A Jericho4Kids Interview with
Mr. Meunier plays Russell on Jericho!! It was great to talk with him because I am not sure if his character on Jericho is one of the good guys or one of the bad guys!! Mr. Meuniers has a lot of talent to be able to make us wonder about his character! He is the kcoolest!
Thank you to David Meunier for doing the interview with me. You are awesome!!
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It is awesome to be able to do an interview with you!!
Thank you Shelby, it’s my pleasure. And your questions are great!
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid… ? So many things! But I think the first time I really considered a career (or college) it was to be a graphic artist, or some kind of designer at a marketing firm… then, maybe a teacher…
What was your first job? (before you became an actor, like when you were a teenager).
Well, there was delivering newspapers, picking strawberries, and stacking firewood for people in the neighborhood… then I worked on a farm for a couple of summers burning fields and moving irrigation pipe. Then, before I graduated from high school, I worked for a short time as a short-order cook in a “50’s” hamburger joint (after working for just two months at the local McDonald’s) and then I managed a “you-bake” pizza place. (It was called “you-bake” because we would make the pizzas from scratch and then the customer would have to come and pick it up, take it home, and bake it themselves).
Did you grow up in a small town like Jericho?
Yeah, although it’s not so small anymore.
What or who inspired you to get the acting bug?
It wasn’t so much about inspiration as it was coercion . I hadn’t thought a thing about acting, or theater, when a buddy of mine from the football team talked me into auditioning for our high school musical. And I thought, “Hm… do a play…? or work more hours at the pizza parlor…?” and so I let him convince me. What I didn’t know though, was that I’d have to sing and dance. So to help me prepare, my friend came over to my house and we’d go into the garage to rehearse the music bit. And when the day finally arrived… my singing was dreadful. Being a captain of the football team was a lot easier than standing up on stage all alone and trying to keep up with music being played from a piano somewhere in the darkness… I was so nervous! After that I tried to forget about the whole theater thing - and took as many opportunities as I could to accuse my friend of allowing me to make a fool of myself. And then, a few days later my friend turned to me in class and said, “I can’t believe it… you got the lead role!” I thought he was pulling my leg of course and had to see the cast list for myself. And sure enough, there was my name - cast as “Nathan Detroit” in our school’s rendition of “Guys and Dolls”. Unlike the movie version however, (where Nathan is played by Frank Sinatra), in the stage version of the play Nathan has the bulk of the acting job while the other lead guy is the big singer – thank goodness! After that experience, I was hooked.
How old were you when you started acting and what was your first acting job?
Oops! I think I just answered this one.
Do you like to do drama or comedy better?
Well that’s tricky… because sometimes they’re the same thing… but at a glance, I’d have to say “drama”.
How did you get the part of Russell on Jericho?
By complete accident! (if there is such a thing )… The casting directors for JERICHO had just hired me for an episode of THE UNIT a few weeks earlier and so, thankfully, I was on their minds. And when they called me in originally, they asked me to read for another part – the guy selling the “mechanical governor” in “Black Jack”. And so I went in and read for the role of “Shady Seller” (I think that’s what the character was called), and when I was done, both Jon Steinberg and Dan Shotz looked at each other then said to me, “Would you mind looking at a different part?”. I did, quite happily, and by the end of the week I had become the mysterious man from New Bern.
Do you consider Russell to be a bad guy on Jericho or do people not understand why he is the way he is?
Definitely misunderstood… only “bad” if absolutely necessary - and even then, if it was absolutely necessary, is it “bad”? I considered Russell to be the great “go-between” - a normal guy who tries, perhaps unsuccessfully, to navigate the situation of two rival (in spirit) towns and their great need for each other in the desperate, post-apocalyptic world we all found ourselves in.
What scene (that you were in) is your favorite from Jericho and why?
Hm… I liked all of them. It was just a pleasure to get to go to work every day with all those amazing people.
If I had to choose… I think maybe one of my favorites was one that was never seen. In episode 19, Russell and Emily had a couple of conversations on Main Street. She was asking about Heather and I was explaining the dangers of the road. And in the end, she gave me a letter to give to Heather and on the outside of the envelope she had written a message to her dad, Jonah, telling him to give me a “pass” on the trip back to New Bern. It was a couple of short scenes that contained a lot of plot points that I think, ultimately, the producers thought just couldn’t be “paid off” down the road and so they were scrapped. But what I liked about them was that it allowed me (Russell) to show a little bit of a different side. Russell had been so wrapped up in the delicate business of “wheeling and dealing” to avert Constantino’s war that he was never really allowed much time to connect to another individual on more personal matters… it was like a little breath of fresh air for me to interact with another character on a level that didn’t have the underpinnings of “war aversion tactics”.
