Welsh actor Owain Yeoman is, surprisingly, not sick of answering "the accent" question. In fact, he loves it when people think he's American. As "jock cop" Wayne Rigsby on CBS' The Mentalist (Tuesdays, 9 pm/ET), Yeoman is responsible for a lot of the drama's lighter moments, as he gorges himself on whatever food is available and stumbles sweetly in his attempts to woo a fellow agent. Yeoman spoke to TVGuide.com about Rigsby's future romantic prospects, precisely which accent he's aiming for and why his answers to our questions will be way better than Tim Kang's.
TVGuide.com: I interviewed your colleague Tim Kang recently, and I've got a similar batch of questions for you. So you should consider it a competition for the most interesting answers.
Owain Yeoman: OK, I'll just make some stuff up. Tell me what Tim said and I'll embellish his answers with a few lies, and between us we'll come up with something brilliant!
TVGuide.com: Perfect! Critics were really excited about The Nine, but then it didn't quite connect with audiences. Did you have any idea going in that The Mentalist would be a hit?
You can never really project the success of a show. The Nine [ABC's short-lived, Rashomon-esque bank robbery drama] is a classic example. As an actor, you respond to material that stimulates you. I was proud of the work we did on that. I've heard people say that The Mentalist has succeeded now because we are in difficult economic times and people just want very good, easy-to-watch TV. They can sit at home, puzzle with something for an hour, and look at Simon's wonderful hair — a bit of escapism. The Nine may have been too much to think about.
TVGuide.com: What did the producers tell you about Rigsby going in? Did they give you much of a backstory?
Yeoman: The only specific thing I knew about him was that he was a gung-ho, jock-like cop. I described him the other day as a "blunt pickaxe."
TVGuide.com: Isn't that a line from a Bond movie, where M describes Bond as a "blunt instrument"?
Yeoman: Yes, I think Rigsby is just like that — without any of the suaveness of Bond, of course. It bugs me when you watch TV and everyone is flawless.
TVGuide.com: So what does Rigsby really think of Patrick Jane and his special talents?
That's an interesting dynamic. Certainly the jock in Risgby wants to be the best cop he can be, and Jane confounds him slightly. I think it's like saying that Rigsby was a brilliant hockey player, but now he has to be a gymnast. It's a different set of muscles. I like it because he wants to be annoyed or irritated by Jane, but he sees something that he admires and appreciates.
TVGuide.com: What's your experience been like working with Simon Baker?
Simon has a great sense of humor. I think the Aussies and the Brits share a sensibility, that of the lowest common denominator. You might be wearing a new shirt, and you'll wish you hadn't worn it because for the whole day it will be referenced and brought up. He's very compassionate as an actor though. He allows you to be part of his playfulness. It's just like tennis. You're only as good as your competitor. You have to bring your "A" game with your sense of humor. So we have a good hard laugh, but we also work hard.
TVGuide.com: Have you ever shared any tips on how to do an American accent?
Yeoman: Everyone comes at that a different way. My friend Anna Friel, who's on Pushing Daisies, she stays in her American accent all the time. Simon and I do not, and it doesn't seem to hurt our process. I think the great thing for me is when someone meets you and they didn't realize [I'm British]. I can fly under the radar more than Simon; everyone knows he's from Australia. I work with a great guy who I met on The Nine and I took to Africa with me to work on Generation Kill [HBO's Iraq War miniseries]. This is the first project on which I've worked without a dialect coach. So it really feels like a victory for me.
TVGuide.com: Are you going for any particular American accent?
Yeoman: Yes, there's a small street in Oregon just to the north of... You know what? When I learn an accent, it's what's called received or expanded American pronunciation. The easier place for British and Australian actors to go to is the Deep South or a "New Yawk" accent because they're very specific. In general, I think it's easier for Brits because we're so saturated in American culture — we get all the TV and movies.
TVGuide.com: Why is it always boys against the girls on this show?
Yeoman: I know where you're going with that. You're talking about the watches, aren't you? [Jane used casino winnings to buy his colleagues garish watches and jewelry; the ladies refused the gifts on ethical grounds. The men accepted them.] The watch thing made me laugh; it was the single most unpleasant watch I've ever seen. It actually had the words "iced out" on it. You know when you go to stay at a hotel and it's called the Luxury Inn? If they have to put "luxury" in the title, you know there isn't going to be any actual luxury. When a watch says "iced out" on it, you know there aren't going to be any actual diamonds on it.
I don't think there's any conscious attempt to pit the men against the women. It's a fair, but subjective observation. The sexual tension and politics are always very interesting and a contentious place to go on television. Whether people admit it or not, they like emotional stories.
TVGuide.com: It's a very flirty show. Is Rigsby ever going to hook up with Van Pelt?
Yeoman: We shot that elevator scene [in the pilot], and I'd made the very ill-informed decision that Rigsby should always be eating. Simon told me that I'd regret it. That day, we also shot that lobster scene and I must have eaten 12 lobsters that day.
TVGuide.com: No, you didn't! Didn't you have a spit bucket?
Yeoman: OK, so I regurgitated 12 lobsters. The director kept putting the camera on me to get me eating in the most grotesque way. But that scene was a very clever device to understand more about Risgby and Van Pelt.
TVGuide.com: What's coming up next?
Yeoman: We'll find out a lot more about Red John, who resurfaces, and more about Jane's personal vendetta in the next episode, which is called "Red John's Friends." In another upcoming episode, there is a flirtation between Rigsby and a woman — not Van Pelt — an attraction found in an unlikely place. But you'll also see some interesting stuff in my attempts to woo Van Pelt.