The Mentalist Creator and Stars Discuss the Jane/ Lisbon Dilemma, Boast of a Love-or-Hate Finale

The Mentalist Preview Jane LisbonThree may be a crowd on The Mentalist (Sunday, 10/9c), but four was company when the CBS series’ creator, Bruno Heller, along with leads Simon Baker and Robin Tunney, spoke with TVLine to survey the season-ending arc centered on Lisbon’s D.C. debate and how it’s stirring something in Jane. Read on for their thoughts about navigating that sticky wicket and how the May 18 (series?) finale will split the audience 50-50.

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TVLINE | Bruno, I understand that it was always the show’s intent to get to this place with Jane and Lisbon at the end of this season, even dating back to last summer?
BRUNO HELLER | We were certainly thinking about it. When the show started, for me there was not a thought of that at all. But one of the things about TV over the years is the characters develop their own dynamic and direction as truth is revealed, and it seemed to us – and [the actors] can contradict me if they like – that love blossoms. There is a genuine feeling there between the two characters that had to be honored, one that was just natural and organic.

TVLINE | Simon, were you interested to explore this side of….
SIMON BAKER | [Interrupts] From the moment I met Robin Tunney. [Tunney and Heller laugh] I looked at her and I said, “You will be mine.” No, you know, it’s one of those things where…. It’s the whole Moonlighting theory that comes into play with long-form TV. It goes on, and sometimes on and on, and do you give the audience what they want, or do you keep the flirtation and tease going? Is that really what they want, is that what they like — to want something? Because as soon as you seal any sort of a deal with anything, it’s like, “Well, that’s that, and from there where do we go?” There are plenty of places always to go, but it’s a risk and a challenge.

TVLINE | But on a character level, were you and Robin interested to ask the question, “What do these two people really mean to each other after all these years?”
BAKER | Yes — and that became really evident, I thought, after we closed the Red John story and we did the episode that took place two years later. It was about laying the foundation for the rest of the season, in the sense of it was an episode about longing and missing each other, missing that relationship as it stood.
ROBIN TUNNEY | I also think the show has always been something more than just a straight procedural. And once the Red John storyline cleared up, it was like, “OK, these people are left with each other. So how do you create stakes?” There was a history, but there was this idea of “What’s next?” How do they feel about each other? It created sort of an arc where there was a lot at stake, people’s hearts and all that stuff, without, “Oh, we can throw another serial killer into the mix.” It was something that was fitting to the show and it created drama.

TVLINE | Robin, in the closing sceneTheMentalist_doorstep of last week’s episode, what is going on in Teresa’s mind as she stands at the doorstep, wiping tears off her face?
TUNNEY | I think she’s just dying for [Jane] to declare himself — and she’s really worried that he won’t. This opportunity with somebody else [Agent Marcus Pike, played by Pedro Pascal] has come up and it’s like, “OK, am I crazy? Should I do this? Am I missing out on something because I’m hanging out waiting for somebody else?” That’s something that’s really scary to her. This guy comes along who’s crazy about her and it’s like, “Am I going to pass up on something that’s real, to hang out and see what happens?” She’s just dying for Jane to declare himself. She’s not sure what else she can do, like, “So, this other guy has asked me to move with him….”

TVLINE | What is it that’s keeping Jane from being more forthright with Lisbon? Is he perhaps not confident in his ability to make her happy, or…?
HELLER | Simon can probably answer that better than me, but for me, if you spent so much of your life self-protectively concealing your feelings, for very good reasons, and feel that it was your love that essentially killed other people in your life, that connection to you has been a bad thing, there are all kinds of fears deep down that would stop you from speaking honestly. Men in general have difficulty declaring their emotions, and in this case [Jane and Lisbon] had a long and close, brother-sister relationship, so to suddenly declare a different kind of love is extremely difficult.
BAKER | Everything seems to be good, and then suddenly the girl that I like to stand next to has these “demands” upon my character to give more of himself…. That’s a part of it. It’s also that Jane is a broken toy. He looks like he’s gotten to be OK, but really, he’s not functioning completely. I guess Lisbon’s wondering and hoping whether or not he ever will function again, and he’s looking at her, thinking, “She’s going to walk away, and I can’t fix myself. I’ve forgotten how to give of myself and surrender.” So it’s a challenge. You could interpret it a lot of different ways, but I knew what I was playing. I didn’t necessarily choose to articulate it, because I think the nature of someone not being able to surrender to someone else or give themselves up is incredibly private. And I think it has to feel like it’s authentically private for it to be legitimate.

