The Killing's Billy Campbell: Season 1 Was Like "Amazing Foreplay... You're Gonna Come Back"

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Just when we thought we had The Killing figured out, AMC’s mystery series yanked the rug out from under us. As we prepare for this Sunday's two-hour season premiere, we have plenty of questions to mull over. And there’s at least one—"Who killed Rosie Larsen?"—that Season 2 promises to answer.

We sat down with Billy Campbell, who plays Darren Richards, a mayoral candidate and eventual suspect in Rosie’s murder. When last we saw him in the season finale, Richards had a gun pointed at him. Campbell couldn’t spill too many details about what Season 2 has in store, but he did talk about moral ambiguity, slow-burn storytelling, and how Season 1 was like amazing foreplay.


TV.com: Is it safe to say you survived the shooting at the end of Season 1?

Billy Campbell: Uh, yes. For how long, I am unable to confirm or deny.


But you will be back in some form.

Yes.


It’s not a show with ghosts.

No.


For much of the first season, Richmond had a lot of his own story going on, and it wasn’t clear how or if he’d be integrated into the Rosie Larsen mystery. What was it like as an actor to be navigating that uncertain terrain?

It was kind of thrilling for me, because I didn’t quite know right away how much a part of the mystery I would be. I should have known better. But it was thrilling for me. I wanted to be far more integral to the thing than I felt I was at first, and they did that in spades.


How far in advance do you get the scripts?

We get the script about a week and a half ahead of time, so it’s really quite wonderful for me. The scripts are so fun. The show is just fun, when you get down to it. It’s a little like every week I’m given the new chapter to this amazing novel, and I make a thing of it. I make a cup of tea, I sit in front of the fire, and I sit down and I read it. It’s like reading this incredibly twisty-turny novel, except I’m part of it.


How do you balance the fun of the show with the fact that it’s also pretty heavy?

It’s a heavy show, but generally speaking, I’m not sure how heavy sets are when the cameras are off. Unless you’re doing this amazing tour-de-force thing where you have to just inhabit this character, which I’ve never had to do, I can’t imagine that most actors don’t just become themselves again when the cameras turn off.


And the gloomy weather doesn’t bum you out?

No, I love it. Vancouver is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s gray and rainy there a lot of the time, but for some reason, even though it’s gray and rainy, I feel like it’s a sunny day.


In the Season 1 finale, we definitely got the impression that Richmond is being set up. When might we find out who’s setting him up, and why?

There are forces at work. [laughs] There’s not much I can say. I don’t want to ruin it.


No, I don’t want you to ruin it.

And I don’t want to get in trouble.


Okay, well, going back to what’s already aired, were there times during the first season where you had doubts about your character’s innocence or guilt? And how did you play that ambiguity?


That’s the joy of the show. It’s the joy of watching the show, and it’s the joy of being on the show—not knowing. In a way, it’s sort of an insurance against bad acting. If you know that you’re a bad guy, maybe you’ll do things that are tip-offs. In acting, we call it indicating. If you’re a bad actor, you indicate: “Grr, I’m a bad guy,” or whatever. There’s no chance of that. We can’t, because we don’t know if we’re a bad guy or a good guy. It’s an interesting acting exercise to have to sort of bowl it right down the middle of the lane.


In Season 1, Richmond and Linden had a fairly adversarial relationship. But now that there’s this larger conspiracy at play, perhaps they could become allies?

That’s a good theory.


But it does seem like the campaign is probably done for?

That’s also a reasonable theory.


Critics embraced The Killing early on. There was a lot of positive press. And then there was some backlash, especially toward the end of the season. Were you aware of that, or was that something you avoided?

I mean, I heard about it. I wasn’t highly aware of it. I don’t monitor media so much. But I became aware of it, and I can see how people’s expectations might have been mismanaged with the slogan “Who killed Rosie Larsen?,” sure. But you know, we’re a remake of a Danish series. The Danish series never answered the question till the end of the second season. There was never any problem about it. Nobody ever got resentful or upset about it, so I think it must have been mismanaged expectations.

And on the other hand, I’m not sure as many people were upset about it as there seemed to be. The few who were upset about it were, I think, vocal. But I’d be surprised if any of those people who were so vocally upset about it fail to tune in for the second season.


Well, let’s say someone is unsure about tuning in again. We’ve heard that we’re going to learn who killed Rosie Larsen, but we thought we’d learn that last season. Can you confirm that it’s definitely happening?

I can absolutely confirm that will happen, and people should keep going. But I mean, that’s not the only reason to keep going. Did you enjoy the story? Well, now it’s halftime. Are you going to come back for the second half? Absolutely. I mean, hopefully. I think the whole thing is a little overblown, if you ask me. I mean, you either enjoyed it or you didn’t. Okay, so you were disappointed. It’s like going on a really fun first date, really awesome first date, maybe even goofed around a little and had some amazing foreplay. So now you’re gonna be pissed off because you didn’t get laid on the first date? You’re gonna come back.


I wanted to ask how you feel about The Killing fitting AMC’s brand, particularly being paired with Mad Men.

I think it’s terrific. The great thing about AMC is, their brand as far as I can tell is that they like storytelling. They love storytelling. And I know this from being on the set, some of the folks from AMC were on the set quite a bit last year. They came and hung out. I was fascinated. I was talking to them and I said, “What is it with you guys? You’re hitting home runs right out of the gate.” Everything except for Rubicon, I think, but even that was apparently fascinating.

They said that the primary M.O. for the network is, “We just make stuff that we want to see. We’re not really concerned about hitting home runs or pleasing some kind of audience or whatever. We make stuff that we want to see, that we’re excited to see.” To me, the AMC brand is great storytelling—they call it slow-burn storytelling. And we fit the brand, that’s for sure. Every one of their shows is worth watching, and they’re all great storytelling.


And AMC shows are also very character-driven. I think The Killing definitely fits there. Are there any characters that you’re particularly drawn to as a viewer?

I mean, everyone. They’re all doing such stellar work, such amazing work. My heart just aches for Brent [Sexton]—for the dad. Off the top of my mind, he’s the first one that comes into my head. He’s doing such incredible work. But for everyone, that’s the beauty of the show. There’s not anyone that you’re not interested in.


Well, I have more questions about Season 2, but I know you’re not going to be able to answer them. Do you find that reporters, or even friends and family, ask you a lot that you can’t answer?

Yeah, they want to know stuff, and I just can’t tell them. It’s interesting to try to tell them how I feel without giving away anything. But you know what I can say is this, I wondered after Season 1—Season 1 was so stellar. I don’t know what 13 hours of television I’ve seen that was as good, maybe the first season of Rome, which was awesome. But it was so stellar, and I wondered, how are they gonna top this? How are they even gonna equal this?

And they just, from the first script—I got the first script, and I read it with my jaw on the floor. They have thrown the gloves down. They are fully invested in this story, and they’ve doubled down, they’ve upped the ante, and they’ve knocked it out of the ballpark, to mix every kind of metaphor I can. It’s stunning. It’s really stunning. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been involved in, and I can say that if you liked the first season, as intense as the first season was, you ain’t seen nothing yet.


The Killing returns for Season 2 this Sunday, April 1 at 8pm on AMC.

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