(CBS Local)- The first episode of Manhunt: Deadly Games aired last week on CBS and gave viewers an introduction to some of the shows main characters and the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the bombing of Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996. The protagonist, Richard Jewell, is first lauded as a hero by local authorities before the FBI moves in and, under pressure from the city’s mayor to find the culprit, begins to suspect Jewell was involved with the bombing.
For actor Cameron Britton, who plays Richard Jewell in the series, arc that the character goes on both personally and in how he views law enforcement was fascinating. It was that arc, along with a key scene that comes in tonight’s episode 2 “Unabubba”, that made Britton want to get involved with the series. Britton spoke with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer about what intrigued him about the character, the parts of Richard Jewell he sees in himself and what he wants audiences to take away after watching the character’s arc through the season.
RM: What was it about this show or this character that drew you to the project and made you want to get involved?
CB: Usually, when I’m preparing a character, I look at what their strengths are. Why are you drawn to playing this person? In what way are they exceptional? And building the character off of that. What I saw in Jewell was more of someone who really has no confidence and has yet to find his place. He’s trying so hard to become a law enforcement officer to sort of validate the kind of person that he wants to be. But, in actuality he’s just not a very confident person.
And so I focused a lot on his faults and his doubts and his fears and I built the character around that. It was a unique way to approach a character where because what happens by the end of the story is Richard finds himself. Through all of this adversity and people doubting him and even hating him, that is actually when Richard Jewell found that he deserves respect. If you go and you watch an interview with Richard Jewell after the bombing and then you watch one months later, it’s a different person. He’s a far more confident man and he stands up for himself. I wanted to play that arc of someone slowly gaining confidence in himself.
RM: In other interviews you’ve done for this show, you used the phrase “walking apology” to describe Jewell and said that you saw some of that in yourself and that in playing the character you were hoping it would maybe provide some catharsis to vent those feelings. Has it reached that point of catharsis for you? Or is it still difficult to look at the character and see those parts of yourself dealing with those feelings?
CB: It has. Wow that’s a really great question. When I was in middle school, things like that, I really doubted myself and felt like a walking apology. I just apologized for being in the room. So, as I got older, I just grew out of that but I think who you were as a child always stays with you. So, tearing all of that down and pulling all of that up, wasn’t fun. But, the aftermath was healing because I sort of was able to forgive myself for those feelings. And, in calling them back up, it was a nice chance to do that and to just look at them and have empathy for them. That’s on a totally personal level. For Jewell, I mean, I don’t know, I know he’s passed on and everything but I wish a project had been made about Jewell while he was alive. So that he could know that people see him and support him because he deserves that.
RM: Now, in playing a character that was a real person, did your process change at all in terms of how you approached the character in order to stay as true to the real person as possible?
CB: I think focusing on his doubts and fears was strange because it sort of blends the lines and my own doubts and fears sort of started getting in the way of making the project. As weird as it is playing a serial killer like Ed Kemper, he’s so confident, it makes the project a lot easier. If this one was different at all it was that I had to sort of fight through a lot of doubt in myself. I wasn’t expecting that going in.
RM: One of the other things you have mentioned in interviews is that you were really drawn to the project because of a specific scene that we see in episode 2 when Jewell is being interrogated. Not to give anything away, but what was it about that scene that really resonated with you?
CB: That was the scene I auditioned with and it was the main reason I wanted to do the project. I only had those two episodes or maybe three when I took the project. I was fascinated and heartbroken with that scene. I felt like, not only does this man realize that these folks don’t find him to be a hero, they’re actually interested in pinning this heinous crime on him and maybe giving him the electric chair. This is also, the FBI agents are his heroes. They are the top of law enforcement and they turn out to be just not that great of people which I think was a huge wakeup call for him and they have no respect for him whatsoever or the brave act that he did. I think it hurt him deeply. There was so much to play. There was so much shock and pain going on in that scene and a whole perspective shift for the rest of his life. All in an interrogation room. It just seemed like a great challenge.
RM: As audiences watch Jewell go through this arc, what are the main takeaways you want them to have watching him go through this progression over the course of the series?
CB: When you take the whole circumstance into account, all of the circumstances, you’re hopefully reminded of what a hero actually is. We have started to, when you think of a hero, you’re pretty much thinking of great hair and a good jaw line and some quippy dialogue. Heroes are just people that head towards adversity even when they’re scared. And Richard Jewell is a hero of heroes. Forget what he’s like and what he looks like and all of that. Just remember that anyone can be a hero. It was a big wakeup call for me at least working on the project to remember that.
RM: Finally, for you, what’s next? What is the next challenge you want to take on?
CB: I have played some heavier roles. Even Hazel had work related depression and no identity to speak of. I’d like to play someone with positivity. I’d like their perspective to come from a place of joy and enjoying life. It almost feels like a challenge at this point it’s been so long since I have done something like that. Comedy would be nice. That would be cool. The tricky part with those is, I do like characters to be pretty complex and sometimes with those we get pretty broad with comedy and positivity. Finding that balance will be fun and I’m sure that project is out there.
Manhunt: Deadly Games episode 2 airs tonight, Monday, September 28th at 10:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.