A Chat With GCB's Mark Deklin

By , Contributor

Angelo Kritikos

Actor Mark Deklin

Doctors, a demon, a Navy officer, and a handsome hunk — Mark Deklin has happily gone from one extreme to the other as far as the types of roles he has so far played in his acting career. Currently he is using his entire creative “arsenal,” including good looks, charisma, sense of humor, and finely-honed acting skills, playing Blake Reilly in ABC’s new hit Sunday night comedy/drama GCB.

The series follows Amanda Vaughn, a former high school “bitch” who, along with her children, is forced to move back to her hometown of Highland Park, Texas after her husband, who had been stealing millions from his investors, dies in a car crash with his mistress. Not surprisingly, her old schoolmates, who she used to delight in mocking, are not thrilled to see her. Amanda has grown up quite a bit since high school, but her former classmates still harbor ill will and are determined to drive her out of town.

Deklin’s GCB character of Blake is secretly gay, and while his wife, glamorous gossip queen and businesswoman Cricket Caruth-Reilly, knows, she stays with him because Blake truly loves her for who she is and not her money. The actor almost wound up slipping on another character’s pair of shoes before Blake’s.

“In my first audition I read for the roles of Zach and Ripp [David James Elliott],” says Deklin, “and from what I’ve been told, they [the show’s producers] were considering Brad Beyer, who now plays Zach, for the role of Blake, and me for the role of Zach. However, I guess someone at ABC then said, ‘No, let’s switch those two.’

“I met with Darren Star [executive producer] and we had a long conversation about who we thought Blake was. He was unlike any character I had ever come across. Obviously there was nothing unusual about a gay character, but a gay closeted character that was not sort of tortured and self-hating was something I’d never really seen before. I was definitely interested in their take on it, so I read through the scenes, got an offer and was on a plane to Dallas a few days later to begin work on the pilot.”

The pilot episode for GCB (originally titled Good Christian Bitches and then Good Christian Belles) finds Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) returning home to face an unexpected reunion with her old friends and their respective husbands. Despite the on screen friction between certain characters, the actual filming of this project was nothing but a pleasant one for Deklin from start to finish.

“When I arrived in Dallas, I got off the plane, went right to my first [wardrobe] fitting and then immediately afterwards to the set,” he recalls. “We had a publicity photo shoot or something that day, so I was thrown right into the ‘fire’ if you will. I remember feeling a little nostalgic because I had been in Dallas a year before shooting [the TV series] Lone Star. I’d become quite fond of the city while I was there and it was kind of cool to be back and see all the old places and familiar faces. A lot of the extras on the GCB pilot had also been extras on Lone Star, so there were random people coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, Mark, welcome back to Dallas. It’s great to see you again.’

“That was really my biggest impression on day one - how welcome we all were in Dallas and what a great place it is to shoot. In a way we’re spoofing the people of Dallas on GCB, or at least spoofing one neighborhood of Dallas, and the people there working on the show were for the most part in on the joke. They knew we were sort of sending them up, but, again, they were aware of that and could laugh at themselves. I got the sense that they were thinking, ‘We’re Texans, we live large and we’re not ashamed to say so,’ and that was really fun.

“Another nice memory about shooting the pilot was getting to know this cast of really wonderful, smart, funny, good-hearted people who I was fortunate enough to be cast with. Acting-wise for me, I had to get a handle on who Blake was. I still wasn’t sure how to approach this character because I’ve got many gay friends, but they’re all out. I don’t know anyone who’s in the closet, which meant I had no template to work from. So the neat thing was I got to know Blake from scratch. There were no stereotypes — we got to create this character and it was a very collaborative process between me, the writers and other people like the wardrobe designers. As an artist, that was quite satisfying and enjoyable.”

As second-in-charge of his wife Cricket’s company, Caruth, Blake designs most of its clothing lines. Unlike the majority of Amanda’s male admirers, he likes her, but just as a friend. Blake was in love with his and Cricket’s ex-ranch foreman, Booth (Denton Blane Everett), but the two broke up when Blake attended his daughter’s pep rally and would not let Booth join him. While only a handful of GCB episodes have been shown so far, Deklin’s character of Blake has grown considerably since the pilot.

“I can actually say that about every character and the show in general,” enthuses the actor. “We went into it with this idea of what it was, but it has definitely evolved since then, and it wasn’t until maybe around episodes four, five and six when I think all of us looked around and decided, ‘Okay, now this show has found its voice. Now we know what the tone of this is.’

“For me, one of the most fun dynamics to play is Blake’s and Cricket’s marriage. When we shot the pilot, they didn’t have a great deal of interaction and I don’t think we knew how that relationship was going to play out. However, Miriam Shor, who plays Cricket, and I had such great chemistry and great fun working together that people started saying, ‘Wow, we want to see more of these two,’ and rather than have it be this sort of troubled marriage, it turned out to be this really loving marriage, and one where it’s fascinating to see how two individuals who genuinely care for one another but who are batting for opposing teams, could make something like this work.

