Interview with Silas Weir Mitchell from Grimm

Silas Weir Mitchell, who plays Monroe in NBC’s Grimm, recently spoke to the press about his character, upcoming episodes, and more.

Grimm is the story of a young cop named Nick, who suddenly finds himself as a Grimm— a human who is able to see the creatures we only think of as being fairytales. Monroe is a reformed Bluebod (a werewolf), who grudgingly becomes friends with Nick.

Jump with me to read everything Silas had to say.

On his character and backstory

Silas Weir Mitchell: Well to elaborate more on my character basically I suppose everything you hear in the pilot is – you know that’s pretty much as far as we get, you know? I mean I’m a Bluebod and I am sort of a reformed Bluebod, I’m trying to live as a human on the straight and narrow.

And we will definitely learn more about my character in future episodes. But as far as sort of family history we’re not getting into that yet, we do learn about the clock maker and you know.

But it doesn’t get too much into my history or anything.
 

On shooting the pilot and challenges of stepping into the role

Silas: Well shooting the pilot was both – it was really, really exciting and it was really, really challenging. I mean you know we have – you’re allowed more time to shoot the pilot than a normal episode, almost twice as much time.

So you can be more deliberate, but you also don’t have an infrastructure that’s kind of set up which you do once you get a production up and running.

So it was challenging just on the level of the production value that NBC – that we were going for, you know that – so that was hard to try to make it as the best thing as possible without having a production infrastructure that had been working together for a while.

So that was a big challenge. On a production level for me specifically it was just the idea of you know I’ve been on a lot of series but I’ve never been sort of the central sort of pillars of the narrative really.

And I found that to be challenging in its own right knowing that a lot was riding on it. You know that was challenging. But luckily we all have a great time working together. It was a really – it’s a great environment to work.

So everything kind of came out well I’d say.
 

On the chemistry and working together with David & other co-stars

Silas: Yeah, there’s – that is – I can only talk about this case in particular but we’re very lucky in the sense that we love working together and I have a lot of respect for David and I think he’s sort of – I think he’s very well cast and I think he’s just a lovely guy.

And he’s a smart guy and we like working together so establishing a rapport on camera is not difficult because we have a very good one off camera.

We see each other all – you know we have coffee every now and then, you know I mean everybody – you know you sort of run lines once in a while if you have a big scene but we – one doesn’t do anything calculated necessarily in order to create a rapport.

One either has one or doesn’t I think and we do. And that’s a very lucky thing. They cast this show very well, they got the right people in and I think that part of getting the right people in involved you know the chemistry.

And somehow they managed to put a group of people together that has great chemistry. And I don’t know how you do that.

I don’t know if you can calculate that or not but in this case you know it worked well, the pairing of people. You know we all dig working together, we’re all very happy to be here so it’s not hard.

You know we don’t have to fake anything.
 

On how he got involved with the show

Silas: Yeah, I worked with Jim Kouf, who is one of the creators and writers of the show along with David Greenwalt but I worked with Jim Kouf on a movie that he wrote, directed and produced called Fork in the Road in 2007 I believe.

And we just hit it off, you know we had a good working relationship and you know he and I have a sort of – I understand his sense of humor and I was auditioning for a role where they expected a different kind of – really in their minds when they wrote it envisioned one kind of person that this character was.

And Fern Castle who is the casting director thought that I might be an interesting kind of other way to go. And you know casting directors try to do that, they try to give you the choices that you think it’s going to be and then they always bring in sort of the black sheep.

Just to say you know what about this idea and a lot of times I’m the black sheep, I’m the sort of what about going this way kind of guy. And it doesn’t really work out very often because people have their hearts set on kind of one thing.

In this case I was the way to go and it was the opposite of what he had anticipated and so I sort of struck a nerve with him and we had a great time then henceforth working on the project and so you know when this came along, they just called me in.

You know I think that they said oh this guy would be good because we saw him, you know we worked with him before. So that’s how it went, you know it’s just I happened to know Jim.
 

