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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell on the new season of ‘Burn Notice’

Burn Notice, USA’s comedic spy show and one of my favorite shows from last summer, returns for its second season on July 10 at 10pm Eastern (Season One is now on DVD). Last week I participated in a phone press conference with stars Jeffrey Donovan, who plays burned intelligence agent Michael Westen, and Bruce Campbell, who plays Michael’s slightly shady pal Sam — and these funny guys talked about their characters and the women they interact with, the challenges of shooting in Miami, and more. Here’s their take on seeing the show from the other side of the camera.

(I’ll have a sneak preview of the first two episodes of Season Two next week.)
On Season Two:

Donovan: I love the second season scripts. I think they’re even better than the first season and I think the first season was pretty darn good.

Campbell: Ain’t going to be no slumpin’. Ain’t going to be no sophomore slump. People are still finding the show and I’ve had the weirdest batch of emails from people from very odd demographics who are following the show.

On Michael:

Donovan: There’s a lot of pressure whenever you take on a role from that person’s singular perspective. It’s always through the eyes of Michael, so I felt like I had a huge obligation to be authentic in every scene, every fight, and every voiceover. But thankfully with amazing actors like Bruce, Gabrielle [Anwar, who plays Michael’s ex and sometime current girlfriend, Fiona] and Sharon, the load feels less because you know that if you ever drop the ball they’re always there to pick it up.

I just love that I get to play a spy. I’m like James Bond in America and, you know, I could never be this cool in real life. I don’t have the body and good looks of the James Bonds and I, though I am a big fan of The Bourne Identity, I don’t have Matt Damon’s chops and probably his intellect. I think he’s a genius out of like MIT or something. So I don’t think I’ll ever be confused with anybody really good. And as long as I keep my rogue-ish slant on this role, I don’t think it can be like anybody else.

Campbell: Let me add something because Jeffrey is being too modest. Basically I think what’s different is that we are watching how a spy becomes a human. It’s one thing to do all the fights and stuff, but do you care about that person? And I think what this show tends to feature more is what is this spy doing when he’s not being a spy. It rounds out his character. He has a whole life on top of it which I think makes it much more complicated and much more interesting.

On Michael’s relationship with his mother (played by Sharon Gless):

Donovan: She’s in a lot this second season. The writers have brought her more into a personal connection with Michael. So I think you’re going to see more of a true mother-son relationship, less antagonistic as you saw in the first season and more of she’s becoming a bit of an ally. But I think more as the season goes on, you’ll see him actually care more about her and the life that they used to have. I think it’s going to get deeper.

And, you know, it’s easy to act with Sharon. She’s one of the best.

On balancing the show’s focus on action and on Michael’s various personal relationships:

Donovan: I think we fight for that every day. You are drawn to the action sequences and the spy stuff, but you get hooked on really becoming involved with Fi and Sam, and Michael and Mom. If you care about them, I think that brings you back.

On the character Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer will play in Season Two:

Donovan: She’s behind a lot of things that held Michael back and you realize she’s actually controlling his life.

Campbell: She’s very, very evil.

Donovan: Yeah, she’s very evil and sexy at the same time.

Campbell: That’s evexy.

On Michael’s relationship with Sam:

Campbell: Sam is, of course, integral to Burn Notice. He holds the social fabric together. And I got some swampland in Tennessee, too.

No, I think it’s always good to have buddies. If you don’t have a second person, it’s hard to have dialogue. So Sam is handy for explaining missions and, you know, chewing the fat with Michael and kicking ideas around. And hopefully the loyalty issue is solved now. Sam’s in to win.

Donovan: Let me set the record straight. You want Bruce Campbell stealing scenes on your show. I mean, you want that. I’m the straight man, and you need someone like Bruce Campbell because he never does it so far that it detracts from the show or the scene, or the characters. It’s a blessing that Bruce has stolen scenes in the past because it lends him an ability to come in here and do the same thing here. It’s awesome.

On the yogurt in Michael’s fridge:

Donovan: It was just something that was put in my fridge by [series creator] Matt [Nix]. It’s Matt’s crazy, insane mind. For some reason, every time I open the fridge in the script it said all there is is yogurt. And then when Sam joins me it’s beer. So all I’m living on is yogurt and beer. And that’s how I stay so thin. It’s like the South Beach Diet, but for Michael Westen.

Campbell: There are some things that have been added to the fridge, because Sam hangs out there a lot. So pickles have been added and there may be hard boiled eggs coming up sometime later this year.

On the Florida weather:

Donovan: The [writers’] strike delayed us a couple of months. We would’ve still been here shooting, but we are getting a bit of the storms now. It’s difficult. Doing action in the humidity is a little tough, but I just try to stay in shape, eat a lot of yogurt and, you know, try not to hurt myself.

Campbell: It’s far too hot and I’m dying. The costume department, they give me dirty looks because I sweat through three or four outfits a day. And I won’t go into more detail because it’s too offensive. I had to shed a lot of clothing. I came here pasty and white, and blinking from the sun, and had to roast myself like a turkey on a stick. But, you know, the character of Sam… let’s face it, he’s not the tidiest guy, so it’s not that hard to roll out of bed and show up in front of the camera.

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