Few actors are as adept at conveying downright intimidation as Powers Boothe, currently fearsome as acting president Noah Daniels as he steamrolls through the U.S.' latest bad day on Fox's 24 (Mondays at 9 pm/ET). TV Guide caught up with the Texas-born, gravel-voiced actor — who won an Emmy in 1980 for his TV portrayal of People's Temple leader Jim Jones — to discuss his 24 alter ego's intentions, as well as to bet on the fate of HBO's Deadwood and riverboat gambler Cy Tolliver.
TV Guide: Do you see 24's Daniels as essentially good but misguided?
Powers Boothe: I don't think he's misguided at all. You had a nuke go off in [California], and people are sitting around wringing their hands. He feels like he has to do something. Rather than having an agenda, I think he feels a tremendous burden to save the country, no matter what it takes.
TV Guide: Is your performance inspired by any real-life politician?
Boothe: I think I'm pretty politically informed and I find myself watching Senate hearings on C-SPAN. But I don't know if there's any particular individual. I was raised a Democrat and now I'm an Independent. I wasn't interested in playing a zealot. The sanctity of the office is what's more important to me.
TV Guide: Do you think 24 makes a political statement in any way?
Boothe: If they do anything, it's to present the problem and put up various solutions without getting on a stump about any of them, and I think that approach is brilliant. As I understand it, we have as many liberal fans as conservative fans.
TV Guide: You play powerful, intimidating men like Daniels really well. Why are you so adept at conveying intimidation?
Boothe: [Laughs] Oh, I don't know. I think it's just something I was born with.
TV Guide: But with a name like Powers, I guess you can't play many wimps. What are its origins?
Boothe: A friend of my father's was killed in World War II and that was his first name. When I was starting out, I'm sure a lot of people thought I was a pretentious little s--t. [Laughs]
TV Guide: Do you gravitate to intimidating roles?
Boothe: No, no. One role leads to another. For the first 10 years [that] I was a professional actor, all I did was Shakespeare. And the show I did in New York that brought me out [to L.A.] was a flat-out comedy. And they never let me do comedy. [Laughs]
TV Guide: How do you view your time spent on Deadwood?
Boothe: I think I've been incredibly fortunate to be associated with a writer and a creator of the caliber of [series creator] David Milch. What David did with Deadwood was not only groundbreaking, but he also created a kind of new genre. For me, it was almost like doing Shakespeare.
TV Guide: I imagine your Shakespeare background made Milch's dialogue a little easier to handle.
Boothe: Well, it certainly helped. It was like doing Shakespeare in that if you had one word out of place, the dialogue just flat didn't work.
TV Guide: What do you think of Deadwood going out the way it is?
Boothe: I, like everyone, was stunned, because when we left the third season, it wasn't a matter of, "Are we going to do a fourth?" They were negotiating a fifth. And then I got the call from [Milch] that it was all over. I was like, "Are you kidding me?"
TV Guide: Why is Cy Tolliver so clearly tormented?
Boothe: David explained it to me like this: [Cy] was raised in a whorehouse. So you can imagine watching your mother turn tricks and what it does to your thoughts on women. He's a con man, a gambler and a pimp. He's a businessman. And the one thing he can't do is have emotions. But he has feelings for Joanie Stubbs. And he tries to justify them and why she doesn't come back to him. It feeds on his psychosis about his youth and women in general. He has god issues, too. He faced his death and came through it. I think of all the characters — and David told me this — Cy is the only character whose hole card hasn't been revealed yet. I keep waiting for it to happen.
TV Guide: What's the state of the supposed finales?
Boothe: We're planning on doing two two-hour movies this summer. They're talking about [starting production in] June, but I'll tell you, honestly, as much as I hope it happens, I'll believe it when I see it. When a cast splits up, it's hard to bring them back together.
TV Guide: Do you mean that the fate of the movies is in jeopardy?
Boothe: If we don't do it in June, I don't think it'll ever be done, because, look, various people have pilots for other series. I have other commitments, and I know Ian [McShane] has other commitments. That [June] time slot is kind of it. But I think if any show ever deserved at least that much, it's Deadwood.
Let our new Online Video Guide cue up some 24 clips for you.
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.