Don Cheadle moves into Showtime's 'dark, funny and raunchy' 'House of Lies'

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A sitcom about corporate greed may seem a bit of a head-scratcher during these tough economic times, but for Showtime and the multifaceted Don Cheadle, it’s good to be bad.

In House of Lies, Cheadle stars as Marty Kaan, a manipulative management consultant (head of Galweather & Stearn), who along with his team, works with struggling Fortune 500 companies around the country to dole out dubious — but expensive — redemptive expertise, all while having good times on the client’s dime. The goal isn’t to improve the client’s rep or bottom line, but to boost their own.


TheGrio spoke with Don Cheadle about the show and the qualities he feels makes it must-see TV.

TheGrio: What prompted you to do this show, in particular, now?

Don Cheadle: It wasn’t a timing thing. The material came to me. The creators approached my production company. It was something in the works prior to David Nevins (the new network head) coming to Showtime. I read it — it was funny, dark and raunchy. It seemed like a good project, a no-brainer all around.

The country’s on the fringes of slow economic recovery. Do you think the House of Lies’ potential audience is ready to see a show about one-percenters who show little remorse — and the experts hired to help them, about their involvement in the country’s financial downfall?

People like to watch interesting characters as they’re learning about what’s going on, to see how things are done in this world. I think our characters are sympathetic, yet this is their hustle. But they’re still just trying to do what they do to earn a living. No one gets out alive in terms of penalties paid and the costs exacted for their behavior. The bad stuff touches everyone.

As executive producer, what is your level of involvement — were you involved in development?

I was involved from the beginning — the whole process of putting it together. From assembling — including the interviewing, all the people — the actors, directors, etc., that are involved, to the basic day-to-day production. And once the show’s done, I’m looking at cuts, editing, music — all that.

So you played a part in hiring your writers?

We had good people coming in from all over the place. I think we got a real eclectic, talented mix of people from comedy, drama, you name it. This was mostly Matthew’s purview (executive producer Matthew Carnahan), but I touched everything as a producer. We whittled the candidates down to the very best.

What is Marty Kaan, your character’s, journey in the series, what do you want him to learn?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I see that far in advance about what he should learn. The limits of his Machiavellian nature and the blowback of what happens because of it. He’s a bit of a tortured character, conflicted about his home life, but crushing it in the business world. We’re watching him learn as the season moves along.

Why is Marty so reluctant to explore the emotionally intimate areas of his personal life, or will we be seeing more of that as the season goes on?

Yes. We get to see the calamity that befalls him.

What’s the most redemptive thing about your character – he’s a bit of an opportunist.

He’s a father, and he’s trying to figure out how to be a father. He’s got a son he doesn’t understand — how to be in his life and counsel him and allow him to be what he wants to be. But he’s got his son’s back for the most part, even though he doesn’t know what his son will do, but he’s got his back.

What’s up with his behavior towards women? Marty’s also a bit of a womanizer.

There’s something there, something driving him, though he’s not sure what he’s looking for. Marty goes through all this because of his mom, but a lot of this makes sense as we move on — as the season moves on, but he’s come by this (his behavior) honestly.

What have you learned from your character?

I don’t know (laughter). I’d watch him, if I was in a room. I want him on my team, but I wouldn’t share my secrets with him. He’s a lot of fun. He’s someone who just goes “balls out,” and people wish they could be like him in that respect, to have that particular courage. Marty’s down for the consequences — not begging off the consequences of his behavior. Damocles’ sword falls and he’s down for the destruction, but he fully expresses his – how it affects him fully affects him and he’s susceptible to the damning living that kind of action can cause.

Switching gears a bit. You’ve been rumored to write and I believe, direct, a Miles Davis biography. When is that happening?

I wouldn’t call it a bio, it’s already written though, and I’m not going to direct it. Hope you see it soon though, soon in the vernacular of getting a feature length movie done, yes. You’ll see it, but it might be in dog years.

You’re one of the fortunate few to have feet in both features and now again, TV. What’s your secret?

Don’t have a secret. If I did I’d put it in a book and sell it and move behind the camera, and not act so much. I’ve been fortunate in gravitating towards work that I can get and on the same hand, having interesting work come towards me. No formula. I’ve been able to say yes to things that have come to me in the forms they’ve come.

House of Lies, one of those forms, premieres Sunday night on Showtime, 10 p.m. EST / 9 p.m. Central.

Follow Sylvia Franklin on Twitter at @Rwriteur
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