He may be best known for his portrayal of Vizzini in The Princess Bride, but the truth is that any time there's a successful television show featuring gorgeous women, you can expect to see character actor Wallace Shawn making a brief but memorable guest appearance. From Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, Shawn now makes the leap to The L Word (Sunday at 9 pm/ET, Showtime) for a four-episode arc, playing William Halsey, the financier of Jenny's fictional film. Shawn chatted with TVGuide.com about being the only guy on-set and why he loves the controversial drama.
TVGuide.com: Who is your character?
Wallace Shawn: Well, that depends on who you ask. Actors are advocates for their characters, like lawyers, so I would say that I think he was in love with young Jenny and he wanted to change his life and go from the crass domain of moneymaking into the noble and beautiful realm of art.
TVGuide.com: So you play the investor of Jenny's fictional movie?
Shawn: Yes, the man who's putting in enormous sums of money.
TVGuide.com: So many characters find Jenny irritating; why does he find her so endearing?
Shawn: I think he responds to her bohemian side, her honesty, her intensity and her passion. And her talent. I think he's drawn to all these qualities that he has not seen in the world of finance. He is obviously someone who used to be a believer in the idea that money brings happiness.
TVGuide.com: Your character and his daughters seem very fascinated with that world of lesbianism.
Shawn: I think the show has consistently poked fun at the type of men who are titillated by the thought of women who love other women, even though there may be some of those men in their own audience. They make merciless fun of them. And I think William is certainly one of those men who finds that amusing and exciting.
TV Guide: Does your character get a lot of screen time?
Shawn: I'm sorry to say that for whatever reason, my fantasy that my character would grow and grow was not realized. Perhaps they would have liked nothing more than to develop my storyline, but it just didn't happen this year.
TVGuide.com: But it didn't end in a place where you couldn't come back.
Shawn: Well, he doesn't die. He's very much alive at the end. I think that their general belief is that every other show tends to be about the men, and even though I, as the actor, dreamed that my character would develop in so many directions, I think they just had other priorities. Who knows? The public might respond to my character, they might beg to [bring] me back.
TVGuide.com: What was it like to work with this group?
Shawn: Secretly I idolized them and most of them had never heard of me and didn't really necessarily find me that interesting.
TV Guide: That can't be true — they must have seen Princess Bride at least 17 times.
Shawn: No, even that was not necessarily seen by everybody. My job was to curb my enthusiasm, I suppose. I was trying not to fawn over people.
TVGuide.com: So you were a fan of the show?
Shawn: Yes, I was a fan of the show and of all the actresses who are regulars. It's quite unusual for me to be a worshipful fan of a TV show. I think it is incredibly smartly written and directed and I worship the actresses, so my goal was to just pretend that I didn't care and I was just doing my job.
TV Guide: They've been doing this for a while and I'm sure the lesbian theme is uncontroversial to them; what's it like to be new in that world?
Shawn: I already had seen the show, so I wasn't looking around thinking, "Where are the men?" And of course for me, I'm more comfortable with the company of women than the company of men, so it was the world that I think every show or play or film should be — I'm the man, and everyone else is a woman. It's very agreeable.
TVGuide.com: Is there anything specific that attracts you to a project?
Shawn: I suppose if I read the script and I don't find it nauseating, I'm quite pleased. I have a somewhat hostile relationship to the culture of my own country, and often scripts of films and television shows repel me, so if I read a script and it doesn't repel me, I'm delighted. It's extremely rare that I read something and I think, "I would be so proud to be in this that I would call all my friends and beg them to see it." That would be the highest recommendation.
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