Kevin Chapman talks about the hit CBS show Person of Interest where he plays Detective Fusco.
There’s the sexy female cop (Taraji P. Henson as Carter). A wealthy techie calls all the shots (Michael Emerson as Finch) via his innovative surveillance system that predicts violent crimes before they happen. Helping out is a handsome ex-soldier (Jim Caviezel as Reese) who does all the heavy lifting (and fighting) when it comes to stopping would-be crimes.
Standing in the middle of the popular CBS action drama Person of Interest, returning for its third season tonight, is veteran character actor Kevin Chapman as NYPD Detective Lionel Fusco, a working class cop with a fast temper, a grizzly bear build and more than a few skeletons in his own shadowy closet.
Detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman) helps Person of Interest guest star supermodel Karolina Kurkova
“Hey, anything I’ve ever done is about playing the truth,” Chapman says, speaking from his trailer on the Midtown Manhattan location for the show. “That’s all I try to do whether it’s Freddie Cork on Brotherhood or Terrance on Rescue Me or Fusco…I’ll tell you this. I think the dynamic with Fusco is about to go to a new level this season.”
Fusco is a true blue supporting character and the type of gruff roles Chapman has been playing since leaving his job in the Boston film office to play a supporting role in the 1998 crime drama Monument Avenue starring Denis Leary. He’s been acting steadily ever since, easily shifting from feature movies like Mystic River and Unstoppable to guest roles on TV series like Rizzoli & Isles and Rescue Me.
Joining creator Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Right) and executive producer Greg Plageman (Cold Case) on the hit CBS drama continues to be the highlight for Chapman, a chance to steadily build upon a character over forty episodes in front of the largest audiences of his career.
Some shows, like Person of Interest, are huge hits. Others, like Showtime’s Brotherhood are overlooked. The constant between the two is Chapman’s dedication to work with quality teams and to always surround himself with the most talented people.
There’s another work ethic Chapman draws upon day after day, project after project. He’s something of a late bloomer; coming to acting as an adult after being discovered by the late filmmaker Ted Demme and supported by actor and comic Denis Leary.
It’s risky for a working class guy from Boston to dump his office job and become an actor. It’s even riskier to relocate to Los Angeles and dive into intense training so he can show up on set and hit his marks.
“I didn’t start acting until I was 37 years old,” Chapman continues, while there’s a break between his scenes. “I haven’t been doing it 25 years so I still have that sense of naivety and a kind of embracing the craft of acting and thinking about ideas that require a little more practice from me.”
Officer Simmons (Robert John Burke, left) threatens Det. Fusco (Kevin Chapman) at a funeral in the series Person of Interest
These are good times for the CBS drama. The cast gets richer with the addition of cast member Sarah Shahi (Fairly Legal) as a covert operative. Last season’s cliffhangers and its ringing pay phones bring a new spin to the show as Finch talks to Reese about the rebooted surveillance “Machine” in “God mode” of all things with all the security cameras and satellites and Internet surveillance programs watching us with thousands of eyes.
The most interesting plot development continues to build outside the show. Once, the idea of Finch’s surveillance “machine” was the product of tech fantasy courtesy of Nolan and executive producer J.J. Abrams. Now, as the debate continues about the far-reaching surveillance techniques by the NSA, Chapman jokes that reality has quickly caught up with their show.
“Look at all the NSA stuff going on now,” Chapman adds with a chuckle. “It’s been three seasons and the NSA has made our show a reality show.”
Before returning to set for his next scene, Chapman agrees on a couple of key things. It’s a good time for Person of Interest with Nolan and the writing team looking to reignite the story as the series enters 50 episodes. Basically, all of the characters are experiencing something of a reboot, especially Fusco who’s far more complex than your average NYPD detective.
Det. Fusco (Kevin Chapman) accosts a patrolman (Nick Stevenson) in 'Person of Interest'
It’s also something of a heyday for serious TV drama with adult characters and mature themes. Maybe Showtime’s Homeland or HBO’s Game of Thrones are your appointment TV shows. Maybe it’s Chapman and the rest of the cast on Person of Interest. Either way, the TV landscape is rich place for an actor to be these days.
“Television is evolving constantly,” Chapman adds. “It’s forced to raise the bar each and every season; our show and shows across all the networks. There’s so much content out there and the market has become very competitive. You have to sustain the viewers’ interest week in and week out. The first time you stub your toe, well, you know.”
Finally, perhaps most importantly, it’s a good time to be a supporting player, the kind of actor people on the street recognize day after day even if they don’t quite remember your name. Before our chat ends so Chapman can get back to work, I mention fellow character actor Ron Perlman, who’s achieved TV acclaim with his work on the series Sons of Anarchy.
Chapman goes back even further to classic character men like J.T. Walsh, Charles Durning and Luis Guzmán. That’s a community he’s proud to join.
“Hey, those are the actors I’ve watched all my life. Ten minutes in 600 movies. That’s a career I want. I’m not George Clooney. I’m Fusco, someone who looks like the guy who loves next door.
“Oh, and the future is bright. Hollywood is always going to need these anchors, these characters, an actor like J.T. Walsh, who would come into a scene and work opposite a movie star. There’s always work for guys like me.”
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays 10 p.m. EST on CBS.