Don Cheadle (‘Black Monday’): ‘The perspective of 30 years sheds light on how far we haven’t come’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“We see how far we haven’t come” confesses Don Cheadle about the themes explored in the 1980s set “Black Monday.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he adds, “This show is all about looting; they are white collar looters. Smuggling in messaging is one of the gifts of doing a crazy comedy like this. You turn off the set and think ‘wait a minute. Is that funny? Should we be laughing about that?’ The tightrope is trying to find how to smuggle those things in but still do it under the protection of this farcical comedy.”

In its second season on Showtime, “Black Monday” explores the excesses and greed of Wall Street in the wake of the Black Monday crash of 1987. Cheadle explains “It’s unfortunately a very cyclical process. These systematic and institutionalized events change their face but at the bottom they are always about the same things. Equality, justice and the haves and have nots. We try to shine a ridiculous light on it and come from a place that’s comedic. We are dipping our toes into all of these issues: sexual identity, race, feminism, power dynamics and the class systems. We have that perspective of 30 years, which can help shed the light on how far we haven’t come sometimes.”

It’s a show that vacillates between tones from dramatic to comedic. Cheadle reveals, “I’ve never minded going back and forth between those kind of things in TV, movies or plays. If you believe the characters they can take you anywhere. It doesn’t throw me off if we are in a very down moment that is immediately undercut with something ludicrous. Because, when we think about our lives, sometimes and that’s what’s happening. We are in these heavy moments and then something bananas will happen.”

Last year Cheadle received a Best Comedy Actor Emmy nomination for the show last year, the 9th for his career without a win so far for the Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated actor. On “Black Monday,” he plays Maurice “Mo” Monroe, a stock broker who starts season two on the run after being framed for causing the Black Monday event. The actor explains, “Mo’s a live wire. Every week on the show they push the boundaries and we have an opportunity to do something that is crazier than the week before. He’s also a bit of a Don Draper in ways. He’s got this past. The best and most fun part of this year is we have been able to bring in his backstory. We’ve been able to bring all these things back in play. The writers always attempt to, at the end of the season, throw all of the puzzle pieces in the air and then come back the next year and try to put it back together. It makes it feel like a high wire act and gives the show a lot of its energy.”

One of the season’s most energetic and ambitious episodes was ‘Idiot Inside,’ in which Mo instigates an over the top shoot-out inside a bank. Cheadle says, “This season has been a lot of fun. There’s been a ton of things where we are very ambitions in what we are attempting to pull off in five days. Which is an insane schedule. We push it to the limit. The bank episode was tipping our hat to Michael Mann and the whole ‘Miami Vice’ aspect. It was fun to take that milieu and treat it completely ridiculously. Two guys on roller blades are the henchmen! It was a ridiculous but a difficult scene to pull off.”

Reflecting on the cast Cheadle says, “We connect off camera. These are a group of people that are my friends now. All very empathetic people that are advocates for change. All of us have causes that we  join with each other to help move forward. Sometimes the best things we learn from the characters that we are vicariously living these crazy things through is the cautionary tale of where not to go and what not to do. They teach us what to stay away from.”

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