Fox's Acerbic Detective Backstrom Is Not House, Says Star Rainn Wilson

Backstrom Season 1 Preview

Fox’s newest antihero Backstrom may sound familiar — caustic, sardonic, talented at his job — but he isn’t a House clone, Rainn Wilson asserts.

Bones creator Hart Hanson’s new series (premiering Thursday at 9/8c) stars Office alum Wilson as a detective with a very mean superpower when it comes to solving crimes.

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“He so lives in the worst of himself, and in the worst of the human condition, that he’s able to see that in others,” Wilson says.

And while that makes him exceptional at his work, much like Dr. House, Backstrom is “such a different guy,” Wilson argues. “This is a guy [who is] slovenly, wears his heart on his sleeve, just blurts things, lets it all out.”

If that still rings a bell, Wilson insists, “He’s just much more all over the place” than the “sharp, shrewd pill popper… But there’s been a long and fruitful history of, essentially, really unlikable messes of characters driving shows, and this is definitely in that tradition.”

TVLine visited the show’s Vancouver set to get the scoop on the Fox drama’s Life Unexpected connection, Backstrom’s gay, ex-prostitute roommate and Wilson’s return to the small screen.

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ONE AND DONE | After wrapping up his run on The Office, Wilson was hesitant to do another TV series, but Backstrom — the only pilot script he read — was just too “magnificent” of a role to pass up. “I hadn’t read anything like it in a TV show before,” the actor says. “He’s very cantankerous, self-hating, racist, sexist and addictive, but he’s got a lot of heart and humanity and humor, and a lot of different dimensions. And that’s just really rare… It’s very complex and challenging. And I was a little bit afraid of it, so I knew that that was a good thing.”

Backstrom Season 1 PreviewTHE OTHER UNIFORMS | Bearing the brunt of Backstrom’s abrasive personality is Detective Nicole Gravely (House of Lies‘ Genevieve Angelson), who more than measures up to her tall colleagues. “I’m in a unit of men who are 6’3″ and 6’4″ and I am a full foot shorter than they are,” Angelson shares. “But I don’t cower when it gets tough and the guns come out. I’m playing a tomboy. I’m doing this because I like to get dirty and roll around in the mud and kick people and stuff like that. God, it’s so fun. It’s actually so fun not playing a romantic interest.”

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As for those towering costars, Dennis Haysbert (24) plays Sgt. John Almond, who also is a minister. “I bust you from Monday to Saturday and then I give you salvation on Sundays,” Haysbert says — not that he can reach Backstrom, try as he might. “I also have the presence of mind to understand that he can only save himself.” Meanwhile, Page Kennedy’s (Weeds) Officer Frank Moto is the muscle who drives the titular detective around. “If there’s a heart of the show, I think maybe it’s represented through Moto,” Kennedy says. “He’s there to take care of everybody.”

THE UNEXPECTED CONNECTION | The cast’s other tall man, Kris Polaha, has some thoughts about what his Sgt. Peter Niedermayer would think of his Life Unexpected bachelor. “They both live in Portland, so Niedermayer possibly has gone to Baze’s bar to have a few drinks,” the actor muses. “But Niedermayer is this total geek. He’s an absolute info nerd. He’s got this intense love for life… The guy quotes Kierkegaard and Brecht and the Backstrom Season 1 PreviewBuddha in the same breath.”

STRANGE ROOMIES | Filling out Backstrom’s world is Valentine, whom portrayer Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) describes as a “young, gay, punk rocker, ex-prostitute, ex-drug dealer” who lives with the detective. Their relationship is “an anomaly,” but one with a deep history. “Backstrom got him off the street,” Dekker reveals, adding that the two share some personality traits. “They both have very little belief in humanity, and they’re very bitter, very dark, very acerbic and very satirical people. The only people that they trust in their lives are each other.”

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24 Comments
  1. John says:

    Ain’t nobody like House, except House. Nobody

  2. Nen says:

    Good because House was c***

  3. wrstlgirl says:

    Well I didn’t know Thomas Dekker was in Backstrom. Now I’m even more looking forward to checking this out. Can Fox handle two breakout hits……..we’ll see :-)

  4. bar says:

    Yeah, sure. Whatever the case, I won’t be watching.

