The last time we saw Christian Slater on TV, he was doing double duty as the good guy and the bad guy on the short-lived Jekyll-and-Hyde drama My Own Worst Enemy. In his new show, The Forgotten, Slater takes a complete 180 to tell the story of a former Chicago police detective and his volunteer group, who solve the cases of unexplained disappearances and unidentified homicide victims. The show might seem like just another crime procedural, but there's more heart and more at stake thanks to Slater's character, Alex Donovan, a man still reeling from his 8-year-old daughter's disappearance two years ago. In an interview with TVGuide.com, Slater tells us about the behind-the-scenes tears, the gravitas involved and the unsung heroes behind The Forgotten.
TVGuide.com: What about The Forgotten made you want to return to TV so quickly after My Own Worst Enemy?
CS: It was the team of people who were involved, such as Jerry Bruckheimer. I'm a huge fan of his and after meeting him, it's clear he's a phenomenally passionate guy. I really take my hat off to him, and to ABC for being willing to put a show like this together. It really is about raising the awareness that this is a national crisis, that there are 40,000 John and Jane Does across the country and there's actual organizations out that do this. There are real volunteers out there; which shows that people like you and me can do this. There's an organization called NamUS.gov, which was established after 9-11 in order to help identify the victims from that tragic day. People sign on there and share as many details as possible to get this John and Jane Does back to their loved ones.
TVGuide.com: Were you able to meet with these groups for the show? Were there any other steps in preparing for this role?
CS: I went on the Web site for NamUS.gov and ABC presented us with someone who works with Project EDAN, which stands for everybody deserves a name, and they've been going for years. They'll start with the smallest shred of evidence; use whatever DNA technology they can; and do whatever they can to put the pieces of these people's lives back together.
TVGuide.com: Some aspects of the show rings similar to other procedural dramas on TV. What do you think makes The Forgotten different?
CS: For me, it's really about heart. It's about people helping other people and the volunteers. The team that my character is working with — I'm a former Chicago police detective — but there's a phone repairman, a school teacher, an office worker and a former medical student who's there because of community service so it's really about human beings doing what they can to give a voice back to people who can no longer use their own.
TVGuide.com: Your character, Alex, is no longer a detective but he still uses many of his detective skills as a leader of the team. What pushes him to choose one path over the other?
CS: He's on disability from the police force and after having gone through what he went through two years ago; that really sent him over the edge. He kind of lost himself. He's obviously a guy who was driven and obsessed and he basically got worse before he got better. His partner starts to give him these cases because she cares about him and she sees what he's going through. What he discovers is that he's able to fill the void he has within himself by being able to give closure to other people that he can't get himself. I think always, in the back of his mind, he's constantly preparing and looking to make sure he does everything he can to get his own daughter back.
TVGuide.com: Are we going to learn more about what happened to him over the season?
CS: At this point, the way the writers have been handling it is by giving Alex an opportunity to investigate a particular John Doe case that greatly parallels his own journey. Through investigating this one story — the episode is called "River John" — we begin to discover that there are drugs involved in this particular case and some family issues that were occurring and there was a 10-year-girl involved.
TVGuide.com: What else can we expect from the rest of the season? For example, will viewers get to see how the team first came together?
CS: Absolutely. Over time, you can't help but get to know these characters. Each episode that we've been doing has been specifically focused on a member of the team. For instance, Tuesday's episode is really about Walter, the telephone repairman, and about the unsung heroes in our world. The people who take all the hits and bruises and maybe they're not the quarterback and they don't necessarily get all the glory but they're still a phenomenally valuable member of the team.
TVGuide.com: What else are you excited for?
CS: What I love, personally, is that I can't help but get emotionally involved. So far, with every episode that I've read, I find myself tearing up when I think about these John and Jane Does. I think about the lives that they had and the willingness of these volunteers to sort of put the pieces of the puzzle of their lives back together. You realize that these people had a mother and a father and a brother and a sister and these people are going to bed every night wondering and worrying where these John and Jane Does are. So I think it's a really noble thing that these people are doing.