Centre Points: The Pretender's Jon Gries

As The Pretender reaches a fourth season, Jon Gries is planning on taking over the Centre in his role as Broots.

David Richardson got the inside story.

Excerpt selected from Xposé #41
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Check out these Pretender interviews in recent issues of Xposé. We also bring you regular exclusive on-set pictures, and episode reviews!
Season 4 secrets revealed by the producers Xposé #39
Harve Presnell on playing Miss Parker’s father. Xposé #35
Meet evil killer Mr Lyle (or nice Jamie Denton) Xposé #34
Andrea Parker takes Centre stage to discuss her name-sake Xposé #33
Leading man Michael T. Weiss (Jarod) Xposé #32
Jon Gries on events up to Season Three
Xposé Special #7
Jon Gries and his magazine of choice!
Please note: links are to details of each issue. Features are not necessarily on-line

Jon Gries has a terrific idea. The actor, who for three seasons has played the computer whizz Broots on The Pretender, rather fancies the idea of his character surprising the audience. After all, out of the show’s ensemble of weird and twisted individuals, Broots is the most stable – an ordinary guy, caught up in the dark dealings of a dangerous corporation. But maybe it’s time that a few illusions were shattered…

“I wanna see Broots become like Keyser Soze,” jokes the actor, referring to the duplicitous villain in the superb The Usual Suspects. “His impediment is just his fear, then all of a sudden he breaks through and says, ‘OK, I want you all to know…’ and you realize that he is running the whole show!”

It’s a fun concept, but one gets the impression it will never reach the screen. Series creators and executive producers Craig W Van Sickle and Stephen Long Mitchell already have a very rich palette at their disposal – and a host of warped personalities to play with. Broots is destined to remain the ordinary guy – the expert assigned to the Centre to assist in the hunt for missing genius Jarod (Michael T Weiss).

“I wasn’t hired on the show to be on the full run,” says Gries, looking back to the first season. “I was hired for an episode. There was something that immediately grabbed me in the relationship between Broots and Miss Parker [Andrea Parker]. Right away that worked and I knew what my job was at the time – there were so many complex plot lines running in and out and things that needed to be explained. That’s his job. If you’re looking at it objectively from the point of view of the story, once in a while you need somebody to say, ‘This is happening because of this’ or ask the dumb questions. It just fell into place.”

It’s a testimony to the writing skills of Van Sickle and Mitchell that Broots has not remained a plot device. In fact, he’s become a vital ingredient at the Centre – a wonderful foil to the cold, determined Miss Parker and the enigmatic Sydney.

“I think the relationships have become a lot clearer,” he states. “Before, we just had a lot of suggestion of where the relationships are going to go. I like the fact that Broots and Jarod have this mutual respect. As much as Jarod doesn’t trust anybody from the Centre I think he understands that Broots is kind of the normal guy who got stuck in the machine and really intends no malice. I think he senses that Broots looks up to him.

“I love it when this show really integrates, throughout the whole plot line, the interaction between Jarod and the individuals at the Centre,” he explains, pointing to season three’s terrific instalment Wake Up. “There’s a scene where Jarod gets together with Miss Parker. She’s drunk and she says, ‘Have a drink, Jarod’. I like that. When his main plot intersects with our plot – that’s when the show is magical. And it’s happening with more regularity.”

Get Xposé #41 for the full interview

Pictures © David Richardson © Visual Imagination Ltd 1999. Not for reproduction