  5. jake says:

    wow this sounds awesome, never heard of this before

  6. kmw says:

    This is not going to be a hit, no matter what Wilson says Backstrom IS just like House except he doesn’t dress as nice and quite frankly is a meaner version of Dwight.. It will probably get decent ratings tomorrow but after that they are going up against Scandal and the week after Blacklist is coming to Thursday and it will fall fast. This show will not get Empires numbers at all

    • Sarah says:

      True- except it may be trying to reach a younger, snarkier crowd than Scandal and Blacklist. I’m the Scandal crowd (love the soapy and the tawdry) and Blacklist may be more for the oldies who need a break from NCIS (or want to bone Spader). I think this’ll hit a different crowd.

      • Sheila says:

        Different crowd, perhaps. As a Blacklist fan, please no comparison to NCIS. Blacklist is smarter and sharper. Do check it out sometime. My mom watches NCIS.

  7. Sheila says:

    I’l give it a shot, but I bailed on House because he was so unrealistically, unredeemably unlikeable. This character better not be the same.

    • yurie says:

      Yeah, there’s a line you need to walk when making such pompous, overly smart and so full of themselves characters. This is one place where I think Patrick Jane from The Mentalist is a good example of how they should be done.

    • Sheila says:

      Different Sheila here. I did the same when he stopped being funny and started being sad/nasty to people. I will watch this pilot. I hope Backstrom is more along the “funny.”

  8. Eric says:

    Great, another detective show where the lead is incredibly intelligent and witty. Whaaaat an original concept for a character. It gets old after awhile. We don’t need anymore characters like House, Richard Castle, Sherlock Holmes, etc. It just gets old. I don’t need a detective that excels at every last aspect of their job because they are so ultra smart. Believe it or not, but your show can be interesting without it. Look at Law & Order: SVU. The show has been on for 16 seasons and it works perfectly. The detectives are smart and good at their jobs, but guess what? They are real humans. They have faults, they screw up, and they aren’t spitting out one-liners every other sentence because they are SO witty. Don’t get me wrong, having lead characters who embody the witty, intelligent character is fine. It just becomes a problem when every new detective show features one. It’s overdone and boring.

    On another note, I don’t think that this show is going to last very long. Maybe I’m a little biased because I think that it doesn’t look that great (mainly because the main lead’s personality is a huge bother to me), but I just don’t think it will. Besides, it’s being put up against ABC’s TGIT lineup. The premiere ratings might be okay because new episodes of the TGIT lineup don’t start until next week, but after that it will probably drop. I don’t know why Fox would think it’s a good idea to throw an entirely new show into the mix when ABC has such a strong lineup that basically beats every other show on any other network in the ratings. Find a better timeslot. You know, not one that it is heavily competitive. Fox might have a huge hit on their hands with Empire, but I don’t think this will follow.

    • Jake says:

      Please, using SVU as an example of good TV is a poor choice. The show is so unbelievable it’s campy. Hargitay’s character got kidnapped every other week for a while there. It’s almost a parody it’s so over the top.

  9. Melissa says:

    He’s not House. He’s Monk.

  10. Stacy says:

    This show has been retooled, what, three times? I’m not feeling optimistic…

  11. Christine says:

    The description of the show said that he’s “able to see things in people’s bodies that others don’t”. Right, that doesn’t sound like House at all…

    • Jake says:

      It’s from the guy who created Bones. If you want to dump on the show, say it’s a clone of that, not House. House was a dark show. This is supposed to be relatively lighter in tone and funny.

  12. dman6015 says:

    And if they could have gotten Hugh Laurie, instead of Wilson, they would have in a NY minute.

  13. pantser anton says:

    Backstrom & the cast present a great hour of engaging entertainment. I have eagerly awaited each episode. The entire cast have distinct appeal and draw. The plot lines are atypical and intriguing. The general tolerance for the efficiency that may be gained by flouting rules (laws) is a real-life temptation and is believable. I am a fan.