On what attracted him to the role

Silas: What attracted me to it was it was a job really. I mean there was an audition for one of the leads in the pilot so there you go, you know what I mean?

Like I didn’t seek it out, I got the call, hey there’s an audition for this thing and I read the script and I thought it was cool. That having been said, what does attract me to the role, certainly I would have auditioned for it probably otherwise.

But given the fact that I’m doing it what really does attract me to the role is the inner conflict. I mean it’s – you know that is rich territory for an actor to have that kind of secret, you know?

Not only to have a secret but to have a secret that you’re trying to you know deal with on a daily basis. It’s not just oh you know – it’s not just a secret from the past.

It’s a secret that in every breath you’re trying to maintain. And that’s really fun to play, I also think the mythological elements of the story are very compelling.

Because I really feel like in a lot of ways the creature elements of the show quote unquote, creature stuff is really to my mind an expression of the sort of mythological underpinnings of not to get high falutin’, but really of the human psyche.

We all live in a world where there are monsters, monsters are real, you know and you look at sort of murderers and people who are on death row and people who have done terrible things you know like the Richard Ramirez’s of the world and the Sons of Sam and those people.

And I feel like the creature elements of this show in a lot of ways are addressing that sort of mythical darkness that because if you bring myth into it you have – you can discuss it in broader terms and not just make it about you know the procedural element which is a huge part of the show.

Long story short, I think you know the mythology and the inner conflict.
 

On preparing for playing a werewolf

Silas: The research I did was really reading. I’m presently at arm’s length of a book that was written in 1933, it’s one of the classics, this is no joke, on lycanthropy and werewolfism and all that.

And it was written in – let me see here, yeah it was written in 1933. And you know it’s got like – there are pages of it that are in Latin and pages of it that are in like middle French, it’s really fun.

Because the werewolf, like I was saying to the last caller about the mythological elements of this, the werewolf is a real thing. I mean there are stories that are not just like occult lore where you know in France in the 18th century, you know there was a guy who terrorized the French country side running around at night stealing children.

And you know mutilating them. And what’s our answer to that? Who do we – you know what is that? And one of the ways of addressing that is to say you’re a monster, you’re a werewolf, you know?

And so the research was for me was reading these stories sometimes when these were real. It wasn’t mythological then. I think now we recognize that the werewolf is a myth.

But the research of reading stories from a time when the werewolf was a real thing is pretty intense when you really put yourself in the shoes of someone who believed that a transformation took place and that a beast roamed the hills.

That’s pretty intense.
 

On whether or not the werewolf transformation is all makeup or all CGI

Silas: No, it’s not, it’s both. It’s – the idea is that it’s CGI on top of makeup but you still can tell that it’s my face. I mean there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it but the three ingredients really are prosthetics, computer graphics and my face.

And – because the idea is that when someone morphs, they don’t just turn into a werewolf like generic or you know someone is like a – you know I don’t know, a beetle creature or you know whatever.

They don’t just turn into a beetle, they turn into their beetle, you know what I mean?

They turn into what they would look like as this creature so they really make an effort to fuse the prosthetics and the CGI in such a way that you can tell that it’s me underneath it.

And that they do that with other creatures that are coming down the pike.

[Regarding having to be able to see part creature/part human…] I mean it really is to me if you think of it in terms of a murderer or a – you know whatever, kidnapper or something that they look like a human.

You look at Charles Manson, you see a human. But if a Grimm looked at Charles Manson they would see the beast that the guy is underneath the human mask.

That’s only if you have the perceptive powers of a Grimm.
 

On what’s coming up and his favorite fairytale they cover

Silas: All I can tell you is the episodes get – they get sort of deliciously dark and creepy. And NBC is letting us go there so to speak which I think is fantastic.

I didn’t really grow up on fairy tales per se. I kind of grew up on – there was one book that I had as a child which I’ve mentioned in other interviews which was called Slovenly Peter.

