Richard Schiff on making ‘Manhattan’ and reuniting with ‘West Wing’ director (Exclusive Video)

For Emmy winner Richard Schiff, the appeal of the recurring role of the mysterious “Mr. Fisher,” tasked with finding spies on the WGN America period drama “Manhattan,” was two-fold: “I love popping in, I get great warmth when I do from everyone when I’m there and I get to play and then I go and play somewhere else. I’m really enjoying it.” And, as he reveals in our recent webcam chat (watch below), it reunited him with “West Wing” helmer Thomas Schlamme: “Tommy has directed, I think, three or four of the ones I’ve done. So we’ve gotten to get into our little thing, so it’s been fun to reconnect on a working level with Tom.”

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For the actor, his character “makes the place radioactive, if you will. They are already under intense pressure and feeling imprisoned. Here is this guy who creates a very imminent life and death scenario; because the first person he questions ends up dead. So they don’t know who he is. He creates mystery, he creates intrigue and he creates a great amount of fear.”

Most of his scenes are two-handers as Fisher conducts interrogations: “I love working just in a confined space with just one other person. First of all it’s faster to shoot cause it’s only two people and I enjoy that. But secondly, it seems a little like a play — two characters stuck in a place with nothing else to do except confront each other and deal with the issue at hand. And I love that it’s very dramatic and creates a intense amount of pressure; especially on the other character for the most part.”

He says shooting on location in New Mexico “is very helpful to the actors and gets your imagination working.” It led to new insight from “this guy who hangs out there named Glen, who was quite fascinating; a builder of bombs, a historian of the place. Then the dust kicks up and you’re in New Mexico. And you’re on the land pretty close to the land it actually happened. That deepens the experience.”

Watch our full interview below to hear Schiff talk more about “Manhattan” and relive his days on “The West Wing,” including his 2000 Emmy win for Drama Supporting Actor. Then use the easy drag-and-drop menu to tell us if you think he will be nominated for Best Drama Guest Actor this year.

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