Continued from Part 1
TVRage (Robert): Now you’re working on 'Hart of Dixie', both as a director and an actor, right?
Tim Matheson: Yeah.
TVRage (Robert): I haven’t heard of it until recently. I’m in my twenties, I like 'Burn Notice', 'Psych', and 'Drop Dead Fred'. How would you sell me on that show?
Matheson: I find that the men who watch 'Hart of Dixie' say to me, “Yeah, I like that show.” [but] they admit it begrudgingly because it’s kind of a chick flick. It’s totally the opposite of 'Burn Notice'. It’s a sweet, charming, non-action, romance. It’s about a young woman’s life, and the choices and challenges of her young career in a place that she never thought she’d end up. The charming thing about it – and I know the men who watch it usually watch it with their wife or their kids – is that it’s totally sweet, and charming, and funny, and sexy. It’s kind of this little magical town, where we all wish that, at the end of the day, we could live in a place like that. People – even from opposite points of view, people diametrically opposed positions in the political spectrum – at the end of the day, can still get along. I think that in today’s crazy American political scene – the nutty, emotional, political state that America finds itself in over issues like gun control and healthcare – despite all that, at the end of the day, there is this little magical town where people actually can get along and like each other. I think that is part of its charm, and it appeals to a whole different part of a young man’s mind, and it sheds a little bit into the workings of a woman’s mind. That’s one of the interesting things about the character, [Zoe Hart]: she makes no pretense that she’s not messed up and neurotic, but she has her lucid moments too.
TVRage (Robert): It’s funny you said most [men] do it “begrudgingly” because, for me, it was “there is something funny here…”
TVRage (Kimberly): When [Robert] was researching, he tried a couple of the later episodes. I started watching the earlier episodes to get more of your character[, Brick Breeland]. Then, of course, it was like “Now I’m hooked. I’m just going to keep watching these.”
Matheson: Oh, nice.
TVRage (Kimberly): I think one of the first things that I called Brick was “relatable” [He’s a] relatable antagonist. I live in the south, and it’s funny to pick up on the little aspects of it – like the sweet tea and the ticks. One scene that stands out in my mind is [in Parades & Pariahs (Season 1, Episode 2)] when Zoe thought [a patient] had Guillain–Barré syndrome, and Brick comes in and [says “It’s hunting season, and Cole is just suffering from tick paralysis.”] I like that they don’t have it set up so that [Zoe’s] always coming to the rescue and making Brick look bad. I like that there is a fair amount of both in there.
Matheson: That’s a good point. I think that one of the things I really like about the show is that the writers aren’t trying to make fun of people from the south, or tell stories at their expense and show that this Yankee from New York has come down there to save the day and show everybody the error of their ways. It’s not about that. It’s almost a level playing field where each side can learn from the other. [There’s] insight into the inner workings of everyday life. I don’t think, geographically, one population is smarter or better or stronger than the other. I think that there are idiots everywhere, there are smart people everywhere, there are good people everywhere, and there are less good people everywhere. That’s really the core of the show – and you put your finger on it, I think – that it’s “Can’t we just get along?”
TVRage (Kimberly): Yeah. It is exactly what you said [about] “learning from each other”, like with the [gumbo cook off in Gumbo & Glory (Season 1, Episode 3). Brick and Zoe] were discussing the man that they had both helped, and Zoe was very upset because she felt like [Brick] was taking all the credit. I loved when he turned it around on her. [After Zoe chastised him, claiming all the credit for herself, Brick said “If you can’t admit that I saved Oscar’s life just as much as you did, then you are just as prideful as I am.”] The fact that they actually think to give the other side of that story – I thought was brilliant. I’m surprised by how much I like it, to be honest, only because the first episode I [wondered] “Is it just going to be people making fun of [southerners]?” I know that there is a little humor poked in, but I haven’t been offended by it at all.
Matheson: That’s good, because we poke fun at the Yankees too! [Zoe’s] the most neurotic character on the show – self-admittedly neurotic – except maybe for Lemon, my daughter, who covers it better. I think that’s what’s charming about the show. We’re all in the same human soup, and we’re all in the same boat together. So maybe learn something from each other instead of vilifying each other.
