One of the shows everyone’s going to be talking about this summer is USA’s Graceland, which follows six agents from the FBI, DEA and Customs. BuddyTV visited the set earlier this year and talked with the cast about their characters and which agents will bring some lighter moments to a show that deals with serious issues. Also, which actress is comparing Graceland to reality TV? Read on to find out.

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Dale Jakes: The Loyal Agent

Whereas Aaron Tveit found the “smart guy” vibe to his character an incentive to join the show, Brandon Jay McLaren, who plays US Custom agent Dale Jakes, was attracted to the writing and character development. “The way [series creator Jeff Eastin] writes and the way he kind of delineates the different characters and the setting, there’s this sexiness to it and I loved it.”

When it comes to his character, how would he describe Jakes? “Jakes is very prickly. But it’s not for the sake of being that way. And you’ll see as the story goes on, you’ll see that Jakes is dealing with a lot of stuff outside of the house, and so he sometimes has other stuff on his mind. … Jakes is also one of those guys who — he’s tough to get to know, but once you know him he’ll be loyal to you forever, one of those guys who doesn’t let you in right away. But when he does, you know you got a friend for life.”

This is one of those roles where McLaren is glad to be an actor and not doing the job Jakes does in real life. He said, “Me personally, I could never do this work in real life. I always think about what kind of person wants to get into this and what are the reasons why. Why do they stay in it, even when it continues to rip away at their personal life, even when they can’t have normal relationships? Why?” He certainly makes a great point.

Female Power

While situations can get pretty serious and intense, there are lighter moments the characters show that provide a balance. Serinda Swan, who plays Paige Arkin, says that her character is “pretty light. And they give her a good sense of humor, but at the same time, she’ll kick your ass, which I was like, oh, that sounds like a fun female character to play. … She’s the girl that’ll come in and listen to your problems and then smack your ass and wink at you and be like, get back to work. So she’s got a very fun personality, which I love, which I was completely drawn to.”

Swan was also drawn to Graceland being more of a serialized drama, instead of a procedural, and having a focus on the characters. “It’s really about the characters and obviously [USA’s tagline is Characters Welcome] — this is a very characters welcomed show. You’ll start to see and as you think you’re getting to know one of the characters, it’ll just completely switch it around.”

She joked around about the casting process, saying the network hired a lot of attractive actors. “USA did a fine job of putting us with good looking people. I remember when I came out, I was like, you guys are all beautiful. Oh my, even our extras are, everybody that comes in. I think one of my favorite lines was reading one of the scripts … and everybody that came in would be good looking, good looking. So finally, I just said, everybody else in the script is considered good looking unless otherwise stated.”

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Johnny Tuturro: “A Sensitive Dude”

As with Paige, Johnny Tuturro is also a character that’s not all that intense. Manny Montana, who plays the FBI agent, says that his character is “really light, and he gets serious when he gets involved in other people’s issues. Like when somebody’s lying to him, he gets hurt. He’s such a sensitive dude in that way. He wants everybody to love each other. So whenever somebody’s doing something wrong or doing it not the way that he thinks it should be done, the right way, he gets emotionally involved in it, and that’s when he gets upset.”

As you can tell, Johnny isn’t like some of the other characters. Mike is the book smarts guy. Briggs is the tough senior agent. But Johnny, on the other hand, is more of a relatable character and has a lot of heart, as Montana said when asked what drew him to this character. “Honestly, it’s just the love that he has for everybody in there, and the way that he wants everybody to get along, but they don’t. It’s kind of a driving force, to just want everybody to be friends. … Let’s say everybody in that house got a 1600 on their SATs — Johnny got a 1400. That’s not a bad score — he’s not an idiot — but to them, he’s an idiot sometimes. So he still smarter than most people, but to them, he’s that guy that they could still make fun of. But it’s just his heart.”

Comparing Graceland to Reality TV

With Graceland being a drama, it’s the furthest thing to reality TV you could think of. Yet Vanessa Ferlito, who plays Charlie DeMarco, sees an obvious comparison. When reading the script for the pilot, she said, “I automatically thought of reality TV in the sense that — not comparing the writing, it’s phenomenal — but just how you take seven, six strangers and you put them in a house. That’s what intrigues people. That’s why people are so drawn to this because just people and relationships and stuff.”

“Everybody gets in too deep,” she went on to say. “It’s inevitable because it’s just like anything else in your life. If you look, you’re going to find it. So if you keep going harder and harder with these people, you’re playing with fire. You’re putting your life on the line. You’re going to get in too deep. You’re not going for some — oh, a guy shoplifted at Wal-Mart. You’re messing with the top drug dealers and killers.”

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

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(Image courtesy of USA)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.