Game of Silence Preview

Michael Raymond-James Previews Game of Silence's Looming 'Hurricane,' Weighs In on Once Upon a Time Encore

For Michael Raymond-James, this past winter was a Game of Silence in multiple ways.

In NBC’s midseason thriller of that name (previewing Tuesday at 10/9c, before moving to its Thursdays-at-10 time slot), the Terriers alum plays Gil Harris, the former childhood BFF of a rising star attorney (Revolution‘s David Lyons) whose perfect life is put at risk when a tragic part of their shared past ignites a powder keg of a problem in the present.

Then, upon wrapping Game of Silence‘s 10-episode freshman run, MRJ slipped up to Vancouver to film a top-secret, crowd-pleasing return on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, for last month’s 100th episode.

Here, Raymond-James — who this summer will be playing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof‘s Brick, in a Massachusetts staging — shares some of Game of Silence‘s secrets as well as his take on Once‘s Neal/Emma “reunion.”

TVLINE | For starters, what drew you to this project?
It’s not a typical network show. It’s very serialized. It’s not a procedural. There are plenty of network shows that are serialized — I’ve been on them before, as you know — but the weight of the material here gives an actor so much room to make interesting choices. There’s a million ways to do any given scene, as opposed to, paint-by-numbers characters, storytelling. That was an immediate draw.

TVLINE | At first blush, some might call the childhood secret that’s the catalyst for this story “dark,” but it’s actually more “tragic.”
I agree. Yeah, it is tragic. I mean, you’re talking about children who in the nine months that they were in lock-up, in a juvenile detention facility, had their future robbed from them. Oprah has this saying that I think is totally appropriate, that even if a rape victim survives the trauma of that encounter, you’ve killed who they may have become, and their life is now a different thing. [For Gil and his fiends] it’s clear that there was abuse that took place.

TVLINE | I wasn’t expecting Game of Silence - Season Pilotthe characters in the flashbacks to be so young. It seems like they’re probably going to be revisited throughout at least the first stretch of episodes, as the story unfolds.
Throughout the entire season, in fact. Because the past is never really the past, particularly with these characters. It’s always there, it informs everything that happens, so it’s important to check back in and see where motivations come from for things that we’re doing now.

TVLINE | When a meaningful part of the story is told in flashback, played by different actors, how do you allow that to inform your performance and your knowledge of the character? I know you can just “read the script,” but did you ever eavesdrop and see what “young Michael Raymond-James” is doing as Young Gil?
Yeah, I have done that, and Young Gil (Judah Lewis, on back of mini-bike above) is just a fantastic actor. But for me, it was more about the arc of the character, as opposed to any particular mannerisms or whatever that he displays. I knew right off the bat where it was going, so we have a shared history, essentially.

TVLINE | What would you say is distinct about Gil’s relationship with each of the two guys (played by Lyons and Rescue Me‘s Larenz Tate), as well as with their friend Jessie (The Unit‘s Bre Blair)?
When we were young, the Jackson character played by David Lyons might have been my closest friend in that group. But [after juvie] he moves away, Game of Silence - Season Pilotand Shawn, played by Larenz Tate, became my best friend from that point on. We lost track of Jessie for a bit, which we’ll fill the audience in on later, but then she comes back into our everyday world.

TVLINE | I originally wrote down the question, “Would you consider Gil the hothead of the group?” Then I crossed it out, to ask: Would you consider Gil the most impetuous of the group, as adults?
What I think happened with Gil, as a result of the tragedy that took place, is he’s got a quick trigger. One thing I spoke to Dave Hudgins (who adapted this from the Turkish series Suskunlar) about when we were talking about doing it, was that Gil’s got a hurricane inside of him. There’s all this trauma that has never been dealt with, so he’s a bit of a case of arrested development, in terms of he doesn’t know what to do with all these emotions that he has. He’s never gone to therapy. He’s never sought help for PTSD or anything like that, so that hurricane is constantly churning inside him. You don’t know, at any given moment, when something might trigger an explosion.

It’s really interesting because I’ve been examining Cat on a Hot Tin Roof recently — I’m in New York right now for a meeting with the director [of an upcoming staging at the Berkshire Theatre Festival] — and there are a lot of secrets there that are under the surface there. One of the things Maggie the Cat says to Brick in Act I is, “If a house is on fire, you can’t turn away from it, lock the door and act like it’s not on fire anymore” — that secrets that have been held onto too tightly can become malignant after a period of time. It was so erudite and concise in only the way Tennessee Williams can write it, but that one little passage zeroed in on what I think is a central theme of Game of Silence.

TVLINE | What’s sad about the therapy thing is that a female in this position might not think twice about going to seek help, but a guy — especially one with any sense of machismo or whatever — would insist, “I don’t need therapy. I’m not sharing this.” I think it’s your character that at one point even says….
“I’d rather die.” “I’d rather die than have anybody know what happened to us.” There’s a certain amount of shame. When you carry around these feelings, when the confusion from that time has never been dealt with, you don’t know how to handle it. You don’t know in what “box” to put that inside you. And so, it’s always just there, around. It informs everything you do. It’s really tragic, going back to what you said initially.

