Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is Patrick John Flueger The Brad Pitt of Summer TV?...

While screening the pilot of ABC's new summer drama, Scoundrels, about a family of petty criminals who attempt to "go straight" after their husband and father (David James Elliott) has been sentenced to a lofty and unexpected term in prison, I was struck by something very specific that kept popping back up: in the role of Cal West, Patrick John Flueger appears to be channeling Brad Pitt.

Cal is just one of two meaty roles Flueger has taken on with this new show. He also plays new lawyer and somewhat of a familial black sheep, Logan West. The two are twin brothers who appear as different as...well as brothers would when one breaks the law and the other has sworn to uphold and protect it. Cal is a petty thief and seeming slacker who has long, sandy blond hair, a mustache, and chin pubes. He wears his shirts wrinkly and his jeans low-slung on his hips. He is charming and funny but definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed. He is one part Pitt in Legends of the Fall and one part Pitt from Burn After Reading. Or at least, that was my initial impression after seeing only one episode.

Flueger, on the other hand, thought his character more closely resembled Mitch Hedberg. "Keep watching," he told My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture. [You] might not feel so Legends of the Fall after you see a couple more episodes. He's not quite as smooth as Brad Pitt in that movie. But I appreciate that I look like him at certain moments! Brad Pitt is a handsome cat."

Having such a distinct look for one character also ensures there will be no Parent Trap moments of trading places or mistaken identity down the line. The differences don't just end with the physicality of the wig and fake mustache and goatee, with which Flueger admits to having a "love-hate relationship" even though he had come into the role wanting the former. Cal and Logan carry themselves differently in stature and walk, in addition to style and dress. For a young actor, this provides challenges but also the freedom to cultivate various sides of himself, all within one project.

Flueger calls both men "different parts of himself," explaining: "They're both really fun for different reasons. I mean, with Cal I just kind of have a good time and do whatever I want and experiment and try new things. Frankly a lot of the time I spend trying to make Richard Levine-- one of our producers-- laugh. I try to see what I can do to make the girls laugh, [too], so that's really fun. But then Logan has a lot more going on in his head so it can get more interesting because I can sit back in a scene and observe and think a little bit more. On paper I guess Cal maybe sounds a bit more fun but as far as getting into Logan's head, I really have a good time with that because I'm not very similar to that kind of upscale lawyer that he is."

He elaborates: "You know, it's quite the opportunity to be twenty-six and have this kind of challenge set in front of me. Usually I could play the lawyer or I could play Cal, whoever he is. But I get to play both which is kind of-- excuse my language but-- a complete mindf*ck. And it's also the most fun I've had in front of the camera-- ever."

And I just had to call Flueger out on the "whoever" Cal is comment because in the pilot we see a lot of him, and we get the idea that he wants to follow in his dad's footsteps and take over the "family business," to speak, whereas his brother is the enigma who seems almost too good to be true.

According to Flueger both brothers will "kind of compete for [the "man of the house"] role on a certain level" now that their dad is out of the picture-- at least temporarily. Though he may still want to control things, he is limited in his ability to do so, and their mother (Virgina Madsen) is determined to never see another loved one locked up. Unfortunately for her, her kids have other plans, and Flueger shares that even Logan, who isn't more fleshed out as a character until around episode three, "might seem like an outsider from his family...but he's really a scoundrel in some ways-- just in his own different ways."

So my theories about Logan harboring a deep, dark secret just may come to fruition by the end of the summer! But then where does that leave Cal? Does it mean he secretly desires cutting his hair, going back to school, and working an average nine-to-five? Not quite! Cal, Flueger says "is more of a twist of the arm than anybody else, that's for sure, as far as dealing with the quote-unquote rules. But at the same time I will say that he loves his mom a lot, even though they're at odds a lot of the time. I think he wants to make her happy, but it's a little bit more difficult for him than anybody else."

Even if Cal wants to turn over a new leaf, though, chances are he doesn't even know how to begin. I suggested maybe finding his inner rock star since he has the right look, and Flueger himself is an accomplished musician, but Flueger had an even better idea for showcasing his other artistic talent on the show. "What I think would be more interesting," Flueger sounded like he was smiling with recollection, "is that Logan and his dad play guitar together. It's their connection, and it's what they do together-- because they kind of are at odds a lot of the time." Elliott does play guitar, and it would be a nice bonding moment between the two men, but Flueger knows it can't happen in season one...what with musical instruments most likely seen as contraband in prison!

Besides, it seems that Flueger has his hands full as it is! He let slip that in an upcoming episode he even gets into a "full-on physical wrestling match"-- against himself when an argument between Cal and Logan gets extra heated. So how does Flueger handle playing scenes off of which he has no one to bounce? He thinks for a moment before saying that it's all about preparing, rehearsing and running "over to Video Village after takes to talk about it and figure out what I needed to do." He also gives credit to the men standing in as his doubles for watching his mannerisms carefully enough that they could mimic them on the exact lines when shooting the reverse.

But don't think the set of Scoundrels was all nitty-gritty technical details. Flueger impresses that "we spent a lot of the time just trying to make each other laugh, and we all got along really, really well...When we can bring in our own little spontaneous comments within the scene, it makes it feel more real and more alive."

Pick any scene with Flueger from the pilot episode, and I think you'll see exactly what he means. They were certainly having fun with the script, and that kind of loose, off-beat energy serves to make their characters seem even more natural. And if they were having fun working on it, we will definitely have fun watching it!