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TVLINE | Robin, has this last run of episodesBlue Bird been entertaining for you, to be “the prettiest girl at the dance” with two not-unattractive men fighting over you?
TUNNEY | Uh, yeah – after wearing sensible clothes and shoes for five years, it’s been pretty nice.
HELLER | That’s Robin’s real life anyway, men fighting for her….
TUNNEY | [Laughs] It’s interesting, the storyline between Jane and Lisbon. From the very beginning, I remember the TCA [press tour] and PaleyFest [panel during] the first season, it was like, “Will they or wont they?” And my answer – “I have no idea” — was an honest one. And then throughout the years… [Simon and I] could have grown angry at each other or hated each other, but I grew so fond of him as a human being that the idea of where that was going was so easy to play, because I really enjoyed going to work with him. I feel like it’s a progression of how people bond. That’s the great thing about television, is you have the chance to experience things in real time, over six years.

TVLINE | Bruno, are you willing to rule out Pike as the mastermind behind the season-ending kidnapping mystery? That there won’t be that easy out?
HELLER | I’m willing to rule that out, yes. Pike is not the bad guy.
TUNNEY | It all seemed too good to be true!
HELLER | Sometimes I think I’m way too dumb for this audience, to come up with clever solutions like that. [Laughs] Life is not that complicated or dark – though I wish I had come up with that before.

TVLINE | How satisfying will the finale be if it turns out to be the series’ very final episode?
HELLER | You go first, Baker.
BAKER | [Thinks] On a scale of 1 to 10….
HELLER | Oh, I’ll go first then – “11.” Listen, this last one was written and designed to be a suitable big, happy romantic send-off for the series if that what happens — but it also opens a new chapter if that is not the case. I think we hit the mark well enough. I’m very happy with it. Baker is a perfectionist, so he’s not going to be happy until I’ve created a cross between Gone With the Wind and Psycho or something.
BAKER | Oh, Jesus. Can we readdress those references?
HELLER | OK, maybe not those two. But one of the reasons the show has gone as long as it has is precisely because these two, especially Simon, are never satisfied. They’re always pushing for more and better, more interesting and fresh and original. We may not have always succeeded, but that is the bar we’ve been trying to get over. I think we’ve done our best and it’s up to the audience to decide how well it’s done.
BAKER | We’re in the popularist business with The Mentalist. It’s not Breaking Bad, it’s a show that has had a very consistent audience for six years, and it’s all about pulling our audience in directions where we challenge them a bit. You can’t always give everyone what they want, and sometimes people want to be protected from what they want. I think the best result could be to divide the audience 50-50.
TUNNEY | I think it’s going to make a lot of people really happy, and I think it’s going to make some people angry — and that’s the most you can hope for. Because everybody’s emotionally invested in the show in a different way. And that’s good, because they’re genuine reactions. I don’t think anyone will feel in the middle of the road about it.

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95 Comments
  1. kroline says:

    Thank you for this interview :) and thank Bruno Heller, Simon Baker, Robin Tunney and the whole crew for making this great show better and better episode after episode and year after year.
    I have enjoyed watching it for these 6 years and whatever happens on the season finale I trust that they have done their best to stay true to the quality of the show :)

    • BOB TURECK says:

      the mentalist is Lisbon and Jane, that’s it. PLEASE don’t take it off the air, PLEASE. Im sure you writers can come up with many,many more series epasodes that could take us a couple more years with the crime team solving cases. If you know about the series of Burn Notice Michael and Fi finally came together and became a great crime stopping machine and were in LOVE ..

  2. Thanks for this fantastic interview, Matt! Also, thanks for the wonderful coverage this season, I honestly hope more than anything right now that we’ll have another. Never someone from the press gave this show so much attention like you did this year. So thank you so much, again, you have no idea how we appreciate it.

    As for the interview, it’s golden! I could read an interview with these for hours and hours. Can’t wait for the (hopefully) season finale!

  3. Marie says:

    I love the show and I love Jisbon, and I really so much hope for a season 7. Jane and Lisbon are the essence of the show, they cannot be separated. Please renew it, the only happy ending would be for them to end up together, as they would suffer otherwise, and so would we!!! Thank you for the best show ever.