What scene was the hardest for you to do on Jericho and why?
I think the only thing hard for me was having to be at the Richmond farm location at the crack of dawn! But, I have to say, when I did get there, I was always inspired by the amazing sunrises that would glow across the landscape.
Russell seems to care a lot about Heather. When we get a season three, do you think he might change his ways? I ask because Sprague would like to see Heather get a boyfriend in season three.
LOL Love this question! Yeah, I think Russell does care about Heather. And in my mind, Russell’s little girl probably cares about Heather too. And I think Sprague’s wish is a good one. It’s like what I just explained in my comments about the abandoned Russell/Emily scenes (not that those scenes were so deep as to blossom into a romance) - but having an emotional connection to the circumstances of the story is one thing… but what actors really love (at least I do) is when we get to have an emotional connection to another human being. I’d love to see Russell love someone. Now, whether that’s Heather, or anyone at all… might require another “nutz” campaign
Do you know anything about Russell's background, like his history, or do you just create the way you act like Russell by using your own imagination of his life?
Great question! It’s all imagination! Even when the writers do give you something (which I got very little, if anything, about Russell’s background) you need your imagination to fill in the blanks and make it your own. Some actors like to use things from their own lives, or purposefully have an experience to fill in the missing colors… that’s just never worked for me - especially given the roles I’ve played. If I had used either of those methods I’d be dead, in jail, or locked inside a therapist’s office. What I LOVE is when I sit with a story and, based on what is given to me on the page, I paint my character’s world with my imagination only to show up at work and see that what I saw in my mind is in fact what the set looks like… or the location… or the other character. Like I imagined it into existence…
Let's say you could be another character on Jericho, what character would you pick and why?
I don’t know that I can answer this one. Everyone who is playing who they are playing is the only person I can see in that role. Lennie is Hawkins, Skeet is Jake, Brad is Stanley… Of course, there are aspects of those characters that I would love to have as Russell. To be more a part of the “conspiracy” as Hawkins is… to be more of the leader as Jake is… to have some of the intimacy that Stanley has, or had, with his sister and Mimi…
Who makes you laugh the most on the set? Any stories to tell?
That would have to be Bob and Richard of course. And Brad. And Michael Gaston can be pretty funny too. I don’t know if I know any stories that haven’t been told already…
Which episode of Jericho is your positively favorite one (this is also a fan question :-)?
Oh boy. Don’t know if I can answer this one either.
If I had to choose… I think I’d have to say episode 14. I know some of the fans might think I’m crazy, but I felt like (at least a thread of it) was sort of the perfect microcosm of the entire JERICHO story.
And why… (to answer a later question). You have the counting of the people on the “migration trail” (with Jake, Stanley, and Mimi) that really shows the magnitude of calamity in the JERICHO world. Then… the truck gets run off the road. And from that situation, three very specific archetypes emerge that (I think) are indicative of the types of people that might emerge should such a catastrophe like nuclear devastation ever occur.
The person who, while being completely out of their element, is forced to step up and accomplish a seemingly impossible task such as Mimi had to do… only to find themselves, in the end, alone on a dirt road in total despair.
The hero who knows what to do (such as feigning death when the marauders arrive) and yet he is trapped… And because he is unable to move, Jake’s knowledge and experience crumble under the weight of the truck… under his own inability to take action. And then you have Stanley’s path…
The person who, in the beginning, is “unconscious” and awakens to become the hero -- summoning a focus of attention that rises above his own suffering and won’t allow his friend to die.
There is also that moment between Jake and Johnston near the end of the episode that I really liked -- that moment of guilty admission… the desire for atonement. It’s a moment that only tragedy, or near-tragedy, could bring to light.
And of course, Skeet, Brad, Alicia, and Gerald were all brilliant.
What would you like see happen to Russell in season three?
I’m not sure… only that I would like to be around a lot more
I ask everyone this question, what makes Jericho a family show?
Hm. That’s a good one. I think it’s because there are pieces of the story that everyone, on some level, can relate to - young and old. At its core it really is about family in a lot of ways. “Family” not just being your brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents… but also your neighbors and friends… even the people who live in the next town over… And if something really crazy happened, how would we all treat each other? How would we unite as one, or break apart into many?
And finally, What do you hope to see happen in the very final episode of Jericho many years from now, like say, season 25?
