'Castle Is Definitely a Hero' During a 'Crazy-Intense' Hostage Crisis, Says Susan Sullivan

This Monday at 10/9c, ABC’s Castle meets The Nine (as a wise woman suggests below) when a seemingly standard-issue bank robbery is committed by a band of thieves named after famous TV doctors. Among the hostages are Rick and his mother Martha, while Beckett, a hostage negotiator (played by Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris) and a worried Alexis fret over the captives’ fate from outside.

Susan Sullivan, who plays Martha, shared with TVLine a look at the episode that worked her so hard, it dealt her a real-life scare as well.

TVLINE | I’ve been excited to talk to you about this episode ever since [series creator] Andrew W. Marlowe told me about it in September. And the promos make it look crazy-intense.
Yeah, it is a crazy-intense episode — I know it almost killed me! I crashed my car on the way home [from the set]. I haven’t worked five days in a row, all day long, since this series began, so it was very, very intense.

TVLINE | Andrew said you spent almost the whole episode on the floor.
Yeah. Do you remember The Nine? It was like The Nine [on which Sullivan was a cast member]. As soon as I saw that script, I went, “Oh my god, I’m on the floor for five days, up and down, up and down,” so it was tricky. But aside from crashing my car, it was in an odd way fun. It’s the first time that I have worked with a bunch of new actors, because I am always with – and it is always delightful, believe me! – Nathan [Fillion] and Molly [Quinn] in the loft, in those big comfortable seats and not the hard floor of a bank. Part of what makes this show work is these [guest] actors coming in with their intensity. It’s really something.

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TVLINE | Tee things up for us. What brings Martha and Rick to the bank?
I want to borrow money [for Martha’s acting school], because I don’t want to take money from my son — I’m trying to be independent — but I take him along as a buffer.

TVLINE | And then all hell breaks loose…?
Essentially. All hell breaks loose, that’s a good way of putting it. These kinds of episodes can be very melodramatic and silly, because it’s very hard to create tension when you know that your leads are going to survive. However, when you have a character like Martha there, you know perfectly well that she could be a goner. Whenever I pick up these scripts, I go, “They don’t know what to write for Martha so they’re killing her, in the bank.”

TVLINE | No, no, no.… That’d be too dark a little turn for this show.
Yeah, well, I’ve been on enough shows to have seen dark turns come out of nowhere! [Laughs]

TVLINE | Do the robbers simply want money, or is something more at stake?
Oh, there’s something much more at stake. What makes these shows work are the turns that you don’t see coming, and you certainly do not see this one coming.

TVLINE | Is Martha plucky during the hostage situation? Does she give the bandits any guff?
One of the most fun things about this show, for me, is when I can throw in some of my own lines, and I’ll give you a good example. My line was, “Don’t you touch my son!” I said [to the writers], “If I was the bad guy, I’d say [to Castle], ‘What, are you here with your mommy?’ Let’s make it a stronger line.” So we changed it to, “Don’t you touch him, you son of a bitch!” I got some of that feisty Martha back in there. You have to protect your character, particularly a character like this who pops in and out.

TVLINE | And what is Rick’s demeanor through all of this? Is he a hero, is he…?
He is definitely a hero. He is definitely a hero, in his own impish way, yes.

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TVLINE | Andrew plans to tell the story of Castle’s father later this season. How do you envision him?
Well, since I actually have no idea, I have to make him up. And when that doesn’t work anymore, I remake him up. I’ve had all kinds of different actors in my mind, I’ve had him be a one-night stand, I’ve had him be the love of her life, a one-night stand who was the love of her life…. I really don’t know, and as an actor you don’t like to lock into something that you’re playing underneath, in case it turns out to be completely wrong. I think Martha has a real sort of joy with men, so I don’t think it was one of those horrible relationships.

TVLINE | If you had the chance to dream cast him….
I’ve thought about it, and I’ve always thought about David Selby (aka Falcon Crest‘s Richard Channing), because I love him so much and we were on Falcon Crest all that time together. But I think it could be somebody a little…a little younger! [Laughs] So, let me tell you what I did pitch for the father. After looking at myself in my red wig, I said, “Wouldn’t it be fabulous if Martha turned out to be Rick’s father?” Do a kind of Anthony Perkins thing.

TVLINE | Oh, Susan….
[Laughs] OK, Matt. I’ll run all of these ideas by you before I pitch them.

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TVLINE | Did you have any torn loyalties when The Playboy Club was airing opposite Castle, having been a bunny yourself?
Not at all! I kept saying, “Oh, let’s do something! Let’s say that Martha had been a Playboy Bunny!” Andrew sort of intuitively felt [the freshman NBC drama] wasn’t going to be around long enough to bother with a story along those lines.

TVLINE | It’s kind of too bad, because I imagine there were some good stories to tell.
It was such an interesting place when I was there [at the Playboy Club in Manhattan], because they were hiring college girls, and Lauren Hutton was there at the time…. They were really smart, interesting girls.