Interview: Shawn Doyle Talks WGN America’s ‘Bellevue!’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Shawn Doyle, Bellevue

(Courtesy of WGN America)

In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, Shawn Doyle discusses playing the role of Chief Peter Welland in WGN America’s mystery drama, Bellevue. The compelling Canadian drama meets with US audiences for the first time in this riveting eight-part crime/procedural series.

In our recent recap, Bellevue takes place in a small town with big secrets. 20 years ago, the murder of a young woman traumatized the community. Now when a high school hockey star goes missing, all signs point to foul play. Has the killer returned to terrorize Annie Ryder (Paquin) and Wellard (Doyle) once again?

Before an all-new episode airs Tuesday January 30th, 2018, Shawn Doyle discusses how the role of Chief Peter Welland came about, his collaborative work with Anna Paquin, and what viewers should expect from his character.

Shawn Doyle, Bellevue Episode 1, WGN America
Courtesy of Philippe Bosse/WGN America

VILLAIN MEDIA: Bellevue is a mix of police procedural and family drama, with an underlying social commentary. Tell me what drew you to the project.

SHAWN DOYLE: First of all, the woman who created the story and developed it with our director Adrienne Mitchell, was Jane Maggs. I’m actually from the same world as Jane. I starred and produced a movie that her sister wrote. We had a connection there. And then she approached me about this particular series.

At first, I wasn’t particularly interested because I felt doing procedural television was something I’ve done before. That didn’t interest me very much. But in my conversation with her and Adrienne [Mitchell]’s, I began to understand this was going to be more character-based, character-driven than a procedural. And so, I read the first four scripts. I thought they were really fantastic. Like you say, there’s a procedural element to the show, but I felt the characters were very richly drawn. We were talking about something real. I also got a sense, after talking to Adrienne and Jane, there was going to many layers to my character as the series progresses.

VM: Chief Peter Welland gets upset with Annie Ryder [Paquin] when she breaks his rules but stands down because she gets results. Did you do research for your character or was there enough information there in the scripts by Jane Maggs?

SD: For me, it was less about playing the Police Chief and more about playing the surrogate figure, the big brother, or father to Annie. The frustration that you witness is born from a long relationship where I am appreciated to her ability and talent. I become frustrated with her tenacity and ability to take risks. Just like a parent with a child, he has to accept all the characteristics of his kids, their strengths and weaknesses; the things that frustrates us. For me, it was more about finding the relationship between the two characters and playing the police chief was inessential.

Shawn Doyle, Bellevue
Courtesy of Jan Thijs/WGN America

VM: Chief Peter Welland is the leader of an organized and chaotic squadroom. Was that a challenging aspect to build into a role?

SD: As an actor, when you’re asked to play a leader, you have to summon your own self-possession. It was more about finding Shawn’s feelings about being a leader, grounding the situation, and less about a police officer having to do it. Ultimately, I’m the one who has to be that leader. It was really more about finding the courage to stand up and take control.

VM: The pilot establishes a relationship between Annie and Peter through her father. Tell me about working with Anna Paquin and building that backstory.

SD: Anna and I understood each other as actors. We also trusted each other. What happened, in the progress of the series, once Jane, our writer, witnessed the chemistry between us, she was able to flesh out our relationship more deeply, based on what was happening between us on-camera. We immediately keyed in to what our relationship was. It made a lot of sense to the both of us. We didn’t talk a lot about it. We just did it. It was there right from the beginning.

VM: You just wrapped The Expanse. Tell me about being on set for The Expanse and shooting on location for Bellevue.

SD: My character [on The Expanse] lives on Earth. All my scenes were based on reality. Other than various screens in the background, which would later be CGI-ed in, beyond that, it’s really about playing the scene, dealing with the present moment, with different other characters.

In terms of Bellevue, the biggest challenge was being outside in the winter in Quebec, Montreal. It was very chilly. We spent a good amount of time in exterior locations, out in the woods, in the snow. What happens often in television, kind of ironic, you begin the series wearing certain types of clothing, and then as the weather changes, the timeline is relatively contracted and shot, you don’t get to change the clothes you wear. The clothes we were wearing late summer, early fall, are the same clothes we wore once winter hit. The big challenge was to try and stay warm, and not get sick!

VM: Did your performance on Bellevue change you somewhat as an artist?

SD: Yeah, anytime that you are given a true challenge, and force you to go to places you’ve been to, it’ going to allow you to grow as an actor. That’s a good question! And it normally requires trust. Trust obviously with yourself, but trust with the people you’re working with; the writers, the directors, and the actors. And when all those things fall into place, that level of trust, then you’re able to jump off a cliff as we say. And the gifts allow you to grow tremendously.

Without giving too much away, the thing that was exciting about this character, he was operating in a moral gray area. There are secrets from his past that he is trying to manage and potentially absolve himself from whatever guilt he has. At the same time, he has to be in the present and be responsible, take care of Annie as well as he can. The challenge was playing a character with a good and bad side, the interconnectedness of both those sides, that’s what was interesting to play.

VM: What are you working on now?

SD: I just wrapped the first YouTube series called Impulse. That was very exciting! I can’t tell you anything about it unfortunately. And I just started shooting the third season of the Netflix series, Frontier. That’s about the fur trade in Canada back in the 1800s.I play a very different type of character.

Bellevue airs Tuesdays at 10pm on WGN America.

– By Jorge Solis

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