Every time we see Gregory Itzin, we’ll always think of his smarmy evil President Charles Logan from “24.”
Itzin is playing another authority figure in TNT’s “Mob City,” but we know the real history of mayor Fletcher Bowron so we don’t think there’s a big twist coming. Mayor Bowron only appeared once in the series premiere of “Mob City” so we’re hoping to see him more. When I met Itzin in person he explained how his role in “Mob City” will go, and of course we talked “24.” What you may not expect is we talked about his very first film role in a comedy classic.
CraveOnline: Are we going to see a lot more of the mayor in the next two episodes?
Gregory Itzin: No, to be perfectly honest with you. In the six episodes I probably have five scenes. That’s just the way it was written. Hopefully next season there will be more.
What I briefly looked up about the Mayor Bowron was he was fighting police corruption, so is Teague an enemy to him?
Teague is the made up character, so yet he’s only dealing with the [real ones]. He grooms William Parker. He has an eye on William Parker from the beginning. That’s what I made it be because he’s the one he gave the flag to. In the last episode, the sixth episode, I have a scene where I say, “I want you to do this. If you do this, I’ll make sure you do blah blah blah” which I found interesting because in the press it says William Parker all along. Actually, there was another police chief that’s the chief in the earlier episodes, and then Parker comes to fruition in the sixth episode.
So the series is leading into the real history of William Parker?
Well, there is real history going on in the series, but I think for audience interest, it’s focused mainly on Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen in the early going. I don’t know where he’s going to take it. There’s plenty of history to play with and only a certain amount is dealt with in the first six episodes.
As authority figures go, how does a mayor compare to a vice president and president?
[Laughs] Well, obviously he pales in comparison to the power he wields. When you are president, how I played him was he knows he’s the strongest guy in the room. Whereas the mayor has to duck and weave and stuff like that. Eventually, Fletcher Bowron lost his job because the businesses downtown weren’t happy with what he was doing. They wanted to cozy up with the gangsters and stuff like that and he sort of got in the way. He doesn’t wield as much power as the president.
So you wouldn’t say it’s a microcosm of being the leader of a city?
Yeah, a microcosm and comparable in small to what goes on in big. If you look around, I Googled Bowron and for instance, I’ve seen presidents doing this sort of thing, he did an episode of “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.” He plays the mayor in the show. They come to him with a problem and that sort of thing. So he was very much into PR and aware of who he was and played it pretty well too.
Doing five scenes, did you do them all at once or one a week?
No, no, kind of spread out. It wasn’t six weeks. When I came on, they had already shot the pilot. I was replacing an actor so I had a dearth of information going and was curious as to what the style is and I learned as I went on. I did one scene and that same day I did another scene with just me listening to the radio. Then there’s three or four other scenes but there’s one scene in episode six that is between me and Parker.
Have we heard who the original actor was?
I don’t know why he disappeared, but he did.
How much did “24” change things for you?
A sea change. I was a working actor and that sort of thing, but now I’m an in resident villain. I usually play white collar a**holes and that’s what was interesting in this because he’s not an a**hole. He’s a nice guy. I mean, he’s a politician so he has his darkish side and that’ll play out, but “24” pretty much, I remember some friend saying, “This’ll be good for the next 10 years, good for your career.”
It’s been six or seven now.
Yeah, I’ve got three good years left.
Have they talked to you about the “24: Live Another Day” miniseries?
Not about this one. I’ve talked to Howard [Gordon] and I mean, they didn’t kill me in “24” and he knows it. He said they’re aware of it so I figured if it becomes a series, they might bring back Logan. Do I hope? Yeah, of course I hope. I make no bets in this business. I can hope so.
How many times can Logan be caught doing something insidious before they say, “Hey, stop trusting Logan?”
I’m sure they can think of something for me to do, I’m sure.
When you talk about a sea change, did you embrace those white collar a**hole roles?
Oh yes. I mean, it wasn’t the first time I played that kind of part. I played D.A.s and captains of industry, but always with an edge. I was on “Big Love” as a representative from Utah, always a little dark. From early on, I did comedies and things like that and I can still do them, but now it seems like my stock and trade seems to be mustache twisting parts.
When you got the script in season five of “24” when it’s Logan on the other end of the phone, did you have any indication that was coming and how did you feel?
They told me about two episodes ahead of it that I was going to be the mastermind. So I went out and I looked at all the scenes I’d done which was quite a few, and tried to figure out, tried to expand my mind to own the fact that I was indeed. In that scene, could I be? I really had to do some fast shuffling and backtracking to validate all the other scenes beforehand that I was the bad guy, but when it happened, I thought it was pretty exciting.
In season four when we first meet Logan, he’s sort of an incompetent, overwhelmed vice president. At that point did you ever think he had real evil in him?
I don’t remember thinking that he had evil in him. They said, “He’s scared and he has a difficult time making decisions.” That’s all they could tell me about the character. And I started playing with that, so at the end of the season, they came up and said, “We want to use you in season five.” And I said okay. I had all sorts of images. Myself and Jude Ciccolella who played my right hand guy, at the beginning of the season we were trying to strike iconic poses, trying to think in terms of Jack Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy so we started doing that and very soon, I continued to be the inept guy that I was and then the fact that I was the mastermind of all that was good.
When I was doing research on you, I couldn’t believe that was you as Religious Zealot #1 in Airplane.
My first screen credit. I’d just come to town from San Francisco, had never done anything on film and I went to school with the Zucker brothers.
Were you ever in Kentucky Fried Theater?
No, no, I missed that but we did Guys and Dolls together back in the university.
Airplane was the first time they really established their type of humor. Did they have to explain to you what the tone of it was?
They should have. They had me read for the Robert Hays role and vroom, right over my head, the whole thing. So then they had me read for this and that was okay, I pulled it off. No, and you’d think I’d know it knowing those guys and having seen Kentucky Fried Theater too.