TVLINE | Once Upon a Time Neal ReturnsOn a lighter note, how did your “surprise” Once Upon a Time encore come about?
[The idea of returning] had been broached before, but with everyone’s schedules it’s hard to find windows. I’ve been working pretty consistently the last couple of years, so I didn’t have a lot of time. But when their 100th episode came up, I was finishing up Game of Silence and I did have a window that they were able to work around. I missed the shooting of the actual episode, but they made accommodations to have me shoot the scene with Jen [Morrison] after they had moved on to a few episodes beyond that at that point. It worked out, and I’m glad it did. It was fun to do and it felt like a nice little bookend to the character.

TVLINE | They ultimately let the cat out of the bag, but did you find some fun in the top-secrecy of it all?
[Laughs] Yeah, I liked pretending to be a “secret agent.” And I took pride in the fact that we were able to keep a lid on it until almost the very end. I know you were worried about the Vancouver paps [spoiling my return], but I was happy we were able to elude them entirely.

TVLINE | What was your read on the conversation Neal and Emma had there in the Bug? Do you feel he was endorsing her new romance and her pursuit of Hook in the Underworld, or not quite?
I think Neal has unconditional love and affection for Emma. She’s the mother of his child and his true love, regardless of whether he was for her or not. I feel it’s a completely unconditional love, and he just wants to be supportive of her. He genuinely wants her to be happy. And if that means being with someone else, then that’s what he wants.

TVLINE | After all, having moved on to a “happy” place and all, it’s not like he himself is an option.
Exactly. He’s not running for that particular office anymore. [Laughs] So yeah, I think he genuinely wants her to be happy. She’s the mother of his child, and a happy, content, fulfilled mother makes for a better childhood.

TVLINE | I said in my column that I was surprised that back in Season 3 they didn’t play that triangle harder — have Emma torn between a storybook character and this “regular Joe” that she’d only known as a mortal. Is that something you would have been interested to explore?
To an extent. But generally speaking, love triangles aren’t necessarily what I get excited about. It can be a revelatory device to tell other stories, to see the way people respond in situations like that, how they deal with rejection or whatever….

TVLINE | For example, if scorned, Neal could be tempted to turn to his dad for an assist. He’s got the Dark One in his corner, so does he go down that route to “get the girl”?
The reality is we will never know. I have my thoughts on it — and I don’t think that that is Neal’s style. Neal devoted his life and his being to turning away from that. He’s somebody who could have lived with the pain of that rejection, if it were to come to that, without having to turn to the dark side. Instead he’d use it as a stepping-stone to grow. That’s my take on Neal.

Want scoop on any of the above shows? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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33 Comments
  1. irene says:

    Yeah you should totally let your true love go to prison for your crime while she’s pregnant and not bother to look for her once you know the curse has been broken. Such a wonderful love story. #sarcasm

    • andrea says:

      why did you even bother in opening this article? if you see is an interview of Michael Raymond-James, and you hate Neal why bother on reading and why the need on bashing, and for the 867786767867636 time Neal didn’t send Emma to prison, just ask Adam Horowitz, he have said that a few times now

      • irene says:

        It’s a free country, is it not? Yeah, he “let her fullfill her destiny”. By sending her to prison and being the reason why she never trusted anyone again, until Henry showed up. Their story is abusive af and i wish people would stop idolizing him when all he did was cause her pain.

    • Christy Snell says:

      Wow! Would Neal-haters give it a rest? He’s no worse than Hook and all of the horrible things that he’s done. Yet I like both men and feel that both of them made mistakes and learned from them. Both eventually turned out to be good for Emma.

      • lns says:

        Neal’s mistakes and whatever was directly towards Emma and heartbreak and prison.

        Hook being a pirate and whatever in fairytale world for years wasn’t some direct heartache for Emma lol

        Big difference

    • Andreia says:

      I dont usually comment on this type of things, mostly because arguing with people that dont like Neal( or OUAT fans in general) doesnt take you anywhere.
      But why coming to article that talks about his new TV SHOW, that comes out this week, where possible fans of the actor and from the show will comment, to come here to talk about OUAT and giving that fandom even a more bad name that already has.
      I thought i was free from this fandom, but they always comeback, have to say that the people that have to review ouat deserve all my respect, it takes a lot to deal with this fandom.

      So now i suggest that lets move on to the point of article and leave the article for MRJ fans and GoS fans to talk about GAME OF SILENCE and for Neal FANS talk about it if they want

    • Joey says:

      Anytime a Neal hater spews garbage from his/her mouth, a pirate gets his hook.

  2. Andreia says:

    This was a great article, very excited about game of silence. Also, very very surprised by his new project, i was not expecting Theatre, but im happy for him and only shows how great actor he is, bc so far this year he was on Disney`s The Finest Hour, on TV and will be on Theatre.

