'Mentalist' star Simon Baker compares Patrick Jane to Sherlock Holmes
It’s elementary, isn’t it?
According to “The Menatlist” star Simon Baker, he sees a mix of Sherlock Holmes and several other famous detectives in his portrayal of the smart-alec Patrick Jane.
“For me, developing the character in the pilot, I thought a lot about ‘Pagliacci.’ I thought a lot about The Tramp, the Chaplin character. There's a little sort of Peter Sellers sort of stuff in there at times, I think, in the character. I can understand the comparisons with Columbo, purely -- I mean, you can say a lot of things are like Sherlock Holmes because that's just observation,” says Baker.
“Sherlock Holmes was -- he always had an offsider so he had someone to explain it all to. So we got the information of how he thought. So you can make any comparison because the nature of the show -- it ain't much of a show, ‘The Mentalist,’ unless I got someone to explain what I'm doing to; right? Thus Lisbon, thus Cho, thus all these other characters. But -- so I can understand that parallel with Sherlock Holmes. But I think why people draw a comparison to Columbo is because it's been a long time. It's sort of a throwback, this show, in the sense that the protagonist, the main character, is a character, you know. And I think for a lot of crime procedural shows, they're quite earnest, and there's always, like -- the main character is, more often than not, frightfully earnest. And then there's the goofy lab guy, lab tech, and then there's the sort of – you know, there's always, like -- the characters are -- the "character" characters that are more ‘charactery,’ from an acting standpoint, are the lesser roles. And the main guy is stoic and earnest and heroic. And this is a bit of a flip, where we don't use technology much in the show. There's, like, a reverse cool to the character. It's not -- he's not sort of the 1980s type sort of gun-toting tough guy. He's -- he has a certain mystique, but it's not -- it's a very different -- he's a coward physically. He doesn't like violence. But he's not a coward of the mind. And he's not afraid of anything. So he's sort of fearless and heroic, but without a gun or without a microscope or, you know, the DNA and all of that sort of stuff. And Columbo was disarming and likable, and people always felt like they had the upper hand on the Columbo character, and that was his tool. That's how he got people. He was sort of fumbling and bumbling, and they all looked at him like, "This guy is never going to figure this out." But he was always sort of sneaking back around psychologically, so I can understand those comparisons. And it's also this is an old-fashioned type of show in the sense that we do find the truth in the fabric of the -- of behavior as opposed to through science.”
Baker was nominated for a Best Actor Emmy for his work on “The Mentalist,” and is previously known for his performances in “The Guardian.” Baker has also appeared on the big screen in “The Devil Wears Prada” with Meryl Streep as Christian Thompson, “L.A. Confidential,” “Book of Love” and “Ride With The Devil.”
Bake was born in Australia, and currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children, and is an avid surfer.
“I'm not a technically trained actor. I kind of fell into this profession about 20 years ago now, and it's been a good profession for me. But the study of mentalism and the idea of creating a rapport and reading people and, you know, using a Barnum statement to fish for information to keep leading certain things, it's not dissimilar to the way I approach acting,” says Baker, comparing being an actor to being a mentalist.
“I mean, it's more often than not -- like I walk into this room; I remember a couple of your faces from previous times before, different interviews, but I have to immediately strike a rapport in some way with you. Now, think about that on a set when you meet someone. ‘Hello. You'll be playing my father today. And we're playing a scene where, you know, da-da-da-da, and there's all this sort of history.’ So within 15 or 20 minutes you have to build some sort of a rapport, and you have to be able to read what this person's thinking and their thoughts. I mean, a lot of acting, for me, I think, is in the silent moments, and it's picking up the energy of the other person; right? So, you know, figuring out whether or not -- and that person might not be giving you it in the dialogue. I mean, not very -- it's very rare that we actually speak completely truthfully and connect what we say with what we're feeling. It's always off, or we're saying -- we're feeling this, so we say this because then it will land that way. There's a lot of that stuff going on all the time. And just by virtue of having to do that, there's an element of reading human nature that you get involved in. And obviously with the show, it's made me focus more on that in my work. But I've always focused a lot on that kind of stuff as an actor. I'm only ever -- as an actor, I'm only ever as good as the connection that I can have with another person or if there is an absence of connection because it's been cultivated that there should be an absence of connection with another character because the plot calls for it or the script calls for it.”
While fans may enjoy the series for Jane’s easygoing analysis of tough crime mysteries, Baker is drawn into Jane’s personal history and his feud with Red John.
“As an actor, the thing that connected me to this piece was the emotional core of the show and the history of the character. And I think -- I don't think that we do far enough of that. You know, and I think the whole Red John story is really compelling. But what we do, we do that, and then we balance it with sort of a lighter entertainment show that is case-by-case, procedural television. Do I -- I think Bruno -- between Bruno and I, we've created a character that is kind of entertaining. I think the key now is if we're going to do an entertaining show and not necessarily a Red John episode, or we could do the two combined or even sort of the three combined where we put Jane into – a character that the audience now has developed a rapport with after a year or two, put him into a situations and circumstances that are going to be interesting,” says Baker.
“And this season, one of my more favorite episodes, was the one where I went to prison. And when I read it, I literally picked the phone up and said, ‘[“Mentalist” creator Bruno Heller] Bruno, what are you doing? What are you doing? This is never going to work. The mouse, the rat thing?’ You know the mouse thing? I said, ‘This is not going to work. I can't pull this off.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I don't know. We'll just’ -- you know, in Bruno's sort of way, ‘We'll just try. We'll just try.’ And I got together with the director, and we shot all the mouse stuff with a lot of inserts, and it took a lot of time. But that situation, it was like -- I think it's good to see the character in. Okay, here's the character walking into a prison cell with a bunch of criminals, and how is he going to get out of that situation? Everyone thinks he's a cop. That, to me, is -- that's the sort of stuff that's like -- I want to see that character live in these sort of weird situations. I think the biker episode -- I don't think we really hit that as well as it could have worked, but I think the prison episode -- the stuff when he was in the prison, I thought, worked very well. And then having to manipulate people to come back in.”
“I think it's always refreshing to see him in new situations around new people that have absolutely no idea, that have seen -- that are seeing this character for the first time. And I think the audience enjoys those moments because they are familiar with him, they know him. Lisbon, Cho, Rigsby, Van Pelt all know him, and they're all sort of jaded by what he does. But when you put him in a room with someone that has no idea what this guy is doing -- I also like the -- actually, like, last year I kind of liked the blind episode, you know, because here's this guy that can't feel. He goes into the interrogation room and sort of grabs the guy's hand and starts sort of smelling him, and the guy's like, ‘What’ -- that, to me, is fun for the character.”
“The Mentalist” also stars Robin Tunney, Tim Kang, Owain Yeoman and Amanda Righetti.