While a hefty percentage of water cooler chats as of late seem to be focused around zombies and what-ifs since the fan-torturing mid-season final of Frank Darabont’s The Walking Dead, early this month, diehard Darabont fans have found a new show to obsess about: Mob City.
“I think Walking Dead watchers want a good story and three dimensional characters. They will definitely get that with Mob City,” shares Jeremy Luke (Don Juan), who plays the legendary West Coast Mafia boss, Mickey Cohen in the new mini-series.
First aired on TNT December 4th, episodes five and six tonight mark the end of the 3-week mini-series, and anticipation is high. With it’s star-studded cast — including none other than Walking Dead alums cast Jon Bernthal and Jeffrey DeMunn, alongside Edward Burns (The Fitzgerald Family Christmas), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) and the aforementioned Luke — and the spectacular action that comes with an epic gangster storyline done right, such is only to be expected.
In the role of the infamous Mickey Cohen, Luke gives a breakout performance; and while to some who know the actor from his popular web series Turbo and Joey and other roles best categorized under the title “Jersey Boy,” the choice in character may seem like a left-hand turn out of nowhere, rest assured, as the actor confirms, he was headed in this direction the whole time. Luke isn’t abandoning his East Coast roots though, as he shares, there are perks to being known for playing particular parts. “Type casting can be a good thing, it gives you a niche,” he says.
Between his recent role starring alongside Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s in the actor’s directorial debut, Don Jon; his current character on Mob City and an upcoming part in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, it’s safe to say, Jeremy Luke has made it. “Just keep an eye out for me,” he says lightheartedly while on the subject of his rising star.
Below, Luke shares how he settled into the role of the mobster monster, off camera antics, and why all Walking Dead fans will want to watch Mob City.
Were you a fan of The Walking Dead and Darabont’s work before working with him on Mob City?
The truth of the matter is the only show on TV that I watch is The Walking Dead. I used make sure to be home on Sunday and watch religiously. The first season is my favorite, and in my opinion the best!
As a zombie fan yourself, imagine Mickey’s mob in a face-off with the Walking Dead‘s walkers; which side comes out on top?
The mobsters would win, hands down. Mobsters always have a lot of guns and ammo, and zombies are not so smart. So shots to the head for the zombies, it’s over…
They definitely do have a lot of guns, there’s a shootout within the first five minutes of episode one! People have become fairly desensitized to that sort of violence on TV, but Mob City is pushing boundaries from what I can tell. Does the show set out to really go beyond the norm in terms of what television audiences are use to?
Yes, the show really does push boundaries. In the second episode for example, you really get to see the ruthlessness of Mickey Cohen. In the first episode you get to see the party-people-loving Mickey, the second episode really paints a scary picture of who he can be.
You really get to know the characters. There is an amazing cast of male actors working on the series, What is it like on set? Do you have good cop, bad cop and mobster cliques, or do you guys mix it up and hangout together?
The cast is so great and we are all around the same age, so we do have fun. During filming we all hung out and got along, even the crew. The working environment is fantastic!
Any practical jokes played on set when the cameras were off?
I took a dump in Milo’s trailer and didn’t flush.
Some joke! What is it like working with Frank Darabont? I understand that after the first day he came up to you and said, “Now I know I have the right guy.” Must have felt amazing to hear that.
Yeah, I was very worried the first day, “he could hate me and still fire me,” I thought. But honestly, he was amazing! Such a cool guy to work with.
What kind of research did you do to get into the role? Did you submerse yourself in books on Mickey Cohen and his period.
That’s exactly what I did. I felt I needed to know who the person was to be able to transform into the character that Frank wanted.
I imagine to really give an authentic portrayal of Mickey, you had to go beyond perception, and what people perceive him as. Who did you find him to be underneath it all?
I think underneath it all, just like anyone, there is a need to be loved. He was a guy to had OCD and would constantly wash his hands, but yet he hosted extravant parties in his club and shook everyone’s hands. He loved being part of the scene and loved being around people. On the flip side, Mickey also was ambitious; he wanted to have the power to rule the world, and that’s where we get to see how mercilessness he could be. If you were on his bad side, he was a scary guy.
Aside from the scary bits, was there a cross over in terms of yourself and his character that helped you settle into the role?
Yes I have OCD too, there are a lot of similar quirks, so it was easy for me to relate to him on that aspect.
Your next project, Jersey Boys is to be released in 2014. You had the chance to work with stars including director Clint Eastwood and actor Christopher Walken on the film, what were each of them like to collaborate with?
At first, I was really intimidated with Clint, but he ended up being a really nice grandfather type guy. Christopher Walken…I was blown away, I was laughing in his face — with him — he was literally doing Christopher Walken — he knows it’s hysterical. We had a blast. I really have to mark them off my bucket list.
The film is about the rise of the Four Seasons, but your character Donnie doesn’t sing? We’re you disappointed about not getting a chance to show off your vocal skills?
What vocal skills?!
Awe, I’m sure it’s not that bad! Could you tell us about your role as Donnie? What’s his story in a nutshell?
A goombah who’s trying to extort money from Frankie.
I read that for a while you felt you were being typecast as a New York/Jersey actor. Do you think you’ve broken away from that typecasting, or are you trying to?
I don’t believe that typecasting is necessarily bad. For example, Joe Pesci (who I admire) was typecast and yet he was able to play diverse and dimensional characters. He played everything from a gay guy in JFK, to a genius in With Honors, but his start was all roles suited directly to who he was and where he came from. I am proud to be an East Coast guy.
I like that answer. You have a constant stream of projects on the go — your star is on the rise; how do you feel about the direction your career is heading?
Good, I am excited for the future, I have been at this for 13 years and it all finally started to happen in this last year. I got a new team that really believes in me and what I can do — shout out to my agent and manager, they are the greatest! This wouldn’t be happening without them and the work they do for me.Published December 18, 2013