It’s also known as Shock Headed Peter and it’s an old German book, forget what the German word is for slovenly or shock headed.

But it’s – I forget right now, you’d have to hypnotize me but it would come to me. Anyway, it had cautionary tales in it and they were pretty grisly. You know and the idea was you know the cautionary tale of what – you know the little girl who played with matches, you know?

And what happens if you play with matches, and in the end of the story she’s burnt to a crisp, she’s like a pile of ashes. So that was sort of the German fairy tale book that I had, it wasn’t Grimm but it was grim if you know what I mean.
 

On the biggest challenge when shooting the pilot

Silas: Yeah, the thing that was the most challenging was it was really practical. It wasn’t some – it wasn’t like a challenging in an aesthetic sense, it was just the challenge was knowing that you’re shooting a pilot that you really it’s a – you really want to do well.

And you know from an actor’s point of view it’s lovely to be employed, it is lovely to be employed in a part in a role that you find rich. It is lovely to be employed in a role that you find rich working with people that you actually like, okay?

So you got all these things lined up, then you have to shoot a six page scene in four hours, you know what I mean? And so that was the only challenge.

And that’s – you know for the record that is a lot of pages in and not a lot of time. So to me the greatest challenge was even though we had more days than we would normally shoot the pilot, I found the challenge to be living honestly and having fun keeping the stakes of the thing at bay, i.e. wanting it to be good and get picked up and all that jazz.

Just trying to get through a very long scene you know without rushing it and making it – still making it good. So the challenge was a very practical one.
 

On playing a character that is more endearing than simply crazy

Silas: It’s lovely to play someone who is not crazy, any more than the next guy.

I mean that might be debatable, you know I mean some people might say well he is a little crazier than the next guy but you know not in a kind of the way you’re talking.

I mean Monroe, you know Monroe is definitely a unique person, you know.

But not crazy in the way that you’re talking and it is nice to have that change, to not play someone who’s you know feverishly disturbed you know.
Or evil for that matter.
 

On shooting anywhere else but Portland

Silas: You know I wouldn’t say that’s out of the question at all, but I certainly – I don’t think it’s something that we’re – that I don’t think that the writers are kind of aiming to do that right now.

I think Portland is so varied in its various environments, I mean really it has a downtown, and then 15 minutes you’re in the literally in a rain forest, you know in an hour you can be at the beach.

In an hour you can be on Mount Hood and it has lots of different neighborhoods. You see what I mean, so there’s so many various types of looks and places to shoot that I think it’s not something that they’re sort of hell bent to do, you know what I mean?

Because we’ve got it all here.

It’s really a lovely place to live and work, I’ll tell you.
 

On what frightens him

Silas: That’s an interesting question. Well I’ll tell you when I was a kid what frightened me, there was – it really had to do with the power of suggestion.

And I lived out in the country and summer nights you know sometimes you wind up sort of far away from the house suddenly and it was dusk and then it was dark and you had to get back home.

And it’s pretty scary you know walking through the woods alone at night when you’re little. And one of the things that really scared me was if I started thinking about the guy who was chasing me or the guy who was in the woods, if I started thinking about it, it was scary.

But really if I started behaving as though the guy were really there and I started running, and if I started running the behavior of it actually made me really scared and I would have to get home immediately.

So that was one of the things I remember from my childhood that as I think back on it was very apropos of Grimm was sort of running through the woods.

Because if you just went slowly and calmly and realized that it was just in your imagination and walked you would be fine. But as soon as you actually start running you’re done.

Yeah, it’s like if you – you know the imagination is very powerful weapon and you can use – and people use it against themselves all the time.

You know you see people imagining things that are terrible or think – you know what I mean, you can use the imagination in a lot of ways and humans a lot of times use it against themselves.

And that’s one of the examples of you know people like you know you can scare yourself, you know? If you went to bed every night imagining that there was a guy with an ax in your closet you would start believing it eventually.

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