Throughout the first season of the USA Network series NECESSARY ROUGHNESS one name rang out: Marshall Pittman. The name was invocative of the nearly omnipresent owner of the New York Hawks Owner, Marshall Pittman, who instilled simultaneous awe and trepidation in his team and business associates. In a recent press conference call, star Evan Handler shared how became to be the man behind the name on NECESSARY ROUGHNESS.
Can you talk about how you started on NECESSARY ROUGHNESS? How that all came about?
EVAN: That’s a good question. I don’t know how it all came about. My agents presented me with the offer, and along the way I heard from the executive producers that there was a great deal of discussion. I guess “the powers that be” and the corporate backer of USA Network were extremely particular about who would play this particular role — and for reasons that were discussed outside my presence, there was excitement about my name in particular.
In Season 1 there was a lot of talk about Marshall Pittman and his somewhat sinister presence was a very prominent trait of the show, despite he never making an actual appearance. So, how was it for you as an actor to get in the shoes of the character that had such a big build up in the first season? What were the defining factors in how you decided to play the character in the end?
EVAN: Yeah. That’s daunting, when a character is built up with so much in advance. It also plays right into some of the traps and risks of working on the television show in particular, because not only did I come in and this character has been built up and built up and built up, but as on any television show you’re shooting one episode and subsequent episodes have not necessarily yet been written. So, whatever the writers have done and said about a character in a particular episode might not even really match with what they then decide to do one or two episodes later. So, as with anything, I take my queues from the written words. So I watched Season 1. I learned what they had set up about this guy. We had some talks about what they thought they were going to do with the character, but even one or two episodes in that took some dramatic turns. So, the best you can do is work with each script and make your choices, and if they’re contradicted later then, well, you hope the audience interprets that as a complexity.
With everything that’s going on with Marshall Pittman and the team, can you talk about how he may change from when he was first introduced?
EVAN: Well, he’s certainly spoken about a lot in the first season, but I suppose with the kind of just vague sinisterness. And then, when he appears, I think the safety-coating for me and everyone is that he’s supposed to be very mercurial and unpredictable, so it leaves a certain freedom, even if you set up something that if there’s inconsistency later on. And I guess because two of the episodes have yet to air, I think what comes into play is that behind the bravado is what’s revealed as possibly a surprising sensitivity and vulnerability. I think that’s the best answer I can give to that.
Is there anything good about Pittman, and do you think we’re going to see a change in him as this season goes on?
EVAN: Well, those are strong words. I don’t know what everybody thinks of him. I like to think that it’s clear that there’s some possible method behind the madness, and I do think there’s a change. As I said, I think there is a vulnerability that’s revealed along the way. And certainly for NECESSARY ROUGHNESS to continue as its fans know it and love it, I don’t think Marshall Pittman can absolutely destroy the team. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think I think there is a modulation to his behavior at some point, or at least some better understanding of his frantic contradictions will come into play.
What is the thing that you like best about playing this role on this show?
EVAN: Well, you know it’s a gamble whenever you travel someplace to drop into a society that you’re not familiar with. Really, the best thing was that, as on CALIFORNICATION, the actual culture of NECESSARY ROUGHNESS is an incredibly familial and friendly one. You can drop into a TV show and find that everybody is angry at each other and bitter and hates the way that the show is run and doesn’t like the way they’re being treated, and this was the opposite of that. This was a group of very happy people and a group of executive producers and a network that seemed to be taking great care of each other. So, I suppose that sounds all namby-pamby, but it was a great relief to me and it was just a nice four weeks in Atlanta.
Is there anything you learned about yourself after doing NECESSARY ROUGHNESS?
EVAN: That’s interesting. I think I went into it a little bit daunted about playing this very powerful and famous and media savvy mogul-type figure. Maybe that comes from, you know we’re deep into the sixth season now of CALIFORNICATION where I play Charlie Runkle, a character that when I described him to my five-year old daughter she said, “Oh, he’s a lot like Charlie Brown,” because I said, “Well, he always makes mistakes and gets in trouble.” So, I think you can come to wonder whether the world is willing to perceive you as someone slick and in control and powerful. I’ve been pleased with the glimpses that I’ve seen so far that I’m not horrified by portrayal yet.
Since you mentioned the fact that we will see vulnerability to Marshall, could you tell us how we get to that moment and whether and how Nico and Marshall come to terms with the tension there is between them that’s been caused by Gabrielle?
EVAN: Yeah, I think the emotional climax of the Marshall story comes in his confrontation with Gabrielle. That’s not giving too much away, I don’t think. Obviously, Marshall and Nico also have their issues to resolve, but I think the most volatile emotional one comes during the divorce proceedings with Gabrielle. And Nico and Marshall part on, I would say, peaceful terms, although I don’t think everything is tied up neatly. Marshall goes away. I don’t know if they have any plans to resurrect him at any point, but it’s not like he takes a bullet and is buried or anything like that.
In playing a successful guy like Marshall, are there any similarities to playing an agent, in terms of certain types of personalities?
EVAN: Well, the agent I play on CALIFORNICATION is very a particular, although I think a rather realistic one. It was interesting coming on the heels of Jeremy Piven’s great success in ENTOURAGE. But, the agents that I’ve dealt with, anyway in my life, have been much more like Charlie Runkle, meaning that they were more schlumpy and more bumblers, and guys who I think lived vicariously through their clients, as opposed to the kind of slick, high flying life that they’re often portrayed as having. So, no, I didn’t feel a lot of similarity between Charlie Runkle, the particular guy that I’ve lived with for some years on CALIFORNICATION, and Marshall Pittman. To me, they actually seemed like pretty different creatures inhabiting different realms of existence.
What vision do you want to bring to portraying Marshall on screen?
EVAN: I’m trying to think back to any particular. I mean, when I work, and certainly on CALIFORNICATION, it’s become very comfortable to make contributions and make suggestions. I’m trying to remember anything that might have been the case. I think when we first started doing some wardrobe tests the clothing was extremely conservative and corporate, and I came home late from being out carousing in Atlanta one time and Rob Morrow, who was directing that episode, I was wearing these white jeans and a sport shirt and a kind of very modern blue Italian jacket and he said, “Oh, there it is right there.” I had actually made a bid to have Marshall be that way. I saw no reason that he had to be conventional corporate type. I thought it’d be interesting if he actually looked like kind of a hipster, and was extremely mod in his dress. And it didn’t become that, but it settled somewhere in between. But, I really thought, “Why not make this guy other than what people would think of a conventional corporate titan.”
To see what further turmoil Marshall Pittman will wreak in the process of his bloody divorce battle and how it will affect his football team the New York Hawks, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of NECESSARY ROUGHNESS on Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. on USA Network.
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