  3. lns says:

    How many Neal questions were there. It’s ridiculous. Thus neal love feat is OTT. Nothing about Neal on screen matched when he was alive. Neal and true love is a joke. Letting her go prison. Insensitivity towards her. Lack of belief in her.
    Did mrj or matt promote his new show or just Neal here.

    • Vanessa says:

      Taking in consideration that MRJ never had a goodbye interview from OUAT,consider this that interview, and move on with the Neal stuff, really, let MRJ fans, game of silence fans and Neal fans read and comment the article.

    • Amy says:

      I agree, There is no way Neal could ever have been Emma’s TL. As Snowing showed TL never abandons or gives up — he abandoned her to jail, refused to come look for her (twice!) and then scoffed at her in Storybrook until Tamara turned out to be evil. Emma was always Neal’s second choice — at the very minimum.

  4. Leigh says:

    I’m hoping they will be able to have Neal back for one more ep. I’d like to see him interact with Milla and Henry and get his reaction to Rumple being the dark one again. There’s a lot to be mined there, esp with the fact that his mother left him for hook who is now with his baby momma

  5. Game of Silence sounds a whole lot like the 90’s film Sleepers. I hope it will be as good.

    • Imzadi says:

      “Game of Silence” is based on the turkish series “Suskunlar”, which was based on the movie “Sleepers”:

  6. Vanessa says:

    This show looks great and and im a huge MRJ fan, since Terriers, i wish they could simply bring the show again, since was one of the best shows ever.
    But this Game of Silence looks dark and i love those, is great to so see it for free on regular network without having to pay for cable, really hope this becomes a sucess, because MRJ deserves.
    I should have known that ouat people would be here, for real, leave the man alone, the Neal is dead, he didnt trashed CS, he said he was not coming back, like dont give the fandom more bad name, like for real the article is more about MRJ new show than about OUAT, why you people dont go discuss ouat in other places, im just seeing the image that you give to MRJ fans and his new show fans that may want to talk about this and even to the people related to that show that will share this article, you only look bad.

  7. KLS says:

    Don’t watch his recent shows, but he was memorable on TWD (2012). Usually can’t remember the one-and-zones on that show, but he did a good job there.

  8. jerrired says:

    I am really looking forward to GAME OF SILENCE. Since True Blood, I thought MRJ was a really good actor, especially when he gets the right material. So I’m anxious to see what he does with this series, if it survives. I know about the source materials/ but never read or seen the show, movie, and book. So I can approach this with a complete open mind. I loved reading his insight into this new character and Neal. Hopefully it’s a good series. And I love reading when actors take on stage work, that usually makes them even better.

  9. Imzadi says:

    He is a pretty memorable actor. I saw him for the first time on Emergency Room (was that his own singing voice), so I’ll check this out. I stopped watching OUAT somewhere in season two, because it was such a mess.

    • stephanie says:

      he is an amazing actor ;) and yeah that is his real voice, also the version of the song southside of heaven that you hear on the final minutes of the episode, he sang it too

  10. James says:

    Sigh… I miss Terriers. I’ve watched the first season like 5 times.

  11. Michael Raymond-James! Michael Raymond-James playing a dynamic character, Michael Raymond-James playing a dynamic character within a compelling, edgy, gripping story. I am all Game for this (pun intended). Hurricane Gil Here I come. Great interview Matt!

  12. Matt, if MRJ can accept that Neal is dead and isn’t going to ‘get the girl’, I think it’s time you did too. I wish him well on his new projects.

    • Carly says:

      I honestly don’t understand the problem some of you seem to have in your paranoia that every mention of Neal is a conspiracy or whatever. Like someone else mentioned above, Michael Raymond-James left OUAT without any major follow-up press or interviews. Is it really that hard to understand that a reporter like Matt would be interested in asking a few questions he may have wanted to ask already back then, when MRJ first left the show, when the opportunity presents itself? It feels like, no matter how hard you all try to deny it, Neal haters are a lot more threatened by him and what he may or may not have meant to Emma still than those who actually liked him or are indifferent about him. This comment section is vivid proof. The amount of sillyness coming from bitter antis is completely ridiculous.

  13. Ziv says:

    re: Game of Silence — sounds an awful lot like the film Sleepers with Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman — 5-star film

  14. Mel says:

    I love MRJ. I loved him on OUAT. I love Neal. I loved Swanfire. I’ll watch Game of Silence for him.

  15. laurelnev says:

    Ok…I loved the character and I love the actor, but I thought that part of the point of that Pan arc was to show that Neal never felt “worthy” of Emma because of what he’d done to his first (and possible true) love Wendy. All that teenaged-Emma crap just showed that, no matter how hard he tried, deep down he felt he’d never be worthy of The Savior. I think Emma also saw that, so when they wrapped up the Neverland story, BOTH were able to move on, which left Emma open to exploring her obvious chemistry at 1st sight with Hook.

    • ANG says:

      Hook literally came out as a serial killer this season and you’re talking about Neal being the unworthy one?

      • laurelnev says:

        I see you’re another who needs reading comprehension classes…go look up the concept of one feeling vs being. And read posts before responding with ridiculous comments.