INTERVIEW

Catching Up With FBI: MOST WANTED Star Julian McMahon (ex-Ian, ANOTHER WORLD)

Aussie native Julian McMahon began his U.S. career on the soap ANOTHER WORLD when he was cast as Ian Rain in 1993. Since then, the actor appeared on CHARMED, headlined NIP/TUCK, was part of the Fantastic Four franchise, and is now starring in the CBS series FBI: MOST WANTED, airing tonight at 10 p.m. ET/9p.m. CT. Here, the actor talks about his career journey.

Soap Opera Digest: Tell me about FBI: MOST WANTED and the character you play.

Julian McMahon: Dick Wolf (executive producer) was very specific about wanting to create a couple of shows that were orientated toward the FBI because they have certain divisions that he thought were all interesting places to mine some work out of and some good drama out of, which he does very well. And one of them was the FBI, which is the regular FBI show, and the other is the Most Wanted division., which is our show, a smaller group. I call them the office show and us the road trip show. It doesn’t mean literally, but figuratively. We get an assignment and we go on the road and chase people down until we catch them. So what happened was Season 1, episode 18 of the first FBI was the embedded pilot, which was its own uniquely written and created piece, specifically for the Most Wanted division, and that was about this character, Jess LaCroix, who is a father who is raising his daughter on his own, he lost his wife in Afghanistan a couple of years earlier and he’s kind of struggling with his own stability of work versus sanity versus raising his daughter at the same time and trying to put those pieces together. He’s a real ornery kind of guy. He’s not very social guy. He put together this very specific team, these five agents and they’ve all got unique and different talents and they’re all top shelf and that’s kind of his family outside of his family being his daughter and his parents-in-law and his parents. He’s a really fascinating character. I was thinking of going back to network television at the time, and I had read a lot of scripts and I was quite surprised, to be honest, that this is the one that stuck with me the most, but it was and here I am.

 Digest: Amy Carlson (ex-Josie, AW) is appearing in a recurring capacity, starting tonight. What was your reaction?

McMahon: Well, you know, I was a little stumped. We had gotten a couple of extra cast members and I had been asked to do some promo stuff. Terry O’Quinn [of LOST fame] came on the show and we were asked to do a bunch of press together, and then after it, it said Amy Carlson’s joining. And I was like, “What? I know that name.” It’s been a long time. Amy lived on the East Coast. I lived on the West Coast. She was busy doing her stuff, I was busy doing mine. And the next thing you know, I was like, “You’ve got to me kidding me.” We’re talking almost 30 years since the first time we worked together to now getting an opportunity to do it again. It’s a cool part of our business, because you do go off on your own a lot in this business and you work with people and then you catch up with them somewhere down the track and I kind of really love that. And then I went to set and there she was. You kind of pick up where you left off a little bit. And she’s got this really fun character that she’s playing, this real kind of bossy, bounty hunter, and then you’ve got Jess, which is the character I play, and the two of them come up against each other and butt heads, so we got the chance to catch up and the chance to work with each other for 3 or 4 days in a row and it was great. It was really, really cool.

 Digest: Amy told me she showed you photos from your AW days. What did you think?  

McMahon: Well, first, you just kind of realize how young we were. We were both novices and we were in an environment where there were a lot of actors who had been in that particular space for quite a long time, and there was a lot to learn from them, in all different ways. It does kind of remind me of the space that we worked in, which is something I’ve never experienced before, that lot over there in Brooklyn, and then all of those actors. I worked on an Australian soap and I had a similar experience. The soap actors are kind of their own breed, and I’ve never met one who’s not ridiculously passionate about what they do. It’s almost like its own theater company or something. And I just really kind of thrived off of that and I think she did, as well. And it’s an environment that you don’t really find outside of that, maybe in the theater, but I haven’t done theater for so long I can’t even remember, to be honest. But it just reminded me of that kind of passion. There were some great characters on that show, including Vicky [Wyndham, ex-Rachel] and [the late] Charles Keating [ex-Carl]. What a character who I just loved and spent a lot of time with, and he would always do theater at the same time, so I’d go watch him in his plays. And then [the late] Carmen Duncan [ex-Iris], who was like my mom for 10, 15 years from that show. And then Paul Valley [ex-Ryan]. He was intense, that guy loved acting. I can’t tell you how many conversations he and I had about performance and acting. And then the couple that I split up on the show, Tom Eplin [ex-Jake] and Judi Evans [ex-Paulina; Bonnie, DAYS], those two as well. The list is endless, the characters and people, and that’s what working with Amy made me think of and really, oh, man, it was such a great time and such a cool period for a kid like her and myself to be a part of that and to have those people influence your life and what you’re doing, so I just considered it such a blessing. There’s a lot that came back from the two of us getting together again.

 Digest: What do you remember about your AW debut?

McMahon: Oh, my God. The first thing I did was at the Cory mansion and my first scene was with Judi Evans — oh, what a sweet, sweet girl, she was so kind to me I can’t even tell you, she was so supportive and so caring — and here I was this 22-year-old dude from Australia and the first scene I had to shoot was in a Speedo, getting out of the Cory pool and I was like, “Oh, all right, I guess this is what you do. You put on your undies and you get out of the pool.”

Digest: You’ve had an incredible career since you left daytime. As you look back on the last 25 years, what does it mean to you that you’ve gotten the roles you have and still are a very active, working actor?

McMahon: Well, the one thing that I think is interesting is I’ve never lost my passion for what I do. I think that, in all honesty, comes from the daytime soap that I did in Australia, which is THE POWER, THE PASSION, and then the soap I did in the US. I mean, they were two hugely influential periods of time, just because of who I was, and that age group, but also the people that I got to play with in that period of time. As I said a moment ago, they just couldn’t have been a better environment for me. THE PASSION was extraordinary, the commitment was extraordinary, so I’ve never lost that. I’ve always dug my teeth into the material and the opportunities you get inside a piece, and that piece can be just one scene, you know? And also the ethics of working: You’re on time, and you work hard and you work in a conglomerate. You get stuff from everybody. And I think Charles reiterated that to me at some point: You can get inspiration from anywhere. And I remember doing NIP/TUCK, for example, and for some reason, I had these really fascinating prop guys who always gave me great ideas! Usually as an actor, you wouldn’t be going to your prop guys for great ideas for your performance, but I relied on them consistently and I think that came out of that kind of growth, that kind of commitment that I got from working on those two shows. And so I think that is something that I’ve carried throughout my whole career and I think it’s been an important facet of what I consider being successful, that I’ve stayed committed to my craft and evolving that craft, and enjoying working in that space.

Julian McMahon

Kobal/Shutterstock

Digest: What are you most recognized for?

McMahon: With this show that just came out, a lot of people see me now and say, “I love that show” and I say, “Which one?” And they’re like, “FBI”, so that’s happened a lot over the last year. And then you’ve got your NIP/TUCK fans that are just completely avid. But then the CHARMED fans, man. Those guys are on it still. They’re relentless, they don’t give up, and then the Fantastic Four movies. People come out of the woodwork and say Dr. Doom. Dr. Doom was huge. It’s hard to kind of think that this bad guy character in a Marvel movie at that point in time was so significant to people but it really was. So it’s kind of a mix. It really just depends on where you are in the world.

Julian McMahon

Marvel/Kobal/Shutterstock

Digest: Do you have a message to the soap fans who have been watching you since your days as Ian?

McMahon: I remember the soap fans were great fans and I loved my time there, so I’m just glad to hear that some of the soaps are still going, and hopefully some of the fans still enjoy some of the work I put out these days.

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