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 stars Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage, Murder in the First) and David Zayas (Dexter) to find out what they think about psychics, streaming and how they approach their characters.
Given that this show is on a streaming platform rather than a traditional network, how do you prefer watching things? Do you prefer a device or a big TV?
EC: Well, the thing with digital is that you can do both. You can watch on a big screen, you can watch it on your phone or your iPad. I think that we live in very different times right now. I think that digital media has completely changed the game. It’s opened up. I think there are so many more creative outlets, which is very exciting. Having sort of been in with Crackle [for Cleaners], it was still risky. I remember, at the time, my representation was like, “what? You’re going to miss pilot season to go shoot a Crackle show?!” And I was like, “yeah.”
Creatively, you’re probably more fulfilled.
EC: 100%. It was awesome and they [Crackle] were there and they were supporting it. And now that’s not a conversation anymore. Now, if you’re talking about the business in Hollywood, and [you say] it’s a Netflix series, it’s an Amazon series, it’s a Hulu series, it’s like, cool kid on the block.
It’s also a more intimate experience with your fans. You’re in their pocket or you’re with them throughout the day. Do you feel a pressure to connect with them more because of that?
DZ: No, the only pressure I feel is to find the truth in every scene that I’m shooting or performing in. I just think about the moment that I’m shooting and how I can make that as interesting and as truthful as I can. To answer the question about what I would prefer watching anything on, it depends what it is. If I’m watching The Magnificent Seven from 1960, I want to see that on a big screen. But there are certain things that you can stream. I don’t usually watch [things] on my phone, other than videos of news or whatever the case may be. It is the age of television. It is a kind of Golden Age. Some of the best writing and the best acting are on those. Especially on the short-term TV shows that are anywhere between 8 to 12 or 13 episodes because you can really maintain a lot of interest in the story. And the writers coming in to write for those shows are fantastic. I’m still kind of a caveman when it comes to digital. [Laughs] I’m learning.
EC: But that’s the thing. The fact is, we’re on a show starring Isabella Rosselini and it’s Hulu. I mean, if that doesn’t tell you that the game has completely changed….
DZ: Which is OK.
EC: Which is great. The thing about pressure, I don’t think it’s about pressure, it’s just another outlet. Like David said, we just focus on doing the work, and bring good work and good entertainment. I think we have a bigger audience and I think it’s more accessible, which is really cool. [Some] actors or actresses choose to get active on social media, others feel like it’s a lot of work. I understand both 100%.
DZ: And sometimes when you think you’re connecting [during filming], you’re really not and when you think you’re disconnecting when you’re shooting something, all of a sudden, that’s what resonates with people. To me, it’s a lot of energy to figure it out beforehand. Whatever happens, happens as long as you just do the best job you can.
Do you think you would have even seen a script like this five years ago or has the number of outlets available made it easier to get something like this made?
DZ: Five or six years ago? Probably not for Hulu, but for Showtime [or others].
What’s your actual opinion on psychics?
EC: I’m not about psychics. Not that I don’t believe them. If that’s your thing, great. I really do not have a desire to know what’s going to happen. I feel like when you’re in tune with your life, with the universe, things play out really beautifully. I feel like if I’m going through a pretty hard time, it usually means that I have to reflect inward. I just don’t need someone to tell me. And the truth is, I feel like, when you really dig, you already have the answer. It’s literally going to them for affirmation. Because when they tell you something, you’re rarely shocked. You’re like, “oh, oh yeah, I knew that.” That’s not my thing. However, I do love the healing arts and I do love energetic healings and getting my energy cleansed. I love the idea of coming from the light and being as bright as I can be.
DZ: Being spiritual. Yeah. Listen, if it’s true that there are psychics, I don’t want to know the future. Why would I want to do that?
Do you approach your characters like that? Do you look ahead?
DZ: No. No, no, no, I literally just try to find the truth. My character is a believer, so I have to wrestle with that, but I always win. Let me rephrase that, the characters always wins, I always lose. David always loses to the character when it comes to finding truth on the page. So, whatever I believe or don’t believe, it doesn’t matter. If I have to find truth in a character, I will find a way to find truth in that character. Because, really, who am I? Maybe there are psychics out there. I don’t know. I’ve never seen one, nor do I want to meet one. But they might be out there. I don’t know.
So Emmanuelle, your character is so interesting. It’s not the traditional pocket swinging, it’s very seductive and subtle. You don’t even realize she’s hypnotizing Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan) in the pilot until he’s already there. What did you do to prepare?
EC: I happened to work with a hypnotherapist in Los Angeles for several years and I went to here and I said, “what are the techniques?” And there are real techniques that are very subtle to make the person that’s being hypnotized feel very safe. There’s proximity, touching somebody and then repeating that touch in the same way. This idea of mirroring. If they’re like this [leans forward to place her chin in her hand] then you do [the same thing]. The idea if they say a word, you slip in that same word and subconsciously, they start to relax and they feel safe, which enables the hypnosis to take place. So, all that stuff was super cool and informative. And it was so nice that I actually was able to use it in one of the scenes in the pilot. It was exciting because, as I said to Les [Bohem, the show’s creator], “oh, you really did your homework!” In how it was written, I was able to do just that without forcing it.
So you were really prepared for that scene then?
EC: Yes. I think that was the audition scene.
So David, did you and Jeffrey talk about Miami [where both Dexter and Burn Notice were set]? Did you connect in that way?
DZ: [Laughs] We did a show back in the ‘90s called The Beat that didn’t last, but we worked together on that. And then I was the first victim or the first client on Burn Notice, in the pilot. But, yeah, I’ve worked with Jeffrey before. I think Jeffrey’s fantastic. I was so happy he was part of the show and it was great.