GRIMM: David Giuntoli and Sasha Roiz Interview (2012)

In a season unique for embracing the darker world of fairytales, the supernatural series GRIMM has risen to an all new level as its stories delve deep into the where the creatures of the night are downright terrifying. Taking a few minutes to chat with press in a recent conference call, stars David Giuntoli and Sasha Roiz pondered the increasingly complex relationship of Det. Nick Burkhart and Captain Renard – the Grimm and his mysterious protector.

Sasha Roiz of "Grimm"

Given where Captain Renard started in the pilot, how have you been able to adapt and identify with him?
SASHA: Well, the character’s been developed quite a bit since the beginning. We’ve had a lot more freedom now that I think we’ve established the story of GRIMM and the characters of GRIMM and the world that we’re living in. And so now there’s a little bit more freedom to get a little deeper. And as you saw last week and especially in this week’s episode, you’ll get a real sense of who the character is and sort of the direction in which he’s going. It’s been a lot of fun from script-to-script and just getting a little bit more insight into the pathology of GRIMM. So it’s definitely start to pick up the pace at this point.

Given where Nick is at this point in the season, have you gained a better understanding of who he is as a GRIMM through his own journey?
DAVID: This coming episode I’m going to be learning a lot about my past or Nick’s going to be learning a lot about his past, and it helps, I think, put some things to bed for him — some worries he’s always had, some things he’s always wanted to know. But he understands his role a little bit more now. He’s not as terrified by his new identity and he’s kind of using it as a tool, his Grimm-stincts as I like to call them and his powers, and he’s using them as a tool now and trying to make his role and use it.

This week’s episode looks like a really strong one for both of your characters. What can you tell us about it and your experience working with Titus Welliver?
DAVID: First of all, Titus is a brilliant actor and it was wonderful having him with us. His character brings Nick some news about his family and his past. I don’t want to get too far into it. I don’t know how deep into it I can go. But, suffice it to say, I learned some big chunky pieces of info from Titus. And Sasha’s role, Captain Renard, goes through some pretty wild times.
SASHA: Titus was great to work with. He’s a great actor and it’s really fun to have him on set and the episode is a really strong one. You’re going to see that’s where we really sort of found our stride. A lot of the episodes now are starting to kind of be self-contained in a sense that a lot of the crimes or a lot of the sort of action and motivations keep feeding on mythology in our storylines; and they just kind of strengthen that whole side of our show, which is really exciting and with every show there’s more and more details unfolding. So this is a really good example of the direction we’re heading in.


The relationship between Nick and Monroe is a interesting one. In this last episode Nick really put himself in danger to save Monroe. Can you talk about stepping in the ring with Monroe and filming that fight scene?
DAVID: Oh my goodness, that was one of the coldest nights we’ve had and we were up in the hills somewhere outside of Portland. And those are the scenes that kind of do themselves because we had these wonderful actors who are really into the show and I think excited to be there. It’s kind of screaming and almost like frothy at the mouth. It was insane. Generally when you put me into a octagon shaped cage, I’m going to perform well. . . It was really fun to do that. Monroe is a guy who Nick needed — first for utility and just to learn the ropes of the kind of the new world that Nick entered into. But obviously we’ve developed a relationship and a friendship and a bond. And I think that he used to kind of save my ass all of the time, and I dragged him into this kind of world a bit. So, yes, I would put my life on the line for him at this point.

What do we have to look forward to in these episodes coming up and the second half of the season?
SASHA: Well that’s a good question. What’s in the second half of the season? Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve been given a lot of freedom to explore the mythology and explore the back stories of the characters, as well as the interpersonal relationships. So it’s been tremendous fun for us as we get to know our characters a little bit better and as we get to know each other and each others’ characters a little better. So we’re not quite as burdened by certain strictly procedural storylines. We get the chance to play a little bit of the GRIMM-map so to speak.
DAVID: Sasha’s completely right. We’re more comfortable in our roles now. We’ve laid down the foundation for kind of defining what this GRIMM-world is. So now we kind of get to play within that. There’s going to be some upcoming episodes, particularly this “Three Coins in a Fuchsbau,” which is coming up on Friday that really drives the overarching storyline forward and answer some questions for my character and for the viewers, and we’re going to get a lot more of that as the season goes on.

What was it like the first time that you read for your respective roles? What were your first impressions of your characters?
DAVID: The first time I read for it, I had met and worked with the director before and also I had met two of the producers, Sean Hayes and Todd Millner before — I worked with them all that year and Marc Buckland directed the pilot – so as opposed to a lot of kind of cold auditions, I kind of already felt they were rooting for me. I don’t know what exactly they were looking for but they were very helpful and kind of coaching me through the audition a bit and told me exactly what they want and spent time with me. But my first take on Nick was that he always thought he wanted to go home, instead of go like drinking with the guys. I wanted to watch like two movies with Juliette and was very happy settling down into a nice little life with some rose — which makes what happened to him in the pilot episode all the more horrifying and terrible — the fact that he’s seeing monsters his whole life. What he thought he had is gone and he clings to that. He wants it to remain and it’s very difficult to maintain this little domestic life while ogres and bad guys are chasing him.


