Shane West is back on television as the lead role "Michael." I recently had the chance to talk to Shane about the new series that's been getting a lot of buzz. Here's what he had to say about Nikita.
Adam: Shane West, many will remember you from your years on "ER". How does it feel to be back on TV as a regular?
Shane: It feels great! I have been very fortunate to be a part of two great shows in my 10 years in this business and I have a strong feeling this will be the 3rd. I'm batting a thousand and plan to keep it that way.
Adam: As someone who was apart of the cast of ER for so long (70 episodes), how was it watching the Series Finale when the show ended its run on NBC?
Shane: It was bittersweet. I was very thankful to be involved in such an outstanding long running show like ER. Three years felt like a good enough run for me but there were questions that felt like they were never answered until they brought me back for season 15 for a couple of episodes. Everyone was very close on that set so leaving the show in season 14 was a difficult decision for me but I felt that was as far as my character was going to go. I'm just glad they brought me back to clean up the Neela and Ray romance. It seems the audience ate that up.
Adam: From ER to Nikita, that's quite a difference in roles (laughs). Tell me about the transition from the medical-drama to the spy-thriller.
Shane: ER was a great training ground for learning how to "walk and talk" (walking quickly and talking quickly with no coverage) as well as spitting out medical jargon and witty banter without having a moment to think. Oh yeah…..and having to do the medical procedures properly at the SAME time. On Nikita we have similar situations, i.e., plenty of walking and talking and plenty of rapid fire dialogue. The only real difference is we are substituting medical mumbo jumbo with espionage dialogue. You have to be on your "A" game at all times.
Adam: Nikita is based on the 1990 French film Nikita and the 1997 series La Femme Nikita. Before getting involved, have you seen the previous chapters of the franchise?
Shane: I was a fan of Luc Besson's film and had the movie in my collection for quite some time. I never saw the American version with Bridget Fonda but I had seen a few episodes of the original series a few years back. Ironically, I ended up working with Peta Wilson in League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and now I'm suddenly on Nikita. The world works in strange ways (laughs).
Adam: Tell me about how you got cast as Michael.
Shane: At first, I was worried that I might be too young to play Michael. They were seeing guys around the age of 35 and possibly older. However, I knew that this was the part for me. I had to fight for it. I was testing for a few other shows at the same time so I missed the first rounds of final casting for Nikita. Thankfully, they didn't find their Michael. I went in as the wild card and passed the test so to speak.
Adam: Did you have to go through special training before production? Spy school and ass-kicking academy I assume? (laughs) Tell me about how you got ready to play Michael.
Shane: I think the best training that all of us can have on this project is staying fit and eating correctly. Thankfully, I have had a lot of gun training and fight sequences with several projects in the past so that part wasn't too difficult. The difficult part is the endurance, the ability to look exactly like you know what you're doing (I'm supposed to be an expert fighter and Shane is NOT), and the belief in yourself when they teach you an action sequence the night before you have to shoot it. Most of my training has been in the gym strengthening my core. I've picked up indoor rock climbing as well and hope to finally get involved with yoga.
Adam: The chemistry and dynamic between Nikita and Michael is one of the most important elements of the show. Tell me about working with Maggie Q.
Shane: Maggie is an amazing human being and a wonderful actress. We had a natural instant bond immediately. A chemistry that is hard to explain. She was one of the main reasons I signed on to the project, being a fan of her work in the past. She is also a smart-ass and so am I, so that helps (laughs). We keep each other in line and look out for each other.
Adam: I've seen the pilot episode, and I have to say it's awesome. 60 minutes of kick-ass thrilling action with a compelling story. How much fun are you having shooting this? What's the best part of being apart of this show?
Shane: Thank you! We are having a blast shooting this show. Everyone is still working out some kinks and the hours are long and difficult but the product and material have made it worth it! I would have to say spending time with the cast on and off set has made this project even better. We all get along tremendously and that's not always the case on a series.
Adam: As I watched the pilot though, I couldn't help but to repeat to myself, "This is on The CW?" (laughs). The network is pretty much geared towards the female demographic with hits like Gossip Girl and 90210. But now they bring Nikita, a show I could see a lot of guys watching weekly just to see some sexy ass-kicking women (laughs). Do you think a show like Nikita was a strange fit for the network?
Shane: The good thing about this show is it could fit on a lot of different networks but I feel it's a perfect fit for the CW. We are each giving each other a shot to prove ourselves. They have a winning track record yet were willing to give something new a try. So now it's our turn to prove that we deserved the chance.
Adam: The show must be physically gruelling to shoot. What's the toughest part of making this show? And do you do your own stunts?
Shane: Staying fit and building endurance is probably the hardest part of this show. We rarely have extra days to rehearse fight sequences let alone train at a gym 5 days a week. So you have to be on your toes so to speak always.
Adam: More and more shows are shooting in Toronto now, and Nikita is one of them. Tell me about filming in Toronto, and what has been the response from the city.
Shane: I have fallen in love with Toronto. I shot a movie here 10 years ago and had a good time but I hadn't been back since. We couldn't ask for a better spot to be relocated. The people are genuine, the food is great, and so far the response has been very positive. I can't say that I'm looking forward to the winter however. I'm very spoiled living in Los Angeles (laughs).
Adam: If you could hype Nikita with one phrase, what would it be? Pitch me your best tagline.
Shane: Hmmmm that's always a hard one…."Sexy, strong, raw and REAL"
Adam: Readers wanted me to ask you about your music. Do you still have time to do music while you're working on the show?
Shane: It's a little hard to work on music right now but it will always be a major part of my life. Singing for The Germs has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life and I will always be available if they want to continue. However, right now Pat just had a baby and I am relocated to work on Nikita. So it may be awhile.
Adam: Finally, I ask this to all my interviewees. What have you been watching on TV lately?
Shane: Well I'm usually a "wait for DVD then buy the whole series" kind of guy. So in the past, I have collected my favorites of the Sopranos, Arrested Development, Lost, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Now I'm currently working on The Office, Dexter, and as always Family Guy. I'm very much looking forward to watching Steve Buscemi's new show (Boardwalk Empire) as well!
I want to thank Shane for taking time off his busy schedule to talk. Nikita premieres on The CW (and "A Channel" in Canada) on Thursday September 9th. I deeply recommend it.
Republished with permission from TV Done Wright. Read the original interview here.
Photo credit: Cybermage.