Hulu’s new series Shut Eye follows two married grifters played by Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) and KaDee Strickland (Private Practice) living in Los Angeles. Though they make their living pretending to be psychics in the service of a powerful and dangerous Romani family, things take a turn when an accident leaves Donvan’s character Charlie wondering if he might actually be clairvoyant.
We sat down with the series stars’ to chat about their characters how tough it is to be part of a failing TV marriage.
Your characters’ relationship on the show is really interesting. It feels like we’re entering their relationship after things have faded a bit. Do you think they’re conning each other? How did you guys approach their relationship?
KS: There’s a real wedding between these two and I think you learn more about their history, certainly. But I can only speak from the way it made sense to me and what was interesting to me to explore was marriage. This marriage. Where these people are now in their lives after fifteen years with a kid, not being successful at what they wanted to do, not achieving what they wanted in life and in fact, getting really far away from it. What does that do to you? What does that do to your partnership, your bond? And their partnership is different than a conventional partnership. It was interesting for me to make Charlie my White Knight and what that looks like when he’s not, and in turn, his point of view of Linda. I was really interested in exploring that because–in my opinion of their marriage–Charlie represented everything Linda needed in her life when he walked in and what happens when that shifts. I think a lot of people feel that way when they’re not in the type of marriage myself and Jeffrey are in [not together]–which is also part of what’s fun to explore. I feel so rock solid in my personal life. This woman does not. What does that look like? Also, I think because we both have very secure lives, exploring that view of how that happens was interesting. Because we talked about that stuff a lot and about, [when] you’ve got a kid this age, what does that look like? What does it look like when you’re that unhappy? What are you willing to do to change that and what would happiness actually look like for these people?
So I assume it’s tough to play that sometimes?
JD: Yeah, it’s very difficult, but this profession is very difficult.
KS: It’s part of the gig.
Will we see a shift in the power dynamic as time goes on?
JD: Yeah, I hope you see that. There certainly is a dynamic that we acted and arced it and then made sure that people kind of followed that this is a struggle that they’re going through. But, I think that there’s gonna be some surprising things that will seemingly be, at first, contradictory, but I think things will make sense as the series unfolds. But like she [Strickland] said–and it’s very astute–we’re both very secure in our marriages and we’re playing characters who are insecure in their marriage, or at least doubting their marriage. And it’s a hard thing because you have to look at your own marriage and pick it apart and use it as fodder for what you’re creating. When our marriages are so perfect, it’s hard to find them. [laughs]
KS: But it is really. I gotta say, when you have to do this with someone, when you have to explore this type of stuff. I know what was very important that we talked about in the beginning was history–in fact, the very first time we met. Creating history can be one of the most difficult things and there’s also the element of this that is just sheer chemistry and respect. And I think we have that and we couldn’t act that if there weren’t certain elements of it that we had an in, in whatever that mysterious chemical thing is, and then the level of the respect we have for each other and the work played into that too. But there is something so great about going to work with someone who’s equally happy and going, “wow, their marriage is a shit show. What would that be like and how do we really get in there with that?” And I loved doing that with him because he was secure. Because he understands what true happiness with a partner is–as I feel I do–we were able to really just respectfully navigate: and this is what happens when it falls apart.
So what fictitious backstory did you come up with that wasn’t on the page?
KS: We’re superheroes. And we too will be in costumes.
JD: Why didn’t you tell me that?
KS: That was mine!
One last thing, since this is on a streaming channel, how do you prefer watching things, on a big screen or a device?
KS: Well, I’m not 12 anymore, so my eyes need a large screen to get everything. You know what’s interesting? You do this thing, ADR, where you go in and record new sound. So, the interesting thing for me, having seen certain things on the phone and then seeing them large, I got super excited to see how it translates differently. And it made me think, as a viewer, I need to do this more.
JD: You know, I get hooked by story more than visuals. So, I don’t care if it’s a 5-inch screen or a 50-inch screen. Because 50-inch screens don’t make me care about the story.
KS: That’s so true.
JD: It’s just a prettier sunset in higher definition. “Story is king,” to quote Clint Eastwood and if you make the story compelling, it doesn’t matter where you watch it. I mean, back in the day, I had UHF. I had antennas. I didn’t care if it was black-and-white, pixelated or going in and out. I was glued to a story. So I don’t think that much has changed in that respect.
KS: It is true. And I do love that you do have the ability with streaming to see it anyway you choose. I like choice. Choice is important in life and certainly as a viewer, we aren’t hurting for choices right now. So, to be a part of a show that I feel translates however you watch it…[dickwad interrupts]