SASHA: Initially I read for the Blutbad way back when, and then they called me back weeks later for Renard and it wasn’t very much on the page. So I really wasn’t sure what they were calling me for. And then after they picked me for the role, then they explained to me that it was where they were planning on going with it and then became a lot more interesting than what I saw in the script initially. But I think they were going in a very different direction originally with the role. They were going a lot older and a lot more African American than myself. So they just kind of like changed their casting decision I think and kind of went in a different direction with the character all together. Because I just remember when I was sitting waiting to audition I was like, “I think I seem to be in the wrong room because this is not generally the demographic I audition with.” But I’m glad that they did and I’m glad they chose me and it’s been a lot of fun. And they really held true to their promise. They developed this role into something quite interesting. . . .It was a very strange casting day that day for me. But I’m very glad I attended.

Did the creators have an actual hierarchy planted out or plotted out as to how who’s who in the Wesson-world and exactly where does Renard fit in there?
SASHA: Well, I think there was mention last week of “your highness”– and as sort of sarcastic as the character Leo is being — there’s truth to that. So I mean that’s the direction we’re headed in. I mean he’s descendant of a royal line and he’s set his sights on reestablishing that royal order in Portland, at least for himself.

Could you talk a little bit about Nick’s relationship with Juliette, how that sort of developed.
DAVID: Well, I don’t know exactly where the writers are taking the relationship. My impulse — and I believe this to be true — is that they’re taking it down the road that I want her to marry me. I want her to be in the dark. I want her to be safe. I want everything at once. I don’t want her to know about my current situation. My aunt predicated this whole thing by saying I had to leave [Juliette] and she is in harm’s way. So I’m kind of always dancing that fine-line of telling her or not. I think that they want me to ask her to marry her and I think Nick wants to end up with her. I don’t know what’s going to happen with us as this series goes on, but something’s got to happen soon something’s got to happen as far as I have to let her in or she has to leave me – or I’m going to kill her or something if it’s terrible. But I need to let her in somehow. Or I’m not going to kill her, but she’ll end up dying because I’m not going to kill her.
SASHA: That’s the only thing you’re going to read from this point on, Giuntoli, “I’m going to have to kill her.” Headline. The only thing that’s going to be quoted from this conversation! [Laughter]


What were some perhaps initial challenges you found stepping into this role? And what have you enjoyed most about sort of playing both sides of the fences with the role?
SASHA: The hardest thing — and which continues to be – but it’s not a burden — it’s just the difficult thing when you’re playing the sort of mysterious character is that a lot of the mystery isn’t completely hatched. So you’re kind of waiting around sometimes to be informed of what your machinations are and what you’re actually motivated to be doing. So you don’t always know the grand picture until the writers provide you with it. So that’s sometimes a little difficult because you’re kind of sort of overreaching or trying to at least trying to determine for yourself what the best sort of path is as your character proceeds. But playing both sides of the fence, it’s great. I don’t see Renard as somebody who’s duplicitous. I don’t. Maybe some other people do. I see him very much as a character who believes in a certain order and believes in a very strict order with him at the top of that and really cares about the population of his canton or kingdom or whatever we’re defining it as. He wants peace and he wants civil obedience within it, and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve that. That’s not really uncharacteristic of a lot of nations or regimes or what have you. So I just think he’s just set out to accomplish that and that’s it really is only with the one focus with him.

Can you talk a little bit about where you would like to see your characters go for the rest of the season and through the end of next season?
DAVID: For my character — I think this has been actually happening especially in this later part of the season — Nick kind of goes from perpetually stunned observer and passive observer and someone who’s in denial of his new role and slowly starts to really use these tools to his advantage. I would love to see my character — and again, I think it is going this way — turn into kind of an active hunter or profiler who doesn’t just read the books but adds to them. I think one of the great things about him is he’s not like other Grimms who would just slay anything that morphed in front of their eyes. And I don’t think he’s going to be that but I think he is going to develop his powers, become a real force and a more of a hunter. . . Moving from passive to active ultimately is the arc that has been taking place and it’s exciting to do that.
SASHA: Less “rose,” more action is what you’re saying.
DAVID: I want to keep the “rose.”
SASHA: I would like to get into the backstory, specifically the past what sort of formed this man. I think there’s a really interesting story brewing about where he comes from and the obstacles that he’s had to face. I think there’s a reason he’s as stern and as unyielding as he is, and I’d like to explore that. I think there’s probably some very interesting loss and pain and all sorts of stuff like that that sort of propelled him to where he is. So be fun to investigate it.

Is that possibly in the works?
SASHA: I think so because we’ve already touched upon some things in future episodes where there’s a certain family element. And there’s definitely a sense of other royals and competition and a certain pressure to get things accomplished because there’s definitely a time factor because they’re all sort of vying for positions of power.

