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Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters are ready to take viewers to Battle Creek.
The CBS show premieres Sunday amid big expectations, largely because of the pedigree of its creators. Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan penned the initial script and first developed the show at CBS in 2002, while House‘s David Shore is serving as showrunner. But the two co-leads are trying to ignore the buzz, calling it a distraction from their work.
Battle Creek is part procedural, part buddy cop drama, with grizzled, small town detective Russ (Law & Order: SVU‘s Dean Winters) clashing with handsome FBI Agent Milton (Duhamel), who has come to town under mysterious circumstances. To Russ’ dismay, he’s forced into close quarters with Milton, whom he suspects of being sent to Battle Creek, Mich. as a punishment for some wicked deed. In the series premiere the pair must work together to solve a surprising murder.
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Winters and Duhamel weigh in on working with Shore and Gilligan, those premiere expectations and the secret to their onscreen chemistry.
Vince Gilligan created your characters more than a decade ago. What did he tell you about them?
Winters: Vince was pretty busy doing Better Call Saul. The character was really well drawn on the page. David Shore and his team of writers really figured it out. When you have writing like this, I’ve come across that with Tina fey — I don’t want to say “it’s a no brainer because” it would be disrespectful to the craft of acting — but when the writing is there, it’s easy to craft.
Duhamel: I talked to Vince a lot early on, when we first met, and I saw him again at TCAs. He told me early on that he’s going to be really busy with Better Call Saul, so he’s not going to be there every day, but he’s going to be sort of overseeing it all. I wish I could tell you he was there guiding me along the whole way. So I don’t’ really know how he feels about it, other than I know he’s pleased with the show so far.
There are some big expectations for this show. When you signed on, how confident were you that this would work?
Duhamel: You never real know, because it’s the nature of the business, but I felt this had as good a shot as any. As an actor you want to surround yourself by the best people you can. Vince and David not only are really talented guys, but are good people. We all had the same objective, and it was try to make a great show. We knew the expectations were going to be high because of Breaking Bad and everything else. After awhile, you can’t focus on that.
Onscreen chemistry is particularly important for the series — even if that chemistry is based in antagonism. What’s the key to that?
Duhamel: Dean is a really funny dude in general. He’s also got a prickly personality, which is perfect. He’s a really loving and compassionate dude, but he’s a kid straight of the streets of New York City, so he’s got an edge to him. I grew up on the mean streets of North Dakota, so one might say I’m a little more naive than he is.
Winters: It wasn’t something we had to work on.
Battle Creek airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on CBS. Stay tuned to The Live Feed following Sunday’s premiere for a spoiler-filled post-mortem with Duhamel and Winters.
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