of fun things," Slater offered. "The other personality starts coming on in the midst of being in the middle of a fight or something like that � you know, having a hand-to-hand fist combat with a guy on a train and starting to feel the other character coming out who doesn't really know anything about fighting. So it's been... challenging and fun."
Aware that with the short attention span of today's audiences, the creative forces behind the show intend to keep things constantly interesting for not only the viewers but for Slater himself. "As we peel the layers of this onion and continue to delve deeper and deeper into these characters I think I'm going to continually be discovering new things," Slater enthusiastically mentioned. "And the writers � it feels like they're just unleashed and coming up with a lot of interesting and creative scenarios and situations to put both of these characters into. For me it's a continual process of discovery."
"My Own Worst Enemy" is also populated with a strong supporting cast, which will undoubtedly be along for the ride as the Henry/Edward characters continue to evolve. Emmy-winner Alfre Woodard plays Mavis Heller, Edward's hard-hitting boss at the JANUS headquarters. Slater commented on his costar by saying she is "certainly a phenomenally strong actress and is great and a perfect matriarch for this [series and] for this kind of environment. And she carries herself with great authority. And what can I say? I mean she's a powerful actress so I'm glad she's kind of the one holding the leash on Edward and Henry."
Also in the cast is Madchen Amick as Henry's wife, Angie, who is unaware of her husband's dual identity issues as well as the danger that she and her children are increasingly close to. Slater had nothing but the highest praise for Amick, "I tell you it's one of the greatest experiences of my life. She is just�I don't know�I love her. I mean the chemistry that I feel with her is very special." Offering some predictions in how Henry's home life is soon to be disrupted by his alter ego showing up, Slater teased, "I can tell you... there are going to be some very interesting things and scenarios for [the character of Angie] to deal with and for me to have to deal with as far as relationships go and dealing with a marriage and this kind of extreme circumstance."
Another interesting bit of casting is that of Mike O'Malley, who is best known for his comedic work on the long-running "Yes Dear" and his recurring role on "My Name Is Earl." O'Malley first appears in the pilot as Henry's self-deprecating, woman-obsessed co-worker Tom Grady but, like much of the series, Tom will show a different side when Edward emerges.
Also joining the cast soon is Academy Award nominee James Cromwell, fresh off his stint playing the elder George H. W. Bush in Oliver Stone's film "W." Cromwell, Slater explained, "plays a character called Trumble, who really is, I would say, the head of the [JANUS] organization. He is the big boss of the organization, kind of overseeing everything."
After years of success in film, theater and the occasional television guest role, Slater talked about why the time was right for him to take on being the star of a television series. "It's always a risk and a gamble whatever project you get involved with. But I can honestly say [that] Ben Silverman and Teri Weinberg and Katie O'Connell really kept up their end of the agreement. They told me each week they were going to try to put a movie on TV and as far as I can tell the production value and the things we've been able to do have been extraordinary. And the crew and the team that is assembled is beyond first class. So it's like to show up to work everyday is a phenomenal pleasure."
One of the feature roles often remembered by fans is that of Mark Hunter in the 1990 film "Pump Up The Volume." Slater recalled that the Hunter character inhabited similarities to those of Henry/Edward. "In 'Pump Up The Volume' I played pretty specifically a very shy high school kid who by night was this guy who had this other personality [on the radio] that he was only comfortable being in the privacy of his own room. So I like the duality of that. I like sort of the Clark Kent/Superman aspects of that particular film."
Asked about the similar premises of "My Own Worse Enemy" with Joss Whedon's upcoming series "Dollhouse," Slater showed no signs of being unnerved and, again, was able to pull from a past film experience as an example. "I think if you look at entertainment... it's always a version of something else. Even when I did 'Robin Hood' they were making another 'Robin Hood' in another forest somewhere else in London. So there are always scenarios like that. I mean this particular scenario is a Jekyll and Hyde type of story or a Hyde and Jekyll kind of story." Slater added, "it takes a particular genre scenario and tries to update it and dealing with a similar premise, tries to make it its own."
"My Own Worst Enemy" premieres tonight after "Heroes" at 10:00/9:00c on NBC.