The Reaper reunion special is almost here — airing Tuesday night, May 28 — and to promote the special, which precedes the FEARnet debut of classic Reaper on June 4, we were able to speak with the Devil… or rather, the actor that played him, Ray Wise.
As with our previous Reaper interviews, we’re posting our questions to Mr. Wise in bold, and his answers in regular type, so you can get the full experience. Enjoy:
Can you talk about what it was like to do this reunion?
It was wonderful to see Bret [Harrison] and Tyler [Labine] and Rick [Gonzalez] again, and to reminisce and talk about our time up in Vancouver doing the show. It was the best experience. We all liked each other a lot, and we had a great rapport. It was a joy to go to work every day, and of course, the scripts were so well written, and witty, and funny. It was fun to do those scenes.
It was great to see them and talk about stuff. I’m so thrilled that FEARnet, in all of their great wisdom, brought Reaper back.
Is it true that you wore one of the Devil’s ties for the occasion?
Yes I did. One of my patented light blue ties. I have several of them in different patterns, but basically the same color blue.
I’ve noticed that since Reaper started on the air in 2007, that many Congressmen wear the same color ties with their dark blue suits now.
Maybe there’s a connection going on there?
I’m sure that there might be!
How much of you, as a person, is like Reaper’s Devil?
I think his sartorial taste is close to mine, and of course, the way he wears his hair. [laughs] And I love humor, and I love to be, or at least I try to be a little witty; perhaps not as witty as the Devil can be, but yeah. There are certain aspects of him that are certainly part of me.
Did the fact that you once played a character possessed by a demon factor into your being cast as the Devil?
[Laughs] Well, it certainly factors into my arc in my career. Going from playing Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks to becoming the Number One Bad Guy of all time, the Devil. I think probably a logical progression. But, no, it didn’t factor into being chosen for the role.
I came in at the end of the casting process. They had already seen over 100 actors, and they’d even seen a lot of guys who had played the Devil before! Some really well known names, but they hadn’t run into anyone who fit the bill entirely, and I came in at the end of the process. I got the script and I liked it, so they set up an appointment for me to read for the producers and the creators of the show, and I came out and I did that Chicken Fried scene in the kitchen. I guess the way I talked about Chicken Fried Steak turned them on, and they felt that I would be a good Devil. Then I came back a few days later and read for the network, and they liked it too, so that was that!
On the note of that career trajectory, has your playing the Devil inspired any bookings you’ve had since then?
I am sure. Yeah. You know, I’m very big now playing everybody’s father. It could be a mentor/student kind of situation, or it could be a straight father/son or father/daughter kind of situation, but I think it’s sort of like my relationship with Bret on the show – devil and his son, Sam – I think it carried over. And, of course, my relationship with Twin Peaks with my daughter; that was part of it, too. I’ve been playing everybody’s father lately, and I guess that’s a function of being as old as I am.
Now you’re playing Robin’s father on How I Met Your Mother, correct?
How I Met Your Mother, yeah. And I play a father on Mad Men who happens to be the CEFO of Dow Chemical, but still, father of a girl on the show. Yeah. That’s what I do now. I’m one of the main fathers in the world now.
I enjoyed seeing you as a priest on Psych.
There’s a father of a different sort!
Did you get any negative feedback from the notion that you were playing the Devil on TV?
Never! No! I didn’t run into anyone who was outraged that I was playing such a character. Most people have been really complimentary, and felt that they liked the character a lot, and that I was one of the better Devils that they’d ever seen.
I wanted him to be likable. I wanted him to be like that guy, your neighbor next door that you like and hang out with and have a barbecue or a beer…. I always pictured him in my mind as a really good used car salesman in combination with a talk show host, who has a nice smile, and he makes you feel good in his presence. That’s what I tried to do.
What was it about Reaper’s take on the Devil that jumped out for you?
The humor. The way he could twist a phrase, and just the wry, witty lines that were written for the character… they were just very tempting. Very tempting to play. I enjoyed that whole humorous aspect of it. And then, of course, the other aspect of being able to turn on a dime and be as terrifying as possible.
Are there sides to this Devil that we didn’t get a chance to see because the show only aired for two seasons?
Absolutely. Yeah. We missed out on a whole tale of the a lot of the mythology of Hell, number one. I think we would have explored that a great deal more. I think we would have found out there were more Reapers in the world. And we may have gone to a Reaper convention where I give the keynote speech!
I know that our creators, Tara and Michele, had all sorts of ideas for a third season and beyond. It’s just a shame that we never got an opportunity to open it up and see where it could go.
You worked with Bret Harrison the most… can you talk about working with him?
It was a great relationship. Again, a lot like father/son. And buddy; good buddies, but father/son, maybe mentor/student, that kind of a thing. It changed, depending on the day and the kind of scene we were doing, but he and I got along extremely well. I think he’s a fine actor, and a great guy.
We were all that way. It was a real pleasure to go to work every day. I just lament that I couldn’t do scenes with other people on the show, like with Tyler, and Rick, and some of the other people… it would have been interesting to explore that a little bit in a third season, but of course we didn’t get the chance to do that. But maybe FEARnet can come up with the means to be able to do a few more episodes. That would be great.
That inspires my next question: If Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters wanted to do more Reaper, would you be up for it?
Absolutely. In a second. Would a millisecond be too long? I don’t think so. I would be there in my dark blue suit and my light blue tie, with bells on.
It really ticked me off that they canceled us, to tell you the truth. Had we been on another network, I don’t think we would have been, but I guess we just didn’t fit their demographic as mch as they would have liked. I just wish we could have done more. That’s the main reason why I’m thrilled that FEARnet is showing Reaper. It certainly opens it up to possibilities in the future, so I look forward to that.
Did you have a particular favorite special effect or gag that you guys did while doing the series?
I liked controlling my demons; that’s pretty cool. You know, those flying things that look like flying gargoyles? I liked controlling my demons. And I loved that scene where the banana split melts and I talk about God, and the relationship between the Devil and God. For me, that was a very poignant scene. I would have liked to, in future episodes, have delved into that a little bit more, and then of course maybe going to Hell a little bit, and see if it’s really the way Dante portrayed it.
What would you tell people as reasons to check out the episodes of Reaper on FEARnet?
Number one, our pilot was directed by Kevin Smith. If they know anything about Kevin, they know the tone that the show will take. His movie Dogma is one of my favorites.
The show is just so well written. The humor is so hip and timely and witty, and then, the imagination just takes hold, and we do things that I think everyone would like to see. We have some great special effects, and the special effects got better and better as the show went on. I just think it’s a real piece of kind of surreal fantasy that everyone could enjoy and laugh at.
I haven’t met anyone — or at least they haven’t said it to me anyway — who felt badly about the show. Everybody’s liked it, and felt very positively toward it.
Why do you think Reaper has endured among its fan base, that the fans are still talking about it six years later?
They like that family of characters, and they like that relationship between The Devil and Sam, and between Sam and his friends, and the situations that they got into. They’re just regular blue collar, working class guys, in over their heads, dealing with one of the most powerful forces in the universe, so that whole aspect of it is, I think, kind of thrilling for people to see. They can put themselves in that situation a little bit, and think about how they would react to it. And, again, the humor. It’s sometimes very tongue in cheek, and well thought out, and I think everybody could enjoy that.
Do you have any final words for the fans who might be reading this?
Oh, just that the Devil loves them, and they can all go to Hell, and I mean that in the nicest way.
Does this have you ready for the reunion? We know we are! We’ll have another Reaper interview coming tomorrow as well… if you’d like to read what we’ve posted so far, go here.