Jay Karnes of 'The Shield' and 'Sons of Anarchy': One Man, One Network, Two Shows
Today's cuppa: Darjeeling tea
To date, Richard Belzer has played the character of Detective John Munch on "Homicide: Life on the Street," "The X-Files," "Homicide: The Movie," "Law & Order," "The Beat," "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," "Arrested Development," "Sesame Street," "The Wire" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," spanning NBC, Fox, UPN, PBS and HBO.
It's a record that's probably going to stand for a long time in the annals of TV history. But what has Belzer NOT done that actor Jay Karnes HAS done?
"That's the thing," says Karnes, "Belzer doesn't even know I'm on his tail."
Karnes has played the same character on a second show in which the character's name was never mentioned in spoken dialogue.
He played his character from FX's "The Shield," Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach (right), on last season's finale of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," as "I.A. Officer Wagenbach." The name was on the script and in the closed captioning.
"It was an interesting experience," Karnes says, "because it was the same sh---y brown suit, same hair, the same loosened tie, same wry sensibility and the same kind of attack on the character, but completely different group of people.
Karnes is playing two different law-enforcement officers on the same network on two different shows airing on consecutive nights.
Karnes is still playing Dutch Tuesdays on the final season of "The Shield," but now he's also ATF Agent Kohn on FX's "Sons of Anarchy," airing Wednesday. But he looks a bit different there (left).
"In fact," says Karnes, "This guy is nothing like Wagenbach at all. With Dutch Wagenbach, there was always some ambiguity. Everybody had an opinion. Some people thought, 'Well, he's a doofus,' and some people thought, 'He's the best cop on the show.' There was always that dichotomy, and both of those opinions were supportable.
"When people would tell me their opinions on (Kohn), people universally think this guy is not a very nice person. I don't want to hear that, because I'm not playing that. He's not aware of it."
Although Kohn is ATF, and the ATF is interested in activities of the gun-running outlaw motorcycle gang at the heart of "Sons of Anarchy" (the creation of former "The Shield" writer Kurt Sutter), Kohn's particular interest is more personal than professional.
He's the ex-boyfriend of Tara (Maggie Siff), a pediatrician in the hospital near the gang's hometown of Charming, Calif. Tonight's episode, "Giving Back" -- which was filming in Tujunga, Calif. (click here for the original post) when I talked to Karnes -- is the third featuring Kohn, who continues through episode nine. According to Karnes, there are big moments to come.
"Everything he's done so far has been fairly charming," Karnes says, "but in this next episode, you begin to see, 'Oh, there's a darkness there.' The only thing that's tipped it to so far is that every time he speaks to Tara, she's really freaked out about it, far more freaked out than anything he's doing would seem to justify.
"So you get the feeling that, 'Oh, there's much more going on there than meets the eye.' It turns out he has a very controlling dark side, and we're going to see a little more of that."
Back on "The Shield," Wagenbach often worked as a criminal profiler, fascinated by serial killers (and he's caught some). But that fascination went a bit over the top a few seasons ago when Wagenbach strangled a stray kitten to see what it felt like to kill.
Asked if he's been allowed near any immature felines on "Sons of Anarchy," Karnes says, "You just won't let it go, will you? It's just something that I can't disarm in any way. I try to get ahead of it. I mentioned it earlier in the conversation, which I hoped would work, but it doesn't happen. You will always bring that up.
"Kurt didn't say this to me, but one of 'The Shield' writers said to me that Kurt always wanted to take Dutch to a much darker place than he went to with the cat. I ultimately felt that it was more interesting that he went to this place and came back.
"He scared himself, became ashamed of himself, and then he, in a sense, recovered from that, as much as you ever can. You do something like that, you're going to be ashamed of it for the rest of your life."