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Timothy Dalton Opens Up About Doom Patrol Season Two - Exclusive Interview

If you only know Timothy Dalton from his time spent playing James Bond, you've been missing out. Since his stint as 007 in the '80s, Dalton has played a number of larger-than-life characters, all of whom are just as interesting as Ian Fleming's famous super-spy. There's Neville Sinclair, the mustache-twirling villain in The Rocketeer. There's Rassilon, Lord President of Doctor Who's Time Lords. There's Simon Skinner, the nefarious grocery store owner from Hot Fuzz, and the Toy Story franchise's Mr. Picklepants — and that's just the tip of the iceberg. By this point, Dalton has pretty much done it all.

And yet, even with all of those roles under his belt, Chief Niles Caulder on Doom Patrol may just be Dalton's very best part yet. See, the Chief isn't just a mad scientist. He's a complicated man who does terrible things — like create his own team of super-powered freaks, without getting his subjects' permission first — but still operates from a place of love. He's monstrous, but also wildly sympathetic. It's a very precise balancing act, and one only an actor of Dalton's caliber could pull off.

Dalton spoke with Looper about Doom Patrol's second season, sharing some thoughts about how the show mixes absurdity with raw humanity, how he got ready to play a character with such a wild history, and why he's such a huge Doom Patrol fan.

How Timothy Dalton prepared to play a character as weird as Doom Patrol's Niles Caulder

The early part of this season of Doom Patrol dealt with the fallout from last season, when we learned that the Chief often does the wrong things for the right reasons. Do you see him as a hero or a villain?

Neither, really. I see him as a man in a certain set of circumstances, I think. One's experience of life tells you we are capable of doing great good, and sometimes doing bad. He's doing this because of his daughter, but what he does is horrendous. I mean, it's egotistical and perhaps sort of obsessive and maniacal. He destroys those lives. He takes them and turns them into shadows of their — well, not even shadows of their former selves. He turns them into tragic creatures, who were failures.

It's unforgivable, really. But, I suppose, at the same time, they are now his creations and he starts to feel a kind of responsibility for them. Maybe that's egotism too. I don't know.

Essentially, what has been driving this has been what he sees as his need to protect his daughter, his need to find a means of being able to protect his daughter, who he knows is someone he loves to death. She's his daughter, but she's also an extraordinarily dangerous creature. It's obviously a conflict, but we all carry conflicts within us. So he's still the same man, it's just that more about him is being revealed.

Had you read the comics at all before you started the show?

Not really. I tried to get them, but I came onto the show quite late. I came onto the show in pretty much the week before filming started. I couldn't get any real material for it. Also, I think at that time I just made a decision, which was: Making a movie or making a TV series is really very different from reading a comic, where you have drawings of two-dimensional figures with balloons coming out of their mouths.

My conclusion was to trust the people who are making the show. Trust Jeremy Carver, the showrunner, and how he wants the show to be, and take everything you get out of the scripts. Understand the background, ask questions about the background if you need to, but we go from the written script.

You've played such a diverse range of characters over your career. Were there any particular performances or experiences that you've had that inform your portrayal of Chief?

I think as a generalization, one does look around at oneself in life to see if you know anybody or have had experience with anybody who might fit your vision of what the character might be. I mean, you search everywhere for clues, I think.

It's the people you know, your friends, strangers, characters you've read in books. You do sort of search around. You obviously search through your own life. Is there anything you've ever tried to be that would allow you to take people's brains out of their heads? The answer, in that case, is no.

You use every sort of tool at your command to try and figure out, to try and figure out how you're going to play something. But again, I'm going to come back to the boring answer. A lot of tools are in the script and the general story. Then you just make choices that are interesting. You make choices that you think or hope are interesting, and often contradictory, to get substance to start from.

I have people say, "No, he meant this. No, he meant that." I thought that was wonderful because what you're actually tapping into is that life isn't simple. Part of the con man is the man you trust. Life is complicated and people are complicated, and we should get away from very simplistic answers about people and see what they can be good and that they can also be bad. I like that.

What about Chief do you relate to personally?

Well, I know what it's like to be a parent. Apart from that, nothing. Nothing much else at all. I like to think of myself as being curious, but then most of us are curious. I mean, in reality, I've got my legs. Hard to see sometimes, of course. Not a lot.

But he's a human being. It doesn't get more personal. Yeah, he's a human being. I can find what I believe are all the necessary qualities that he has. I can find them in myself, because we are all made up of many complex emotions and feelings. Our job is to tap into those, even if they are diluted. We've got to tap into what makes a character work and find that in yourself. If you can't find it, you have to be good at pretending it.

Why Timothy Dalton thinks Doom Patrol's second season was even better than its first

Do you have a favorite thing about season two?

I find it very moving. Maybe more moving emotionally than season one. Or maybe that's just me looking at things in a different way. I mean, I think this show is unique. It's not a show you can easily talk about because it continually springs surprises on you. I think that's one of the glorious things about the show.

It's splendid in its imagination. It's imagination run riot. It's imagination given no boundaries. You can go and play in the playground of imagination — I think I stole that phrase. Yet it is totally human. I mean, it's odd to say that, because it's instinctually human. You think of these people, even if they're made of steel, they're human. Even if they're surviving in a way that no one could have ever survived from radiation, they're human, they're real.

Real people don't dissolve into a blob when they get stressed. These people do and we understand it. We understand it on a human level. I was just thinking that, when we do comic books, we start with reality and humanity and life, and then stretch it with fantasy out into being a fantastical event that we look at and enjoy. I think in this it brings much more enjoyment because we've taken the fantasy comic and actually brought it back to our world, to our humanity. It's filled it and it has been enriched by that.

I don't think there's a character in the show that you can't identify with in some way as being human, yet they're not human at all. So it comes for everything. We've somehow been able to combine a genuine, understandable humanity with a totally absurd, weird fantastical series of events that these characters come across in their lives. It all works together. I love the show. I've never seen anything or been in anything like it.

With Daniel Craig's time as James Bond coming to an end, are there any actors that you think would be well-suited to take over the role?

It's not something I've thought about. The answer must be yes, there are lots of actors who are capable. But what you really want to know is if I could name somebody. The truth is, if I did think of somebody — and I don't, honestly, it's not something that's entered my mind — if there was somebody I thought would be wonderful, I don't think I would tell you.

I don't think I would tell anybody, because I think it would be inappropriate to someone who's played the role to enter into a casting process, because it would get all over the newspapers and I'm not here to influence those decisions. Those are their decisions to make, not mine. That is the truth and the most genuine answer that I can give you.

Is there anything that you haven't been asked about the show that you would like to talk about? Or maybe something that hasn't been getting much attention that you really think should?

What a good playing field you've given me here. I suppose one always tends to think about things that one would like to add or correct or whatever. I haven't given this much thought at all because, in truth, I'm happy, very happy about this show in a different kind of a way than I'd be happy about another show, because this is a kind of a show I've never done before. It's a kind of a show that I've not seen before. When I say it's unique, I mean, I truly mean that. It's just such a delight to watch it on the screen and think, "I was part of this."

That's not an answer to your question, but it's an answer.