'Graceland' Interviews: The Cast on Lying, Working Together and Putting Characters First
'Graceland' Interviews: The Cast on Lying, Working Together and Putting Characters First
Jeff Dodge
Jeff Dodge
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
"Your lies are your life." Not only is this the tagline for USA's new summer drama Graceland, but it's also the unofficial motto for how the six agents featured on the show live their day to day lives, both when they're on and off the job. BuddyTV visited the set earlier this year and talked with the cast about what this means for their characters, how everyone works together despite there being three different agencies and if their jobs affect their personal lives.

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Your Lies Are Your Life

What will the FBI, DEA and Customs agents be struggling with? According to Brandon Jay McLaren, who plays Dale Jakes, a lot of it has to do with the ethical boundaries they're facing on a daily basis. And in order to do their jobs right, they have to go all in and not waver or hesitate. "In terms of being an undercover agent, you might be asked to do some questionable things to keep the cover. And if you've been under two years with a case, are you going to blow that? So these are the kind of hard realities that these people in the house are facing."

In an earlier interview, Daniel Sunjata, starring as Paul Briggs, mentioned that everybody on the show has secrets, which is an enormous component of the series. This fits in with the unofficial motto that the agents live by -- your lies are your life. They must grapple with that burden, especially within Graceland. "The relationships in the house become more and more complex and become stripped of their facade of happy-go-lucky normalcy," he said. "And you get to see what it's like to live in a house with people who lie for a living outside the walls of that house, and then sometimes have to play secrets very close to their chest, even when they come home." While he won't reveal exactly how this plays out without giving too much away, viewers will not be disappointed by the various twists and turns along the way.

Continuing from there, Serinda Swan, who plays Paige Arkin, related the motto to real life: "You all know when you tell a lie, at the beginning it's the easiest thing to do 'cause it's just the quickest thing in the moment to tell a lie. And as it gets longer and longer and longer, you start having to remember who did you tell, how exactly does that implicate other things in your life, what goes on and when it's happening with six people in one house, about something that's just massive. You really start to see how that trickles down and how it gets intertwined and it becomes this kind of rotted, gnarled mess at the end."

Working Together

Even though there are different agencies involved in the house, you would think they're all on their own cases and not interacting very much work-wise. But McLaren said it's actually the complete opposite. "We all work together. I think that's kind of the point of the house is having all these people in the same house where they can all kind of help each other out. And then oftentimes, one arm kind of reaches into the other."

As a Customs agent, his character deals with border crossings, illegal contraband and anything coming in or out of the United States. And as an example of how the different agents commingle, he explained that, "It also crosses over to DEA because a lot of that stuff is drug and stuff like that."

Swan elaborated by saying, "Some of [the cases] will cross over ... They may need a DEA agent on one, they may not. Whatever it is, we cross reference the duality between the two of just -- I may need help with the FBI, may need SWAT, whatever it is. So sometimes there's just a singular case going on, and then the audience gets to follow that and see the ins and outs of undercover. And then once in a while, they'll see us come together as a team and help out."

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Characters Welcome

Many of the cast members mentioned that Graceland is a darker show, as you would expect, but they all point out that despite this being a crime drama, the characters and their interactions with each other are at the forefront, which fits in well with USA's tagline, "Characters Welcome." Aaron Tveit, playing Mike Warren, said, "It's a realistic look at what these undercover agents do, and that's what makes it dark. But at the core of it, it's still very much a show about relationship and friendship. Hopefully, the balance is right that we have a nice juxtaposition between this terrible world that we work in and this lighter world that we live in."

Echoing that sentiment, McLaren went on to say, "As much as the show is about being federal agents, it's just as much, if not more, about how we deal with our situation, not necessarily our cases, but how living in this house affects us. ... What makes Graceland great is that it's really about not necessarily the job, but how the job affects the person, the character, which I think is really cool."

It's hard to have any sort of a personal life outside of these agents' jobs. And trying to separate the two areas of their lives is not always the easiest to manage. "In these people's lives, they don't really have a lot of control," he continued. "So anything that they can try to control, any sense of normalcy that they can grasp onto, they're going to do that. ... Because the job is so all-consuming, it's hard to kind of keep your personal life together when you have this job that kind of destroys that fabric of your personal life. That's what makes Graceland different because it's not a procedural in that sense. It's very much about the characters and not necessarily the cases so much."


Graceland premieres Thursday, June 6 at 10pm on USA.

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(Image courtesy of USA)

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