TVRage (Kimberly): I agree. One of the things that really stood out [was] the fact that the characters [are] so multi-faceted. [It’s] not “here’s your good guy” and “here’s your bad guy”. [In 'Hart of Dixie'] you can relate to the people – even Lemon [Breeland], which is funny. It took me a little while to relate to Lemon. I like that they take the time; “make the time”, I should say. They specifically make the time, and sometimes it’s just very subtle things. I don’t know how to explain it other than [to say that] everyone did a fantastic job: the writers, the directors, the producers, and the actors, of course. Even though you don’t agree with everything [the characters] do, they’re so real that it’s hard to find a time when you’ve never been in a similar position.
Matheson: I think that’s so well said, and I think the other thing about the show is that it’s not a high concept. It’s almost the exact opposite of the shows that are successful. There’s no werewolves, there’s no vampires; there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just about these people. It’s very old-fashioned in that sense. You just want to spend time with these people because you enjoy them and they make you laugh and maybe, at some point, they make you feel something a little deeper. At the end of the episode, typically what happens is you learn patience, you’ve learned to look at things from another perspective, and you’ve had fun. That’s why people say, “I’m surprised I really liked it. I didn’t think I would, but I really liked it.” It’s because we do have the greatest gift of all; Rachel Bilson is the most warm-hearted, charming, lovely actress and person that I’ve ever worked with. She’s just the dearest thing you’ve ever seen. So, what you get on screen is that you like her – you just love her; and all these other people are just different degrees of their own unique crazy characters, and that’s kind of fun too. It’s a crazy town.
TVRage (Robert): I have a question about your accent. I know you’ve done westerns and stuff like that earlier. Do you use a voice coach or do you just pick them up naturally?
Matheson: We used dialect coaches at the beginning. We’d work with them and, intermittently, I’ll use a voice coach. Whatever I think will help make a part better, in terms of research or coaching, I think is a valuable tool. I always go back to class, of some sort or another, and stand everything on its head and see if I can find a new way of looking at acting or a new way of doing stuff. The classic example [is] when I was twenty-five or [twenty]-six, I had played a lot of cowboys. I was playing the boy-next-door, the guy-next-door, the nice guy. I was so sick of these roles I was playing on television; they were very limiting. They were boring, bland characters. So I took an improv class with “The Groundlings”, here in Los Angeles. [It’s] a group that’s gotten fairly well-known. Actually, I was one of the founding members, [but] I’m not taking credit for the group. Because of that technique and freedom to learn how to improv, and how to do it correctly and find the humor in the scene, when I auditioned for 'Animal House' – I auditioned with Peter Riegert who had been in an improv group called “War Babies” – it was a fortuitous thing. It set things in motion and allowed me to do a better, more lively audition with an actor who was trained in a similar way that I was and got that part. So, I think it’s always wise to invest in training and studying. I have no qualms about doing that when find it necessary.
TVRage (Robert): It helps to keep things fresh too.
TVRage (Robert): Laura Bell Bundy [who plays Shelby, Brick’s fiancée, was] cast into ‘Anger Management’. What do you think that’s going to do for them on ‘Heart of Dixie’?
Matheson: Well, it broke my heart. She’s the most fun thing to work with. She so multi-talented. I don’t know if you saw the episode where she surprised me at my birthday and came out of a cake singing a song. There’s very few actors who can do that and do it sexy and funny, and be able to sing and dance. She’s remarkably talented, and I loved doing scenes with her. I loved the way, in the storyline, they took a guy who was much older than her, who was dating someone his daughter’s age. It was totally inappropriate, and totally wrong, and yet it was perfect. We were all thrilled for Laura Bell that she got that regular role on that show. She’s going to come back for a couple episodes, and we’re going to continue our story. – As a matter of fact, I think we started this episode and continue the next episode. – So, she’s going to make a short, little return visit. Hopefully she’ll come back as often as she can, but Laura Bell has more going on in her one career than most people have in five careers. She’s a country star. She’s touring with somebody, and doing ‘Anger Management’, and she does her own webisodes. She’s got nineteen different characters that she plays. She’s just a remarkable talent, and I adored working with her and I look forward to every chance I get to doing stuff with her. Maybe I’ll go and photo bomb 'Anger Management'.
TVRage (Robert): If you figure out how to photo bomb 'Anger Management', you should definitely put it up on Twitter. Now, 'CSI' is coming back, with you [in the season premiere].
Matheson: Yes, that’s right.
TVRage (Kimberly): [The season finale of 'CSI'] was a really interesting episode. You were very charismatic. I think there’s also something very intense about you that you bring to a thriller. It was very on-the-edge-of-your-seat, waiting to see what this guy is going to do, because you were so intelligent and calculating. Do you know how many there are going to be? Is it just the next one or next two?
