8:30am PT by Craig Tomashoff
'APB' Star Justin Kirk Finds the Humor in a Brash Billionaire in the Donald Trump Era
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake Justin Kirk’s fictional character on Fox’s new drama APB for a certain real-life character. After all, his Gideon Reeves is a charismatic billionaire who wants to institute law and order on his own terms because he isn’t great about taking input from others. The way Kirk sees it, however, he wanted to play Reeves because of the guy’s similarities to a very different wealthy crime fighter.
“When someone comes to you with a project that seems different from what you’ve done before, and it seems rich with good stuff to say and do, you kind of have to say yes,” the veteran actor tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I though it’d be interesting to do APB so I could explore whether or not Gideon’s view on the criminal justice system might be a good idea. Plus, I get to be Batman.”
Well, Batman without the codpiece and cape anyway. APB, premiering Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox, opens with Reeves watching as his best friend is gunned down. And, just like Bruce Wayne after seeing his parents suffer a similar fate, Reeves decides to take the law into his own hands. Which means privatizing the police force in one particularly dangerous area of Chicago so he can spend some of his billions to make citizens safer.
The result, according to Kirk, is a series that will give viewers plenty of traditional cop-show action, but at the same time explore the controversial idea of a private citizen essentially purchasing a police force.
“One of the first questions I had for the producers before taking this role on was, ‘Will we delve into the notion that what Gideon is doing may not be the greatest idea in the world?’” says Kirk, best known for his work in Showtime’s Weeds. “They assured me we would be and I think that’s an interesting tone for a cop show. APB has a certain propulsion and humor to it but we won’t shy away from getting into what it’d mean for a guy with a lot of money to privatize the police. Even if he has that best intentions, things won’t always go right.”
Given the state of the current nation, discussions like the ones APB hopes to provoke are “the right ones at the right time,” explains executive producer Trey Callaway. “Not to be too philosophical but sometimes it feels like shows happen when they’re supposed to. We want to come at the topic from more than just one perspective. At the same time, though, we want to take people on a very fun, often very funny, ride.”
Gideon Reeves definitely believes in being the ultimate showman, a personality trait that prompted APB producers to go after Kirk for the part. “Because Gideon has such a singular style, we actually began to write the character for Justin because we knew and loved his work," says Callaway. "Gideon is big and brash and disruptive in the same way Tony Stark is, but he’s also more grounded and emotional and heartfelt. We wondered, ‘What would Tony Stark do if he could be as cool as he is but still have to deal with lawyers and real world consequences?’ Nobody is better at capturing all of that than Justin.”
After working with Kirk to help build the perfect Gideon, Callaway now sees the actor as “a godsend to every writer in the writer’s room in that he’s just such a fun guy to write for," he says. "Not only do you know he’ll consistently hit his marks, but also elevate your material far beyond where you thought it’d be. Give him a classic crime drama hero line and he’ll deliver it but only if he can undercut it with humor.”
And as for Gideon ostensibly being the hero of APB, “Justin resists us at every turn if we try to portray him too heroically," Callaway says. Kirk insists that even though he’s the central character in the show, he also has the easiest job because “while the police in his district get to 'kick bad guys’ asses,' Gideon just has to sit in the office watching.” Callaway, though, insists that Kirk is more than just a passive observer and that “you can see aspects of Justin’s personality reflected every day on the set.”
Being the actor at the top of the daily call sheet, like Kirk does in APB, usually means he or she sets the tone on the entire production. According to Callaway, Kirk has been a great role model for the cast an crew because he “ never wants anyone to make a fuss over him. He’s the kind of performer who shows up for work every day and doesn’t go back to his trailer when he’s got a break. He’s always available to anyone and everyone.”
Callaway found proof of what a down-to-earth guy Kirk is after the actor saw a picture of his producer wearing a KISS T-shirt. Within half an hour after the shot was taken, Kirk was on the phone expressing his extreme happiness that his boss was a fellow KISS fan.
“It turns out Justin is a card-carrying member of the KISS army,” says Callaway. “Finding that out was one of those moments when you realize you like a guy and wouldn’t mind hanging out at a bar with him. That’s not prototypical for the guy who's number one on the call sheet.”
It’s true, Kirk confesses. There are even pictures out there somewhere showing his younger self adorned with KISS makeup.
“I lived in small town America growing up and KISS was the only game in town when you’re eight years old,” the Union, Wash. native explains. “And sure, I’ve read a lot of KISS books over the years. Still, let me make it clear that it’s been a minute since I wore the makeup. Although hope springs eternal. I’m just not sure if the APB groomers could handle full-on KISS makeup.”
It’s hard to imagine any actual billionaire rocking out to “Rock & Roll All Nite” but then again, that’s precisely the kind of regular-guy attitude Kirk is hoping to bring to Gideon Reeves. Still, he does admit it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve as he tries to relate to the character’s tech knowledge.
“I used to claim that I could put a VCR together but unfortunately, nobody has those anymore so I’m kind of like the grandmother with no children at home to help her,” he says, laughing. “And I didn’t have the time to get degrees in engineering and computer science before we started shooting, so it’s constant work to get a very surface understanding of the technology we use in the show. I rely on the prop guys to constantly tell me why things are happening and what’s going where to do what to who.”
One thing he does understand about APB, however, is that the show is a reminder of what life is like now in a world of drones. Not that he’s become more paranoid since signing on to a show about the future of policing, but “I’ve been on this Earth for a few years now and we do seem to be living in a time right now where ‘unpredictable' is the number one word to describe what’s happening.”
Perhaps that’s why he hints that this chronicle of a rich, larger-than-life businessman’s attempts to control crime on his own might play out more as a documentary than a series: “Don’t quote me but in episode six, I hear I get peed on by Russian hookers.”
APB premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox.