Q&A – Ben Cotton (Pastor Mike)

tk-s3-cast-pastor-mike-325Ben Cotton, who plays Pastor Mike on AMC’s The Killing, discusses holding a knife to the throat of Mireille Enos and the secret he hid for the first three episodes.

Q: How did you prepare for  Pastor Mike?

A: I did a lot. I didn’t know what would be coming up in terms of the details, so I was reading the Bible. And there were some people who I looked at and was like, “I’ll sort of be like that” — but I don’t know if I’m allowed to say who. I wasn’t terribly familiar with the world of runaway teens, but I went to YouTube and typed in “heroin” and “documentaries” and watched enough hours that I started to have a response to it. I felt I had to manufacture the story with the girl in Tempe in my mind.

Q: Have you ever known anyone like Pastor Mike?

A: Yes, I have. Not in a direct way, but there were people when I was young and in my teens who were trying to help kids, and they did help. There are people who without whom I don’t know where I’d be today. And I think that’s what Pastor Mike is ultimately trying to do. He’s trying to save lives and be compassionate, in a system that doesn’t really allow it. I have a friend who’s a schoolteacher who was telling me how you’re not allowed to hug the students anymore, and I think that’s just unbelievable. I understand it, I get it, but I had teachers when I was growing up who were so kind and supportive. It was wonderful.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the car scene with Mireille Enos.

A: I think we were in the car for about three days, because we shot the scene in different ways on different days. They wanted a lot of camera angles, and it takes a long time to get those shots. But it was really fun. Scenes like that can get really heavy, but it was a joy to work with Mireille. We had a lot of laughs, actually.

Q: When you were holding a knife to her throat, did it make you nervous?

A: The actual knife was fairly dull, so there wasn’t much of a chance that I would cut her. But the whole scenario did make me a bit nervous. Even though you’re acting, it’s a pretty intense thing to do, so it did get my adrenaline up.

VIDEO: Talked About Scene, Episode 307: Sarah is surprised by an unexpected person in her car.

Q: Pastor Mike says he was just trying to help a teen in Arizona detox when he was accused of kidnapping. Have you ever been wrongfully accused of anything?

A: Not really that I can think of. Nothing dramatic. I think a friend of mine thought I had broken his iron one time, and I didn’t. That’s pretty minor.

Q: You’ve played a few psychopaths in the past. What do you think makes you a good fit for such parts?

A: [Laughs] Yes, I have. I’ve played a number of jackasses. I don’t know what it is. I think there was a story once where Bette Davis got asked, “When you play such terrible people, aren’t you afraid of being seen as like those people?” and she said something along the lines of, “The people who are the furthest away from you are the easiest ones to play.” I think that I’ve been able to play very harsh characters partly because I’m very curious about them and fascinated by them. I want to be able to look at people like that who do terrible things and understand how they got to that place. I don’t see anything wrong with being typecast into those kind of roles, because it’s fun.

Q: What was the most surprising thing about your experience on The Killing?

A: I’m surprised they hired me! During the first three days of shooting, I had a cast on my leg. I had a broken ankle. It was actually broken when I auditioned, and I went into the audition on crutches. I assumed there was no way I was going to get hired because of it, but they just shot above my leg. There’s one point where I was passing through the office and I was doing it on a walking cast. You’ll notice in the first three episodes, you don’t see Pastor Mike move much.

Click here to read an interview with Mireille Enos, who plays Sarah Linden

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