'Treme' star Colin Walker talks series finale [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

By Amanda Ostuni,
As the series finale approaches, Walker discusses his past, present and future

On Sunday, Dec. 29, HBO will air the finale of the fourth and final season of Treme, a show which actor Colin Walker became a part of in episode 11 of its second season. The show hit home for Walker, a New Orleans native, as it was about the recovery and rebuilding of the city after Hurricane Katrina's destroyed it. Walker's character, FBI Agent James Collington, was tasked with helping to combat the corruption of the post-Katrina New Orleans criminal justice system.

As Treme progressed from an idea to a reality, from season to season, so too, did Walker's life. He became a father of two in reality, pursued athletic interests in marathons, Ironman Triathlons, and surfing, and picked up a few movie roles. He recently appeared in Lee Daniels' The Butler as John Ehrlichman, a non-fictional person who'd been Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under president Richard Nixon.

In the wake of wrapping Treme, Walker talked to TheCelebrityCafe.com about his experience working on the show, what's in store for the final season, and what's next for him.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: How do you feel about the fact that Treme is ending?

Colin Walker: It's certainly bittersweet. There was talk that we were on the bubble about whether we would get a fourth season or not, so I'm really grateful that we got that. I think Treme is a really important story that's been (and being) told, and it's different than a lot of things on television, thematically as well as structurally, pacing and everything else. I'm grateful that there's a place like HBO that will take a chance and do something different creatively. Do I wish it would go on another five seasons? Absolutely. I had always hoped, and I think a lot of friends of mine from New Orleans had hoped that the show would go all the way until, you know the Saints won the Super Bowl. Being a native New Orleanian, I was actively involved in a lot of the different aspects, and seeing a lot of the different aspects of the recovery from [Hurricane] Katrina and it took a long time, so when the Saints won the Super Bowl it really felt like we had sort of put a lot of that behind us. There's still obviously continued recovery and what have you, but that was a big marking point, so I think we all wanted this series to go on a little bit longer, certainly, but I also feel very grateful that we were able to get four good, solid seasons and tell some important stories.

TCC: Can you hint anything about the final season?

CW: There's very little I can tell you about what happens other than the first week, already they've started—what I think that's interesting that [creators] David Simon and Eric Overmyer and everybody have done with this season is, yes there's definitely some loose ends that are being tied up. But they're opening new things. Melissa Leo's character [Toni Bernette] starts finding out about death in the Orleans Parish Prison and she starts diving in, so it's not like her character is just tying things up. I think one of the things that is great about this show is that it examines the reality in a real way. So there are a lot of these problems, although there's been great recovery in New Orleans, a lot of problems of corruption and what have you still exist. So I think it's left sort of open-ended in some regards, and there are definitely some questions answered, things like that.

TCC: Did you work on movies while finishing up Treme as a way of transitioning into film or to avoid getting pigeonholed into TV, or did it just happen?

CW: A little bit of both. I think there's been so much focus on all the great television going on that I think, I grew up watching some of the groupie movies and I also went to film school, so I'm a fan of movies and I like the form, so it's really enjoyable. Also the actual production of movies is a different pace — you're allowed more time to create a character and to work. I mean, to give you an example, most of it got cut out, but we had one five-page scene in The Butler that took us 12 hours to shoot and on Treme, I'll have a four-page scene that will be done in two hours. So in television, you're making a one-hour movie in a week, whereas in [film], you usually have two months to make a two-hour movie, so just the sheer nature of production, it felt like a natural shift to go back and do some movie work.

TCC: You just touched on it, but do you want to add anything about how television work compares to movies?

CW: I think television has gotten so good that it's no longer — it used to be just sort of a stepping stone to doing movies and now I think television can be as good, if not better in some ways, than movies. So I think they both stand on equal ground but they're different.

TCC: Is the fan base different between movies and shows?

