Silas Weir Mitchell is the not so big, bad wolf on NBC's 'Grimm'
The big bad wolf is about to get an image makeover.
In the new NBC fantasy crime drama "Grimm," which premieres Friday, fairy tales get a twist. Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli) is a Portland, Ore., police detective who learns he is a descendant of a long line of hunters that battle fairy tale monsters to protect the human race. And he finds an unlikely ally: a wolf (only in "Grimm" they're known as blutbads). Silas Weir Mitchell plays Monroe, a reformed blutbad who helps Nick with his cases.
Showtracker spoke to the actor about the role, the pressure Taylor Lautner has placed on hirsute wannabes, and what viewers can expect this season.
Is the little boy inside you so excited you're playing a wolf?
Monroe is so cool. The great thing about the character for me is the inner conflict, which is sort of inherently traumatic because I am blutbad — the big, bad wolf is what most people would consider him; blutbads are sort of unique to "Grimm." I've forsworn my depraved ways, and I'm trying to be a good blutbad. That's really fun to play with.
That's nice and all, but how much was it really about giving Taylor Lautner a run for his money? Was there any reservation, like, "Holy crap! I have to compete with a beefy young actor for the hearts of wolf lovers everywhere"?
Absolutely! No, I am very much the anti-"Twilight" wolf. And I'm not taking my shirt off all the time, which I'm sure will be a relief to many people.
I'm used to seeing you play mentally unstable people in "Prison Break" and "My Name Is Earl." Is being a reformed wolf sort of the same thing?
Ha! I have sort of mastered being insane. But this is qualitatively different. I am a human who is a descendant of blutbad. The idea is really that the detective (David) is a descendant of the Grimms. He acquires this skill in the pilot because the last of his antecedents is dying, so the skill passes to him. It enables him to see beyond the human mask of these people who are criminals and who have given themselves over to the darker side of human nature. The idea behind all of this is the idea that Grimm fairy tales weren't actually fairy tales; they were actually cautionary tales that the Brothers Grimm cleaned up to make more palatable. If you look at the stories closely, they're dealing with abduction, home invasion, murder. The idea is that I am human. It's like Charles Manson; if Nick saw Charles Manson, he would see him not as a crazy-looking human, but he'd see him as the creature that he is. It's a psycho-mythological type of drama.
What caused Monroe to reform himself? Do we find out early on?
Yeah, I think we probably will. I don't really know. I think it will be a deep question that's not ready to be addressed just yet.
Will we see him slip at all, fall back into those depraved tendencies?
Yes. The Nick character and Monroe character are, in a way, two sides of the same coin. To the human, they were told stories about these creatures: Don't be late for school or something will happen. Don't run into the woods alone or something will happen. These creatures will get you. On the other side, from my character's upbringing, the Grimms were something to be afraid of. It was the Grimms' mission to deal with the creatures. We have a tenuous relationship to each other. On the one hand, Grimms were meant to kill creatures, and, on the other hand, creatures were meant to protect themselves from Grimm. It's a very uneasy alliance.
Did you have to go back and reacquaint yourself with some of these fairy tales?
I wasn't really raised on fairy tales. There was one book that I did have access to as a child that's called "Slovenly Peter." It's a German fairy tale book that is very pointed. The stories are all very much aimed at teaching kids what not to do. It's pretty gruesome. One of them, I think it's called "Little Sucker Thumbs" when it's translated in English, it's about a little kid who won't stop sucking its thumb. The parents tell the kid that a man is going to cut it off. The parents go out, and she sucks her thumb and this man with long garden shears cuts it off — that's one I remember. That was a book I enjoyed as a kid. It was funny and gruesome.
What's been your favorite story to tackle on the show so far?
They're all so fun. What I like is that all of the stories involve the human soul and what happens when the elements of the human soul are associated with a creature behavior. Like if you're a mouse creature, then you scare easily, and how do you deal with that? If you're a snake creature, you have these tendencies .... I just think it's interesting psychologically. I think an interesting perspective into a human's psyche is what animal they identify with.
What creature do you identify with?
As a kid, I was so into coyotes. I liked coyotes more than wolves. I just thought they were cool looking. I identified with them as a kid. Do I sound totally crazy, like I should be back on "Prison Break"?
— Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe in "Grimm." Credit: NBC.