"Deception" (premieres on Monday, January 7 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC) is a mystery thriller centering around the death of notorious socialite Vivian Bowers and her former best friend-turned-detective who attempts to unravel the secrets surrounding her demise, including what role her family might've played in her death.
The series stars Meagan Good as Detective Joanna Locasto, who goes undercover to investigate the powerful Bowers clan, which includes Victor Garber as patriarch Robert, Katherine LaNasa as wife Sofia, sons Edward (Tate Donovan) and Julian (Wes Brown) and younger daughter Mia (Ella Rae Peck). Helping Joanna in her investigation is FBI agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso).
At the 2013 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, HuffPost TV caught up with Victor Garber, perhaps best known for his role as Jack Bristow on cult hit "Alias," who plays a very different, but no less intriguing father figure on "Deception." Read on for what Garber thinks of the constant "Revenge" comparisons, what attracted him to the role, and what about "Deception" reminded him of "Alias." Light spoilers ahead.
Let's talk about your character, Robert Bowers, since he's at the center of this powerful family. What can you reveal about him and the show that audience members need to know starting out?
It’s a dysfunctional family, but what’s interesting to me about this is it’s a very wealthy pharmaceutical firm family suffering the loss of a child in the first episode, and [it's about] how people respond to a tragedy. Some people respond better than others. And for me, the character of the father has kind of a desperate attempt to hold things together because everything is unraveling in front of him, and he’s grieving and trying to not allow it to upset everything.
So it’s really about that, and then, of course, the added intrigue that it could be a murder, and who did it -- "Is it someone in the family?" and "why?" and all of that. Then there's the infiltration of Joanna (Meagan Goode) -- an undercover cop, who grew up with the family and whom the father loves and trusts. Robert is really looking to find a surrogate for his lost daughter so [he] invites her into the home and then the hijinks ensue. "Deception" is a very good title, because everyone is not who they seem to be, and you find that out as the series goes on. We have a lot of episodes that will be uninterrupted, and I think that’s the perfect way to see this show.
What attracted you to the role initially?
You know, the only thing that ever attracts me is the writing. I was sent this script, and I was on page three, and I went past that, so usually I can tell pretty fast if it’s something that is going to appeal to me. It was a page-turner, literally, and I thought what made it interesting was that it was dimensional. The characters had dimension. [The script] was, of course, what it is -- it’s a joyride. It’s like a thrill ride, but it’s smart. I think Liz Helden is a really talented writer and creator, and I feel like my instinct was right, because it’s been really fun, and I think the show is good ... I watched it for the first time yesterday. I never really do ... I mean, I’ve watched shows I’ve been on, but I watched three episodes yesterday. I’m really happy about this. It’s a good feeling.
Robert is so nice and accommodating to Joanna when she reinserts herself into the Bowers family, but one might almost think he's too nice ...
Yes. Very early on -- when he’s being chastised by his wife and his other son that he shouldn’t be doing this, that there’s something off -- he says, “Thank you, but I believe that she’s here for a reason.” So there’s something in him that's prophetic, but you know, be careful what you wish for. It turns out that, in fact, she is [there for a reason]. But I think the other thing is she does love this family. And she does love this man, who is a surrogate father for her from when she was young, so their relationship is very cemented in a kind of authenticity. And so even if it turns out badly, I think his instinct was right, and that also is interesting to play, because what is that, you know? When we know something we don’t know, we just have a feeling ... it’s like that first instinct.
But then there are things we discover about Robert in upcoming episodes that are far less chivalrous and admirable.
Robert Bowers is a powerful, enigmatic, charismatic man, who does things that are wrong, but like all people who do those things, they justify them. So it’s the world according to him. What he does is right, and what everyone else does, if he disagrees, is wrong. We’ve all met people, we’ve worked for people, we’ve worked with people, we’ve lived with people like that. And it’s a very difficult thing to navigate for other people around him.
Can you talk a little about the dynamics between Robert and his wife, Sofia (Katherine LaNasa), which is somewhat strained when we meet them?
