New crime drama Interrogation, streaming Thursday on CBS All Access, encourages viewers to choose their own adventure, watching episodes in whatever order they prefer.
For star Kyle Gallner, 33, who grew up in West Chester, the appeal of acting in Interrogation stemmed from the nonlinear storytelling and the opportunity to portray murder suspect Eric Fisher from ages 17 to 40 in an investigation that spans decades.
“That automatically intrigued me,” Gallner said in an interview last month during the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “It kind of scared me. Can I do this?”
Unlike most CBS All Access shows that release new episodes weekly, the entire season of Interrogation goes online on the premiere date. Producers recommend starting with “Eric Fisher” as the first episode and ending with “Trey Carano” but beyond that, they encourage viewers to jump around.
“Eric Fisher” offers Eric’s point of view on the day of his mother’s murder. He’s in his hometown of Sherman Oaks, Calif., in 1983, trying to get into his parents’ house where he eventually discovers the body of his mother, Mary (Joanna Going), and quickly becomes the prime suspect in the mind of police detective David Russell (Peter Sarsgaard).
Gallner said he worked to differentiate his performance as 17-year-old Eric from the way he played Eric at 40.
“Maybe it’s different ways he holds himself, different ways he walks or talks,” Gallner said. “There’s one little piece where I'm young. I have a sweatshirt on and I'm chewing on the sweatshirt string. That feels like a very young thing. It's just trying to create the different versions of this guy as the time goes on and keeping the continuity of the choices that I had made as you jump around from age to age.”
During the making of Interrogation, Gallner sometimes had to act in scenes at multiple ages within the same day.
In addition, because each episode is from a different character’s perspective, Gallner had to calibrate his performance to conform to the perspective of the character whose episode it was.
For viewers who don’t want to choose their own episode order, there is a curated order — once one episode finishes, the next one will start — but producers and Gallner encourage viewers to play armchair detective as they binge Interrogation, which was inspired by a real-world case.
“It truly is like a cold-case investigation,” Gallner said. “If you’re watching an episode and you hear a name come up, you can find an episode that has that person’s name on it [as the episode’s title] and you can start learning about that person and you can start piecing all this information together."
The episode producers selected to be the first was inspired by how real cold-case detectives might approach a moribund investigation.
“They first familiarize themselves with what happened the day of the crime,” said executive producer John Mankiewicz. “They learn the facts of the case in terms of crime scene stuff and forensics and then they create their own narrative from that, following the evidence.”
As a child Gallner never acted in school plays but one day he followed his sister to an audition.
“She got a little bit of an acting bug and someone gave us the name of a talent manager in Philadelphia and I just followed along and the woman asked me if I wanted to read [for] a Smucker’s [jelly] commercial,” said Gallner, who didn’t land that spot. “And then she sent me on my first audition and I ended up being at an agency and I ended up getting an agent. It was all this weird snowball.”
After he “did the whole New York thing” with guest spots on Third Watch and Law & Order: SVU, Gallner left West Chester East High his senior year to move to Los Angeles for the sake of his budding acting career.
He gained prominence with his first series regular role on the first two seasons of Veronica Mars (2005-06) and worked steadily with recurring roles on HBO’s Big Love, CSI: New York, Smallville and a leading role on filmed-in-Pittsburgh WGN America drama Outsiders (2016-17).
Interrogation is an anthology with a new case each season, so if the series returns for a second season it will be with a new cast. Gallner’s latest projects include punk rock love story Dinner in America, which was in dramatic competition at the recent Sundance Film Festival, and an indie feature, The Catch, about a prodigal daughter who returns to her lobster fishing family in Maine.
Then it’s back to seeking out new roles.
“It’s an interesting place to be in because you're transitioning into the adult career,” said Gallner, who can still convincingly pass for a young twentysomething. “The teenage angst stuff, I can’t do it anymore.”
It’s also an interesting time to be an actor: More programs are getting made with the streaming services covetous of original series.
“You have a lot of actors that may be switching over to TV, so sometimes you don’t even get a shot at certain TV shows because they’re already filled up before they even get going," Gallner said. "But nothing’s changed in a way, too — it’s always the hustle. It never stops. You just buckle down. Do your job. Hope you delivered the work and keep up.”
STREAMING SERIES PREVIEW
When: Feb. 6, CBS All Access.