FNL Vet Matt Lauria Talks Burn Notice Face-Off, Hails 'Extraordinary' Chicago Code

Michael Westen has met his match, and it’s… Matt Lauria?

When the Friday Night Lights and Chicago Code vet visits Burn Notice this Thursday (USA Network, 9/8c), he’ll come bearing some bad news for Michael: His character, an ex-Special Forces operative named Ethan, has beaten Jeffrey Donovan’s counterpart at one of his own games. But before they can stage a rematch, the “hot-headed” rookie needs the older, wiser veteran’s help.

Below, Lauria talks with TVLine about Ethan’s connection with Michael, what it was like to shoot in Miami, and whether he’ll be back on the spy series. He also weighs in on the cancellation of The Chicago Code and his surprising plans for the future.

TVLINE | Tell me about your character and what brings him to Miami?
What brought me to Miami was a trip to Miami. I was like, “That sounds like fun!” … [Ethan] is just freshly out of the service, and he is learning the lesson that I guess, in some ways, Michael has learned, of adjusting into his new civilian life. Michael Westen and my character have a lot in common in that they both have this special ops training, but I think Michael’s found a lot more maturity and confidence in his off-the-battlefield life than my guy has thus far.

TVLINE | When I spoke to Matt Nix, the creator, he mentioned that your character has something that Michael’s a little jealous of.
Oh, good looks. [Laughs] I was just kidding. The back story on how we met is, a commander that I had recently was an old commander of Michael’s, and we both are sharpshooters. He’s familiar to me because I know his name. He had a record at Camp Rhino, where we were training, and I broke that record. So I’m cognitive of who this guy is before I even meet him. That’s one of the things that I mention offhandedly as I’m introducing myself to him. He might be a little jealous of that, though he tries not to show it. … The thing I like about the character [is] he’s super, super confident. He wants to do things his way. He’s got that soldier bravado that I’ve seen in a lot of young Marines or military service professionals.

TVLINE | He’s also, in a way, a continuation of Luke from Friday Night Lights. [Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the FNL series finale yet.] ‘Cause he went off to the Army.
There’s a little tie-in. How about that?! I didn’t even think about that. That’s wild. How funny.

TVLINE | When someone comes to Michael, it’s usually because they have a problem. What does Ethan need Michael’s help with?

Girl trouble. [Laughs] No, I’m just kidding. Basically, my sister ends up in a really precarious, life-threatening situation because she’s hanging out with the wrong folks. She’s got a boyfriend that’s a little bit of a deadbeat – or a lot of a deadbeat – who’s got himself tangled up with some bad dudes and has put himself in a situation where he’s compromised her well-being by basically trying to skim from some really, really bad dudes.

TVLINE | Some of the fun things about Burn Notice are the cover identities, accents and the action sequences. Did you get to participate in any of that?
Yeah. I got to hold a sniper rifle. I got to be a part of blowing something up and dousing things in gasoline. That was a lot of fun. I got to wear really cheesy sort of Miami suits. I mean the suits were lovely, but they just screamed this sort of “Miami fixture” type  look. [Laughs] I drove in a Porsche. These are all run-of-the-mill Burn Notice [things].

TVLINE | Is there any chance we might see Ethan again?
I don’t know. Possibly. You never know. … I think that he was a special character for Michael because it reminded him of his younger self in some ways. Look, any chance to get back down there and have a good time with those guys would be a lot of fun. I have no idea what the future holds, but it would be fun.

TVLINE | People are still hurting about The Chicago Code. What was your reaction to the sudden cancellation?
Honestly, I was surprised. There was so much support for the show, and the critics loved it so much. And the last few episodes, certainly, it had just gotten to a whole new level. I feel like it was just so effective at what it was doing and all of it was coming off so well that I was honestly really surprised when it was cut. I just thought it was a really high-caliber show. I think all of us were kind of expecting that it was going to come back for at least a second season to give it another shake. But in terms of my reaction, I’m not bummed about it at all, because this is just part of the way the business works. And I firmly believe that when one opportunity goes away, it’s just because there’s some other opportunity around the bend. … So mostly, [my feeling] was gratitude. It was a great experience. I’ve learned a lot. I had a lot of fun doing it. I got to work with an extraordinary group of people in an extraordinary city, so there’s really no hard feelings.

TVLINE | Did creator Shawn Ryan share with you any plans that he had in the works for a second season?
No. I didn’t know anything about that. But I was, personally, looking forward to finding out more about my character. There were a lot of things about Caleb that were never exposed, and I thought it created a lot of interest and a lot of curiosity. I was excited to see. I knew that there were a lot of places I could go with it. That was exciting to look forward to, but now people can imagine in their minds.

TVLINE | What’s next for you? Is there anything we can look forward to besides this Burn Notice episode?
I’m releasing some naked pictures that look like they were accidentally released.

TVLINE | That’s a good way to get some publicity for your Burn Notice guest spot.
Yeah, like just pictures of me holding my cell phone in the mirror and taking pictures of myself. Just the little things you’ve got to do. Every actor does it. Just got to do these little things to stay relevant. … To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed that we found out we were [axed] after the rush of pilot season. If we would’ve found out at the beginning of pilot season or during pilot season, me and my team would have found ourselves in this mad scramble to try and grab something. It’s just not a very artistic place to be. So I’m glad that we missed that hubbub and rush and frenzy and that now we can be really discerning about what kinds of material we’re looking at and what we’re reading. It’s really, really great. … I’ve read some awesome TV projects and an awesome mini-series and an awesome film that I’m really excited about. So we’ll just see which one ends up being the right one.