Exclusive Interview: Marton Csokas Unmasks Rogue’s Jimmy Laszlo

April 2, 2013

In the new DIRECTV series Rogue, there are those who seek justice and those who do anything to get by – including killing lots of people. Jimmy Laszlo, played by Marton Csokas, leads the latter. There’s a lot that goes into playing such an intense character, and Csokas tells all. Why do Jimmy and his sons have such tenuous relations? What makes Jimmy so excited about Grace? And what does Csokas think about the Mars Rover Curiosity and what it means for humanity? Ira Parker, our Rogue insider, sat down with Csokas to find out.

Ira Parker: How would you describe your character?
Marton Csokas: Jimmy is a part of the old world that has come to the new world. He lives under the shadow of his father and what he was born into. He is a passionate man. Quite hot-tempered, impulsive, but tries to cultivate a strategic level headedness – although he doesn’t always behave like that.

He is being stripped of his dreams and has been betrayed by a lot of people. He’s not broken but he comes pretty close.

I think Jimmy fundamentally has lived an eye-for-an eye type of existence, and then sees that it doesn’t necessarily pay, and he would happily trade it for a free life. I think his way of being is quite animalistic in the full sense of the word. Kill or be killed.

IP: How did you prepare for your role as Jimmy?
MC: I looked at King Lear and looked at the psychological studies of King Lear. I looked at the psychology of murder. I looked at the script and drew from that a kind of naturalistic place or a truthful place. I just kept on going to the script and finding out how I would make that work, based primarily on the psychological anchor of the man and those people around him. That set me in good stead.

Then also my imagination and knowledge of the American Dream: wheeling and dealing in some form or another, the world of gambling, my own father’s generation, knowledge of the many stories that I’ve heard about the old world coming to the new world. I utilized all those things and then just tried to find imaginative ways in which to make the part sing.

IP: Jimmy tries so hard to provide a better life for his sons. Why do you think they resent him?
MC: I think that comes from their upbringing. Jimmy’s father always thought people looked down on him. There was a great insecurity at his core and I feel like although Jimmy didn’t want to repeat his father’s life, ultimately he has. Not with a kind of malicious intent towards his sons, but he sees that Alec is very impulsive and violent. Jimmy sees this quality in himself, and with the best of intentions tries to suppress it in his son. Of course the more Jimmy tries to suppresse it, the worse it gets.

Max is sort of everything that Jimmy wanted to be. He got an education, it looks like he’s going to usurp the kind of grind Jimmy and Jimmy’s father had to do to get there. Max is going to be able to rise above that. Max is the golden boy, but I think in a way by adoring that son ultimately for selfish reasons, Jimmy becomes somewhat twisted in his ethics. Then again anybody who wants to kill their own father is probably not the nicest person, and Jimmy certainly hasn’t done anything to Max to invoke that kind of murderous intent.

In the back-story Maddy, Jimmy’s wife who died of cancer, was an archetypal mother: very strong woman, very religious (but not necessarily in an evangelic way but very old school religion). Jimmy was the overbearing father, very aggressive, very forceful, very domineering. Maddy was also very aggressive and domineering in that kind of smothering mother way. So, with the best of intentions from both of them, they produced these extreme characters in their sons. Their own emotional and psychological stuntedness is projected onto their family. So the sins of the father and the mother are laid upon the children.

They are also in a world where you go around murdering people and let’s face it, that’s not healthy.

IP: Why did Jimmy fall for Grace?
MC: All his first impressions were of this spunky, courageous, bodacious, street-wise, physically attractive, sassy, young woman. She exists in the world that he knows, so they have a common understanding of what it is to live and to fear for their life and to maintain your life and maintain your existence.

Once they started to get to know one another and share their experiences, he also identified with the loss of her son – that feeling of heartache and vulnerability.

From Jimmy’s point of view, he fell in love with her for all the qualities that she had: for what he shared with her, and for what she shared with him. But also for basic reasons: love, sex, shelter, the human side of things. It was somewhere that he could join with a woman and be himself. The nature of love.

IP: Favorite scene of the season?
MC: There were a few of them, probably more than I can remember. I liked when the photography, performance, and the internal psychology of the writing all joined together. I felt like we made something greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s about what happens between two performers when you hit an emotional goal of mind. You prepare and you do all your work and everything just clicks and ignites and resonates and you can feel it. It’s sort of a kind of magic.

IP: The Mars Rover Curiosity has found proof that there was once water on Mars. How does that make you feel?
MC: [Laughs] How does that make me feel? That makes me feel like things change and we have the capacity to change. The fact that we know that while being on Earth suggests that perspective is relative and what we don’t know is immensely exciting.

There is a sense that it leads to other worlds beyond ourselves, but I always think that the complementary viewpoint is that we can know so much more about who we are here. And we can take that philosophically concept of things discovered in far off lands, and things discovered in the unknown, as an external trajectory. The same can be applied to the internal discoveries of how we think, feel, and treat one another. And what we do in our minds – and accordingly our actions and our behavior in our existence.

IP: Who would win in a fight between Jimmy and Campbell?
MC: Oh I like to think that Jimmy would. But I’m honest so… [Laughs]

IP: Campbell said Jimmy as well.
MC: [Laughs] Mind you, I mean, all things being relative, either one could just pick up a gun. Better to just shoot each other, easy.

Tune in to Rogue Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AUDIENCE™.

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