Q: "Breaking In" has been revived a couple of times when it seemed it was over. How has that been on you?
A: I loved it so much ... but how are you going to bank on something coming back from the dead? Then, as soon as I signed on to do "House," they of course said "Breaking In" was coming back. There was no way I could do both full time, so I'm in the first five episodes of "Breaking In," out of 13.
Q: Your "Breaking In" character was very involved with Michael Rosenbaum's last season, but he's gone now. How does that change the show for you?
A: It's more about the team and the new additions and how we interact with them. It all feels very good, and (new co-star) Megan Mullally is just a comedy genius. Everything that comes out of her mouth is really just gold. I watch her, and I forget to say my lines, because I'm just so enamored of her.
Q: You're also finishing up your work on "House," on which you've spent the show's final season. How has the atmosphere on that set been?
A: It's been a really difficult thing, but I think everybody is so glad that they had this opportunity. Everybody's in good spirits, but you can feel that it's coming to an end, and it's quite sad. We're rejoicing, though, in the fact that this show has made leaps and has done some things that I'd never seen any TV show do. I truly believe "House" has been one of the best shows of its decade. I really do.
Q: Were you an Elmore Leonard fan before signing on for your role as Judge Mike Reardon?
A: Oh, yeah. It was odd, actually. When I first got the script, I had just finished reading "Fire in the Hole" (on which the first "Justified" episode was based). I read the script and thought, "Well, boy, howdy, I got to get on this show!" I actually looked at the sheriff role, but a friend of mine was doing that one, so I was able to sneak on as "The Hammer." They were nice enough to say that they would love to try to find room for me in the ensuing seasons, and they have been true to their word.
Q: So what's your take on this guy?
A: He is just as dry and interesting a character as Elmore Leonard himself would employ in one of his novels. He's an eccentric, no-nonsense guy, which is kind of what I enjoy playing anyway -- someone who is just a little bent but has a good heart and tells the truth.
Q: You often give unexpected little spins to your lines. Is that by design?
A: Not necessarily. I hate playing stuff completely on the nose, so I look for ways to make the character interesting, but it's not by changing or intonating the line differently. I just have a mindset of the character that I want to do, and once you have the character in your head, the line readings just come out as they do.
Q: Was it difficult to capture Governor Palin's accent?
A: I lived in Alaska in 1971, for a year. My dad was working for a law firm in Juneau. She sounds a little like her father from Idaho. It's her rhythm, not her accent. She will emphasize a different thing in her speech.
Q: You look so much like her in the movie, but was your hair still red?
A: It was a brown wig, with highlights. I've had brown hair, and I've had blond. In "Far From Heaven" I wore a blond wig. My makeup artist is nothing short of amazing. I had on makeup everywhere. They had to wipe out every inch of my copious freckles. (Shows freckled arms and legs.)
Q: How did you adopt her way of moving?
A: Her shoulders are always back. I have a tendency to hunch. She's an athlete. She has an athletic style of moving.
Q: Did you feel sorry for her?
A: I don't know if I was feeling sorry, but I have sympathy for anyone put in that situation and is so unprepared for it. John McCain said he never had seen a better campaigner. I think it is ridiculous what we ask of our politicians. They have to provide guidance and be attractive and relatable. Why do we need that? You have somebody like Walter Mondale, and everybody was, "Can you show us some charisma?" Please! Why do we expect so much from people in our government? And this elucidates that very conundrum in the political process.