Emmy award nominated actress CCH Pounder has been entertaining audiences on television and in film for almost three decades and is considered one of the finest character actresses in Hollywood.
Over her career she has played a multitude of characters and continues to be highly sought after for roles in the industry. She’s made memorable appearances in films such as James Cameron’s Avatar, Robocop 3, End of Days with Arnold Schwarzenegger, All That Jazz and Prizzi’s Honor.
On television she’s made a name for herself with roles on The Shield, ER, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Warehouse 13 and The X-files. She also recently joined the cast of the new NCIS spinoff NCIS: New Orleans and will soon be seen on the final seasons of Warehouse 13 and Sons of Anarchy.
CCH was kind enough to spare some time to sit down with TVWise to discuss her role on the NCIS spinoff, her thoughts on the upcoming finales of Warehouse 13 and Sons of Anarchy and why it’s important for her not to play the victim anymore on screen.
TVWise: With the final season of Warehouse 13 about to begin, will we get to learn more background information about the mysterious Mrs Frederic in the final season?
CCH Pounder: No. I think she’s the one person that’s going to go out with the, “Who was that again?”
TVWise: What do you think her role will be as far as the Warehouse is concerned in the final season?
CCH Pounder: I already know, but I can’t tell you.
TVWise: What can you tell us what it was like working on that series and playing Mrs Fredric?
CCH Pounder: I really wanted it at that time because many, many years ago I did a lot of comedy and I just thought it was a part of an actor’s life, but in America, comedy can be part of black actor’s lives and you can sort of get stuck in that lane. If you are a well-rounded actor and you like to play the comedy, drama and tragedy, you can get pegged very easily. I’m not saying that I’m not pegged again, but I’ve had to change many times. I started off with comedy and then I started playing a series of victims. I realized that for the black community to play victims, you don’t want to go too far with that. When I was coming up, television is so powerful that for certain viewers, they believe that’s how certain people are and your individual character becomes a whole nation of people. So, I made a very bold decision to play women of authority, women with a backbone and women who young kids could look up to. I then gave myself permission within those titles to have certain kinds of flaws that were just human. So, Warehouse 13 was sort of my break to have a character that gets to have her humour slide out every now and again and I thought it was a nice way to give a teaspoon of humour to my character and I liked that.
TVWise: In an interview, Kurt Sutter said he wanted to have you on Sons of Anarchy early on in the series, but the schedules didn’t work out at the time. How did you first get approached to join the cast?
CCH Pounder: Well that’s interesting, because I didn’t know that. I actually only went over there because Donal Logue was going back to Vikings and they had to find a way to wrap him up so I came in…and I only came in for a couple of episodes. Something just worked for the writers and I think also at that point, they were only going to have a season six. I almost felt like the carpetbagger coming to clean up things within 2 or 3 episodes and I ended up spending the entire season with them. So, they have a Season 7 and I have no idea how it’s going to roll, but NCIS was gracious in giving us some episodes so that my character just doesn’t disappear from Season 6. So, she will carry over and I will be able to do a few episodes before I head down to New Orleans.
TVWise: Both DA Patterson and Jax had an interesting relationship in Season 6. Do you think Jax respects Patterson and vice versa?
CCH Pounder: I think she somehow hit a nerve in his system that he recognizes as truth; not as judgment, but as truth. I think that her predictions seemed very real to him. In a person who has found himself down a road using his own version of morality and his own version of how things are done, suddenly this woman comes up with these ideas that somewhere deep down inside he remembers and they mean something.
TVWise: Do you think her ambition and drive and wanting to move up and get out of Charming has hindered her in any way?
CCH Pounder: I don’t think so. Put it this way, it hasn’t been written yet. I think that the idea of the person, who came in, simply by my availability for the season, has been able to create a character that you can go in certain directions. In the end, all of this has to do with the availability of the actor for the series. It’s one of the great challenges and thrills for a writer who doesn’t have a lot of time to write these things, has to know his story base very well and see where he can take it. I think that’s what they are really wonderful at and I think that is all Shield training.
TVWise: What were your thoughts on the season six finale?
CCH Pounder: I was on set that day and I was stunned! There was a weird discomfort everywhere and as an outsider, you don’t know what the story is. How could this happen? That is kind of the ultimate thing in writing for a series because there is always an assumption that your leads go nowhere. They get wounded 5000 times, they are in the hospital, they crawl through, bullets never seem to hit them and they survive to tell the tale. Here was the finality before the finale. I think also that for all of the wounds and hurt and whatever, there’s always that kind of safety and comfort that your leads will be there and I think that what is shocking. They have now torn up the manual on how you do series and it’s also a warning to lead actors that you may not make it to the final season.
