Interview with Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice

Jeffrey Donovan recently spoke to the press about his role as Michael Weston on Burn Notice, which has its 2-hour fall premiere tonight on USA Network at 9/8c. At the end of the first half of the season, Anson was killed by a man named Tyler Grey, but in the process, Michael’s brother Nate was killed, as well. On the hunt for Grey, Michael, Fiona, Sam, and Jesse went down to Panama, and they figured out right at the end that Michael’s CIA handler, Card, was responsible for it all. I’ve gotten to see tonight’s episodes, and they are fantastic. So check out what Jeffrey had to say about that, the show in general, and what might be coming up.
 

On Michael’s relationship with Grey & Card

Jeffrey: Well I think you’re going to be in for a big surprise with Grey. And it’s going to be very shocking. So the – you’ll realize after you see what happens, why that’s kind of a difficult question to answer.

But I will say that the relationship that Michael has with Grey and Card is going to turn Michael down a path that even Sam will question Michael’s integrity. And I think that’s what the fans are going to really be interested in is how dark will Michael go?

And I think that the fans are going to kind of enjoy seeing Michael go down a very dark path and that’s what’s going to be enjoyable about the rest of the season.
 
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On whether or not Michael’s relationship with his mother will ever be okay again

Jeffrey: You know, I think that you’ll see mending in the latter part of the season. And I think that Madeline’s love for Michael is unconditional in the best way.

But what I think is the hardest thing on Madeline is not seeing Michael go back into the CIA or do a job or maybe cross the line in accomplishing some kind of mission. It’s when he hurts his friends.

And I think at the end of this season you’ll see Michael make a choice that I don’t think that Madeline will be able to justify. And but like her love has been for six seasons it’s unconditional and I think that she’ll try to find that compromise.

But Michael’s going to put his friends and his mom in a very difficult position at the end of the season.
 

On his character playing the different cover IDs

Jeffrey: Yeah. One of the fun things that we didn’t actually realize when we first the show was that even though I’m a Burn spy and I’m trying to get back in, the kind of fun of the show is always to help the person that no one else can help and only Michael’s skills can solve his problem.

So we thought it’d be fun if that certain cover ID just like spies had to do, were taken on. And some of the things that were asked of me were great. You know, if I had to do an accent or some kind of character it was always fun to kind of make that up with the writer at the time.

And then over the years they kind of evolved into sometimes some wacky guys and sometimes some pretty sadistic guys. But yeah, it keeps it interesting.

The hardest ones were always the ones that I hadn’t ever done before. I mean just like a writer might have a certain style that they write in and they’re comfortable and then someone says okay, I want you to do a short story form. It might be out of their comfort zone.

Those are the most difficult ones. And the – one of the most difficult ones was this kind of character I did about – I think it was Season 3, where I basically played the devil and I think this name was (Louis) – almost like (Louis Cifer) as in Lucifer.

And he was a cross between the devil and Clint Eastwood and I played him – I mean I just went out on a limb and played him. And I’ve never received better feedback from fans about that’s their cover ID I’ve ever played.

But it was the scariest one because I thought it was so different from anything I’d ever done not only on the show but as – just as an actor.
 

On his favorite villian so far

Jeffrey: Oh, see now that’s really tough. Because, you know, it’s six years of actors that have come through here and I – god, just let me see. I have to think. You know, I’d have to say Jay Karnes. He played Brennen.

Jay Karnes, I mean a wonderful actor and very well known and he played for the first time – one of the things that I always say to Matt Nix and all of the writers is never dumb down the villain.

I think why James Bond is, you know, the 007 series always works is because the villains were always these mega intelligent villains. And I said when you dumb down a villain then you dumb down Michael.

Always make the villains smarter than Michael but Michael just figures out the one Achilles heel that the villain has. And the closest person to ever do that was Jay Karnes. And an actor like that is incredible anyway but to put him in that role where he basically tells Michael, what are you going to do?

Are you going to do this? Well then I have the answer to that. Are you going to do that? I’m going to – then I’m going to do this. He always was one step ahead of Michael which was always the – kind of a great villain, a great foe is that the villain is smarter than you.
 

On what’s next for Michael

Jeffrey: You know, great question. I think what’s tough for this show is the title. You know, Burn Notice was not only an unfamiliar word to me but I think to most fans until they understood what the show was about.

