Exclusive Interview: Hulu’s ‘Endgame’ Series Star Shawn Doyle Talks About Playing A Genius, Being Barefoot and A Potential Second Season

If someone ever murders me, please, Oh God please, get someone like Arkady Balagan to investigate my murder.

Who is Arkady Balagan you ask? He is the lead character in the Hulu series Endgame which follows former World Chess Champion Arkady Balagan, a genius who uses his deductive talents to solve crimes from the comfort of a luxury hotel. Why a hotel you ask? It turns out that, following the suspicious murder of his fiancée in an explosion right in front of the hotel, Arkady was stricken with a severe bout of agoraphobia which prevents him from leaving the hotel without getting into severe panic attacks.

TV Equals had a chance to talk to Shawn Doyle who plays Arkady Balagan and he opened up quite a bit on the show, his character, playing with Katharine Isabelle and even of the potential for a second season. Check out what he had to say below and don’t forget to head over to Hulu to watch the latest episode of Endgame which comes out every Monday exclusively on Hulu.

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What attracted you to that part of Arkady Balagan?

Shawn Doyle: I think it was the level of play and imagination that an actor could bring to it. You don’t normally get a chance in a lot of straight ahead, naturalistic roles [to do that]. In fact at the beginning I had turned the show down because the idea of playing a character who was stuck on the same sets for seven months just didn’t seem that exciting.

I thought it would drive me right around the bend, but it was through some conversations with the creator, and then actually getting in the room with him and the director and playing around that I realized, first of all, that the character goes everywhere in his imagination which meant that I, as an actor, could get outside. It also meant that I could operate on a level of imagination that you don’t often get a chance to as an actor. Also, the guy is such a brilliant jerk and he gets to mess with everyone’s minds and surprise other people and surprise himself. That’s all very attractive, that kind of sense of play for an actor. So, once I realized that was all going to be a part of the package I was really excited to play him.

How did you prepare for the role, the characters accent and his unique dialogue?

Shawn Doyle: Well, I can’t take any of the credit for the dialogue. That’s some fantastic writers that came up with that. He’s a really, really funny and sharp character. That was just a joy to be able to throw out those zingers and be the smart guy in the room. That’s like a fantasy that we all have on some level and to kind of act out of any appropriate social norms and mess with people. So, that’s exciting.

In terms of preparation for the character I worked with a dialect coach for the accent and started to realize that if I just pursued a traditional Russian accent I would be giving short shrift to the wide range of dynamism that Arkady needed. When a non-native tries an accent on he usually gets stuck in the rules and they don’t even get to the character or the acting. They’re much more concerned about making the appropriate sounds, but the problem is that if you focus on that you never ever really discover who the character is, and so what you’re doing is not authentic at all. You’re wrapped up in hearing yourself talk which is not the point of what we do.

So, at some point I kind of threw away the rules of the accent and allowed it to just kind of breathe and stretch and become what it needed to be for this character who was really all over the map in terms of emotion and energy and strategy. So what ended up coming out was the idea that he had left home at a very early age and traveled around the world and had been educated all over the place, and so his accent is somewhat inconsistent in that he’s taken on western colloquialisms as well as what he grew up with in much the same was as Garry Kasparov who became kind of a model for the character, the same idea. He’s a world traveled man who sounds almost cosmopolitan and European sometimes. Then other than that, Avrum [Jacobson] talked about hair color and the bare footedness of him and then it was just about jumping off of a cliff and doing it.

Was it uncomfortable to be barefoot all the time?

Shawn Doyle: Oh my God, no. It was awesome. It was fantastic because you’re grounded. You’re in contact with the floor and so you’re just feeling like you’re right there all the time, and also, a funny thing about the character that we discovered earlier on, we kept running out of room in the studio for him to walk, any kind of walk and talks where we’re walking down a corridor or anything because the guy has nowhere to go and yet he walks as quickly as possible to create the illusion that he’s busy or something. He’s so desperately trying to find entertainment and engagement in his kind of limited way that the barefoot walking thing became a quick character trait.

There are a lot of interesting characters on the show, especially Danni, who seems to have a strong connection with Arkady. Was that intentional in the script or did it happen organically?

Shawn Doyle: I think the writers always had the intention to make somewhat of an ambiguous tension between the characters. There’s no doubt about that, but Katharine [Isabelle] is such a terrific actor and we just really hit it off as actors playing those scenes. I always look forward to doing scenes with her because acting is like a ping pong game. You bang that ball and you hope that it’s going to be received as quickly as you’re tossing it out and it always was with her. She’s a really terrific actor. So, there was always a great sense of play in our scenes and maybe that’s what you’re seeing.

The show has already aired in Canada and has a strong fan base. What’s been the reaction to the series so far?

Shawn Doyle: As much as I love playing the character and it being such a gift of a role, the reaction with the fans and the feedback has kind of been the highlight of the whole experience. As I was saying earlier to someone, I came up through the theater and the idea of having a direct connection with an audience is something that means something to me. Often in TV land and film land we don’t necessarily get that in a personal way, but I’ve had many conversations with fans from all over the world and I’ve had some relationships that have developed with people who have spearheaded this “Save ‘Endgame'” campaign and whatnot. To know that people care enough about the show and that it’s affected them enough that they will rally to get the show saved, that means a lot to all of us and it’s very exciting because at the end of the day that’s what we’re trying to do, make people days a little bit better and have some good entertainment for them.

You mentioned the Save ‘Endgame’ campaign. Is there hope now for a second season?

Shawn Doyle: Well, we’re not sure. I think we would love to. We don’t know where that’s going to come from, but obviously it would be great if we got a second season and there’s a lot of people out there that definitely want it. Really, for us, it’s the idea that the show meant enough to enough people that they would actually start this campaign. That’s a testament to this idea that our creator Avrum Jacobson had.

If you could guest star on any other television show, your pick of the litter, which one would it be?

Shawn Doyle: ‘Breaking Bad.’ because it’s the opportunity to play outside of the kind of boundaries that we human beings are allowed to do. Any time you get to be a bad boy or do things that are perceived as bad I think it’s always fun and exciting and titillating. Also, I love the show ‘The Killing.’ My ex-wife from ‘Big Love,’ Mireille Enos stars in ‘The Killing’ and that was brilliant, the first season. She’s fantastic. The show is fantastic and I’d love to be a part of that, too.

Do you have any other upcoming projects that you’ve worked on and can talk about?

Shawn Doyle: Yeah. I shot a film in the fall, a Canadian film, but hopefully we’ll have worldwide release. It’s called ‘The Disappeared‘ and it’s about six fishermen who’s boats go down in the Atlantic and they’re lost at sea in two dories. The entire movie takes place in these two dories in the middle of the ocean.

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If you are a fan of the show, head over to Hulu to watch the latest episode of Endgame or you can watch it below now.

  • Mature Canadian

    Miss this show and the wonderful storylines and acting.  Shawn Doyle had Arkady down pat and was wonderful.  No Hulu in Ontario so sadly can no longer watch the episodes.  I really hope Endgame comes back for at least one more season so Sean can get off the concrete!  The first season cliffhanger ending is an awful place to leave a charactor! 

  • Mature Canadian

    Miss this show and the wonderful storylines and acting.  Shawn Doyle had Arkady down pat and was wonderful.  No Hulu in Ontario so sadly can no longer watch the episodes.  I really hope Endgame comes back for at least one more season so Sean can get off the concrete!  The first season cliffhanger ending is an awful place to leave a charactor! 

  • Belindabell

    I would like to know what is the real name of the hotel where they filmed the series.I like the interiors