TV Guide Entertainment Network
March 12, 1998

SciFi / Fantasy Q&A Segment

(Note: This article is no longer available at the TV Guide website. Questions are in larger bold font.)

He got his first big break when Matthew Broderick left the Broadway run of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs. But Fisher Stevens has been making his own luck ever since, pursuing everything from edgy theater pieces to quirky film and TV work. He admits that Chuck, his avaricious alter ego on Early Edition (Saturdays, 9p.m./ET, CBS) is softening up a bit. But as Jeanne Wolf learned recently, there's no danger of the actor getting too sentimental.

Did Early Edition's premise seem a little far-out when you first heard it?

I liked the possibilities. And I thought that it seemed different. I'm really obsessed with the past. I saw it a little darker, a little different. I envisioned it a little more insane, and a little more devious. I thought I was going to be the devil. But America responded to Kyle's sweetness and my kind of... whatever I played, Shanesia's... whatever she played. And they kept us going in that direction and put us on a Saturday night. But did I think it would last more than 13 episodes at the time? No, I didn't think that. I never know.

Isn't Chuck becoming a little more altruistic?

Yeah, too bad. It got a little boring I guess, playing the same note over and over. Although there's a lot of stuff I do that ends up on the cutting-room floor, because I guess I'm a little nastier sometimes than they want to see.

You're not really a heavy, but you're certainly not the hero. Do you mind?

Well, I just wanted to be a person. I just wanted them to keep writing me as humanistic as possible. But I like being nasty. I like being cranky. Especially if it's a cold day in Chicago, it's nice to just take it out on Kyle, because he's so easy to scream at, you know? But I'm trying to play into this role as much as possible and be a nicer person in real life.

Do you think more Early Edition fans identify with your character or with Kyle's altruistic hero?

Yeah, I thought he was more the realistic person in the group. I'm like the voice of the people. I'm like the crew: They always come up to me and go, "Yeah, that's what I would do." But now they're going, "Fisher, you're turning soft." Because the crew used to really relate to me. But now they think I'm softening up a bit too much. I use that as my responsibility on the show, to be the pragmatist. Nobody would be as sweet and selfless as Kyle's character. I don't know anybody like that. Except Kyle, actually. Yeah, Kyle probably would be like that.

You and Kyle have great comic chemistry. Did you click right away?

Yeah. And we come from completely different worlds, both personally and professionally. And, yeah, we got lucky. I mean, I'm used to really fast banter, and he knows how to brood and mood. And it actually worked. We gave each other a lot. So we really like working with each other. And one of my favorite things about the show is when we get to do that, when we have that kind of relationship.

Are you a sci-fi fan?

No, not at all. I've done a few sci-fi movies, special-effect movies. But basically what I like are the possibilities, and the fantasy element of the show. Not science fantasy so much, but fantasy, the humanistic elements and how people relate when they're in a dire situation or comedic situation. And I think the show needs to keep exploring that. And I think that we walk a fine line sometimes. And the way Kyle and I look. I think we have this kind of nostalgic kind of look. And we're actually going to be doing an episode where we go back in time. So that's what I really enjoy about doing this show.

Back in time? To what period?

I think it's the Great Chicago Fire. I'm not exactly sure. Unfortunately, the public might not know that we get a script usually two days before shooting. So sometimes I'm shooting an episode and don't even know how it's going to end because I haven't read that yet.

So if one morning a yellow cat and a newspaper appeared on your doorstep, would you be Chuck? Would you be checking out the lottery numbers for the next day?

I guess the first thing I'd do is make some bets... a lot of bets, so I know I'd be guaranteed about six or seven hundred thou'. And then I'd buy plane tickets and try and save people in Rwanda or places I always wanted to go. I'd get out of Chicago or wherever. And I'd look at the international section, which you know, we don't do because our budget doesn't allow it on the show. But I used to have a bit of a gambling problem. And that would have been the answer to my prayers. It got worse when I started playing this character, too. Now I'm in Gamblers Anonymous. I was really into sports betting. And being in Chicago, which is such a sports town, it can really be a problem. You can just make a phone call, you know? And there are games every day. I wanted to do an episode about Chuck having a gambling problem. I wanted to portray my addiction on the show. But I think it's a little edgy for Saturday night.

Chicago's a great city, but shooting there in the winter can't be much fun.

No, but I'm really lucky, because I'm not the superhero. I don't have to run around the streets rescuing people like Kyle. Poor Kyle I mean he's really had the worst of it. But I must say that because of El Niño or whatever, this has been a much milder winter than last year's, which was brutal. And because the writers all lived in L.A. last year and never came to visit us, they would write scenes where we're running across bridges at 3a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm. And they'd write shows for rain in the middle of winter. Because they don't care. What do they care? They're in their bungalows at Sony writing away, nice and warm, making their money. But we're out there. Especially Kyle. He's rescued kids in every possible outdoor location in Chicago. So I'm lucky, I get to sit in the car a lot.

You'll get a real cliffhanger episode sooner or later, don't you think?

Oh, yeah. When they're pissed at me they're going to write that I jump in the Chicago river and rescue someone, and then say, "You have to do it, man. No stuntman. You have to do it." I think next episode, Kyle's not feeling well and I have to go do the rescuing.

You really know your character. Is that because you're as nasty as he is?

I really wanted to be born a woman. It all started there. A South American woman. And I'm upset that I was born a white Jewish male. I've been angry since. No, seriously... I think in real life, actually, I'm the opposite. I like people and get along, and I'm afraid to express my anger and my rage. And this really gives me a good chance to do it, playing these parts. I used to be more of a wild kid. But I've slowed down. And TV is not the easiest place to be dangerous or on the edge. Especially on a Saturday night. But I think we're trying to do as much as we can with what we have.

What's next for you?

I'm directing a movie, my first feature. The reason I took Early Edition — besides the fact that I liked it — was that it enabled me to start a production company in New York City. It's a low-budget film company to produce and direct movies. I have two partners. And we're called Greene Street Films, because we've started on Greene Street in SoHo. And we just made a really — I have to say — amazing film that is coming out, called The Illuminata, which John Turturro wrote and directed. He stars in it with Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken and Beverly D'Angelo and Ben Gazara and his wife, Kathy Borwitz. And we're also going to do a film called Molly Gunn, which I'm casting now. I'll probably make that this summer.


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