Graceland Postmortem: Daniel Sunjata on Charlie's Big News and That Phone Call
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Graceland. Read at your own risk.]
Unlike so many of his housemates, it’s been a (relatively) calm season thus far for Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) on USA’s Graceland. However, that came to an abrupt end in Wednesday’s episode, when Briggs was hit with not one, but two bombshells. The first was the news that his girlfriend and frequent partner in crime(-solving) Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) is pregnant with their baby, and the second arrived in the form of a disturbing phone call he received in the hour’s final moments, during which someone played back the tape recording of Briggs killing FBI Agent Juan Badillo last year.
“I think what went through his mind is ‘Oh, sh–,’ Sunjata tells TVGuide.com. “When it comes to the tape, it’s an issue of self preservation. Briggs has no interest in spending 20 years in jail for even accidentally killing an FBI officer so he had a moment of panic.”
So, what extreme measures will Briggs go to stay out of jail? And what’s next for him and Charlie? Sunjata spoke with TVGuide.com about all that and more.
Briggs is going to be a dad! What was your first reaction when you found out?
Daniel Sunjata: I thought it was actually a really interesting plot twist and whether or not Briggs will end being a dad is actually still yet to be determined. All we know at this point is that Charlie could be pregnant. That definitely added a lot of texture to the relationship between Briggs and Charlie, and specifically Briggs in particular, because it kind of forces him to reevaluate his priorities as the season moves forward.
I have to say I was surprised about how well he took it. I thought he was going to have more of a freakout. Why do you think he’s so open to this major life change?
Sunjata: He’s been through a lot. He realizes what Charlie represents in his life and I guess if it’s going to be anybody, it may as well be her. He loves her. There’s also the fact that contrary to popular belief, not every guy freaks out when he’s going to have a kid. Some men actually want children. [laughs]
I think I was more surprised because of the line of work they’re in. Because of the kind of job they do and the kind of lives they have, I thought he would worry more about how a kid would affect those things.
Sunjata: Absolutely. Now that I think about that, it’s not like they’re just working at a movie theater and somebody gets pregnant. I think it does force him to reevaluate his priorities. Maybe he loves Charlie so much and he’s so open to the idea of having a kid that he might be willing to do just about anything to accommodate that.
I loved what he said to Charlie — that if it was with anyone, he would want it to be with her. What makes their relationship work so well? What is it about Charlie that attracts Briggs?
Sunjata: She understands him. She might not know everything about what’s going on with Briggs but in some way her intuition always seems to be right on point. She sometimes doesn’t realize, and it’s never her fault, it’s always because of Briggs’ attempts to hide things from her, but she seems to know where he’s at even when he’s trying to hide, and I think that he just realizes that that’s not a common thing just to have happen all the time. I think it’s a very basic human desire to be seen and understood, and I think he feels seen and understood by her, and I think he sees and understands her as well. There’s also the history that they have. Even by the time the pilot episode kicks off and we are introduced to the characters of Graceland, they already have a history that goes back some time. … [Thanks to the] experiences that they’ve shared together both operationally as well as romantically, she seems, at least, now, to be the one. I’m not so sure that he’s wrong.
How will their relationship change now that they have a baby on the way?
Sunjata: There are so many things that are kind of coming to the surface now, plot-wise, that will kind of come to bear on the answer to that particular question that it’s hard for me to answer it without giving spoilers. I will say that No. 1, we don’t know what Charlie’s ultimate decision is going to be. She may decide she wants to have it. She may decide she doesn’t want to have it. And then there are other things, there’s this reintroduction of the tape. Briggs doesn’t know where or rather how or why. There are things that he has continued to lie about that the revelation of the tape would expose him for and that could potentially damage his relationships with people in the house, possibly his relationship with Charlie at a time when it’s already in a very delicate position, his relationship with Mike, his relationship with Jakes who helped him cover his tracks at the end of Season 1. So it’s going to be a very complicated set of circumstances as we approach the season finale.
I think the reintroduction of the tape was surprising to viewers after Season 1. Did you always know that this story line would be explored further?
Sunjata: I was pretty sure that the tape was going to pop back up, but [creator] Jeff [Eastin] didn’t tell me personally when that might happen. In my mind, as Daniel, I thought maybe that might pop back up Season 3, it might pop back up at some point during the current season. … I was actually anxious [for it] to pop back up because it makes things complicated and that makes for good TV. I was waiting.
What will be his next course of action after hearing the tape?
Sunjata: I’ll tell you this: he starts trying to figure out who’s got the tape, and who is messing with him in this way and what is he going to do about it. That’s where his mind goes after the panic wears off: how do I stop this from getting any worse?
It’s been interesting, too, because for most of the season, Briggs has been trying to stay on the straight and narrow and obviously this is going to derail that a bit.
Sunjata: Briggs found himself at the beginning of Season 2 really trying to, I wouldn’t say necessarily seek redemption, but he’s certainly realized by the end of Season 1 that he had crossed so many boundaries and so many lines in his desire to seek revenge for what is now his reluctant heroin addiction, and of course, for the deaths of all those agents as well as the woman that he loved. Now, at the beginning of Season 2, he’s really trying to recover his balance in that way. I don’t know of how good of a Buddhist he is, but he is a Tibetan Buddhist and he’s probably starting to think about the law of karma somewhat, and not wanting to make things any worse for himself than they may already be. However, of course, because it’s TV, he’s trying to reform himself and there are certain people in the house that kind of need him to show the old flashes of the darker side of Briggs. So there’s always that tension as Season 2 unfolds. That’s what has made him interesting for me to play this season.
Graceland airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA. Do you think Charlie will keep the baby? What should Briggs do about the tape?
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