“He’s so pared down and focused on one thing and I’m so used to elaborating on characters,” reveals actor Jimmi Simpson about his destructively obsessive character Russell Poole in the new USA limited series “Unsolved.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he adds that Poole is “trying to show how everyone has a sense of humor and everybody cares and there was no sense of humor in Russell Poole.”
The in-progress first season of the true crime anthology series, subtitled “The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.,” primarily splits its time between two story lines. One concerns the initial investigation into the murders led by Poole around two decades ago; the other concerns the reopening of the case about a decade ago by another detective played by Josh Duhamel.
Poole’s career was cut short over his relentless assertion that police covered up their alleged involvement in the murder of the rapper known as The Notorious B.I.G. Simpson explains, “I had to take my preparation level to just a whole different degree, with calendars and whiteboards surrounding me so that I could be so familiar with the information that when I’m playing a scene and trying to make it emotional and valuable, I actually know why I’m stuck here as this man.”
USA has submitted Simpson’s performance as Poole for Emmy consideration in Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor, in which Simpson also contends for his performance in Netflix’s science fiction anthology “Black Mirror.” For his role as James Walton in “U.S.S. Callister,” a gaming company CEO who becomes trapped inside an advanced virtual reality game created by his disgruntled co-founder, Simpson received a BAFTA nomination last week for Best TV Supporting Actor. Simpson recalls about the announcement, “I had no idea. I have my finger not even close to the pulse of the awards circuit, much less something like the BAFTAs. It’s over there — it’s where they created acting.”
Simpson will also appear on the Emmy ballot this year a third time, in Best Drama Guest Actor for his role as the younger version of Ed Harris’s character William on HBO’s science fiction western “Westworld,” having shared in a Best Drama Ensemble nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Although no longer a regular cast member on the show, Simpson has a range of material in the upcoming second season, both depicting William as a naïve young man in scenes set before his appearances in the first season, as well as an older, hardened man who has a “slower cadence” and a “sense of calm” in the decades that follow. “When I came back for season two, we wanted to move it a step further,” Simpson teases, adding, “I think it’s going to be really cool.”
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