Actor Stephen Lang guest stars on In Plain Sight as Mary Shannon’s fugitive father in the episode “Medal of Mary” which airs April 20 on USA Network.
Fresh off of his stint on Terra Nova, Avatar actor Stephen Lang steps into the world of In Plain Sight on April 20 as James Wiley Shannon, the long lost father of Mary Shannon, played by Mary McCormack.
A man on the run with a criminal past, James Shannon returns to his daughter’s life to make amends for lost time and to help deliver his underworld boss to the U.S. Marshals. But when Mary’s father arrives in Albuquerque, his return puts Brandi and Jinx in danger as Mary struggles to determine who she can trust.
Ahead of “Medal of Mary” on April 20, The Deadbolt caught up with Stephen Lang to learn more about Mary’s father, how he got to know the character, and what it was like to play a different father as compared to his role in the movie White Irish Drinkers.
THE DEADBOLT: When understanding the circumstances around James and Mary, how did you find a way to trust him to play him effectively?
STEPHEN LANG: Well, I’d ask, what makes a good salesman? He has an ability to lie. To some extent, his life is a lie. But the earmark of a great liar is that he believes it himself, and he’s very convincing at that. He’s been able to do that.
But like something bad that you digested, a lie, eventually it’s going to work its way out. And the fundamental goodness, which is not even the main part of the guy, it’s there. It’s a reaction against it and he has to deal with it.
So I really don’t worry too much about whether I trust him or whether he’s a good man, whether he’s a bad man. I just try and inhabit him and find his point of view and not judge it so much, just as he wouldn’t his own self.
THE DEADBOLT: In what ways were you able to give more to the character since it wasn’t quite as physically demanding as Terra Nova?
LANG: Well, I liked the idea of playing somebody where a toll has been taken on him over the years just physically from moving about and from circumstances being tough. But that was all pliable to me.
I don’t know if I’d say that he’s quite at the end of his rope, but he certainly has reached a point of vulnerability in his life where the options are starting to run out for him. He’s taken so many paths and it all seems like it’s a big maze in a way. I think he’s just getting very tired of running.
THE DEADBOLT: After playing a different father in White Irish Drinkers, what appealed to you about this type of father figure and his relationship to his two kids?
LANG: I like the idea of playing a guy on the lam. I like the idea of dealing with the problem of being a father who never was a father, who was a miserable father but he was a father by absence. I mean, the father in White Irish Drinkers was not a great father but he was there.
I thought the idea of showing up after thirty years at your daughter’s door and saying, “Hi honey, here I am” was so bizarre and inexplicably a difficult thing to do that I wanted to do it. I wanted to see what that was like. I just thought that playing him was very easy because it’s all on Mary. All I had to do was say, “Hi honey, I’m home.” And the look on her face is just priceless. I mean, she just nailed it I thought.
So the idea of playing a circumstance that is not part of your life but is imaginable to you and that you never played before, that’s got an appeal to me. So that’s why I would say that I was attracted to this guy.