Unlike many actors on television today, Russell Hornsby cut his teeth on-stage before making the transition to the small screen. His experience and hard work has earned him a growing fan base and a starring role as Detective Hank Griffin on NBC’s Grimm. Having just started it’s second season, the show hasn’t won over all the critics, but has gained a solid fan base and averaged 6.4 million U.S. viewers during its first season.
Set in modern day Portland, Oregon, Grimm centers on Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (played by David Giuntoli) who, as a sort of ‘guardian’ known as a Grimm, is tasked with keeping the peace between humanity and mythological beasts called Wesen. The show is a twist on the classic police procedural, as Nick must battle fearsome creatures while solving murders with the help of Hornsby’s Detective Hank Griffin, who is unaware of his partner’s supernatural side-job.
We had the opportunity to speak with Hornsby and talked about what we can expect to see in the show’s second season, the difference between working on-stage and on film, and who would win in a clash between his character and the show’s leading Grimm.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: The second season of Grimm premiered last week. How does it feel with the show going into its second season?
Russell Hornsby: It feels great and it’s more than I could have ever expected. It feels somewhat surreal for me, to be honest with you. It’s a show of quality, it has an audience, and fans…It’s sort of all the above has happened and I have to pinch myself once in awhile just to make sure that I’m here.
We Got This Covered: In the season opener your character Hank Griffin is seen cradling a shotgun and coming to terms with having seen a Wesen [the creatures that inhabit the Grimm universe]. It’s been said on the show that ordinary people can’t handle it and that they break down. Will that happen to Hank?
Russell Hornsby: You’ll have to see when the moment arrives. I hate to say this but it’s similar to when people find out that a spouse cheated on them. Are you upset? Are you mad? Are you angry? There are so many ways and so many directions you can go.
We Got This Covered: What can we expect to see in the next few episodes?
Russell Hornsby: We’re really going to see Hank battle with his sanity. Dealing with where he is mentally and psychologically. Having seen a creature that he knows does not exist, or should not exist, puts him on the border of whether he’s crazy or not and he will seek professional help to deal with it.
We Got This Covered: Your character and Nick [the show’s titular Grimm played by David Giuntoli] are police partners on the show, so they have a foundation of trust. Wouldn’t he confide in Nick?
Russell Hornsby: I don’t know. I don’t think I would, personally. They don’t exist, so to tell somebody that I saw this creature…people would think you’re crazy.
We Got This Covered: Many fans of the show have been waiting to see your character interact with Monroe [played by Silas Weir Mitchell] and Nick on-screen. Do you have any upcoming scenes together?
Russell Hornsby: I couldn’t give that away. (laughs) I’m sort of sworn to a certain level of secrecy about some of the upcoming events on the show.
We Got This Covered: In the season opener, the show revealed a lot more of the Grimm mythology; is that something we’re going to see more of?
Russell Hornsby: Definitely. I think there are going to be a lot more, I like to call them ‘Grimm crumbs’, for the audience to pick up on as far as the mythology’s concerned. Honestly, you’re just going to have to pay closer attention to the minutiae of it as we move forward.
We Got This Covered: Where would you like see Hank go as a character?
Russell Hornsby: I would like to see the character grow more and maybe have another love interest. Maybe one of his past wives will come back. Maybe the reason why one of his wives left him is because she’s a Wesen. You never know. We haven’t said whether he has a kid or not. If he had a child with one of these women…I’d be curious to find out and it’d be great to explore in future episodes.
We Got This Covered: Are there any scenes that you enjoyed filming more than others?
Russell Hornsby: Yeah, there’s quite a few. I can’t speak specifically on any one, but there are a number of scenes that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the scene in the second to last episode [Big Feet] where I get knocked over by a creature and then I see it’s Monroe [in his Wesen form]. It was very challenging as an actor to play that.
We Got This Covered: Coming from a theatre background and having worked Off-Broadway, how is it acting on a television show that uses special effects?
Russell Hornsby: It has its own level of challenges. At times in theatrical work your responses are a little bit bigger and a little bit broader. On television you have to bring it down and contain it a little bit more. You try to modulate your reactions. You just feel weird reacting to a creature that you’ve never seen before…that in itself presents its own set of challenges because you’re asking yourself to act so much more outside of yourself than you’re used to doing.
We Got This Covered: Do you prefer to film the more action-oriented scenes or the dramatic?
Russell Hornsby: More the emotionally-dramatic scenes. Mostly because I come from a theatre background and also now that there are more scenes that are a bit lighter too. There’s a bit more wit in some of the scenes, where Nick and I can banter more and our personalities are starting to come out. You’re really starting to see the relationship evolve. We’re not just talking about the scene of the crime or the case, now we start to get into some personal aspects of each other’s lives. We crack some jokes with each other a bit which makes it a bit more fun as an actor to play.
We Got This Covered: Do you have a lot of humour on the set while filming?
Russell Hornsby: (laughs) Yeah we’re always cracking jokes and telling stories. We keep it light. We keep it very light. Honestly, that’s just my personality anyway. I prefer to keep it light on the set than just work. Not to take everything so seriously and to have fun. You can still approach the work very seriously and also have a good time. Life is good and I think you need to reflect that in how you approach things every day.
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