Matheson: I was in the season finale and the season premiere, and I think they wrap up the storyline in those two episodes. It was so much fun being able to step out of Dixie and into Las Vegas.
TVRage (Kimberly): You’re still a doctor.
Matheson: Yeah I’m still a doctor and yet, it’s the real dark side of a character. The fun thing about being an actor is that you play a certain character all season long, and it’s a comedy – 'Hart of Dixie' – so you’re playing the lighter moments, the lighter side of characters, the lighter side of emotions. Occasionally we get serious, but it’s usually lighter side. 'CSI' is usually the darker side, so it was a real fun journey for me to just be able to let out the lascivious, dark, twisted, fun, kind of character that [Oliver Tate] was. The interesting thing was they don’t tell you. I was not told – and I won’t spoil anything – I was not told in that first episode if, in fact, I really did it. So I made certain choices and personally, for me, I didn’t need to know. I was playing what I was playing, and I made choices for myself. Then when I came back for the next episode and the rest of the information was like “Oh, okay.” Also, I had the great opportunity to work with someone who I’ve admired forever and know slightly – Ted Danson. He is a remarkable talent, a wonderful, wonderful performer, a real humanitarian, and a great guy. So I just really enjoyed spending time with him, doing the premiere episode of this season. It sort of got back to those things I remembered before I started directing so much. The opportunity to play scenes with actors or actresses like that. It’s so rewarding and so much fun. You just look him in the eye and he’s right there with you. He’s giving as good as he gets, and he relishes and has so much fun. He’s such a great guy. He never leaves the set. He’s there all the time. He’s friendly to everybody. He’s such a great example for all of us to learn from, as actors. It doesn’t absolve you of being a decent person. You really can do both.
TVRage (Robert): The art that you have – I know you have your Disney cels – but is [the other art that you collect similar to] your 'CSI' character, or are you more lighthearted?
Matheson: No, it’s much lighter. I like animation cels, which speak to a simpler and lighter time, and I love the fact that they were hand drawn and painted. Also, they’re fairy tales, typically: 'Lady and the Tramp', 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Cinderella', 'Peter Pan'. I even have some that I did. I have 'Johnny Quest'; I did the voice for 'Johnny Quest'.
I like Jasper Johns and Billy Al Bengston. I like contemporary art like that. So I tend to head in that direction, which is new, innovative, different. Growing up here in Southern California, when I was in my twenties, there was a vibrant art scene. I had a girlfriend who worked at the L.A. County Art Museum. So, through her, I got to know a lot of the artists and the scene here. Interestingly enough, Ed Bagley Jr. was a big part. He was always at all these art openings and stuff, and he was a fascinating character. So that’s the kind of art that I typically am drawn to.
TVRage (Robert): We’re going to see you on 'CSI' in the next couple days, 'Heart Of Dixie' is back in the beginning of October, and you’re working on webisodes – at least one you said?
Matheson: Yeah, it’s in the writing stage now, and I think we’re getting ready to start planning it. We’re going to shoot it over a couple or three days down here at the beach in Venice.
TVRage (Robert): So we’ll watch for those three things. Do you have any other projects you want to talk about?
Matheson: No. 'Heart of Dixie' keeps me real busy. I just directed the Halloween episode of 'Hart of Dixie', which was so much fun, and Dash Dewitt has a one man Frankenstein show. It’s really stupid and wonderfully fun. There’s a masquerade ball, and people are confused about their identities. It’s a really fun episode. Between acting on the show and directing episodes of the show I’m fully engaged.
Occasionally, I can sneak out and direct a commercial. Last season, I directed a Lipton Tea commercial with Kat Dennings from 'Two Broke Girls'. So, I can keep my directing chops active. Commercials are fun because, usually, you get more time and more money to do a project than you do on almost anything else. We didn’t have all that much, but you have a whole day to shoot thirty seconds or sixty seconds. Whereas in television, you have all day to shoot four to eight minutes. So you can devote a lot more attention to detail and craft it differently than you can in episodic television. It’s another challenge and another thing I like looking at.
TVRage (Robert): Thanks for talking to us!
Matheson: It was my pleasure! Thank you very much for the interesting questions.
The 'Hart of Dixie' season premiere is on October 7th.
Don't forget to check out Tim Matheson's Twitter page!