'The Newsroom's' Sam Waterston: Not reading reviews is 'a much nicer place to be'

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Sam Waterston couldn't be happier to be in the hot seat in Season 2 of "The Newsroom."

As Atlantis Cable News chief Charlie Skinner on the Aaron Sorkin-created HBO drama series, the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor is among those playing witnesses being deposed about an alleged war crime labeled Operation Genoa, ACN's related story having been proven to be built on wrong information.

Sunday's (Aug. 25) new episode takes the internal probe to its peak ... and heads may roll, including Charlie's.

"Just you wait!," Waterston gleefully tells Zap2it. "The thing that's so amazing about what Aaron does is that most stories content themselves with tying one person to the tracks, then having the train bear down on them. But he's got so many irons in the fire, so many balls in the air, it's just astounding how he does this."

Not only is the result dramatically sound to Waterston, he adds, "It's a true thing for the men I know of who have been in this position. Your duty to the news breaks itself down into many different parts. One is to get the news out, and another is to get it right.

"The thing that bears down on Charlie and the whole company is, how long can you wait to get it absolutely right before you put what's happening in front of (the public) so they can make their own judgments? When Charlie says to the company lawyer (played by Marcia Gay Harden) that he did exactly what he was supposed to do, I agree. I think he's completely right when he says other people would have gone with the story sooner."

In considering the journalistic, economic and ethical questions Charlie faces continually, Waterston says he empathizes more than ever with "people who have had to deal with the news business, such as press secretaries.

"Being involved with some pro bono organizations over the years and in 'The Killing Fields' (the Oscar-winning 1984 movie in which Waterston played reporter Sydney Schanberg), that's why I'm so impressed with what Aaron has done. It feels so much to me like what I have heard."

Sharing 'The Newsroom" with the rest of its acting ensemble is one of the greatest pleasures of the experience for Waterston: " Jeff (Daniels, currently Emmy-nominated for the show as anchorman Will McAvoy) said, and I think it's true, that everybody has settled into their parts. And there isn't any way to do that except with time."

Recurring "Newsroom" co-star Jane Fonda returns in this weekend's episode as take-no-prisoners ACN owner Leona Lansing, and Waterston reports, "She takes her work so seriously. She comes with a full load of energy, interest and commitment. And she's also very generous, on and off camera. The Fonda family goes back a long way for me, so it's especially rich (to work with her)."

From the start, "The Newsroom" has had its share of critiques on both ends of the scale. Waterston has kept himself isolated from virtually all of them on purpose, and he maintains that's nothing new for him.

"I make a practice of not reading or listening to any (reviews), so I didn't know what people were saying. I was surprised to find out that anyone had any quibbles. Have they searched the dial? I just wonder ... but I haven't read any of the details, and I'm not going to. That's a much nicer place to be. It's just better to go about your business."

Also a veteran of the stage ( "Hamlet," "Abe Lincoln in Illinois'") and several Woody Allen movies including "Hannah and Her Sisters," Waterston isn't the only member of his family appearing on HBO these days. Daughter Katherine Waterston will return to "Boardwalk Empire" during its fourth year, which starts Sunday, Sept. 8.

Having done celebrated series work previously as two district attorneys -- Forrest Bedford on "I'll Fly Away" and Jack McCoy, during a 16-year run, on "Law & Order" -- Waterston takes great pride in his television credits overall.

"When Charles Dickens serialized his novels in the newspaper," he reflects, "maybe that didn't seem to be what a serious novelist would do, but it turned out he was one of the great novelists of the 19th century. And I think some of these writers and writer-producers I've been fortunate to work for are going to turn out to be the same kind of guys for the 20th and 21st centuries."

Given that, Waterston would enjoy teaming again with Sorkin on another season of 'The Newsroom," which will end its current run with a two-parter about Election Night 2012.

"I can't wait for them to say when we'll start," the actor notes. "This is rich ground, and there's a lot of stuff to get into. These circumstances are rare, so I hope and long for a third season."
Photo/Video credit: HBO