'Cape' star James Frain reveals show's secrets

Updated: 2011-01-10 10:51


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'Cape' star James Frain reveals show's secrets

LOS ANGELES - "The Cape," from creator Tom Wheeler, delves into the dark, seedy underbelly of a city filled with corruption and power-hungry, comic book characters.

The new NBC drama centers on police officer Vince Farraday (David Lyons), who is framed for murder and accused of corruption, and as a result, is forced to create an alter ego based on a fictional comic he and his young son read.

Taken in by an eclectic group of circus performers who provide him with his superhero "ability" (yes, with a cape), Vince teams up with an enigmatic blogger named Orwell (Summer Glau) to try and clear his name.

"True Blood" alum James Frain, who portrays the calculating Palm City leader Peter Fleming, recently talked with The Hollywood Reporter about his latest project.

"He's such a manipulative strategist and he doesn't really live in the world of people, he lives in the world of strategy," Frain said of Peter's alter ego Chess. (Not to mention "there's a goal he's working toward.")

THR: You play Peter Fleming, and then there's Chess.

James Frain: I play basically two guys, two characters fighting for the mind of one man. He has created this alter ego as a way of controlling the city, but it turns out that this character starts controlling him. We go into that a little bit with a bit more of the psychology of who this guy is and why he's done this strange transformation. But what's also interesting about it is the villains on the show - and there are lots of them - are very colorful and larger-than-life characters, and I think that's where Vince kind of gets his inspiration from, adopting a disguise. They've created the world of disguise and he has to operate within it.

THR: Will we find out more about your character specifically? Why he created this alter ego and why he has this need to be this other person?

Frain: And what drives him. They've got this interesting concept where you've got these regular serialized characters who have big story arcs that play out over the episode and you also have these "crime within a crime" stories of individual bad guys. But it turns out that there is in fact a great big nexus of control that's going on behind the scenes. As the series plays on, we start discovering that there are layers and layers of machinations and power structures that are going on.

THR: What did you think of the first two episodes (the two-hour premiere)?

Frain: It's a very ambitious show, so there are a lot of elements that have to come together, particularly the tension between it being something that is serious and very rooted but also quite fun and this need to have a light-hearted flavor to it. I think that'll be the secret, if the show works, that'll be the secret that drives it.

THR: What can you discuss that's coming up?

Frain: We start to find out that Peter is a little bit more of a ladies' man than we first thought. As the show goes on, the guy who he is by daytime, the guy who he is in the mask, becomes more and more separate and this conflict starts opening up. There's going to be some action with a young woman that comes up that's very interesting.

THR: Have we met her in the first two episodes or is she a new character?

Frain: That's a surprise.

THR: How will the dynamic between Peter and Vince evolve throughout the course of the season? (Note: There are mild spoilers.)

Frain: They have to go head to head. Vince has to confront this guy but he's in a very unusual position of not being able to destroy him. The obvious thing to do is to take your revenge and go get the guy who framed you, but he can't do that. He needs to keep this guy alive because he can't prove his real identity without him, and so he realizes that to really be free, he has to frame this guy and flip the tables on him. And so it's not just a straightforward combat, it's more psychological warfare.

THR: Is there a similarity between Franklin on "True Blood" and Peter on "The Cape?"

Frain: They feel very different to me. I don't know what it looks like on the outside, but Franklin Mott in "True Blood" ... he was pretty much batshit crazy but in a very specifically disordered way, whereas Peter Fleming is much more comfortable in the world of power. The thing about Franklin was that he was an outsider and a free spirit and he didn't really fit into any of the power structure. He just wanted to be on a wild ride with Tara, where Peter Fleming isn't really interested in having a connection with people. He just wants to accumulate power.

THR: Are you nervous about ratings?

Frain: How can you possibly not be nervous about ratings? I don't know. You're rolling out a new show, of course I'm nervous about ratings. Because it doesn't matter how good you think it is and it doesn't matter how good you think it is. At the end of the day, we all hand it over to the audience to decide. The people will decide. It's kind of like Gladiator. We get the thumbs up or not.

"The Cape" airs its two-hour premiere Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC, before moving to Mondays following "Chuck." share.


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