CW: I think so just given that, whether it's like a Netflix where they release, like a House of Cards where they release all twelve episodes at once or whether it's like a Walking Dead where they release it once a week, I think fans of television seem much more engaged. I've done some spots on television shows that have really loyal followings, and they become quickly engaged in what's happening and who's this, why are you coming on to be with this character and all of that. So I definitely feel like the fan base of television, just given the nature of it, given that they have a period of time to develop and interact with the characters, seems to be much more engaged.

TCC: Now about your past experiences... You've often been asked what it was like to work with all stars on The Butler and you've said it didn't feel different from other experiences, but what about working with an ensemble cast versus a smaller group, what's that like?

CW: Yeah certainly, I think, I've done lots and lots of theater over the years—I've done everything from small two-person shows to big ensemble casts and one of the things about working in an ensemble cast is that everybody is there to serve the story. That's why I said that about The Butler. There was certainly plenty of superstars there but there didn't feel like anybody was playing the superstar. I think everybody was there to serve the story first and foremost. And the director Lee Daniels was so great and collaborative. I mean, he was asking everybody, to a point, what do you think and how do you feel, how can you add to it, so it really felt like we were all in it together. And it was great to work with someone like John Cusack to see, you have an image of him as a star showing up but he was sharing his research material and really in it for the story as well.

TCC: You've acted alongside a lot of different types of people... do you ever find yourself adapting to fit with their personalities?

CW: Certainly — especially in TV. You go onto another person's show, and I'm there to help make them be the best they can and help serve the story. And there are certainly different, all those people you mentioned, along with David Morse and Melissa Leo and David Simon, everybody's got their own personalities and it's part of the challenge and yet joy of being sort of a journeyman character actor, is that I get to work with all these different people. And working with different personalities is probably similar to your job; when you pick up the phone and have to interview somebody you have to deal with different kinds of people, and I think that's part of the fun of what I do also.

TCC: Is there anyone in particular that you enjoyed working with?

CW: Well, I've had quite a few scenes with David Morse and Melissa Leo in Treme and it's really great because they are both very, very powerful actors and yet very, very different in their personality and their style and they're both very, very accomplished, and it's really interesting to go from one scene to the next working with those two different actors because—and I learned a lot from having to work with those two different styles and see how they worked and what they brought to the table. And you know, playing with people on that level is like, I'm sure athletes like to play with the best other athletes—it really raises your level when you work with people like that and it's been a joy to work with those folks.

TCC: Do you have a certain style?

CW: I suppose I have a certain style, I don't know if I could put a finger on it. I might be a little more internal and reserved. I've always enjoyed focusing on listening and being present with another actor which is what I get most out of working, acting.

TCC: You've played a lot of tough guys in government/law enforcement positions of authority. Do you think that's happened because of your looks or are you personally drawn to those roles?

CW: I think that the way I look probably speaks to a certain amount of it, and I enjoy being in a position of authority on screen. There's a certain amount of power to hold and that's always fun to walk into a scene and walk into a room holding that kind of power, so that might be part of the reason why.

TCC: Who has been your favorite character to play so far?

CW: You know they've all been so similar and yet different. I really enjoyed playing John Ehrlichman in The Butler because it was different in that it was an actual person, and so I got to do some research based on real-life events. It's been interesting working on Treme because there's so many real-life events that we're working on and there are some characters who are real people that we're portraying, but my character is just sort of a combination of several different real-life FBI agents. So I'd have to say either John Ehrlichman in The Butler or special Agent Collington in Treme.

TCC: What do you have coming up next?

CW: Well there's a really great horror movie coming out I think the second week in January called Devil's Due and it's really exciting. It's kind of a reimagining of an old classic, Rosemary's Baby, so there's definitely some psychological aspects to it and some supernatural aspects to it. The trailer's out already and I was in [the movie] and the trailer still scares me.

And next summer — I think it's going to be next summer — is a zombie picture called Maggie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin.

TCC: Is filming finished on that?

CW: I'm finished working on it. I just had a small part in that. I had met with the director about a bigger part and they went a different direction, but he was nice enough to say well, would you like to come and work with us anyway and I, Arnold Schwarzenegger is just an icon, I was willing to do even just a small part just to go and have fun working a day with him and he was really great, it was great to work on that picture.

