“A lot of network television is so pedestrian”

Anthony LaPaglia reflects on acting, rejection & US network television.

“When I worked in the network system in the States it was a battle pretty much every day,” Anthony LaPaglia reveals.

LaPaglia famously starred in Without a Trace from 2002 – 2009 for CBS. Despite the glory of winning a Golden Globe Award for his role as “Jack” Malone, there were also challenges in simple tasks, like trying to get a script changed.

“There were so many different channels you had to go through, sometimes you just thought before you started, ‘How important is this?’

“There’s the writers, the head of the writing room, and the studio involved. This is why a lot of network television is so pedestrian and so average.”

In recent years he has shifted from US network TV to roles in international or even independent production including The Code, Riviera and Sunshine.

His latest is in Nine’s Halifax: Retribution as Commander Tom Saracen. LaPaglia freely goes where good work takes him, but with some limits.

“In the last year I’ve worked in the UK, France, Canada, Australia twice. Very little shoots in LA. A lot of the other productions shoot in Canada,” he acknowledges.

“I have a 16 year old daughter and I’m not going to commit to doing a six year series in another state. I want to be around as a dad for her.

“You have more time to tell the story.”

“Unless you’re in The Avengers, there’s not a lot going on (in film). But what I’m finding is that on Netflix or Amazon or even this (Halifax), the quality of the writing is better. You have more time to tell the story.

“Now you’re starting to see everybody go to Streaming. Actors that probably wouldn’t have been on a television screen three years ago are now going in that direction.”

During his 30+ year career LaPaglia has also had his share of highs and lows.

“I always try to stress to younger actors, it’s not an entitlement, it’s a gift. The fact that you work, that’s fantastic. The fact that you work at a higher level, that’s amazing. And the fact that you can keep doing it… I’ve been doing it for 35 years now, that’s just a miracle. It’s all gravy.

“I’ve been rejected plenty of times for plenty of things”

“But I’ve been rejected plenty of times for plenty of things. I never felt like it was personal. Your career is cyclical…. you’re hot / you’re not… 15 times in the last few years.

“Most actors, even the ones you think wouldn’t have a downside, do. It’s your ability to survive the downside without taking it personally. With the insecurity of not having an income, why would you ever decide to become an actor anyway? There’s zero guarantee.”

LaPaglia has been asked many times to give acting classes and seminars but admits he doesn’t know what makes one actor successful over another.

“Acting attracts all kinds of people but the common theme that I find with most of them, is there’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Even if they don’t know what that is.

“It took me nine years to make it”

“It took me nine years to make it, to get going. I’ve never thought of that as a difficult period. I just knew I wanted to do this. I didn’t know if I would succeed. I knew if I didn’t try, I would never find out.

He continued, “When you really get into acting, it’s very simple. It’s not complicated. It’s got a very clean-through line. It’s just emotional. People tend to overthink it. I don’t think it’s a cerebral activity. I think it’s an emotional activity. The cerebral stuff is when you’re working on it: getting your script ready, working out your character and stuff. Once you get on the set, it’s no longer cerebral. it’s very hard to turn it off, though.

“You’ve got to switch gears and get rid of all the cerebral stuff. Just do what acting really is: speaking and listening.”

Halifax: Retribution 8:35pm tonight on Nine.

3 Responses

  1. I always think of David Niven’s Autbiography The Moons a Balloon when actors start reminiscing about their careers, Niven started as a Type A (or whatever) English extra suitable for walk on rolls. eventually worked his way up through a bit of Hollywood social climbing via Douglas Fairbanks Jr to eventually become a well paid actor.
    LaPaglia didn’t really have to endure an apprenticeship having the face and personality suitable for numerous New York cops and hoods, these roles kept his profile active, his acting style has not changed much which probably suits producers and his agent.

  2. It was so disappointing when the Without a Trace cast all went to CBS and said they’d take pay cuts to continue the show but CBS chose Cold Case instead just to cancel it a year later.

    As for network meddling, it’s no wonder many shows fail. Freaks and Geeks, Firefly and Happy Endings among other were aired out of order. There was a character added on The Resident that the show runner said they never wanted but were forced to add. It’s almost as if the networks go out of their way to kill some shows.

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