In the new NBC series The Player, Philip Winchester plays Alex Kane, a Vegas security expert whose strange turn of luck lands him in cahoots with a mysterious intelligence organization and seemingly constant mortal danger. While the actor admits to some long shooting days, however, he’s quite certain he’s in no real danger off-screen.
Here, Winchester explains the lucky break that landed him the role, tells us why he loves broken characters and shares why the fun stops when his director yells cut.
Where are you in the world today?
I’m in California, I’m in my car on my way to work. We had a little bit of a late call last night, so I put my daughter down and then hopped in the car and I’m heading up to shoot.
You’re about halfway done filming the first 13 episodes. How’s that going?
It’s going great. We just finished episode five on Monday and we started episode six yesterday. We’re just chipping away at it. The response from the pilot has been very positive, and from what it feels like on set, we certainly have not let any of that energy go. We have really strong episodes under our belts.
You’re playing a Vegas security expert who gets recruited by a shadowy intelligence organization. How’d that happen?
I was sort of in a funny position, because Strike Back had just finished, and we had a six-month hiatus. I’d finished Strike Back December 20 and flown back to Montana, where my wife was eight months pregnant. My daughter Charlie was born on February 4, and it was like, OK, so now what? I’ve got a family, I’m unemployed. Then my phone rang and it was my agent saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great script here on my desk, and they’re interested in having a meeting with you.’ I said, ‘Sure, what is it? Best friend number two in a procedural about lawyers or doctors?’
He sent it over to me. My daughter was three days old at this point. I managed to read it between going back to the house to pick up supplies for my wife, and running back to the hospital, and it was brilliant. It was a fantastic script. My agent said they wanted to meet me the next day. I talked to my wife, and here we are with this newborn baby, and she looked at me and she said, ‘You have to do this. You have to try.’ So, I flew down for 24 hours. I flew down on a Tuesday night, and went in to Sony on a Wednesday morning and I got a phone call when I walked out saying, ‘They want to do this.’
Other than the stars aligning, what made Alex a role you wanted to play?
When I read a script, I like reading characters that are flawed, that have brokenness in them. When you read a script that has broken, flawed characters, it’s really interesting because it’s very close to real life. This script had three or four characters who were all, in their own right, really interesting, but they were all lying or covering something up in order to protect their own story. So, there was all this backstory going on. Especially when you get them all in one place. And then you add great actors with it, Charity Wakefield and Damon Gupton and of course Wesley Snipes. They always know what’s up, and they give and give in the scenes. Everyone’s kind of bouncing off each other, and that doesn’t happen all the time.
What’s in store for Alex over the course of the season?
The show runners are keeping me out of a lot of what’s happening, because we have a mystery that runs through the whole season.
Are you having fun off-camera?
We don’t have any fun off camera! I am in there all the time working. When I come home, if I’m lucky I can put my girl down, eat some food and go to bed. It’s so full on. We worked five 16-hour shifts last week. It was just brutal. We’re getting our asses kicked. It’s a hard show, but it’s nice to be a part of that.