On another show, Philadelphia District Attorney Adam Page would be the hero, prosecuting bad guys and seeing justice done. On The Divide, we're not sure what he is. He's not an easy man to figure out, and that's a credit to the man behind him, Damon Gupton. We recently sat down with Damon to discuss digging into Adam's character and being a part of this refreshing new series.
"I was thrilled," the actor said of being offered the part of impassioned civil servant Adam, the city's golden boy whose reputation comes under fire when Christine Rosa (Marin Ireland) starts asking questions about the case that made his name. "They went through a lot of people to get to me, so I was completely honored and thrilled to be a part of [the show]."
It's not the first time that he's played someone in the law and order business; he starred as Detective Evrard Valerio in the US remake of Prime Suspect for NBC, and more recently, you likely recognize him from his role as James Quelling, the struggling attorney who tangled with Mike Ross for two episodes in the third season of USA's Suits. What was it like for Damon to take on another lawyer? As it turns out, Adam came first.
"Actually, we had done this original pilot [for The Divide] a year and a half ago, so I had done that before Suits," he told us. "I don't mind that world at all. I think it's a great world to inhabit."
"They were great over there," he continued. "Gabriel [Macht]'s brilliant, and Patrick [J. Adams] too, all of them. I love every last one of them. Gabriel's bright, and they're excellent craftsmen, and it was an honor to work with them."
Not only has Damon worked with the great scripts of the Suits writing staff, but he also took on the award-winning dialogue of Aaron Sorkin, when he appeared in The Newsroom episode "Bullies" as politico Sutton Hall. We asked him how the writing on The Divide stacks up against the product from Suits and Newsroom.
"Fantastic. It's of that caliber," he enthused. "It's intelligent, thoughtful, thought-provoking. and also, in The Divide, they allow us a lot of freedom to contribute to the process."
As the story goes, it was Damon's Newsroom role, in addition to his stage work, that brought him to the attention of co-creator and executive producer Tony Goldwyn during casting for The Divide. While Tony nominee Marin Ireland was the first choice to play Christine Rosa, finding someone who could conceivably embody her opposing number wasn't as easy.
"It was a long process to put together the rest of the cast, because casting is everything," Tony told us. "I had seen Damon Gupton on Broadway in Clybourne Park, which won the Pulitzer Prize that year, and thought he was brilliant.
"But then our casting director showed me a clip from Newsroom that Damon was in, where he played a right-wing campaign manager for Rick Santorum who was gay. And Jeff [Daniels] outs him and attacks him," he continued. "They had this brilliant scene. And I was like 'Oh my God.' And we brought him in to test for The Divide, and he nailed it."
Is there anything that particularly stands out to Damon from the show's first season? "I'd say keep an eye on all the relationships, but the one that develops between father and son - with Clarke Peters, the venerable Clarke Peters, and his son," he said. "I think it's an interesting dynamic, and I don't know if we've been able to see something like this [before]."
Okay, but considering that his character is the top litigator in Philadelphia, he also probably has some great lawyering ahead, right? "Not enough," he laughed. "Not enough. I think because he's already the DA, so he doesn't necessarily do trial law at this point; that's how he built his career, as a prosecutor. But not enough."
It's almost a shame, because Damon brings a serious amount of force to Adam, enough that you can easily imagine the kind of prosecutor he must have been. He has the presence where, were this any other legal drama, you'd love watching him tearing into defendants with cutting cross-examinations or moving juries with impassioned summations. He's magnetic, but as he pointed out, The Divide isn't really about good guys and bad guys.
"What i like about this show is nothing is as it seems," he explained. "There are all these grey lines and grey areas that people have to cross to get what they want. And there's no good, bad, there's questionable, but that keeps it real and human. And i think it's made me re-investigate what you're willing to do for ambition, what you're willing to do for power. It's an incredible thing to be a part of."
"I'm hoping that people read between the lines, and realize that there are more sides than one would think to every story," he continued. "And to ask questions. I think that a lot of things we just take at face value without asking questions."
This multi-talented actor - he's also an award-winning orchestra conductor who's worked with symphonies in Detroit and Houston, to name but two - is doing his part to make The Divide as thought-provoking and moving as possible. Although Adam might be the hero of another story, and even this one to an extent, we also get to see him as a husband, a father, a son and an ordinary man who worked hard to climb the ladder he's now looking down from. Damon deserves a tremendous amount of credit for crafting him so well.
Ask him, though, and he wants to give the credit to everyone around him. "I'm very grateful for this team. I want to really stress to people what an incredible group it is to work with. [From] the cast and the crew to the producers, it's honestly an incredible experience to be able to add to the resume," he reflected. "This one feels really, really special, so it's a real true honor for me." And we're honored to have him bring Adam Page to life.
The Divide continues tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on WEtv; for more on the series, you can check out my review of last week's pilot and discussion with the cast and crew from earlier this month. For more with Damon, you can follow him on Twitter (@DamonGupton).