Berlin Station’s Leland Orser Talks the S2 Finale, What to Expect in S3 and More [Exclusive]
In the Season 3 premiere, we return to a station that’s “business as usual.” Michelle Forbes’ Valerie Edwards is Chief of Station and over the course of 11 days, she will guide her team through the high-stakes relationship between Russia, the United States and its vulnerable NATO allies. Is the Kremlin involved in any foul play that could upend a thinly-held World Order?
Before I even start in on my list of questions, Leland Orser — almost gleefully — informs me that, “Yes, my first word of the season is ‘fuck.’” Ok. I suspected this would be a fun interview, but know I know it will be. We talk about Season 2 finale, what to expect for him and some of the cast in Season 3, how this show seems to be eerily topical and more.
TV GOODNESS: Your scene with Noah in the S2 finale showed us a lot about your character that we hadn’t seen before. Can you talk a little bit about filming that scene and what you think it brought to viewers in terms of getting to know your character a bit better?
Leland Orser: “Sweet boy Brandon [Spink], who plays Noah. I think it’s everything. What we learned about Robert last season through his relationship with Noah, it tells you everything about who he is as a man — the impossibility of his situation, being so good at his job and basically devoted to that job.
It’s his calling in life, serving the CIA and his country, makes it impossible for him to be the ideal father. Makes it impossible for him to be a good husband.
That scene where he confided in his son the secret of his life and what it is that he does, he gave him the gift of that secret and basically treated him like a man. The two of them now have that understanding and that bond.
Noah will now understand, wherever Robert is in the world, whatever it is that he’s doing, he’s in on that. He’s a part of that and it’s not in spite of him. It’s something that he can be proud of and understand and know that that is the reason for his father’s absence in his life. And not because he’s not a good son. Not because he’s done something wrong. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.
What you’ll see with Robert this season is that he’s come to terms with the fact that he’s better at his job than he is at anything else in his life. He’s a better spy than he is a parent or father or a husband. But his calling in life, and it is a calling in life — it’s his destiny to do this job because I think he believes that nobody else can do it better.”
TV GOODNESS: That makes a lot of sense for your character.
Orser: “But it doesn’t take away the guilt. It doesn’t take away the grief, the sadness, the regret. Jason Horwitch, our new showrunner and head writer, taught me the word cauterize. I think he’s emotionally cauterized. He’s stopped the emotional bleeding, so that he can continue on with the cause of his work.”
TV GOODNESS: For people coming back for S3, can you preview the episode and talk about what we’ll see this season?
Orser: “All is well, quiet on the western front, eastern front, northern front, southern front. Life is good. We start with the team. Valerie is running the ship. It’s business as usual. We come together with the gang at a party on the 4th of July, Independence Day.
It’s not a coincidence that that day was chosen. It’s an all-American day. It speaks to great scenes in the history of the world and that idea of independence will be a major theme of the season.
It’s the calm before the storm. The season takes place over 11 days. I think it’s the best day of the season. I think things speed up and descend from there, especially for Robert. They descend into a very, very dark place.
Season 3 is more fast paced. There’s more action, which I really enjoy. But there’s also the stuff that we’ve come to love, so many layers of story and making sure we’re knowing what’s going on with all the characters and then maybe we don’t because things are going in a different direction.
Again, nothing is as it appears. Don’t assume anything from episode 1.
Each one of the characters goes on their own specific journey. And believe it or not, in a way you wouldn’t even imagine, all of those journeys come together by the end.”
TV GOODNESS: Good. Are you allowed to talk about any new characters and how Robert interacts with them? Or any returning characters and how Robert interacts with them?
Orser: “Absolutely. We have one pronounced new character Ismael Cruz Cordova, who plays Torres. He’s a terrific guy; we spend a lot of time together this season.
On the page, we are the opposite. He’s young and brash and unconventional and disrespectful of authority and marches to his own drum. Now, that being said, I believe all of those things are the same about Robert, just manifested differently.
Robert is dismissive and suspicious and distrustful of him from the get-go. And I think the same can be said of Torres towards Kirsch. The interesting thing will be the relationship that’s forged between the two of them over the ten episodes and how their individual strengths will come into play and be called upon to assist each other.
