It’s a bit eerie how closely Robert Knepper’s own career has mirrored that of his new Cult character Roger Reeves. As T-Bag on Prison Break, Knepper couldn’t walk down the street without strangers giving him the side-eye, slightly forgetting that the man in front of him is not actually a sadistic criminal. As Billy Grimm on the "Cult" series within Cult, everyone, including the main character Jeff (Matt Davis) assumes Roger is just as manipulative as Billy. In fact, it will be easy for fans of The CW’s Cult to lose Roger in Billy Grimm in the beginning of the series, too. We get to know the fictional character who may be influencing some very terrible, very real events immediately in the pilot, but in truth Knepper has to tackle two guys within the series, and there’s a chance they could not be more different.
“I’m playing a character who’s affecting so many different people, the way TV fans are affected—the way I would affect people when I’d walk down the street and they’d go ‘Oh, T-Bag, or Samuel from Heroes!’ or anybody playing any character. 'Are you that guy?'” Knepper said when LA TV Insider Examiner sat down with him on set in Vancouver last fall.*
“I was always taught ‘Leave your troubles at the stage door.’ But it’s like a third generation: Robert Knepper playing Roger Reeves playing Billy Grimm. Billy Grimm is a character played by Roger Reeves, and Roger can’t help but be affected by this show. I’m not sure yet how much Roger knows about the effect that this show is having on the outside world. I’m not sure he knows that people are dying.”
Knepper promised that fans of Cult will get to know both of his on-screen personas, though the information will be parceled out slowly over the course of the first season.
“[You’ll see] how the back story of Roger actually helps feed the back story of Billy, even though they’re two totally different circumstances,” Knepper said. “There’s a little bit in each episode, like the onion, peeling away, or an artichoke. There’s a little bit more of Billy; there’s a little bit more of Roger; they’re both now equally fascinating to me and also I’m scratching my head because I know only a little bit. But like with human beings, we don’t walk around going ‘I know everything about me!’ It’s constantly evolving [and] it’s really cool how I think—hopefully, anyway—you will say ‘I emphasize with both Roger and Billy.’ Even though there are going to be aspects of Roger and Billy that make you go ‘Oh man, no wonder why actors are crazy’!”
Knepper was adamant that both men have a sense of morality and humanity, though depending on your point of view, at least Billy’s may be a little “askew.”
“People like that have to be so charismatic that normal people would go ‘Wow, I could use that right now in my life. I want to follow him.’ But he also serves a purpose being the center of the conflict. They always used to say every good good guy has to have a good villain and every good villain has to have a good good guy. If you don’t have that conflict going, you don’t have a show,” Knepper said.
* Travel and accommodations provided by WBTV
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