Graceland's Daniel Sunjata Dishes on Briggs' Road to Redemption in Season Two!
The 42-year-old actor stars as Paul Briggs, a senior FBI agent who made some morally ambiguous decisions last year as he tried to protect some damning secrets and do his job at the same time.
We recently caught up with Daniel on set in Fort Lauderdale where he opened up about Briggs’ journey this season, including his relationship with Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito), his back-and-forth friendship with Mike (Aaron Tveit), and of course, a certain tape recording that’s still floating around. Check it:
Graceland returns on Wednesday, June 11 @ 10PM on USA!
JustJared.com: Where do we find Briggs at the start of season two?
Daniel Sunjata: What’s great about season two is that it does kind of exist as a piece. So you could come into season two and just watch it not ever having seen the first season, actually, because it’s kind of its own story. But where we find Briggs at the beginning of season two is in a place where he’s kind of looking for some redemption. He did some bad things for, maybe justifiable reasons, understandable reasons, and he’s trying to not continue living in such a dark place, in such a morally-ambiguous place, although the job does have certain demands, and so, of course, I guess the curveball in season two is that every time Briggs tries to get out, they call him back in. I mean, somebody in the house needs him, needs a piece of the old Briggs or needed something done that only the old Briggs would do or know how to do. So there’s that tension for him.
We also find within, I think, the first five minutes of this season’s premiere episode, that Briggs and Charlie are back together. Their love life is kind of put out into the forefront a little bit, or at least the fact that they are rekindling. I’d say around the middle of this particular season, there’s a plot twist there as well, because the relationship goes in a direction that might be a little bit unexpected for our audience.
Click inside to read the rest of our interview with Daniel Sunjata…
JustJared.com Interview – Daniel Sunjata
JJ: Briggs and Jakes clearly have some sort of past. Is that explored? Is there anything you can talk about that?
DS: There hasn’t been so far, and I only…what happens at the beginning of each season is Jeff [Eastin] sits us down and gives us the broad strokes. These are the main signposts that we’re going to hit throughout the course of the season, the general trajectory, and the specific twists and turns are discovered by us as each successive script and its various versions come out. So, that’s a very long-winded answer to your question. No, but possibly later on in the season.
JJ: How much does Jakes know about Briggs really? Does he know he’s Odin?
DS: He definitely knows about the tape, you know what I mean? Helped Briggs cover it up. He has not been sniffing around or asking Briggs. I think the kind of relationship that Briggs and Jakes have is kind of like, they both understand what the demands of the business are. They both understand, sometimes you have to cross lines, and you don’t necessarily want to end up in jail because of it. So if you got a buddy who’s willing to help you bury a body or…you know what I mean? Make something disappear that you would rather not come to light, and he has been that for me, and I think I’ve been that for him, but it was Charlie who was asking all the questions, and like, “Wait a second. Are you Odin? What’s going on? You know, tell me the truth.”
JJ: How does the react to Charlie and Briggs’ relationship?
DS: It’s not like when you discover us at some point in bed that it’s like, the first time they’ve been together since last season. It’s assumed that it’s been happening, kind of. Some people in the house know. Some people don’t really care. It’s mentioned in one particular scene. Everybody’s like, “Oh, yeah?” That’s it. That’s another thing, I love that the show has not devolved into a kind of a soapy procedural kind of…mush. They keep the focus on the operations that we’re running as a house. Of course there have to be emotional entanglements to make things interesting and dramatically compelling. Romance is a part of that, but they don’t lean on it in the show. It’s not like every episode is a different sex scene with a different person or what have you, you know what I mean?
JJ: Despite doing these bad things sometimes, you still find yourself rooting for Briggs.
DS: I think it’s the way it’s written. He’s not a bad human being. He’s not an evil guy. And there are situations where…obviously in season one, where he did some highly morally questionable things, but when you find out about his backstory and you find out he was forcibly addicted to heroin, it’s not like he made bad choices and ended up doing opiates for fun. It was foisted upon him, and who wouldn’t want revenge on somebody who did that to you? If you could also take down a huge drug cartel in the process…so, his faults are forgivable, in a way, and I think the audience does want him to be a good guy, the fact that he tiptoes that fine line of moral ambiguity between right and wrong. He’s not even that guy that you love to hate. You just kind of love him and hate him, but you don’t necessarily love to hate him. And I like that. It’s not just a one-note type of character. Lots of colors to play, and that’s fun.
JJ: Does Briggs hold any resentment toward Mike? What’s their relationship like this season?
DS: I think that, at the end of last season, when Briggs’ house of cards came falling down, he wasn’t holding Mike responsible for that. He knew that it was his own actions that resulted in the things that happened, and he withheld the entire truth, even up to the last minute of the last episode of last season because he didn’t want things to get even worse. But I don’t think he was mad at Mike for it, and they want different things. They’re following different trajectories along their vocational arc. Briggs…living and working undercover feels exactly like home to him. Mike had to acclimate to that world and to that life. When, really, he thought he was headed for the halls of monuments and power, to wear a suit, and become, you know, junior executive director of the bureau. Looking at things from 30 thousand feet above instead of looking at people in the eye and lying to them convincingly, and now he’s had to learn a little bit of both. So I think, actually, they have a friendship, and a mutual respect, and a little caginess around each other. They’re also both a little wary of one another. In the back of their minds, they know, “I wouldn’t really want this guy as my enemy because he might snake me,” you know what I mean? “I just might not win against him,” and that’s cool. We’re constantly somewhat competing.
JJ: How does Briggs react to Mike and Paige’s relationship?
DS: Again, with the revelation of that in this particular season, I don’t think that they were aiming for a big splash. I mean, we definitely want the audience to go, “Oh my God. Mike and Paige or Briggs and Charlie,” but it’s not heavily focused on. We’re not hammering it or putting it out there out front. When the reveal of that happens to the rest of the house, again, it’s kind of like, “Oh, I knew that. You guys thought you were slick? Or like, “Oh. Okay. Whatever,” and then we move on. We get back to business. Thank God. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d like the show as much.
JJ: And back to the recording out there, is that something that’s going to be prominent or is it something that we’re just going to always have in the back of our minds?
DS: Sometimes you’ll have it in the back of your mind, and it definitely resurfaces. The issues surrounding that come back. Very much like life, you know what I mean? When you tell a lie, you try and you try to keep it, and you get to tell so many…the thing you fear most is that that thing is going to be revealed and how that’s going to change the perception of the people who are closest to you, whose opinions about you matter to you, and so, for Briggs, he’s not just afraid about going to jail, he’s afraid about, “What would Charlie think? What would Mike think if he found out this and that?” So, there’s all of that.