Russell is President
I thought of one more question, there is a good chance for another season of Jericho, what do you think about the fans fighting so hard to save the show for a second time?
I think you all are incredible, amazing people! Truly. I value your fight - not just for this show, but for “scripted” television in general - and hopefully, the way the big studios measure their “success”.
Below are questions sent to me by the fans. A lot of them are about your character on Jericho. I divided them because three different fans sent them to me. Please answer what you can and I understand if you cannot answer them all.
Was Russell on the train? What was on the train? Who was on the train? What was up with the train?
Well… no. Russell was not on the train. Had I been, I might not have survived… As I know it to be, the train was carrying an onslaught of “misguided” (Russell’s opinion) men from New Bern who were on their way to support Constantino’s foolishness. And so, of course, Hawkins had to eliminate it.
Was Russell "in" with Black Jack? How did he get a gun inside? How come the guards listened to him when they broke up the fight over Heather? How did Russell know so much about the goings on at Black Jack?
“In” with Black Jack? No. The writers never said one way or another, but I made the assumption that I did have a pretty good sense of the place simply from having been there numerous times to barter for goods and supplies - and get the news. As I said to Dale and Skylar in episode 19, I knew the trade routes and where to buy and sell goods for top dollar (or treasure).
The gun… ah, well… if you remember when Jake pulled up to the gate, the guards didn’t exactly do a body-search of anyone in the car, now did they…
The guards? Again, I think it was one of those situations where if you go to a particular place enough times, people know you - even if they only know that you’re not a trouble-maker, that might be enough for them to give you a little leeway.
Don’t know. If it were up to me, I’d want to lead a united front with the nice folks of Jericho – even if that means abandoning Constantino and his methods. I could see the people of New Bern having their own civil war of sorts where a division takes place between those who wish to fight for blood and those who wish to fight for justice.
Oh, Russell is my favorite New Bernian. Is his family still in New Bern? Does he know that Constantino is evil? Why doesn't he move his family to Jericho? Will he be joining Jericho to fight the corrupt government?
Family… I can say that in my mind (don’t know about the writers), I have only a little girl at home in New Bern – a cute little thing for whom I spend the majority of my time trying to feed and keep safe. And, who knows… maybe I could find her a mama in the neighboring town . I do recall Dan, or Jon, saying at one point that they wanted Russell to be “mobile” - meaning, the fewer the “strings” they attached to the character, the more they could have him do. Where that idea was going, I don’t know.
Constantino evil? I’d say Goetz is evil. Constantino is misguided and, not unlike Mayor Anderson, ill-equipped when the situation requires true leadership. I do think Constantino needs to be reformed… but I don’t know that I would hang him from a tree.
And yeah, as I mentioned earlier, I’d like to think Russell, and anyone else he could rally from New Bern, would join Jericho in the “civil” war against the enemy.
First would like to say how much I have enjoyed your character! And I am really hoping for Season 3 so we can see more of you!
What was your favorite episode and why?
Thank you… and check out my earlier answer to this question.
My mom just mentioned something that made me think of one more question,
What are your thoughts on the Nielsons ratings system?
Oh boy... I understand their purpose, but not their outdated calculation method. It’s as though they are trying to do advanced math with an abacus. But then, who’s to blame? The networks still use the Nielsen findings. The Advertisers still use the Nielsen findings. If the current service Nielsen provides is acceptable to these two parties, why spend the resources to expand and include alternative viewing patterns? The networks and the advertisers have to demand better calculating methods. BUT… and here’s the tricky part… the networks are still trying to push the ridiculous idea that “new media” equals “no money”. Anyone who followed the recent Writer’s strike knows that that is a bunch of hooey. And anyone who has read the recent articles wherein studio execs are touting their download numbers and “sold out” million-dollar cyber-ads and “new media” contracts… can see through the smoke-screen they are trying so hard to blow. Bottom line - the studios (all of them) are salivating over “new media”, but are scared to death about disclosing too much of the truth about what they stand to gain by it. Viewers equal money. And the day the networks divulge the truth about what they earn via those “new media” people, is the day the unions (whose members are responsible for all the content the studios are peddling) will come crashing their doors down.
And being that JERICHO is at the forefront of this “new media” revolution… how does it feel to make history?
Thank you for doing this interview with me! Keep up the great work you do on Jericho!
And for those few fans who haven’t given up on CBS, or are willing to tune in one more time , I’ll be guest-starring on CSI (Vegas) this Thursday, April 10th.