“It’s been a surprise,” Bill Pullman admits when reflecting on what his role on “The Sinner” means to him. Pullman has a long list of film and stage credits to his name, but has to date largely avoided much TV work. His perception about the small screen really changed now that he is starring on the USA Network anthology crime thriller, which started as a limited series but was eventually renewed for a second and third season by the network. “I couldn’t believe that I would be this intrigued,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview with Pullman above.
“The Sinner” is a psychological thriller that explores why a particular violent crime has been committed. In other words, it’s a “why-dunnit” rather than a traditional “who-dunnit,” which sets the show apart from others in the genre by focusing on the characters’ motivations, backgrounds, desires and demons, rather than primarily focusing on clues and evidence in the pursuit of an unknown killer. Pullman plays tortured soul Detective Harry Ambrose, who investigates violent crimes from his uniquely empathetic point of view. Harry has a dark past and emotional baggage that weighs on him heavily, as he identifies and uncovers the psychology behind a killer’s actions.
Last season, the show delved into the troubled past of a young mother (played by executive producer Jessica Biel) who suddenly snaps and brutally murders a man without provocation. This season the show focuses on a 13 year-old boy (Elisha Henig) who confesses to brutally poisoning a man and woman that he is traveling with.
“I had lived with the wrong conception that a TV series would probably choke me in some way, like it doesn’t have the kind of spontaneity that a film would,” Pullman explains. “[Now] I’m really appreciative to have a good man like [show creator] Derek Simonds, who has been very collaborative. There’s been some great chances to incorporate some personal things into the character,” he says.
Pullman received a Critics’ Choice nomination as well as an individual SAG nomination earlier this year for his work on the show. Surprisingly, these are the first major nominations that the veteran actor has received, which he acknowledges as a streak he was almost weirdly proud of.
“You know, I always think of myself as having a little Teflon for awards. I always managed to avoid them so successfully and then ‘wait a minute this seems not to be going according to plan!’,” he jokes. “It’s always great for me because I don’t usually keep up with this stuff or what’s going on until awards season and then I would look at what these other actors that were nominated; what are these things that they’re doing? So it really allows me to watch some things that I wouldn’t have watched but I really enjoyed watching a lot,” he says, adding that he “appreciated that aspect of the nomination” the most.
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