Interview: John Leguizamo & Donnie Wahlberg

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Who needs Jack Bauer when you’ve got… Pittsburgh?

“I love Pittsburgh, I think it’s underrated,” says actor Donnie Wahlberg, who plays hostage negotiator Horst Cali on Spike TV’s new summer miniseries The Kill Point, shot on location in the ‘Burgh.

Joining Wahlberg on set was John Leguizamo in the role of  Mr. Wolf, the ringleader of a team of disgruntled Iraq War veterans who decide to rob a bank.

Wahlberg admits that although he is ostensibly playing the role of hero, “You could just as easily not root for [my character]. I think in the end people will,” he says, “but [Wolf and Cali] are two flawed characters, they’re not perfect. It seems like sometimes the choices they make aren’t always great, but at their core they’re both good guys and they make a connection. They’re both fearlessly determined to get their way, and while they respect each other, it’s like a very good chess match. They find that they have a lot in common but they both want to win, they both want to accomplish their goals.” 

Leguizamo likens the relationship between Wolf and Cali to that of the lead characters in Les Misérables. “The cops and the underbelly are flipsides of the same coin,” he says. “We relate to and understand each other. We respect each other, but I don’t know if we love each other.” And, as in Les Mis, Leguizamo is confident that the audience will side with the so-called criminal.

“I’m a good guy gone bad that you have to love no matter how much you hate,” Leguizamo says. “If I do my job right then you will totally identify and sympathize and hopefully root for my boys and me. We have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have it bad. It’s tough to come back from the war or any war and adjust to normal life. Nobody prepares you for it.”

Indeed, aside from to its natural appeal as a traditional tale of cops and robbers, the very premise of The Kill Point – namely, that a high stakes bank heist is being carried out by former U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq – ventures into interesting political territory, territory that most major networks seemingly consider too controversial for primetime television. And while Leguizamo and Wahlberg insist that the show is not intended to make any overt political statements, both actors acknowledge that of course it does, if only implicitly.

“There are probably a lot of veterans going through what these guys are going through. They haven’t all made the choice to rob a bank, but many veterans are very unhappy with the way things have turned out, given the sacrifice that they’ve made. We’ve heard about some of them – we’ve heard about a certain military hospital being inadequate for veterans – so inevitably it will make a statement but I don’t think it’s the goal of the show,” says Wahlberg, not-so-subtly referring to the recent scandal surrounding the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the treatment (or lack thereof) being provided to the vets. “The war is the war,” Wahlberg says. “I don’t think any statements need to be made – they’re clear enough. Whoever doesn’t know what’s going on with this war is living under a rock.”

Similarly, when asked what drew him to this particular show and this particular role, Leguizamo says, “I found the veterans’ plight very important. Hate the war, but not the soldiers – they are the bravest people I know. Especially the vets that came back and are against the war. They risk rejection now from all sides. Can you imagine being brave enough to lose your job, your friends, your pension and being labeled? That’s courage. My character Mr. Wolf is just that. He picks a tough venue for his message, but that’s what makes this miniseries fascinating and difficult and different.”

At its heart, The Kill Point is what all television shows purport to be: an entertaining way to spend an hour each week. That it also happens to be a high-quality, well-acted program is simply an added bonus. But while The Kill Point may lend itself more readily to intelligent analysis than, say, such inexplicably popular shows as Deal Or No Deal, don’t over think it, and rest assured that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“If it’s great, then maybe there will be a Broadway show musical skating version,” jokes Leguizamo.

We eagerly await news of The Kill Point On Ice, but in the meantime, we’ll happily resign ourselves to watching it on television.

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