  4. Emily says:

    Great interview!! I love this show, the cast, and the stories that they produce!! Crossing my fingers that this show isn’t cancelled!! It deserves to have another season :)

  5. grissom says:

    Great interview! thank you… Hoping there is another season of this great show. Have watched it since Season 1 and still continue to watch (including all reruns). Would really like to see more of Jane and Lisbon relationship and how it has develop after this season 6

  6. Cynthia says:

    Great interview! Made me so happy :)

  7. Hellenna says:

    Thanks a lot Tvline…now I can breath again and hope For Season 7!!

  8. Geri says:

    Please give us another season . This show is wonderful!

  9. Mary says:

    Excellent show. Excellent interview. These people are just so smart and compelling in their roles and writing. Season 7 SHOULD be a sure thing. Really, really hoping that comes to pass. What’s not to adore about Baker, Tunney and Heller? I’ll follow you anywhere TM.

  10. BMF says:

    This season has felt like a dud. The show should’ve ended with the death of Red John.

  11. Emg says:

    Thank you for the interview! I really hope they renew the show!

  12. Liz says:

    First of all, I’m happy to get an interview conducted by one of the best, Matt. Thanks for this.
    .
    This interview is so interesting and answers a lot of Qs I’ve had for some time. I thought it probably wasn’t planned from the start, but I agree with Bruno that characters take on a direction of their own and this seems real to the characters.
    .
    I get what Simon’s saying and there is a truth to it but, IMHO, a partial one. If you look at shows like ‘Bones’ or ‘Castle’ you see that it’s possible to get a couple together and still be successful after. It’s all in how it’s done. I also think some shows I’ve seen (current and in the past) have drawn it out to where it strains credibility and weakens the story and series because they were afraid of the risk. I’m glad this show seems as if it’s not doing that.
    .
    I like what Robin said about throwing another serial killer in the mix. Very glad they didn’t go that route and she’s right, it fit naturally within the story that had been told and created drama.
    .
    Annnnd I’m stopping mid-way again to say what great questions these are. I love it when you do interviews on my favorite shows, Matt, because you ask the good questions and the ones I’m really curious about but thought I’d probably never know the answer to.
    .
    I love what Bruno said about men having difficulty talking about their emotions. And the brother/sister thing too.
    .
    The “girl that I like to stand next to.” LOL Interesting to see how Simon played it. I like the depth there. And I like what he said about the privacy of it and making it feel authentic.
    .
    Robin Tunney is so awesome. Truly. And hot. Laughed at what Bruno said but there’s probably a bit of truth to it because-wow, Robin.
    .
    Heller such a great show boss. I always love to read his interviews. He’s different than a lot of other show bosses I’ve read in a way I admire greatly. (Not to deprecate other bosses at all) He made a great show with great characters that I love to watch every Sunday, six years in.
    .
    ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Psycho’? LOL!
    .
    Polarizing. Interesting. I’m glad that they’re ready for that. There’s no way in an audience this large to have absolute consensus. Whether it will make the audience truly that polarized (50/50), I’m curious to see. I’d think not though. But what do I know?
    .
    Add me in with everyone else here sincerely hoping we get another season to enjoy Jane and Lisbon together.
    .
    Thanks again, Matt. You are the best.

    • James says:

      IMHO Castle and Bones relationships between characters have been absolutely fictitious from chapter one to end. It are relationships only credibles for teenagers. Is my view

  13. Angie says:

    Thank you all for a great interview. I think i can understand more where its going but whatever happens it has been one hell of a ride and i so hope for s7

  14. Jen says:

    Awesome. I was hesitant about this season initially when news first came out about the time jump, but I’ve really enjoyed where they’ve taken the show. I love the lighter tone, and spending more time on the character relationships. Can’t wait for the finale and still hoping the show will make it another year!

  15. Bonnie Maynes says:

    The Mentali2t is the best show on TV It has the best cast, crew and writers. It’s the one show on TV that really should be renewed.

  16. Andy :) says:

    WHAT AN AMAZING INTERVIEW!
    Thank you so much, you asked the right questions. I really hope this show gets another season, this Jane/Lisbon story arc has so much potential.
    Can’t wait for the season’s finale.

