D'Onofrio burst onto the entertainment scene with his off-the-wall performances in Full Metal Jacket, The Player, Men in Black and The Break-Up, has been entering millions of Americans living rooms as Detective Robert Goren since 2001 on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
Erbe, before Criminal Intent, struck audiences on HBO's Oz and her memorable turn opposite Kevin Bacon in Stir of Echoes. Together, Erbe and D'Onofrio possess that rare cop chemistry that always provides chills with their thrills. As the two actors open up, we get to the heart of what makes these two actors so collectively combustible theatrically.
"Every day we have new challenges, just in dealing with the new actors that we get to work with. We have new writers on the show, new producers and I feel like it's a challenge just staying involved with the work that we're doing and staying actively involved in finding ways for Eames to stay important to the stories and to bring a positive — just have a positive effect on what we're doing," Erbe says.
"I think it's been eight years now, so I think that anything the audience sees is just whatever has happened naturally in the eight years. I think that both of us kind of just rely on that — the history of the show and the history of the characters — to just somehow translate to the audience in some way," D'Onofrio says.Effortless moving between films and TV, D'Onofrio admits —even after eight years of success on TV — he prefers film."It's completely different,' he says of the two mediums."When I first started the TV show, I kind of thought it's ostensibly about the character, and did a lot of planning and stuff. Most of the planning went out the window, and then I just kind of tried my best after that. With a film, it's much more — it's really planned out scene by scene and there's a real solid arc hopefully most of the time. The structure of the film is in three acts, you know it's going to end — it's easier to plan out a role like that. It's just as interesting but it's a completely different thing."There is an inerrant growth required of an actor doing series television. "With the show, it's just wide open. We just keep doing it, and there's different crimes -- different little stories to tell. So it's two different things. I think I just always will prefer films. I just think that's my favorite thing to do," D'Onofrio says. "But Goren's a great character, so it's good to do."
"We have Lynn Redgrave, we have Scott Cohen and Kathy Baker are in the episode Sunday night. We had a great time with them. Who else Vince?" Erbe asks of her co-star."We've also worked with some really good unknown actors, like young people that were really good," D'Onofrio adds. "We're very lucky in that way, that most times we get really good actors, whether they're known actors or not."
Both actors saw the pilot script and subsequent storylines and immediately had to participate."The first 13 scripts were really, really good scripts and maybe there was like one clunker out of the 13, but they were really good scripts and very tough to figure out how to pull the show off while we were doing them. The last thing on my mind was like — it was just a blur. I wasn't thinking about whether the show was going to run, honestly. That's the honest truth. And I think we knew earlier than most people do with a — when you shoot 3, right? I think we knew pretty early that it was going to go," D'Onofrio says.Erbe admits neither star had any idea — even with the Dick Wolf Law and Order franchise moniker — whether this particular show would resonate. "We had no idea. It was just getting through each day, really, trying to make it to the end," Erbe says.Erbe's character continues to strike the actress as someone who challenges her personally. "What I like best about my character is she usually has the right thing to say. She knows what to say; she's fairly straightforward and doesn't seem to have difficulty making choices -- nothing like myself in real life," she admits. "I rarely know the right thing to say and she seems to almost have infinite courage and she's sort of like my fantasy of what it would be like to be like that — strong all the time and know what to do all the time and have a clear idea of what the right thing is to do and that sort of thing. So I like that about her. I like that she's a strong woman in a tough job and a scary job. I think they're both courageous. I think most of NYPD is very courageous. So that's what I like about her.
"The hours are long sometimes, and when we are working we don't see our families as much as we want. But that's part of our job, so we have to do it. And as far as Goren, bringing Goren home, that just doesn't happen anymore. I've been playing him too long, and it's — it's not something that stays with me," D'Onofrio says.
For Erbe, her set downtime involves the four-legged variety that mellows her from the show's sometimes harsh storylines. "I eat, read (and) I walk my dog," she says and laughs.
Although the costs may be family time and long hours, neither actor takes for granted the regular work they receive -- something millions of thespians live without. "It gives us a structure for our lives," Erbe says of a hit show. "I mean, as actors, I never — I was ready to give up acting because I could not handle never knowing when I would have a paycheck or where the job would be, where it would take me; and having a daughter and now my son, I just couldn't — it was just too hard of a life. And this gives us a — when we have time off, we know that it's time off; it's not time out of work, looking for other work."The true treasure beyond a steady acting gig is the relationships forged on the Law and Order set while tirelessly trying to produce television greatness. "It's really such an amazing experience to work with the same people for this length of time. It's challenging and it's so gratifying to know everybody's families and — it's just a very different experience from the sort of crash and burn of going from one job to another and really never knowing — this like gypsy lifestyle, never knowing where you're going to be when," Erbe says. So it's a very different, much more stable, if it's even possible to say that — a stable environment."
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