And it’s kind of like calling the show Escape from the Moon and after the sixth season they got off the moon. Well what next? I think that the fans are going to love this last part of Season 6 because it focuses on Nate’s death, finding that killer and bringing him to justice.

And I think that you’ll see a more of a hell bent Michael, more personal than you’ve seen him try to kind of navigate the waters towards getting back in with the CIA and Burn Notice. And then at the end of the season, you know, it’s a bit of a cliffhanger.

There’s a huge event that happens between Michael and Fiona that will propel Season 7 which if all goes as planned, will be a very different kind of Burn Notice because of the trajectory but no less kind of dangerous for Michael.

But I think it’ll be more personal next year than it will be professional, if that answers your question without me giving anything.
 

On having to take the character in a new direction if renewed for season 7

Jeffrey: Well I think that not only am I kind of tired of it, I think maybe the fans are a little tired of just me trying to get back into the CIA and burned.

But I think that one of the things we’ve never really explored and I’m actually – this is my thoughts, no one’s actually said this to me, is that the whole mystery behind Michael’s past and his relationship with his father, I think that’s an interesting road.

But I also think that we’ve never really seen how dark Michael can go when someone close to him has been hurt. I mean when his brother is killed I mean you can see a rage in Michael that – which hopefully the audiences kind of connect with.

But I think that there’s even something deeper there. And not that, you know, where a show like Dexter where, you know, Michael’s a serial killer and will cut people up but for a greater good.

But I think that there is a side of Michael that would channel some kind of monster if he felt like that was the only way to get retribution for someone being hurt that he loved.
 

On how Michael & Fiona’s relationship will grow & change from now on

Jeffrey: Well, you know, listen Michael and Fi are as dysfunctional as they get. I don’t think them becoming closer or them growing apart is really going to affect what probably is an ultimate time bomb between those two.

I think that – and there’s nothing written or any story that I’m kind of referring to but I think that down the road these two are going to combust. I mean they have to because I mean she’s nitro and he’s glycerin and they are going to blow up.

But how they blow up is going to probably be very unique to them. Blowing up to them might be them getting married. You know? And but blowing up may be also them, you know, killing one each other – killing each other.

You know, I don’t know but I know that the more conflict that those two have I think the best for the show. I think when they become romantic and, you know, cute towards each other I think that’s where the show kind of gets boring.

So I think that you’re probably going to see more of a combustible Michael and Fiona in Season 7.
 

On having to go to a darker place with his character & if that lingers

Jeffrey: I just think of the long hours I’m working and then I just channel that. You know, I think as an actor, you know, not that I’m experienced but at least I have, you know, about 25 years under my belt.

You know, just like any kind of pro athlete, you know, it’s like asking a pro athlete like David Ortiz who gets up at home plate, how do you hit that home run? It’s just you do what you do, you know? It’s kind of ingrained in you and then you just try to find that kind of motivation that will spark each take.

And it might be that, you know, they’re out of M&Ms at Craft Service and that really makes you sad. Or, you know, it’s something from your personal life that you draw on that was, you know, maybe hard or devastating in your past.

But I mean I think that actors do what they do well when they can just make it their own. And that’s up to them. You know, the way my process works is very different the way Bruce works and very different the way Sharon works but we all kind of accomplish the same goal.

So it’s hard but I draw upon different things, you know, per day, per scene, per character.

It sometimes lingers with you. You know, you might be in such an emotional state that you kind of need a few minutes to just kind of recompose yourself, especially if they’re saying okay, moving on to the scene where Michael chases the bad guy and grabs and ice cream cone and licks it while doing it.

You know, and you’re like oh this is supposed to be slightly comical at the same time. But, you know, that’s what we do. It’s not brain surgery. And it certainly isn’t on a level of national importance, you know, like an election or disaster relief.

But, you know, hopefully for those few minutes you believe what I’m doing and you’re entertained and you kind of – you can kind of escape that, you know, that world that you’d maybe be bothered with for an hour and have fun.
 
 
Thanks to Jeffrey for taking the time to speak to the press. Don’t forget to tune in tonight to USA Network at 9/8c for the 2-hour fall premiere of Burn Notice!

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