Exclusive Interview: Brendan Penny On Being The Rookie on ABC’s Motive

What’s it like being the new cop on the force?

As it turns out, Brendan Penny can give us some answers. As the young detective Bryan Lewis on ABC’s Motive, Penny portrays a man very green to the detective world. He works in lock step with the two lead detectives played by Kristen Lehman and Louis Ferreira as the three detectives work together with a sassy ME (played by Lauren Holly) to solve crimes where the audience knows the who, but finds out the why as the episode progresses.

Penny was kind of enough to talk with TV Equals about his role on the show, the show’s twist on the common cop procedural, and much more. Check out what he had to say below and be sure to tune in to Motive Thursdays on ABC at 9 PM.

Let’s talk about what drew you to this role to begin with on Motive?

Brendan Penny: I got the part on the show the good old fashioned way of auditioning. Normally when they have the first round of auditions in Vancouver, they only bring in so many people. I was lucky enough my agent pushed me to get me in for this. What I really liked when I first read the audition side was I’ve never really played such an upbeat, good guy. And I really liked the idea of playing a cop because I hadn’t played a cop yet. And there’s a lot of comical things involved with these audition sides that I just thought it was a really neat role. I thought that the possibilities were endless with how you could play this guy. I got really excited for right from the outset when I read my interpretation of how the character was in comparison to the other two. I just really got excited.

Your character really comes across as an interesting guy. He’s obviously the wide-eyed young detective, but he also takes a certain keen interest into certain aspects of being a detective. In the first episode, you just get really into the autopsy that’s going on. Can you talk about some of those acting choices you made there?

Brendan Penny: The fun thing about playing [Detective Bryan] Lucas in the first season is I like to thing about him like a golden retriever puppy. The way that he follows around the two leaders which is [Detective Oscar] Vega and [Detective] Angie [Flynn]. I’ve been lucky enough that because my character is new to being a detective, there’s always different things he gets to discover as firsts on the show. I think that really gives me the ability to make the choice of how would he react to his first autopsy or his first interrogation. I just think he’s so eager that he is kind of wide-eyed and very interested, and I like to play that because it’s such a contrast to the veterans. He’s never done it before, and it’s very fascinating to him.

You mentioned him taking an interest in the two lead detectives. Can you talk about the chemistry of the cast? The three of you do seem to work well together within any given scene.

Brendan Penny: The two leads, Angie and Vega, they have the meat of the show when it comes down to the detective work. I really observe keenly how they play off of each other. What I try to do is just have my character have a lot of similarities with them, but yet be completely different in how he would approach it or his level of interest or sometimes his excitement gets the better of him. I think that because we’re all driving towards the same goal in a scene, I think the different personalities allow it to work very well. They’re [Lehman and Ferreira] really good actors as well so it’s easy to play off of each other. So when one of us goes one way, the other team can go another. I think that’s where the chemistry really lies between the three of us. And also the different rankings: Vega’s been there the longest. Angie hasn’t been there as long as him, but she’s the forerunner, and I’m the new guy. Those three elements alone allow for a nice chemistry.

Here in the States, we’re about halfway through the season. Depending on what you can speak to, what are some things you’re excited for the audience to see for the rest of the season?

Brendan Penny: For my character, you get to know a little bit better; his personality, his quirks, and I think that shines a bit more. There’s a bit more comedic aspect towards my character throughout the next few episodes and the end of the season. I would say that each episode just gets better in complete honesty. I think in each episode, everyone on the show whether it’s the crew, the directors, or the cast, everyone just seems to find their feet more and more. I think right from the beginning everything is there, but I just find that the transition, the actors, the guest stars, the storylines, everything just gets incrementally better.

I’m sure you’ve answered this question several times by now, but you guys are shooting for the fresh take on the standard cop procedural. You guys are luring us in with that aspect of “Hey we’re going to know who did, and then we’re going to find out why later”. How do you guys feel about working through that kind of show? Does it make your acting choices any different or as the detectives are you just playing it as a standard procedural?

Brendan Penny: I think as the leads on the show, you have to attack it as a procedural. It’s just the same as any other show. But what I think this format really allows, which is different from other shows, is it really allows you to see the killer’s side of the story. In normal shows, you don’t get that until the very end. I think this format is really good because it really allows you to know both sides of the story, the killer and the victim. So when it comes to the end and you find out why, it allows the viewer to have a lot more compassion for the victim as well as the killer because these are people who just get caught in a bad situation, and they make the wrong choice. I really think it allows the audience to be more engaged with the characters in the show as opposed to the crime within the show.

I definitely get that take when I watch the show. I think it puts a stronger emphasis on the people within the show.

Brendan Penny: I think it’s more character building than other procedurals. And again, when I first read it, and I heard that was the format I said “Okay, that’s interesting”. When I read the pilot episode, I kept wanting to turn the page. That was indication for me enough, because as an actor, you read so many scripts when you’re auditioning sometimes you can’t even get through them. I genuinely enjoyed it. I knew from then on that if it engaged me then it would engage lots of people.

Speaking of the eyeballs on the show: Are you guys at this point hearing anything from ABC about season two?

Brendan Penny: It’s a Canadian + American production owned by CTV and NBC Universal for distribution. So ABC bought it from NBC to broadcast. We actually have been picked up for season two, and we will be shooting that come August 12th. So we’re shooting a season two with CTV and NBC Universal, and we’re just waiting to hear about the ABC pickup. So we’re doing a second season regardless.

Obviously you’re getting a good reception in Canada if you’ve got season two already lined up, but you can talk about the reception over here in the States?

Brendan Penny: I’m in Canada, so I don’t hear a lot about what’s going on in the States, but I’ve talked to the producers, and ABC seems to be very pleased with the show. They’re very happy with the numbers. Right when we were shooting, when ABC picked us up during episode 6 or 7 of shooting, they seemed very pleased with the show and didn’t give too many notes. They were very happy with the show, and I think that’s continued. I really hope to stay with ABC because it’s a great network, and I’m very happy to be part of their team.

Do people feed you the ratings? You guys are doing pretty much the same numbers and Rookie Blue which has run for multiple seasons. You would think that if you’re right in line with that, then you’d think they’d consider running past this first season.

Brendan Penny: I’m not the most veteran on the show, but I’ve been in the business a long time. I know now that all you can do is just do the best possible work you can while you’re shooting and enjoy it. After that, it’s a crazy business. It’s tough to know what’s going to happen. It’s up to the TV gods.

You said this is your first role as a cop. Is this something that you would like to do in the future? How have you enjoyed playing this particular role?

Brendan Penny: I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll adapt to anything. If the writing is good, I’ll play any role. I’m use to playing a drug dealer, drug addict, or some bank robber. I like that I have the opportunity to play lots of different characters. I just finished shooting a Western with Trace Adkins and Ron Perlman. That was great. I played a softer guy who kind of turns into a cowboy. I like playing any kind of role, but if I’m going Lucas for a certain amount of time on a show, when I come off it, I want to play the opposite. I want to go back to playing the grungy guy, the dirty guy just to have variety, but I like acting in anything. It’s a great job to have.