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Jonathan Banks on His New Apple TV+ Series 'Constellation,' Working With Noomi Rapace, and His Love of Hoagy Carmichael

'I read the script, and then I re-read the script, and then I re-read the script again! I thought, "Boy, this is going a lot of different places!"'

Source: Apple TV+

Jonathan Banks, stern as ever in the new Apple TV+ series 'Constellation'

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For the first few decades of his acting career, Jonathan Banks was a "that guy." Those days are over. Thanks to writer/director Vince Gilligan, Banks was officially upgraded to "that guy from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul." Now, however, Banks' days of playing Mike Ehrmantraut are over, but he's still working with the upper echelon of TV creators, reteaming with Michelle MacLaren - who worked on both of the aforementioned shows - for the Apple TV+ sci-fi drama Constellation.

Due to Apple TV+'s tightly-scheduled press days, Banks only had a brief window to chat with Q, but it proved to be more than enough time to discuss his new series and the challenges of playing a dual role, his love of both MacLaren and his new co-star, Noomi Rapace, and his appreciation of a record that the Encyclopedia Britannica once called "one of the most renowned and most recorded standards in all of American music."

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Source: Apple TV+

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." Jonathan Banks in the new Apple TV+ series "Constellation"

So this has to be your first sci-fi series as a series regular since Otherworld, right?

Yeah, I think so!

[Writer's note: If you're unfamiliar with this 1985 CBS series, you need to fix that situation right now by clicking right here.]

It's definitely a different slice of drama than the Vince Gilligan universe that you've been living in for the past several years. How have you enjoyed the experience thus far?

It's been wonderful. Michelle MacLaren and I go way back, and when she told me it was Noomi [Rapace], I read the script, and then I re-read the script, and then I re-read the script again! [Laughs.] I had to get clarity, because I thought, "Boy, this is going a lot of different places!"

So what can you tell me, if only in a nutshell, about your character, Henry, and your other character, Bud?

Well, I can tell you about Henry and Bud. Henry is driven and obsessed with his machine, which he calls his baby, and it was important for me to try and find humanity in that man. His twin, Bud, is eaten with jealousy and anger and envy and wants revenge, and I needed to find humanity in Bud as well. I got very lucky with Henry when he has a scene on the swings with the little girl. Rosie and Davina are the two twins who play that character. But she's lost, and...you know what? He sees that she's lost. It gave Henry a human side. I was really grateful that we had that scene.

Obviously, you've done a fair amount of sci-fi in your career, but do you actually consider yourself to be a sci-fi fan?

Well, I consider this to be quantum physics. I do! Where things exist on two different planes, and the possibility of it. And trust me, I don't mean to sound like a pretentious ass. [Laughs.] I know nothing, really, about quantum physics, except that things can exist on two different planes.

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Source: Apple TV+

No matter what series he's in, Jonathan Banks always has a bit of a "don't mess with me, pal" vibe to him.

I've watched the first two episodes, and it's definitely a series that viewers should take slow, which I mean in the best possible way.

Well, I've only seen the first two episodes myself - although I know what happens! - so I'm kind of anxious to see it unfold myself!

How did you enjoy the experience of working with Noomi Rapace?

Noomi's the best. Noomi is such a dedicated worker, and then you have the actress and the artist. But Noomi wants to bring her very best to what she does. And I'm impressed. Not only do I care about her, but I really like her. I did a lot of interviews with her, and I just like to hear her talk! [Laughs.] I like to hear what she has to say about the series!

As you said, this was a reunion with Michelle MacLaren. Obviously, she's a very adaptable director, but what was it like working with her in such a different context?

You ought to see her work. I mean, she's another one who's not dissimilar to Noomi. She's just driven, and when she's doing a scene, she's going to get it. She's unflappable. I've never seen her with a bad attitude. I've never seen her petulant or angry. But, boy, she's moving. She's just going.

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You've spent a great deal of your career as a journeyman actor. Did you always know that you wanted to go on to another series once Better Call Saul wrapped up?

I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know. You know, I was 77 yesterday, and it's one of those things where it's been a good ride, and how long do I want to stay on it? That's kind of the way I'm looking at it.

Was it almost disconcerting to have two long-running shows after spending so long as a journeyman?

Well, I mean, I go back to some of the series I did that didn't run as long, but...there were other series, y'know? You go back to Wiseguy in the mid-'80s, and that was four years. There's stuff. [Laughs.] You can even go back to The Gangster Chronicles, which was before that. That was a couple of years. There's just stuff. Good stuff. Great times. Wonderful times.

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When you look back at your career, would you say there's a project that didn't get the love you thought it deserved?

I think "deserved" is... [Hesitates.] It's a touchy word, you know? There are a lot of people who don't get things that they "deserve." Way too many. The struggle to be alive, the struggle to do good, to be a decent human being... You just keep plugging away.

I just didn't know if there might've been something that flew under the radar and you wished that more eyes had seen it.

Oh, man... I mean, the last and latest thing was when I did Mudbound for Dee Rees, the female director. It was just as Netflix was releasing their films, and I feel... Maybe I'm wrong, but they had billboards all over town, and they released it in the theater at the same time they put it on Netflix. And I don't think the Academy appreciated that. Mary J. Blige, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but Dee Rees should've been nominated for Best Director. It was a good film. So under the radar? Yeah. But we could go on. If we really try to pull those types of things up, it could go on and on.

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To circle back to Constellation, we discussed how you play two characters in the series, but is this the first time you've had the opportunity to do that in a project?

Wow, I'd have to think. Outside of maybe onstage - whether it was Twelfth Night or whatever it might've been - yeah, I think so.

I know you mentioned what made the characters stand out, but was there any aspect that you found especially challenging?

The physicality of it was challenging at times. Especially because I got COVID in Germany, and you don't want to get COVID in a hotel room and have to put all your stuff outside the door in a plastic bag. You're locked in your room. I thought, "Oh, I'm in jail, for Christ's sake!" But you know what? I wasn't in jail. I had a little small balcony - very small, but it looked out onto the street - and I had a television set. I was just fine.

Lastly, if asked to choose a Record That Changed Your Life, do you have one?

Well, I'd probably say "Stardust," because Hoagy Carmichael and I both went to Indiana University, but I'm a huge Hoagy Carmichael fan, and my mother... "Stardust" was her favorite piece. You know, when you're a small child and you hear that... Yeah, let's go with "Stardust."

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