TCC: And you mentioned in another interview that you'll star in a film next year called Pluto's Gate?

CW: Yes, we are working on that right now. We have been meeting with some other producers. I've got a good friend of mine who's also an accomplished writer and director—and that is a psychological thriller, supernatural, sort of like Poltergeist, and it's based on some real events that's happened in Turkey so we plan to start shooting in the spring in Turkey.

TCC: When might that be out?

CW: Maybe December of 2015.

TCC: And you will be the main character?

CW: Yes, that's going to be a lot of fun because I will be leading it, and we're working on some aspects where, when we first started talking about the more complex aspects of the character.

TCC: It's a really interesting story.

CW: Yeah it's really exciting and I think that's one of the things that we think is going to make it a great movie and has attracted me to it—just that, as soon as you start reading the story it just definitely tickles you in a way that gets you excited.

TCC: Do you think your role in Treme helped you land some of these movie roles?

CW: Yes and no. I mean, it's been interesting because every time I go in for a job I sit across the room from people who have a lot longer resumes than I do and a lot different things. I definitely think the awareness level about me as an actor has grown from Treme, and being associated with people like David Simon, Eric Overmyer, and George Pelecanos [executive producer of Treme] who do quality, quality work and who put their trust in me to help tell the story, I think that people recognize, "Oh if they trust him, then he can do good work." But I think when it comes down to it directors—I got a good friend of mine who's a television producer and he says "I gotta go with who helps me tell the story the best and who's gonna do the best job, whether they've got a resume a mile long or whether they've got one thing, whoever is the best for the job."

TCC: You've done mostly serious, dark work, including your upcoming projects. Can you see yourself doing comedy?

CW: That's so funny, I was just talking to a friend of mine today, and I would love to do some comedy. I'm actually working with a couple of different friends of mine who do a lot of comedy and they're doing some web series. I think people don't necessarily think of me that way first and foremost, so I'm not up for a lot of those jobs, but I was joking around with a friend of mine earlier today, and he was saying, "Man you've got to do some comedy." As serious as I can be, I think there's definitely a lighter side, and given the ability to make your own stuff and so many friends of mine are doing web series and what have you, I think it would be fun to do some comedy, certainly.

TCC: You've said in interviews that you want to play an antihero. Is that still a dream role and why?

CW: I would love to play an antihero. First off, I think that it's just a meatier character to have a lot of fun with, to play both types. I think people have come to know me as like, authority or officer of the law in some form or another, so to play the opposite of that would be fun dramatically, and also it would be sort of a challenge to have all of that going on underneath the surface.

TCC: Actors seem to like playing the most complex characters they can.

CW: Absolutely, it's so much fun. A lot of times when I'm working on a character, I will develop a lot of the character that never makes it to the screen necessarily, either because of editing or because that just doesn't serve the story. So it's always fun to play a character where the complexities of any human being make it to the screen and you get to see all of that.

TCC: It seems like it's been a huge year for you. Do you agree, and if so, how do you feel about it?

CW: Yeah, the last couple of years have been really, really great. I like to credit my son with that, because when he was born, three days later I got the call from David Simon saying we'll meet you in New Orleans. And my wife is so incredibly supportive, because I was like, "Oh I can't go my son has just been born," and my wife said, "This is all you've been talking about—this show for two years, for a year, go." So I got on a plane the next day and went and got the job, and that has been—a lot has come from working on Treme, so I like to say my son is my good luck charm.

TCC: Is there anything else you would like to share with fans... anything about social media?

CW: Everything is pretty much 'The Colin Walker.' So my website is TheColinWalker[dot com], Twitter is @TheColinWalker, Facebook is TheColinWalker. If anything, I'd like to add that that isn't out of vanity. It was when I went to do my website, they wanted a lot of money for the name ColinWalker.com and TheColinWalker was free.

You can catch the final season of "Treme" every Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO. The series finale airs December 29.

Image courtesy of TheColinWalker.com


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