Time to get inside the mind of one of the actors behind one the funniest and more intriguing series out there. This is my interview with Rob Heaps, who plays Ezra on Bravo’s Imposters, currently on season 2.
1.- You’ve acted in And Then There Where None, which I loved, and Home Fires, what do you feel is the difference between British and American T.V.?
As a working actor on set I haven’t found a big difference. The obvious joke is that the catering is better in the US, which is perhaps still true, but I think even there the UK is catching up. I remember on the pilot of Imposters I had a trailer with a (fake) fireplace and gleefully sent photos back to all my UK friends, and then it broke. If that isn’t poetic justice I don’t know what is.
In terms of output – it’s funny, everyone in the UK is obsessed with American T.V., and most Americans I speak to are obsessed with British T.V.! I guess we only ever see the best of each – there’s probably a lot of rubbish on both sides that never makes it over the Atlantic. I do think there’s something interesting happening with comedy which is that (personally) I find a lot of American comedy stronger than the UK’s output at the moment when traditionally it’s been the other way round. There are moments in Brooklyn 99 for example where I’ve very nearly died laughing. I think maybe that when The Office happened American TV started to assimilate the deadpan style and awkwardness of British comedy – but at the same time held onto its big energy and goofiness, which is a lethal combination.
2.- After reading the script, what drew you to Imposters?
I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a script so quickly as I did when reading the pilot for My So Called Wife (which was our working title). I laughed out loud several times and I was on my own, so that was a good sign. It had a very specific and eccentric tone that appealed to my own sense of humour, which is quite dark. Adam and Paul are both Jewish and I think we’re writing in that Jewish comic tradition of finding laughter even in the deepest suffering and heartbreak. It also walked this perfect line between truth and fantasy – although the story itself is outlandish, it’s rooted in a deep emotional truth, the pain of heartbreak and betrayal, which is something that pretty much everyone can relate to.
And Ezra is just a wonderful character. I love characters that have no clue what is happening or why it’s happening to them, and that’s Ezra – at least to begin with. One minute he’s happily married, the next he’s been robbed and abandoned, has unsuccessfully tried to kill himself and is being held down and screamed at by a man in a suit. Who doesn’t want to play that?
3.- There’s an innocence on Ezra most audiences can relate to, what would it take for Ezra to turn evil and do you think audiences would still cheer for him?
I’m not sure what you mean by evil. Would you say Maddie is evil? I guess some people would. But hopefully, by the end of Season 1, the audience understands where even she is coming from. And I don’t know if I see Ezra as ‘innocent’ so much as he’s just inexperienced and naive. And we see him develop a new edge and confidence towards the end of Season 1, and that continues in Season 2, but I don’t know if I see it as becoming evil – I think in a way it’s still very relatable! I mean this is a guy who’s felt trapped and unfulfilled his whole life, which is how most of us feel, and suddenly is swept up in an adventure in which he discovers strength and skills that he never knew he had. You’re watching somebody come into their own, and that’s something that everyone wants to experience. And yes it comes with moral implications, and those implications will get increasingly troubling in season 2, but we’re going to see the consequences of those too. And if that tests Ezra’s likeability, then that’s a good thing. We invent fictional characters to go places that we don’t want to go ourselves. We can’t complain if we end up not liking them so much as a result.
4.- If you could add one characteristic from Richard and Jules to Ezra, what would it be?
Oh goodness. I’ll take Richard’s abs for sure. And Jules’ artistic ability. But then it wouldn’t be Ezra anymore! Maybe better not to mess with creation.
5.- How do you maintain the chemistry with the cast?
Very easily! Basically by making fun of each other and playing jokes as often as we can. I feel very lucky that the show was cast as it was. These characters are really just versions of ourselves, so on set we’re half in character the whole time anyway. A lot of what Parker and Marianne say to each other you could pretty much write down and throw in the script.
6.- What have you learned from playing an imposter?
That it’s amazing what you can get away with. Especially if you back yourself.
7.- What tips can you tell us to spot a scammer? What signs should we look for?
That’s a tricky one. People that smile too much. And I’d say trust your instincts. I think humans have very accurate instincts that they don’t listen to enough. Learn to listen to those warning bells. And if something seems too good to be true…you know the rest!
8.- What’s it like working with Uma Thurman?
Extraordinary. You can’t pretend not to be star-struck. She’s so iconic, in a way more iconic than anyone. That poster for Pulp Fiction is ingrained in our cultural consciousness – honestly, when anthropologists look back at this age in a thousand years, I think that image of her will be one of the main exhibits. So it does take a while to get over that. But once you do, you see she’s a proper actor – motivated and present and generous. When we shot that scene she was about to start rehearsals for her Broadway play The Parisian Woman, and between takes she asked me to run the lines with her, so we did! That was a very surreal moment. Surreal but nice, to quote Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.
9.- If you could con a famous actress into marrying you, who would it be?
Oh gosh. Can I time travel too? If so it would have to be Julie Christie. Although to be fair she’s still gorgeous now. If not…to be completely unoriginal I’ll have to say Scarlett Johansson. Which is basically time travel anyway as she looks like she’s stepped out of the 1950s.
10.- If there’s a third season, how do you see Ezra?
I don’t think I can answer that even vaguely without giving away something I shouldn’t. Let’s see…the end of Season 2 leaves Ezra in a very intriguing place, and I would love to see where that could lead. It’s exciting.
11.- What current T.V. series are you watching?
There’s so much TV at the moment as we all know, so I’ve decided to ignore it all and watch some older stuff! I’ve been watching The Thick of It which is a British political satire from about 10 years ago. It was created by Armando Iannucci who went on to create ‘Veep’, and it has a similar feel – the actors were all given license to improvise the whole time so it crackles with energy, and you’re never quite sure if a funny line was ad-libbed or scripted. After that, I’m going to go back to The Wire as I’ve only ever seen the first season, which is ridiculous. Then I’ll watch The West Wing which I’ve never seen at all. I know, I know.
Thanks to Rob for taking the time to answer the questions of a fan. I’m rooting for you to finish The Wire.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Diani