We already have a new version of The Odd Couple on CBS - but the new drama Battle Creek, which premieres tonight, is also about two very different men coming together in each other's lives.
Special Agent Milt Chamberlin, played by Josh Duhamel, is a by-the-book kind of law enforcer who arrives in Battle Creek, Michigan and is paired with tough guy, go-by-your-gut detective Russ Agnew, played by Dean Winters.
The pairing is unexpected, tenuous at times so, of course, that works much of the time when fighting the bad guys.
However, the series - created by David Short (House) and Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) - is going to be about much more than bringing law breakers to justice and, as Duhamel told me when we talked recently, we'll find out that Milt isn't as perfect as he seems to be. (The pilot was also directed by X-Men director, Bryan Singer)
The actor, who initially became known to TV audiences for popular roles on All My Children and Las Vegas, also talked his return to TV, being a father along with singer Fergie as well as whether his good looks have been a negative in his career...
TV Fanatic: Signing up for a series after you've been doing features for a while, was family the big impetus for that decision?
Josh Duhamel: Well, it was definitely one of them but I wouldn’t have done it had it not felt right. If I was going to go back and do TV, I wanted it to feel right because it's a lot of work and it's a long haul and I really love the cast. I think it's a really talented cast. Vince Gilligan and David Shore together are fantastic…and CBS, Sony, the whole thing. And I got to shoot here in LA, which was huge.
TVF: We see in the pilot that Milt's the kind of this guy that has it all together…
JD: ...or seems to.
TVF: …yeah, but we see that he wasn’t so popular at his last job. Is it just because of the fact that he always does the right thing or is there something deeper that we'll find out in the course of the series?
JD: I think there's definitely something more to that. My thinking is, and we don't know for sure yet. I think David does, but he's not telling us. We've talked about it and I've given him my thoughts on why. But he's trying to over compensate for something that happened in his past. And his behavior now is a result of that.
He believes that everything he does can overpower anything that happened in the past. And I think as we go we'll find out that you really can't outrun it as hard as you try and it will come back. But he's trying to do all the right things. He's trying to say all the right things. He looks the part, but there's something definitely off about him.
TVF: There’s dialogue that is "You're not defined by your mistakes. You're not defined by your actions." So my question for you with this character, what does define us? What do you think your character would say to that?
JD: Well, I think Milt is wrong. I think you are kind of defined by your actions and he doesn't want to admit that because some of his actions in the past will always be with him as hard as he tries to sort of outrun them. And so to me, you speak with your actions, not your words. And it's a tough pill to swallow sometimes.
TVF: Milt’s looks are brought up often so I’m curious in the course of your career has that ever a detriment? That people only saw you for your looks?
JD: Well, to be honest, it's something that I've been sort of doing. Everything I've chosen, except for maybe this in the last year or two, has been about anything but that, because it's true. In the beginning, it was what got me in the door. And as much as I try to reject that and just make it about the work, the only way for me to prove that is by taking whatever job I could and making the most of it and proving that I'm more than just whatever people label me as.
It's not an easy thing for me to talk about, because it is uncomfortable. But it is what it is. It's all fleeting. And at the end of the day, you're going to be defined by your work. And that's really what I focus on.
TVF: Brad Pitt got noticed for his looks first, and now he's seen as an actor.
JD: And that's my goal is just to continue to really get better and better and better. And that's really what I focus on. That and my skin care. [laughs]
TVF: Moisturizing is important, [laughs] How much do you need to know about a character like Milt when you go it?
JD: Well, this has been a lot of the work. Even going into it, I needed to know as much as I could even though a lot of that information isn't decided on yet. Luckily, David liked the ideas that I had for what actually happened in the past and I think they're sort of going in that direction. You don't know how long it's going to last but even if it's one episode you still have to be clear. You have to be clear going in, otherwise, it's just muddy.
TVF: Vince, of course, is known for Breaking Bad, a dark show. House definitely had its dark moments as well. Are you hoping that's a part of this show?
JD: They'll definitely be a dark element to it. I mean, Battle Creek by nature is gritty. But I love that [Gilligan and Shore are] not necessarily trying to emulate what they did. This is a complete departure from what was on Breaking Bad. So people may have comparisons in the beginning. Oh, this is Vince Gilligan and they're expecting something like that. They're not going to see that, but they're going to see something, I hope very good and fun.
And at the end of the day, we just want them to laugh a little. It's not a straight out comedy, but it's definitely offbeat and strange. And I think that's the route we want to go is more strange and odd than dark. You know? Because it's CBC, you can only do so much on network TV.
TVF: Where are you from originally?
JD: North Dakota.
TVF: So you might get some of that small town sensibility and just…
JD: For sure. I'm actually going there this weekend. I haven’t been there yet, and this week I was like, you know what? I'm not going to feel right if I don't go to this town and at least just walk around. So yesterday I got my ticket. I'm flying out on a red eye after work in Friday. Going to roam the streets of Battle Creek for two days, and then come back Sunday. We're setting up a police ride-a-long. It's to get focused. It's just to have it a little bit in my blood so I know what it feels like there.
TVF: Do you feel now that you're a father, do you feel like a new phase of your life is starting?
JD: It is. Everything is different. Everything is about him. Every decision we make now is about him. And for two selfish entertainers, it surprisingly came natural. There's no question. This kid is like it. This is all we care about. To the point where you have to say okay. I need to leave this kid for a little bit and go work, because I'll sit home all day and he'll be napping, and then I'll try to do some work, but then he'll wake up and I'll go to him and I never really get anything done. So you have to sort of force yourself to focus on the work too.
TVF: I love it. I just want to ask you about working with Dean because on the show it's very yin and yang kind of relationship.
JD: You know what? He reminds me of a young Jimmy Caan in a lot of ways. He's a New Yorker through and through. He doesn't give a s**t what anybody thinks. He says things. He's funny. And he's just a dude. He's an awesome dude. As is the rest of the cast, by the way. They're all New Yorkers. I'm the only one who isn't coming from New York.
Battle Creek Season 1 Episode 1 airs TONIGHT at 10/9c on CBS.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.