'The Mentalist' Co-Star Michael Rady Talks Simon Baker's Directing Style, First Day Jitters and Two Upcoming Projects

Michael Rady - The Mentalist: Still - 2011
Sonja Flemming/CBS

A new investigation into a serial killer may be hitting a little close to home for Patrick Jane on The Mentalist.

The latest case of the week, featured in Thursday's episode "Blinking Red Light," centers on a serial killer who gains notoriety in the media. It's not just any episode; it marks series star Simon Baker's second stint behind the camera on the CBS procedural. (Baker, who portrays the unconventional investigator, directed his first Mentalist episode in its third season.) But things aren't hunky dory at the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

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As the young boss of the CBI Luther Wainwright, co-star Michael Rady, who was a regular on the one-and-done Melrose Place reboot on the CW, told The Hollywood Reporter that "the pressure's on" to make the team "look good." "He tells his crew, 'Look, let's not screw this up,' " he said. Rady, who has a small role in the Clint Eastwood film J. Edgar and appears in the upcoming Showtime comedy House of Lies, spoke to THR about playing a young boss, being directed by Baker and those two anticipated projects.

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The Hollywood Reporter: You're in the thick of things on The Mentalist. When is your next episode?

Michael Rady: The next episode for me, shooting-wise, is in another week and a half. I like going back there and going, "What happened? What happened while I was gone?"

THR: Can you talk about where Luther Wainwright is at, at this point in the fourth season?

Rady: This week, you'll see Wainwright trying to walk the line and jostle for position over the FBI for control over this new investigation centered on the San Joaquin serial killer, who has been out and about for a few months. It's getting national coverage now so Luther sees part of his job as getting CBI to look good again and putting its foot forward in the media as well. He believes in the CBI and wants them to be right up there [with the other agencies]. He tells his crew, "Look, let's not screw this one up." The pressure's on. Like a good parent, "OK, you can do what you want to do but we also have to do what I want to do. And hopefully we can make this work." There's some chasing in and around all that.

THR: And Wainwright's a young boss. How has his presence affected the team? Is there an awkward, uncomfortable tension there?

Rady: That's inherent in him being the new guy, thrust into this world of this well-oiled machine. On top of that, he has these ideas of trust and transparency, completely foreign ideas based on their recent history. He's so young, they can't help but wonder, "Is this guy for real? Is he serious?" He doesn't even look old enough to drive. For me, I was trying to -- given the inherent nature of that -- give them respect so I can get respect back. Listening to them and listening to Patrick's wild ideas and his crazy antics and let him have his say and then speak. Listening first and going from there. I saw that as his key to survival in this Patrick Jane world.

THR: Were there any challenges as an actor jumping into an established show?

Rady: The first thing we shot was actually the scene where I meet everyone for the first time so that was rather appropriate. Of course, I didn't know anyone. I couldn't help being a little nervous because they've had about a thousand bosses; OK, I'm just the next boss. When I was introduced the first day, it was, "Oh you're the new boss. Gotcha. We're not even going to bother learning your name because you're going to be gone in a week." [Laughs] They didn't say that but I didn't know how long I was going to be around.

The language is chock full of gigantic SAT words and tongue-twisters. Everything you say is a mouthful. The first couple days I was getting a little overwhelmed by it and then I realized it happens to every single cast member. They have their moments of, "Wait! What the hell am I saying? I don't even know what I'm saying anymore." That put me at ease. I was able to relax.

THR: How is Simon as a director?

Rady: I was taking the Luther Wainwright approach of listening, watching and learning because he's been doing this forever. He has a vision and he knows what he wants. I was happy where I could see him do exactly how he wanted it. He's got a discerning eye. He shoots from the hip, he thinks in the moment and he's like, "Here, try this. You know what, let's do this, lets try this." If something isn't working, he throws it out. "That's not working it at all, it's crap." That's invigorating. Doing television, that can be helpful. You can get in the zone.

THR: Is directing something that you're interested in tackling?

Rady: I don't necessarily know. At this point, I'm still just fascinated by it because it seems like such a massive job. I'm anticipating that at some point I'll want to direct just because of observing and watching, trying to wrap around my head around all the things we as actors don't even know a director does. I'm still wrapping my head around all that.

THR: You'll also be appearing in Showtime's House of Lies, about a group of management consultants. Was that a different experience from The Mentalist?

Rady: It's a different style of show in general. I can't liken it to anything, which is something I love about it. It creates its own fingerprint, style-wise. It's not like The Office or Entourage. It has its own look, writing style, humor. The producers from the start told everyone, "You can do whatever you want to do. Everyone was allowed to stretch their wings and explore their creativity and their ideas." I'm playing Kristen Bell's fiance Wes. Don Cheadle is the Simon Baker of the management consultants team essentially. Kristen Bell's character is leading a double life and I'm the other half of her life, where she actually has a soul and might want to be normal, but no one knows about this.

THR: Last but not least, you're in J. Edgar.

Rady: The movie is told through J. Edgar dictating his life story to special agents in the bureau. There's three or four of us. (Rady plays Agent Jones.) J. Edgar goes through a few of these agents who are taking his dictations. I got to do a few scenes with Leo[nardo DiCaprio]. That was pretty wild. [Laughs] One of those experiences that I won't soon forget.

The Mentalist airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

Email: Philiana.Ng@thr.com