Anthony LaPaglia has had a long career in films (Empire Records, The House of Mirth, the brilliant Lantana…), but for the past four years he’s been happy to devote himself to the procedural drama Without a Trace. The show involves a crack team of FBI agents who investigate missing persons, each case told against a ticking clock…
So what attracted you to doing a long-running TV series?
I’m much more attracted to material than I am to the status of something. In England it’s very common for an actor to go between theatre, television and film. In the United States, up until the last five years, there’s been a real distinction between whether you are a film actor or a theatre actor or a television actor. But if you’ve seen any films in the last five years you realize that television has become much, much better – shows like Deadwood, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Shield… There’s more interesting material happening on television and film has become more corporate.
The series has focused more on characters in recent seasons. Do you prefer that to the case solving?
I love it! It’s fantastic to play as an actor. Often in TV shows the lead character knows everything, never makes a mistake, and I find that unbelievable and boring. As an actor you have nothing to play – if you already know everything before you walk into a crime scene then it’s boring. What I find more interesting is characters that are fallible. Watching people fall from grace is interesting; watching how they recover is even more interesting. That’s the seeds we’re planting with this character – we’re looking at it over a five or six year period.
What sort of reaction has the show had from those whose relatives have gone missing in real life?
The show is very popular in Los Angeles, where there’s quite a large Persian community. A friend of mine, his wife is from Iran, and she said the reason they love the show so much is because they grew up with people disappearing all the time – the government would just take a relative and they would never hear from them again. They’re fascinated with the show because there’s a process and a resolution.
What do you think makes a good procedural TV drama?
Honestly if I knew the answer to what made something successful, I would be making them myself.
Would you consider doing another TV drama when Without a Trace finally comes to an end?
If it runs for eight years, it’ll be my last thing. I would be happy to retire. I recently became part owner of a professional soccer team in Australia, I’m on the board of directors there and I’d like to get more involved in that.