TVWise: You recently joined Scott Bakula for the new NCIS spinoff series set in New Orleans. What can you tell us about how the role came about and the character you play?
CCH Pounder – I play the medical examiner with an interesting pedigree. She’s from Santa Fe and graduated from school in Boston and she chose Louisiana as a place to practice. I imagine that she will probably have a very interesting spiritual life ahead. As far as how I got the role, we are in the middle of pilot season and obviously I’m a loose cannon. I just finished Warehouse 13 and I had also finished up some clean-up work for Sons of Anarchy. The NCIS role just happened to extend itself because another actor had to return to his regular job so to speak and I was looking for a home. It was a wonderful turn of events getting the job for the new NCIS series.
TVWise: What did working on the ground-breaking show The Shield mean to you as an actor and personally?
CCH Pounder: Well I think while you are in it, there is a moment when you think, wow, this is really different and really good. I have to say right up front that the writing was always excellent. One of the things about teamwork is that we would all gather to read the scripts. Reading the scripts before we actually went to do the work, you got the sense that this is going in a direction that is so completely different from what is on television. I was just looking back at my career and I thought ER was a ground-breaking situation were the words corresponded to the body parts because a real doctor was telling you where it is as opposed to the Dr Kildare version of medicine. The Shield was the other side of the tracks, specifically life in the grey lane as opposed to black and white and it was pretty amazing.
TVWise: You had a great on screen chemistry with Jay Karnes and some great, tens,e interactions with Michael Chiklis’ character Vic Mackey. What was it like working with those two actors?
CCH Pounder: Jay Karnes is the most underestimated actor who I call a secret weapon. He was very easy to work with and I think we were a solid partnership. Our punishment for that was we would always have the 5:30 am call and they always had something in the can by ten. He’s a marvellous actor and I’m amazed that he’s not working all the time. Michael Chiklis was the first actor that I got toe tingles with when I worked with him in certain scenes. I really loved working with Michael Chiklis. We would always come to a scene where we would hit a beat that just took us to this place of animosity or it’s going to be understood. We would finish a scene and just crack up! It was the kind of thing you would hope for in the theatre. Every night you would come off stage and wonder if we zinged and on that show, we did zing!
TVWise: The Shield dealt with some very tough subjects, were you able to shake off your work on the show when you weren’t on set?
CCH Pounder: Almost on everything, somebody would be cracking up on set and then we would hear rolling and we just kind of went into that zone. All the venom and the hatred and the evil that was necessary for the scenes would show up. So by the time I got home, I was thinking about making dinner or picking up the kids. It changed very quickly and for me, it was an easy coat to wear.
TVWise: What did you think of the series finale of The Shied and do you think Claudette truly was satisfied with where Mackey ended up?
CCH Pounder: No, I think Claudette would have been furious, but CCH Pounder loved it because as a viewer, I saw it as you don’t want him on the street and he is stuck behind a desk. That is a tremendous punishment for a street cop. All the things that come with being stuck at a desk is like the slow tearing away of flesh. You would really have to be a cop or in service to really understand what kind of punishment that would be. It’s like a soldier coming home to his wife and family but you have been living a whole other element of life. Claudette would have been furious because she would have wanted to see it go all the way and would have wanted to be the one to put him away. By the way, all the actors wanted their character to be the one to take Mackey down!
TVWise: Chris Carter just released the pilot for his new show The After. You worked on two of Chris’ flagship shows, Millennium and The X-Files. What was it like working on Millennium as Cheryl Andrews?
CCH Pounder: They pulled me from X-files to do Millennium, so I had a glimpse into Chris Carter’s life and how he was thinking. The thing about Millennium was that I never saw the light in any of the writing. I always felt that if you don’t give some kind of hope, just in some part of it, that it was going to be in trouble and I think I was right. It was the darkest show that I have ever done and going to work was really heavy and Lance was really heavy as well. It was like working in the dark and the shadows. That was the only show that crept into my personal life and it was hard to leave that one at the office. It was always about wanting the hope and wanting to see a glimmer of possibilities and I always felt that Chris shut the door on that.
Millennium was ground-breaking at its time. We were going through a series of happy go lucky lightweight shows, heroes never die and the hero always wears white. Millennium suddenly threw a wrench in all of that and it was as if Chris had been reading the back section of the newspaper where after you get the headline of 12 murdered on Friday night, continued on page 94. Chris went to page 94 because those details couldn’t be put on the front page. It’s as if he got caught in that place. Human beings do need light to survive and they do need a glimmer of hope.
CCH Pounder stars in the final season of Warehouse 13, which premieres on Syfy on Monday April 14th at 9/8c