  17. Thank you so much for this great interview. Like the rest I don’t want to see my fav. show on TV gone. There are so many possibilities for a new season even if I can only guess about the ending of this season. I hope that a miracle will get us renewed or shipped to another network…
    I love Jane and Lisbon’s relationship and these last weeks were so intense and sad – but still amazing to watch. So looking forward to the season finale!

  18. Robert says:

    I love Simon Baker. He’s lovely, great actor, amusing, witty, deep and very natural acting.
    I watched this Show for six years for him. He’s awesome, sexy and charismatic. I always find something so real in his performance.

  19. Ann says:

    Excellent interview. I just hope that won’t a cloying end .
    I have adored Simon Baker for six years.

  20. Polly says:

    The Mentalist is my favorite show,and I will be so angry if they cancel it. Excellent acting,interesting characters and much more depth in the interaction of characters than any other TV show I have watched. I really hope there is a new season,because of the quality of this show,it deserves to be continued. There are very few shows I watch on primetime anymore because either they are inane,or with many sexual innuendos,or have really stupid,obnoxious characters. It doesn’t leave much for anyone with any intelligence to watch. Please give us a season 7!

  21. JM says:

    Somewhere in a past interview, Tunney described the Jane character as a “jerk”. Well, he is a jerk…a lovable jerk. Anyway, Lisbon deserves better. She deserves to be loved and I love this sexy new actor playing her boyfriend. Regardless, I hope this great show gets renewed and that Lisbon and Jane continue their great working relationship. I am really enjoying their move to the FBI.

  22. tristan says:

    The mentalist is horrible. Fake and uncreative. Total bs keep the crazy ones and let this show die horribly the actors and cbs owe us money for watching this.

  23. Bama says:

    imo, the jane/lisbon dynamic is very similar to the path of the mulder/scully one…jane has had all of his issues in regard to his ‘romantic’ quest…there simply wasn’t room for a woman in that quest…he pushed lisbon away at every turn to protect her from his fall-out..yet along the way, against the odds, maybe even undeserving at times, he did develop relationships that mattered and found people that cared about him as a person…and now, in the aftermath, he finds himself ready to replace his quest with the person that means the world to him but doesn’t quite know how to transition and channel all the emotions….imo…the jane/lisbon ship is something like this now….

    “Well, it seems to me that the best relationships – the ones that last – are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is… suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.” – Scully, The X-files ep ‘rain king’ season 7

  24. Sara says:

    I think there are ways to explore a relationship in a procedural drama without it getting away from you. The point is to let the characters get there naturally. Really like how Bruno described this, because I feel exactly that way. If any two characters (doesn’t matter which show) don’t, then it doesn’t have to happen. If they do, it still doesn’t mean it becomes the focus of the show. Bugs me that people feel that way, but maybe it’s carried over from past shows. Point is, we don’t have to dismiss the obvious fact that something does exist between them. I think I like Bruno, Robin and Simon a little more after having read this.

  25. Gayle says:

    Are you kidding me with the ‘No chemistry’ comment! Lisbon has been Jane’s surrogate wife and partner the entire show (sans the sex). She has supported him – even when she knew he would be in trouble and take her with him. They have been forced to be like an old married couple due to each one’s devastating circumstances. NOW they can start to develop the fun part of their relationship. (I suspect people who think they have no chemistry have not stayed I relationships very long. For them ‘chemistry’ is the hunt. For me, chemistry is the staying power – real, tight bonds.) LOVED the finale, the interview. Looking forward to season 7!

  26. Pat Kidwell says:

    I was really scared that you were gonna say, thats the end. Thank you for this program I dont know why but this show is very soothing to me. If i really need to relax i turn on one of the many episodes i have recorded and watch it again. Jane is such a relaxing personality. See all you next season, and I cant wait guess i”ll be watching a lot of reruns for a while.

  27. joy says:

    I hate the Jane and Lisbon pairing! there goes the show. People work together and be good friends without a romantic relationship. Cho is right brothers and sisters not lovers! this always ends a show. Jane had more chemistry with Red Johns Lauralye! not Lisbon! messing up the great partnership!

  28. Allan Coe says:

    Like CASTLE the relationship evolves. The scee as Jane’s epiphany exlodes into driving to the airport, getting onboard, blurting hos feelings and her response indicates either more to come or a disaster will bring closure.