From Bush to 'Hawaii Five-0,' Gavin Rossdale Doesn't Want to "F— It Up"
"That’s generally how I feel about life, just try not to f--- it up for everybody"
When Gavin Rossdale landed a plum role on the 100th episode of Hawaii Five-0, he thought his manager was "crazy." "He was talking to the good people at CBS and one thing led to another," the 49-year-old tells The Hollywood Reporter of the way in which he found himself filming the Nov. 7 appearance, an experience he tried "not to f--- up."
Though Rossdale considers himself a musician first he isn't a stranger to film and television, accumulating a list of credits from 2005's Constantine and 2013's The Bling Ring to Burn Notice and Criminal Minds. He also joined his wife, Stefani, as her personal adviser on The Voice. "We live in such a fragmented culture that TV is one of the last great links," says Rossdale, who on Oct. 21 released an album, Man on the Run, via the reunited Bush.
Balancing it all, or at least trying to, has become Rossdale's greatest goal. If he isn't busy enough, a Bush tour is being prepped for February. "I try and prioritize my kids and my wife. What suffers is not going back to England enough and seeing my family there. I know [Richard] Branson's obsessed with flying to the moon, I just want to fly back to L.A.," he opines, referencing the song "Spacetravel" off Bush's third album The Science of Things as a result of his time-distance issues. "I'll just keep it simple and look for space travel on Earth."
Rossdale takes some time out of his hectic schedule to chat about his time on Hawaii Five-0, who he favors on The Voice and whether he'll ever be in a judges chair on a singing competition show.
How did you land a guest spot on Hawaii Five-0? Was it through the usual channels?
My manager is crazy! He was talking to the good people at CBS and one thing led to another. What I ended up doing was I acted in [the episode], then left to go to New York to release my record [Man on the Run] and then came back and played the 100th episode party on the beach. So I feel like I’ve been there a couple of times. My chair with my name on it was right in the middle of all the cast; I was so intimidated so I lurked around the edges. But they couldn’t have been more gracious and welcoming. Whenever I do anything, I just try not to f--- it up. (Laughs.) I try to just get it right. Wil [Yun Lee], who I played opposite of, is a fantastic actor and it was a real treat. And the director was really helpful in coaxing [my performance] out of me. It was a really pleasurable experience. I love acting, the alchemy of words and voices and people, and bringing words to life from the page, and trying to keep up with all these professional actors.
You’re also no stranger to acting. You’ve done a few TV roles and movies over the years.
Yeah, five movies now. I’m bordering on experience here.
How did this experience differ from those previous acting jobs?
It’s always the same. I feel a great responsibility to not let the crew and the people around me, other actors and everyone involved, you don’t want to be the weak link. I remember when I walked on the set of [2005’s] Constantine, I figured I was the one with the least experience on the entire set. There was no one else with less experience than me, so all I was trying to do was have a super poker face and just don’t f--- up, you know what I mean? Don’t be the weak link! I’ve known Rachel Weisz a long time — we grew up together in London — so when I went to the table read with her, I remember feeling really guilty. I told her, “I’m really going to try hard not to f--- up your movie.” (Laughs.) That’s generally how I feel about life, just try not to f--- it up for everybody.
Is your Hawaii Five-0 character a far cry from who you are? How would you describe Johnny Moreau?
I always get to play criminals, bad guys, guys who get killed. I'm getting better because I'm moving up the showbiz ladder; I'm not longer getting as killed as with the usual rate I had before. He was described as kind of a douchebag and I was like, "Hmm... OK, how to play a douchebag?" I just took it that my character had totally double-crossed the guy who brought me up and showed me everything. I couldn't play him like a douchebag because a douchebag didn't have enough sophistication. I just wanted it to be like he was a real bad person. It's a criminal world and it's like a Darwinism — the meaner you are through your reign, then you get to where you want to go. But of course, I get arrested and am currently in jail in Hawaii. When people are really bad yet they achieve things, there's a dangerous charm that goes with them. It's not like they completely become one-dimensional jerks, they have to be multi-layered so the people trust who you're bringing in and then you can betray them. It's a weird one because I'm sure they weren't expecting me, ultimately when it was written, to show up and be that guy. I went with my instincts and tried to be as loose as possible, then relied on direction and editing, if not CGI. (Laughs.)
Any inspiration from real-life people or characters from TV and film?
I thought about somebody who's really betrayed me. We all have them in our lives, people you just cannot believe double-crosses you like that. I used that feeling of no remorse, psychopathic, where you can be as cold as ice and yet do things that are terrible, be somewhat removed from them and enjoy somebody else's pain. It's quite sadistic. It's not a long scene so it's not like I had the run of the world, but I think the idea is that he'll somehow return. Hopefully that'll allow me to create a bigger arc and gain insight into this guy.
Switching gears, you were recently on The Voice as an adviser to your wife Gwen Stefani's team. What surprised you about your experiencing coaching the aspiring singers?
How much I enjoyed to be honest. I had an open mind and it's a really magical thing to try and help people who really care about what they're doing and really it's so important to them, it's everything in their life. In trying to help them with Gwen was really fun, but I was taken by surprise the emotional investment that you feel in these people. You want them to do good and you want them to get everything they want because they seem like good people.
Working with Gwen, did you find yourself disagreeing with some of her decisions?
Absolutely! There were certain times when they've all freaked out about a performance and I'm left cold. There are certain styles I don't relate to that does not connect to me. That doesn't mean I don't respect them and I don't understand their journey, but as a pure music fan, there are styles of music I prefer over others. Gwen has a great team and it's as it should be — a nailbiter.
Taylor [John Williams] is star quality from the get-go. There's this girl, Sugar [Joans], whose voice I liked the most. Those are my two favorites.
The Voice, is there any interest in serving as a mentor or have a role on The Voice or one of these singing competition shows?
I think it's more if they offer it. I'm not sure. I feel like Oliver [Twist] with a bowl of gruel. I don't think it's for me to ask for me, it's really up to [executive producer] Mark Burnett. But I don't know. I'm not sure there is a role for me really. I had a really good time doing it and if I had a chance to perform on there that would be really cool. There was some talk about that at the beginning and that would be wonderful, to perform my song on there. Show business is fluid, so who knows what's going to happen. It's an incredible platform to perform on.
How far into the planning are you in terms of Bush's tour?
We're really working hard, or we plan to work really hard. We're thinking about how to stage it and what to do that's really interesting and creative with the director [Jesse Davey] who shot the music video for our single, "The Only Way Out," which is an interesting time forward-reverse conundrum. It's a bit of a strange video. He and I are sitting down to work out the staging and really make it something special, but in a simple way. I can't compete with 65 dancers and helicopters, but there is always space to make a show that'll comprise my entire catalogue. The very dangerous thing is what songs I'm going to play. I don't want to play too long a show; two hours is enough. But we have a lot of rehearsal time planned, which is unusual for us because we normally fly by the seat of our pants. This time, I was like, "Please, be professional!" Hopefully they'll listen to me.
Any talk about who may be opening?
I was having a discussion earlier today [Nov. 3], so I'm waiting on bated breath. There are a lot of people I want to tour with, from the Deftones and the Pumpkins to Garbage. Those are my contemporaries, but there are so many up-and-coming bands out there that I'm finding myself anxious about it because I want to get these cool bands. I've always tried for great evenings; I loved the idea of keeping the price of the ticket down and you allow a great show, it's been the most respectful you can to your audience.
Hawaii Five-0's 100th episode airs 9 p.m. Friday on CBS.
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