Yes. She’s obviously not his first wife. She’s not the mother of all of his children. But I think the dynamic is, he’s found a partner in crime, in a sense. Someone who looks good, who can keep up with the façade of that world, in which, you know ... appearance is everything. And she’s very good at it, and I think he’s proud of that, happy with that. She knows how the bread is buttered, and where it all lies. Then we find out she’s got some issues, later on. But that’s the fun of this show. Because as wild as it gets, and it’s pretty wild, there’s a kind of credibility. There’s always a point where you think, “Well, that could happen.” And probably does. [Laughs.]
Obviously this is a family dealing with a huge loss, and as you said, they all deal with it differently. His sons, Edward (Tate Donovan) and Julian (Wes Brown) certainly react to it in very aggressive, physical ways. How does Robert feel about their coping mechanisms, especially in regards to keeping up the controlled appearance of the family?
I think although he wants appearances kept up at all costs ... There’s a kind of fatherly pride when your kid beats up the other kid on the school ground. Even though you say, “You shouldn’t be doing that,” there’s kind of that, “Hey, my kid’s a toughie,” so you know, it’s a mixed feeling, obviously. And I think what’s great about this show is it flashes back, and later on, you see them at really young ages ... The point is that you get to see that at one point, like all families, they had this kind of innocence and sweetness. It’s also a cautionary tale, and I think that’s valid, especially in the world we live in now. So many people aspire to this kind of wealth and power, to what end and at what cost, and I think that’s what this show depicts rather well.
Not only is there an investigation into Vivian's death, there's also suspicion about a new drug that Bowers Pharmaceuticals is developing that may have some deadly side-effects. Is there anything that goes on in his company that Robert isn't aware of, or is he pulling all the strings?
I think he’s aware, but this turns out, as you find out, that there’s something going on here that he doesn’t know, and he’s trying to find out, and that unravels. The interesting thing, too, I think, is how we all aspire to [be these people], but we’re all jealous of these people. These blue-collar workers, they resent [the Bowers], and they talk about that -- I think we all do. We want to be there, we want to be invited to the party, but there’s a resentment immediately. We make those judgments right away with very wealthy people. Sometimes it’s justified and most of the time it isn’t.
There have been a lot of comparisons between "Deception" and ABC's "Revenge." Are you familiar with that show and what you think "Deception" does differently?
I don’t really watch TV very much. However, I do know, like anything, this is different because it’s a different writer, different people. By the way, there’s nothing new under the sun -- it’s all variations of things. So if this kind of show appeals to you, you’ll like it. So if it doesn’t, then you’ll go back to "Homeland." I don’t understand why people have to compare -- I guess because they don’t really know how to say, “Oh, it’s different.” And I think the show is different, because it’s a different show. It’s really that simple. [Laughs.]
The NBC executives were all effusive in their praise of Meagan Good during their TCA panel. Can you talk about working with her and what she brings to the show?
I can talk very easily about Meagan Good. I did not know her, I had never heard of her, I’d never seen her. I’m not proud of this, but you know, I didn’t know who she was, and I had no idea of who they were going to cast, but I did know one thing: When I did "Alias," I said the only way this show’s going to work, is with whoever plays Sydney Bristow. That’s why people will tune in, and I felt that true of this show -- that that character [of Joanna] was why people would watch this show. And then when I met her, and I started working with her, I thought, “She’s remarkable.” The great surprise is that she’s the sweetest person imaginable. And I’m not comparing her to Jennifer [Garner] in any way. I’m only saying that she is the real thing, and that she’s really talented. Aside from being so beautiful and sexy, she’s got something special, and actually, having just watched these episodes, I feel that way about the cast. I mean, Laz Alonso, if you know him, he’s fantastic. And the two of them together are so exciting to watch. I feel that way about everybody in the cast. I really do. And I’m not easy. I may appear to be, but I’m not.
"Deception" premieres Monday, January 7 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.
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