Robert is out of the office and in the field this season, in a big way.”
TV GOODNESS: That is so exciting. How was that to play? Did you enjoy it?
Orser: “So much fun. We traveled a lot. There’s one big episode that happens mid-season where we shot the whole thing in Vienna. I think that’s going to be a real treat for the viewers. And for film fans, we shot in the sewers of Vienna where The Third Man was shot and that a very, very exciting, if not a smelly experience.”
TV GOODNESS: That’s great. Are you allowed to talk to me about BB and Kirsch?
TV GOODNESS: I know you might not be able to tell me specific details, but they are very interesting. Are you allowed to say if anything develops in S3?
Orser: “Their paths cross again. It’s not over between the two of them. But not necessarily will the story be told as you might assume.
I love Ashley [Judd]. I love working with her. It’s as easy and enjoyable as anything I’ve ever done professionally. She’s such a pro. She’s such a commanding presence and we have some very interesting stuff coming up.”
TV GOODNESS: In terms of the S3 story, a potential Russian invasion is very interesting. I feel like this show is so incredibly topical. What’s that been like to go into work and realize that the storylines that you guys are doing are so …
Orser: “Well, it started as a fictional, cautionary tale using examples of what had happened in the past in that part of the world [and] has ended up on the front pages of all the news sites. It’s shocking. We’re all agog and texting each other these headlines.
I was doing ADR, which is dialogue replacement that you do when there’s sound problems on the track. So you go into a studio and you voice over the lines that you’ve already said. I was doing that the other day and I was literally saying words that I had heard on the news that morning.
And I was like wait a minute, where did I just … What did I … What’s … Is this live or is it Memorex, you know?
Jason had a plan from the get-go. His themes were the Crimean playbook, they were Russia, they were NATO, they were Article 5 and let’s hope the outcome in the show, remains the outcome in the show.”
TV GOODNESS: The time we’re living in right now, we’re seeing these headlines come to life in some form in a fictionalized version. It’s crazy. But I love that you guys are doing that.
Orser: “You know what I think? I think the CIA’s job is getting harder, exponentially. But the CIA itself has always been a rogue operation and we certainly have a great team of rogue operators. They’re really put to the test this season.”
TV GOODNESS: Anything else you want to talk about?
Orser: “You know, we have James Cromwell in the cast this year.”
TV GOODNESS: That’s right.
Orser: “Brace yourself for… well brace yourself period for the season because shit’s going down. And then these wonderful scenes between Richard Jenkins and James Cromwell two wonderful, amazing American actors. There were many people on set standing at the monitors and peering in and listening in when the two of them were performing together.
Yeah, it’s a twosome tour de force between the two of them.
It’s always fun to be with Richard Jenkins. We have such a good time together and I think you’ll really enjoy Ismael as an addition to the cast. He’s very, very physical performance. He’s got a wonderful season this year.
The greatest thing that happened to us though, was Jason Horwitch, who’s the showrunner. He wrote a series called Rubicon. He came to us directly from House of Cards. He’s got a big old brain and he’s just filled with energy.
He took a show that had been on for two seasons and he made it his own. And he made it his own filled with excitement and energy and joy. He loved it. He was over there with us. He’s been a part of it from the beginning.
We talk every day about how we can make it better, what it needs, what we need and just a terrific new leader of our team. And member of the team.”
TV GOODNESS: I feel like it definitely comes out in the season three premiere. I thought it was really enjoyable and I can’t wait for people to see it.
Orser: “I think it’s our best season yet and I think it also opens so many doors and so many possibilities. It’s a great job and I love it.”
TV GOODNESS: I’ve seen you in quite a few things and you seem to really enjoy this character and this part.
Orser: “I sometimes don’t know where I end and he begins.
I did this miniseries with Patty Jenkins and Chris Pine and Sam Sheridan called I Am the Night. That comes on in the end of January. It’s a completely different character, a completely different role. It’s a period piece, which I think you’ll be interested in as well. It’s a great part. I think it’s going to be really exciting. It’s on TNT.”
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