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J. August Richards

J. August Richards - "Raising The Bar" Tv Series - Raked.wordpress.com Interview

Tuesday 23 June 2009, by Webmaster

As you know, J. August Richards plays Marcus McGrath on TNT’s Raising the Bar. Proving that a kid from a difficult background can grow up to achieve success despite obstacles, Marcus is one of the strongest prosecutors, refusing to give in for any reason.

J. is also known for his roles in Conviction and, of course, Angel. Fans all over the Whedonverse remember him as Gunn, the hard-edged vampire hunter–and lawyer, for that matter.

I had the opportunity to talk to J. for a little while and ask him a few things. It proved to be a really fun interview, and he’s a really cool guy.

So take a look! And don’t forget to watch him Monday nights on Raising the Bar on TNT.

I’m a big fan of Raising the Bar, and I have a few questions about that specifically. Your character Marcus McGrath is probably best known for never backing down and never giving up. Because of this, the viewers tend to root for the underdog. How does it feel to be one of the “bad guys” in the courtroom?

Yeah, it’s funny. Sometimes people watch the show and–even my friends and family–and call me and say, “How could you do that? Why did you do that to that young boy? Why did you do that to those old men?”

And, you know, in my own mind and hopefully in the mind in some of the viewers, you know, I spend a lot of time thinking about the victim of each case, who sometimes we see and sometimes we don’t. But especially, we never see the victim come in right after the crime. And creatively and imaginatively, I spend a lot of time with whoever the victim is that week; I think about them first walking into my office after they’ve been mugged, after they’ve been beaten, after they’ve been shot, whatever the case may be. And I think about the aftereffects of violence and crime. And in that regard, when I start thinking about that, I don’t think about my character as a bad guy. I think of my character as a very good guy, and so I play it with the strength from that point of view of thinking, that I’m trying to right someone’s wrong.

And so I never see my character as being too harsh or anything, but unfortunately other people do. [Laughs] That’s the nature of life, I guess.

[Read the rest of this interview after the jump!]

Has there been anything you’ve that had to do on the show that you personally as an actor are against? Has there been something you’ve had to defend?

Not something that I’ve had to defend, but there was something that I’ve had to really work at as an actor to understand my character’s point of view, which was so diametrically different than my own. And, um, it reminds me so much of that scene in that great movie…what was the name of that movie? It was a Japanese martial arts flick–Hero. This movie called Hero. There was this great scene where all of these arrows are being shot in this calligraphy school, and rather than run, the students continue to write. And the teacher says–as the arrows are killing these students–he says, “Now we will show them the power of our art.”

And I think about that scene a lot when I have to work on a scene that my character is doing something that I’m completely against and that I don’t understand. I think to myself, “Now I’m going to show them the power of my art.” And really absorb myself and try to figure out why somebody would do something like that or why would someone would feel a certain way and that’s how I get there.

I’m so sorry, that was a very long, convoluted answer.

No, that’s great. It was really interesting.

So I have to ask, and I know you’ve been asked before. This isn’t your first lawyer role and it’s probably your third main lawyer role on TV in recent years. Is this a purposeful career choice, or are you just happening into these?

Well, that’s a good question. It’s funny because, you know, on Angel, I think that sometimes I get a rap of, like, playing a lawyer on Angel, which I played a lawyer for half a season of the four seasons that I was on there. It was for half of the last season, and then my character went back to the sort-of street-fighting, vampire-fighting avenger that he was. And on the one hand, I have to really thank Joss Whedon for putting me in those suits and showing me in a courtroom because I guess it gave some other people an idea as well, which has kept me working, which is great.

And then between Conviction and this character, I think that even though these people do the same job, they have different motivations and very different personalities. And that’s how I kind-of see these two guys, and then I can look at these two characters as completely different people because, you know, I’ve been very close to both parts.

So, listen, if I were approached to play another lawyer at after, you know, at another point in my life, I would gladly do it. I think there’s definitely worse things that I can be typecast as. [Laughs] But I think I have a lot of other sides to my personality that I look forward to showing as well.

So, that being said, including Gunn, if all of these lawyer characters ended up in the same courtroom, who would win?

Wow. [Laughs] Oh, man. Well, you know if it was strictly court–see, that’s hard because Gunn knows laws in every dimension, every species known to man. So if we’re going to stick with this… And then Gunn was a defense attorney as well… Geez, he’d be a very tough opponent, but Marcus is so scrappy. You know, I’m going to have to say Marcus.

Awesome. So speaking of Marcus, what do you want next for him? I see that there’s a possibility of a love interest on the show.

Yes. You know, when I think about Marcus, I feel like Marcus is one of those people who is never going to get what they want in life. Marcus to me–and this hasn’t been explored yet in the writing, per say–but I feel like Marcus is trying to find some sense of justice that was taken from him. And I think you can spend a lifetime trying to correct that wrong in your life, so I want to continue to explore how his character finds justice, both personally and professionally.

Ok, so, you might not exactly have anything to do with this, but it’s a related question. The active Twitter accounts during the show are really interesting, and I’m definitely signed up to follow Marcus. Is there any chance we’ll see you, the actor, on Twitter?

At this moment in time, no. I am very anti-Twitter at this specific moment in time. You know, I feel like we have all of these ways to communicate, but we say very little. So at this moment in time, I’m against Twitter. That may change because I was against Facebook, too, but now I’m on Facebook. But you know, I personally feel like my mind is so scattered with so many different places where I have to respond and communicate that I can’t even take on another form of it.

That makes sense. I know that’s actually [an issue] across celebrities right now is whether to or whether not to.


Switching gears a little here, as an Angel alum, you’ve basically been lumped into the “Whedonverse,” so to speak. How’s it feel to have such a cult following around you—especially as you pursue other things and have this great new show?

You know, it’s great, honestly, because you know, just the other night, the fans of Buffy and Angel and all of Joss’ projects are extremely respectful and really cool people. The other night I was at dinner, and you know, I sort-of noticed two people kind-of like tuned into my table a little bit, and I didn’t know why. And mind you, I always forget that I’m on TV, so I don’t–it’s the last reason why I would think somebody was staring at me. We left dinner, and they casually approached us in a very nice way afterward and said that they had just come from a talk that Joss had gave, and they thought that it was so ironic that they would bump into me. I thought it was cool that they waited the entire time to approach me after, you know, my date and I ate.

So, it’s like that all over the world, quite honestly. Whenever I bump into people who are Joss Whedon fans and fans of the entire universe, they’re just always very cool and always very respectful, so it’s really an honor to be associated with them.

That’s great, that’s really great.

Yeah, and like I said, it happens all over the world, too. Last time I was in the U.K., I wasn’t even in London, I was in some–I don’t remember where exactly–and this dude just comes up to me and says, “Hey, you’re the geezer on Angel.” It was cool, you know, it was just no big deal.

So I have to ask, you appeared as a rapping bike messenger in the play Space.


Is there any way I can hear part of a rap?

Um, you know what? He never actually busted a flow on stage. Let me see, did I bust a flow on stage? No, but I did a sort of robot. I did a small dance when I was trying to make a point about how time stops and starts, so I was kinda pop lockin’. But he never busted a free-style.

Did he? Yes, he did. He came on stage, but I don’t remember the lines at this particular moment, I’m sorry.

That’s ok. Maybe one day…


Thank you very much, and I look forward to seeing more on Raising the Bar.

Thank you so much. It was nice talking to you.

Nice talking to you, too.