Victor Garber on Deception, His "Coming Out"
Everyone's a suspect on NBC's Deception, the freshman whodunit series about young detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good), who goes undercover to find out who killed her childhood best friend, Vivian Bowers. Leading the way in ethical dubiousness is Robert Bowers (Victor Garber), the family patriarch and Vivian's father. By the show's third episode, viewers know that Robert is not only championing a new drug that has exhibited deadly side effects in trial patients, but also recently ended an affair with his secretary, fired her, and then scared her into silence by dispatching an employee to break both of her brother's knees with a hammer. Robert hires Joanna as his personal assistant, thus providing her with an inside track to the family's professional and personal inner workings — but how much does he know about her true motives?
The show marks a return to the small screen for Garber, a veteran stage and screen actor whose long list of TV credits that includes regular and recurring roles on Alias, Justice, Damages and Eli Stone. So, what drew him to the role of Robert?
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"I was sent the script of Deception ... and I found myself actually reading it," Garber tells TVGuide.com. "I usually after about five pages stop, but this script compelled me to go on and I thought it was really smart and intriguing. So I said, 'I would love to be considered for this part,' and I was, and here I am. But it's really the writing. That's what attracts me to anything."
Lately, however, it's been Garber's offscreen life that has garnered more attention, after he made a passing reference to being gay at the Television Critics Association conference.
"It was a surprise," Garber tells TVGuide.com of the media tongue-wagging that ensued. "To me, it's old news, and I don't really talk about my personal life because frankly, I'm not really interested in other people's personal lives. It's the world we live in and I understand it, but I don't participate in it. It's just sort of this insatiable appetite the public has to know things and I just find it, frankly, sad."
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Read our full interview with Garber to get his take on Robert's capacity for evil, his on-screen marriage, and the one thing he thinks could tear the Bowers family apart.
TVGuide.com: One of the fascinating things about the show is how morally ambiguous all the characters are. It seems like everyone is implicated at some point. Do you know who killed Vivian? And is it hard to shoot certain scenes, knowing you're privy to information that the audience might not be?
Garber: I didn't know until the last script, which is what we're shooting now. Frankly, it doesn't really affect anything other than the moment that you're in, where you either find out or you don't. It's like anything. You do one scene at a time and you play that as truthfully as you can in the moment, and then you find out, 'Oh, well, I guess something has changed,' and so you adjust to the next scene. So it's been a really fun experience because the characters are kind of all deceptive and multileveled and layered, and that's what makes it fun to act in and also fun to watch.
TVGuide.com: What's your take on Robert? What are you trying to convey about him in these early episodes?
Garber: Robert is the patriarch of a very wealthy family. He runs a pharmaceutical company. And I think his intentions are honorable in that he's always trying to protect his family, and sometimes his means are questionable. Like so many rich people ... or so many people, period, and politicians we've witnessed over many countless years ... they believe they're justified in their behavior because it's for the greater good. And then it's a question of, do we think that's true or do we think you're just a selfish idiot?
TVGuide.com: So... in Robert's case, is he just a selfish idiot?
Garber: No, of course not! No, no. See, that's what intrigues me about this character, is that he's dimensional and he's not perfect, and he's doing the best he can. And like all people, he makes mistakes. That, to me, is the quintessence of drama. That's really why it's a great story and that's what I think this show is.
TVGuide.com: How smart is Robert, in terms of Joanna? His family is telling him to be careful around her and yet, he's the only one who seems to be fully in her court for the first few episodes? Is he really just naïve about her intentions, or is he starting to get suspicious about her motives?
Garber: Well, you'll find out, won't you? [Laughs]. No, here's what I can tell you. I think that Robert is grieving his daughter, and Joanna represents someone that he feels can unify the family, and that's his intention. He also says early on that he believes there's a reason she came. So he has some sort of high-falutin' notion that this was 'meant to be' — a phrase I hate, by the way. But also, as the series progresses, he will encounter things or witness things that possibly aren't as he thinks they are, just like everybody else on the show. Nothing is as it seems.
TVGuide.com: Well, Robert is clearly no saint. In the third episode, he's already sent an employee to disable someone with a hammer. How much evil is he capable of?
Garber: It's really, how much evil is anybody capable of? If he's capable of that, he's capable of more. Again, it's all in his mind justified. So he's capable of doing bad things and good things, and he will do both. I'm not going to give away anything! I'm tap-dancing here, as you can tell. But that's the fun of the show. The audience finds out as you go along what's really going on, and sometimes that's not even real. So that's the strength of the show, I think.
TVGuide.com: In the first three episodes, every time you think you know a character, something happens to change your perception.
Garber: Just like in life, it's complicated. There's just more going on, which is what I think makes the show unique.
TVGuide.com: Obviously Robert knows what his family is capable of, yet like you said, his main motivation for his actions is love and devotion and loyalty to them. If one of them did kill Vivian, will that change? What kind of rift could that create?
Garber: Well, I would think so. [Laughs]. I think that would be a deal-breaker, as they say. We don't know — but we will know by the end of the first season — who killed Vivian, and then the next season will be about how everyone deals with that, and how Joanna can prove that that is, in fact, the person who did it.
TVGuide.com: What's the atmosphere like on set?
Garber: I have to say, and I know you hear this from everybody, it's really a very happy set. We lucked out with Meagan Good. When I read the script, I thought, well, that's the show. If they cast the right person, the show has a chance. And I think they did. She's remarkably gifted and such a pleasure to work with. So that sort of sets the tone. And then Tate Donovan, a nightmare. [Laughs]. He's my good friend and I like to torture him. Wes Brown, who I didn't know [before], lovely, and Ella Rae Peck, who plays Mia, is just I think a phenomenally talented young actress who is going to do great things. Katherine LaNasa [who plays Garber's on-screen wife, Sofia] is great. We are perfectly matched. I like to call them the Macbeths. So we're in very good shape. And Laz [Alonso] is a dream. He's just a dreamboat. He's so talented and so nice to work with and so good. So really, we're lucky, because you spend that much time with people and if it's not working it can be really torturous. And this has been wonderful.
TVGuide.com: Your reference to Macbeth is interesting. How do you see the marriage between Robert and Sofia? Is there any love left there, or are they really just staying together to keep up appearances?
Garber: I think like all marriages, there are days when you want out and then there are days when you don't know how you'd live without them.
Deception airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.