David Giuntoli of "Grimm"

Which GRIMM creature has been kind of your favorite on the show so far?
SASHA: Oh boy, the Blutbad.
DAVID: Monroe. You know, we mentioned it before, he’s fantastic. But as far as guest stars, I got to tell you I loved, back in “Three Bad Wolves,” I really like the character of Hap who was Monroe’s old love interest’s brother. He was created by Brad Hinkey. Anybody who can bring some kind of levity to a otherwise fairly serious show I think are kind of my favorites.
SASHA: As a character who will rarely if ever crack a joke, I appreciate anyone who brings a little humor and levity to our show. So definitely when we have some fun characters and actors who could provide that, we’re thrilled. And luckily we’ve got like stylists and Reggie providing a lot of comedy for us. They never cease to amaze me though. They’re like always end up bringing in some great lines and some great characters every time. But I also enjoy some of the dark mythological elements. Like I’m really enjoy the reapers and that whole storyline, and guys who wield scythes. I mean that’s pretty crazy. And we got a really interesting one in this episode, which I don’t want to give away, but it’s sort of like a hunter kind of character that comes to collect. Anyway it’s just very interesting like the mythology is developing and some very intriguing characters are coming to the surface.

Why do you think that the show has taken off in the way that it has?
DAVID: Well, I think I think network-after-network, they have a lot of great TV shows. There are a lot of cop shows. There’s a lot of great stuff on TV. But I think we have and had this year is a very unique identity. And when you hear the concept of the show you’re like, “oh, that’s kind of weird and silly,” it sticks with you right away. So I think initially that was very good for us because it wasn’t like anything else. Even now there was ONCE UPON A TIME, clearly a very different show. This has a very different tone. And after that initial kind of hook, I think the writers have done a superb job to kind of slowly develop these characters, bring in some really gruesome storylines while keeping some comedy in there and keeping people interested. It’s great Friday night television and I think it’s a great escapism show, and what I think it’s great for families too – and that’s whose been watching it largely.
SASHA: I think we’ve been brilliantly surprised. So happily surprised that the demographic was so much wider than we even anticipated. Like David mentioned, there’s families watching, which sometimes surprises me considering how gruesome it is. I mean it’s sort of really horrifying and I’m amazed at how many parents watch it with their kids. But, hey I think it’s great. I love the fact that we entertain families as well as individuals and I think it’s a fantastic Friday night end-of-the-week sort of show that just sort of take off your shoes and relax and just kind of turn off and escape with us. And it’s worked out beautifully. And I’m really grateful that there’s other shows like ONCE UPON A TIME. When we were first coming out everyone kept pitting us against one another. I think what they failed to understand is we actually support one another. I think we add to the whole spectrum of television and, in doing so, we just kind of add a lot of momentum to one another. I’m glad to see more shows like that. I’m happy we’re able to do that for one another.
DAVID: I agree with that. It was always great — the fact that both of us came on the air at the same time, it was a story for people to write about — and the more visibility the better.


Is there anything that you’ve been surprised to learn about your characters and yourselves as we delve deeper into the world of GRIMM?
SASHA: Anything I’m surprised about as we delve deeper? You know, I’m always surprised because honestly sometimes with every episode there’s a new development in my storyline, my mythology that I often don’t see coming. On one hand it’s very disconcerting because as an actor you just want to get it all right and you just want to get it all for an honest performance and you want to be able to sort of plan ahead. But it’s sort of the nature of episodic television. You don’t know sometimes what’s coming. And it’s been challenging and a lot of fun to just sort of being thrown off a little bit by the developments. So there’s some very interesting stuff coming down and, as I hear the rumblings from the writer’s room like all these ideas of where they want to take things, it never fails to amaze me and surprise me. So hopefully it will translate as well in the performances and the scripts.
DAVID: I second what Sasha was saying there. In episodic TV you have to keep things secret to keep the viewer in suspense. So we as actors are often in suspense as well. We don’t necessarily know what is going on, we have some back story — and I had a lot easier time with my back story than Sasha because his character’s so mysterious — but you probably learn a lot more about your character episode than I learn about mine. But in this coming episode on Friday, “Three Coins in Fuchsbau,” when I first read the script, I was very surprised because my character Nick gets some major chunks of information kind of thrown at him and that he’s been seeking for a very, very long time about his family. So you never know when this is going to come up and it happened to come up in this Episode 13. So it was very exciting to read that on the page and to get to perform it.
SASHA: I think you’re going to get a sense that this episode really sort of brings it all together in a way. Like this is a very exciting episode and I think everything we’ve been sort of building on this season really starts to gel and even congeal rather in this episode. Like you get a sense of our show I think as clearly as has ever been presented.
DAVID: I agree.

To see the big reveal as to Captain Renard and just how quickly Nick starts to develop his Grimm-powers, be sure to catch GRIMM as it airs Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.

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