“So it’s been a process of discovery figuring out what the rules and the dynamics of the marriage are,” continues Deklin. “Two of my favorite scenes are the two bedroom scenes that we’ve already seen between Blake and Cricket in episodes two and three. The reason they’re among my favorites is because those are the scenes where, for me, Blake’s relationship with Cricket really gelled. When Miriam and I were shooting those scenes, suddenly everything clicked and it became very clear what that marriage is and what the relationship between these two people is. It gave us a jumping off point as well, and everything we did after that had to adhere to that truth we had discovered.

“Episode-wise, my favorite two are actually coming up, so I can’t talk too much about them because I don’t want to give anything away. I can tell you that it’s episodes seven and eight, and by that point we had established who Blake was and could start having fun with it. So those are my two biggest sort of comedic episodes and I had a blast shooting them. Miriam and I were able to get really wacky and go over-the-top.  It’s funny, like I said, going into this I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this character. I didn’t have a strong feeling one way or the other, and Blake has turned out to be one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played. I’m having such a terrific time with him and I’m glad that the people who are watching GCB are enjoying what we’re doing.”

Prior to his GCB role, the actor portrayed Trammell Thatcher in the aforementioned short-lived FOX TV drama Lone Star. The series focuses on a Texas con man, Robert/Bob Allen (James Wolk), who is married to two women and simultaneously leading two separate lives. Although the series received widespread critical praise, it ended up becoming the first official cancellation of the 2010 television season, much to the disappointment of its cast, crew, and creators.

“One of the things I loved about my character in Lone Star is that like Blake, he was a guy who had a lot of layers to him and wasn’t what he seemed to be at first,” says Deklin. “We never got to really explore that, though. We only shot five and a half episodes and the character was just beginning to unfold. Trammel was someone who when you first met him, he wasn’t very likeable, but what you were going to find out is that he would turn out to be the most honest and trustworthy of all the characters. Trammell wasn’t running a con of any kind and he truly had integrity.

“The reason he was so unlikable is because he was someone who would tell you exactly what he thinks of you. I used to joke that I had modeled him after Simon Cowell, because here’s a guy [Trammell] who seems like a jerk, and yet at the same time you kind of respect him because he tells the truth. Obviously, Blake on GCB is someone who’s very happy-go-lucky and smiles a lot, and Trammel was the exact opposite. He was constantly scowling and angry. It was a wonderful [acting] experience. Lone Star was a fantastically written show. Its creator, Kyle Killen, who has created another really good show called Awake, is a hell of a writer, and the Lone Star cast was great, too. Again, I was blessed to work with incredibly smart, good-hearted, intelligent and funny people. Not that the show itself was very funny,” notes the actor with a chuckle, “but we all had fun together, which is what I miss most about that show. We really became like a family. I made some great friendships on Lone Star, and at the end of the day that means the most.”

In addition to GCB, Deklin can also be seen in the recurring role of Stan Edwards on Hawaii Five-0. “When Lone Star was cancelled, this was a nice way to bounce back,” he says. “Some of the creative people on Hawaii Five-0 had seen my work on Lone Star and said, ‘He’d be right for the role of Sam.’ I worked mainly with Scott Caan [Danny “Danno” Williams], who’s a nice guy, very welcoming and a real gentleman, and Claire van der Boom, who played Stan’s wife Rachel. She’s just lovely and a gem of a woman. So it was a very pleasant time doing some good work with nice people.”

With more episodes of GCB still to air, is the actor pleased with where the show’s writers are taking his character? “I’m very pleased,” says Deklin. “I love the way Blake’s story line plays out for the rest of the season. As I mentioned earlier, I feel like it was such a collaborative process. For the first couple of episodes it was like, ‘Okay, I’m playing this character that the writers created. They didn’t create it specifically for me, they created the character and I’m stepping in and playing him.’ However, as the episodes unfolded, the writers watched each of us actors and began to say, in my case, ‘Oh, we’re going to start writing this for Mark.’

“So it really became a wonderful marriage of what I brought to the role and what the writers brought to it. There was a real sense of honoring who this character was, and they weren’t writing things that rang false to me. That’s so precious, for lack of a better word, as an actor to have, and such a wonderful gift.

“As far as exactly where things go with Blake, I don’t want to give way any spoilers, so the best answer I can come up with is that we’re not going to see so much situational and plot points developing. It’s going to be more character-driven, let’s put it that way. For example, we’re going to get to know the marriage of Blake and Cricket better. Certain things will also arise with other people, like how does Blake’s relationship with Amanda influence his marriage and things like that.

“There’s a church musical episode coming up where Blake gets his moment to shine. Then towards the end of the season a bit of drama gets reintroduced. A not-so-nice person shows up who will create some drama for Blake and Cricket, and it’s not going to be resolved by the end of the season, either.”

Please note, all GCB photos courtesy/copyright of ABC; posed photos of Mark (including lead photo) by/copyright of Angelo Kritikos; and next to last Hawaii Five-O photo copyright of CBS.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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