For five critically acclaimed seasons, audiences knew Peter Krause as the troubled prodigal son who returned home to run his late father's mortuary on Six Feet Under. Since the HBO series concluded, the Minnesota native has been working on various projects, including Sci Fi's The Lost Room and the provocative thriller Civic Duty. Opening this weekend in limited release, the indie stars Krause as a recently laid-off accountant who begins to suspect that his new neighbor may be an Islamic extremist. TVGuide.com spoke with the actor about Civic Duty as well as Dirty Sexy Money, a "can't miss" pilot he has pending at ABC.
TVGuide.com: Nate Fisher made some questionable judgment calls, but nothing like Civic Duty's Terry Allen. Were you looking to play a very different character after Six Feet Under?
I was, but while Terry Allen was definitely different, I think I really got away from Nate with Det. Joe Miller in The Lost Room. He was less complicated and more of a hero, as opposed to an antihero.
TVGuide.com: So with Civic Duty, the story attracted you to the project and not simply the character?
Yeah. I liked the core idea of exploring paranoia. What causes someone to commit a random act of violence, and is it really random? The background for Terry — the powerlessness and this disconnection with the world — feeds into his paranoia, as well as the media in the post-9/11 world. When something like these shootings at Virginia Tech happens, we start to feel that heightened concern for what's going on around us. What are our neighbors doing? Are we paying close enough attention? So we drew a portrait of someone who seems crazy, and yet we do live in a world where acts of violence feed into a feeling of helplessness and a desire to lash out.
TVGuide.com: You bring an everyman quality to the role, which is much more fascinating and terrifying than if Terry were an eccentric.
When I first came to the project, Terry was very conservative. I wanted to move him more towards the middle in order to be emblematic of the silent majority. That puts everybody in the audience up there on the screen. I think we were all feeling paranoia for a few months after 9/11. But the good thing that this film can bring is that it's sort of like a tonic that can induce vomiting. I don't want to live in a paranoid world and I don't think anybody else does. So it's important to look at what that paranoia can bring about.
TVGuide.com: Terry gets very caught up in the news media. Is one of the morals of the story to watch less CNN and Fox News?
I think it's important to remember that media is composed of people. It's not some sort of strange entity like the presidential administration. [Laughs] The media are people and people can affect other people. I think the media after 9/11 wasn't necessarily trying to exacerbate our paranoia. They were more reflecting our fear. Did they get caught up in selling fear? Sure. I think when you value the bottom line over what's good for people, that's where you go wrong.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like you feel pretty strongly about the project. Is that why you decided to take on producing duties as well?
Yeah. I wanted to have my hands on it creatively. My role was really to rewrite the script with Andrew Joiner the screenwriter, who was very gracious. I also took part in the editing process and some other creative issues along the way. I definitely wanted to have my creativity applied to this movie, so that some of my vision could be realized. We ended up collaborating well and pushing each other, and ultimately I think the group effort paid off.
TVGuide.com: You also recently shot the pilot Dirty Sexy Money for ABC.
Krause: Yeah, we finished it several weeks ago.
TVGuide.com: What are the chances of it getting picked up in mid-May?
Krause: I have no idea, but I can't see how ABC would want to pass up the opportunity. I don't think there's any other show this year about a wealthy family like this. It harkens back to Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and, of course, it has a new twist. Craig Wright (Six Feet Under) wrote it and the cast is great — Donald Sutherland, William Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh....
TVGuide.com: You play a lawyer who inherits his dad's job of representing a powerful, wealthy and dysfunctional family. Taking over the family business sounds a bit familiar.
Yeah, yeah, strangely the show begins with the death of my father. That's part of the reason I said no to the project at first. I thought it was a little too familiar, but I eventually came around.
TVGuide.com: Your character, Nick George, is much different than Nate Fisher, right?
He is. He's got more of an agenda, whether it's visible at first or not.
TVGuide.com: If all goes as expected and Money gets picked up, will you have the same desire to take on smaller film projects like Civic Duty?
Absolutely. I've got a couple of things right now in the works that I'm trying to produce. I just had a pitch meeting when I got back to Los Angeles, and I've got a pretty artistic project that I'd like to produce. I'll definitely continue working on those types of things while doing the TV work, which I greatly enjoy.
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