Christian Slater (pictured, courtesy ABC) is a household name. He has tried his hand at, and succeeded in, just about every acting genre there is as a star of the silver screen, the small screen and the stage. This fall, Christian brings us what is perhaps his most compassionate character to date. He plays Alex Donovan, a man who heads up a team of dedicated amateurs — "The Forgotten Network" — that works on murder cases involving unidentified victims. After the police have given up, this group must first solve the puzzle of the victim’s identity in order to help catch the killer.
I caught up with Christian recently to discuss his latest endeavor, The Forgotten, which premieres tonight on ABC at 10/9c.
Celebrity Extra: I see you have the coveted after-Dancing With the Stars timeslot …
Christian Slater: Yes, we are very, very happy about that. We are all really excited. The fact that ABC, Jonathan Littman and Anne Sweeney have been so supportive is really great.
CE: What was it about the part of Alex that made you want to play this role?
CS: Alex is a guy who has certainly gone through something phenomenally difficult. The idea of having a daughter who was kidnapped two years ago, the struggle and emotional torment someone would go through having had that experience I thought was fascinating. It adds a deeper layer to a character. I think he’s a guy who’s at a place now of compassion and understanding, and he doesn’t judge people. His main reason for operating is to give closure to people, closure that he does not have himself.
CE: What makes The Forgotten different from the other crime dramas?
CS: It’s about a group of volunteers — these are not experts by any means. We’re not CSI guys. I mean, I don’t even have a gun! My character is off the force, but he still has a connection to the Chicago PD. They have so many cases that they are overwhelmed with — there are more than 40,000 John and Jane Doe cases across the country — and there just aren’t enough man-hours to solve all these cases. Myself, along with the rest of the volunteers — one is a telephone repairman, one’s an office worker, one’s an art student — we kind of do what we can to put the pieces of the puzzle together to try to bring closure to some of the families who’ve been unable to get it. They go from worrying about their family member who is gone to being able to start the grieving process.
CE: How did you prepare for your role?
CS: I didn’t have a whole lot of time to research for this role, but it was fascinating to find out that there are groups out there that do actually do this. We’re having some of those volunteers come in within the next couple of weeks, and we’ll get to speak with them and pick their brains. Right now it has just been about telling these stories and getting the sense of where our characters are coming from.
CE: What about Alex can you relate to, especially being a father yourself?
CS: The idea of having a daughter kidnapped at the age of 8 is something I hope to never be able to relate to. My daughter is 8; I certainly can identify with the love that you have for your child. It’s like having a part of you running around outside of you. To lose something like that, or not to know where that part has gone, is almost intolerable. I can only imagine that Alex has certainly gone through quite an emotional ride, and he’s managed to channel it into doing something positive for other people.
CE: When he does get the chance to help solve one of these cases, does it help him with his feelings of uncertainty with his own daughter, or does it make him angrier that his case is still unsolved?
CS: I think a little bit of both. Each time he speaks to a mother or father and gives them the closure that they’ve been looking for, I think he’s always observing what it will be like for him when he finally gets his answer.
CE: The Forgotten is executive-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who is also behind the megahits CSI and Cold Case. A lot of their success, I believe, comes from the love the audience feels for the characters as well as the cases. What are audiences going to love about the characters on The Forgotten?
CS: These people aren’t experts; they are volunteers doing the best they can to identify the innocent so they can also help identify the guilty. They go about it in their own unique fashion. These are just regular people like you and me who have been put in a situation for their own reasons — healing whatever wounds they may have — to solve these cases. I think it makes it very human and very relatable. It has a lot of heart and soul.
CE: The majority of the breadth of your work has been dramatic — lots of thrillers and shoot-’em-ups — and this is a slightly different genre where you have a mystery to solve with kind of a feel-good ending. How has it been working on something that is somewhat different from what you are used to?
CS: For me, it’s a great relief to get this kind of opportunity. It’s kind of more along the lines of who I really am, in a way, and the types of stories I would like to tell. This is a very compassionate character, and the idea of being able to give some answers to people really is a feel-good feeling.