Nick Wechsler is returning to our television screens once again.
Best known for his roles on Roswell and Revenge, Wechsler recently appeared on Chicago P.D. and The CW’s Dynasty. Next, Wechsler can be seen on the final season of NBC’s Shades of Blue, which premieres this Sunday.
I had the chance to sit down with Wechsler during the ATX Television Festival last weekend to discuss everything from his role on Shades of Blue to one of his most memorable auditions and why he fell in love with acting in the first place.
Wechsler didn’t have much time to prepare for his role on Shades of Blue, but once he was there, he said he was impressed by how well-written the scripts were.
“I liked that there was a flare to it,” he said. “They had their own language in a way. The characters did not speak like people normally speak, almost like how there’s a different language for noir films. Noir dialogue is a little different. They kind of had like this noir-ish cop language or something and it was harder to learn, but I thought it was really cool.”
“It was a little harder for me to follow because the mystery that it’s leading up to, just what they’re building to, it’s a circuitous route. So it’s kind of complex. But I was like, yeah, this is quality.”
Wechsler said one of the things he loved about Shades of Blue was the darker tone.
“I think, probably, why Jennifer [Lopez] and Ray [Liotta] agreed to do it, my guess is a condition of their wanting to do it, that they’re like if you’re gonna get me to do a network show, A) you have to commit to a smaller episode order,” he laughed. “And B) you have to agree to keep it gritty as fuck. If we want to shoot someone in the face, we wanna be able to shoot someone in the face.”
“They get away with making it much more uncomfortable than the average network cop show,” Wechsler noted. “I really respect it for that. Honestly. I think it’s the right call. […] It feels like cable in a way.”
Wechsler was honest about the biggest challenge he faced when taking on this role.
“The biggest challenge [was] my own insecurity. Overcoming that in this scenario — coupled with the fact that I was kind of thrown in. I was hired in a hurry. When I got the part I was told, ‘There’s good news and bad news. They want to hire you.’ I was like, okay great! The bad news — they want me on a plane like now,” Wechsler recalled.
“So because of that, I never felt like I got a chance to give them my best work. I always felt like I was behind the 8-ball a little bit,” he admitted. “I didn’t get a chance to show them what I could really do.”
“This is obviously not literally what happened, but [it] felt like being stripped naked and having people point and laugh,” he said. “It felt like being kind of stripped bare and then having people see you at your most vulnerable. And then it’s humiliating, and you’re not happy about this, but now go out there on stage and be as confident as you can be! And that’s what it felt like.”
“It was tough for that reason. But everyone was so lovely to me.”
“A couple of the people who were the most instrumental in making me feel comfortable on set were the PAs Mitch and Stephanie, and they were just so… I vented a little bit here and there about my insecurities to them, and they were just so soothing and lovely,” Wechsler continued. “Jennifer was lovely to me. Ray was lovely to me. Dayo… everybody was great.”
Wechsler first appears on the Shades of Blue Season 3 premiere, “Good Police.” He gave a few hints as to what we can expect from his character, Detective Cole.
“The simplest way to put it is he’s a dirty cop who grows a conscience because his partner, and probably best friend in the NYPD Intelligence Unit, is murdered by one of the dirty cops. And it just sort of, I think, activates his conscience in a way,” he said.
“I think it just totally disillusioned him. So then he starts wanting to extract himself, but he knows if he does, he’ll be killed,” Wechsler explained. “He’s willing to work with Harlee to help her right these wrongs.”
This isn’t the first time Wechsler has played an officer in law enforcement. As mentioned above, he recently had an arc on Chicago P.D. as Kenny Rixton. Working on that set, he learned quite a bit from one of the show’s technical advisors, Brian Luce.
“They’re all awesome and informative of course. But Luce was sort of the most present, and I think had a larger influence. He was the first person I met from the show when they brought me to set,” he said.
Wechsler described learning how to keep a gun steady while moving quickly, for instance. “It’s this heel toe, heel toe thing that makes it so you can steady that bead better, and therefore, your aim while you’re moving is better.”
“He also said cops — if they’re right-handed they tend to use their left hand for a lot. They’ll open doors with their left hand. They’ll do things most right-handed people would do with their right hand because they need to keep their right hand free should they need to draw their weapon. It’s just like subconscious preparedness,” he continued.
Those details were still a bit of a learning curve, but Wechsler said he worked hard to master them. Another example he described was learning to properly use handcuffs.
“When I first landed on Chicago P.D., there were things that I was getting very wrong. I was too jerky in my movements. I did not come across like a guy who had been doing it forever, because you know, I was kind of thrown into the deep end in that. But over the course of it, I got it down a little better, a little better. I really tried my ass off. He showed me how to do the cuffs. You hold the chain and kind of push it on,” he explained. “Between takes, [I] was just running it, and running it, and running it. I’m putting them in my pocket, pulling them out.”
“I found the right way to position them in my pocket,” he continued, “and eventually got it down to where it was pretty quick.”
“I’m sure you could find all kinds of problems because I’m not an actual cop and I haven’t actually trained for months and months to do it, but there are things like that that he taught me that just helped,” he said.
“So some of those things kept us honest on that show. [Luce] was great, and that helped me going forward. That helped me on Shades as well. I got there knowing a lot of that stuff, knowing how to hold the gun,” Wechsler continued. “He was very helpful and a very good guy.”
Wechsler also took the time to talk about one of his most memorable auditions earlier in his career, which was for the role of Dean Winchester on Supernatural.
That role eventually went to Jensen Ackles, of course, but it’s an audition Wechsler said he’s still proud of.
“Jensen Ackles — I’ve seen the show and Jensen is great,” Wechsler began. “They got the right guy. He’s great. Funny and talented. He’s great. But I auditioned. I screen tested.”
“My audition was nuts. I did weird shit,” Wechsler laughed. “I added lines. I improvised stuff. I changed lines.”
“There was a moment with a microcassette recorder. It was in the script that he plays a tape for the other brother [and I] actually brought in a real microcassette recorder and recorded something on it and myself saying — like making spooky noises at first, and concluded it with a little easter egg of me saying something stupid and vulgar.”
“When in the script he has to play the tape for his brother, I played the tape, and then it’s me making some stupid spooky noises and saying a vulgar thing, and then I press stop, and I’d written something childish and vulgar on the back of my sides. Oh, also the character in this one scene had stolen these photos of this girl and I just, I’d just drawn a very childish drawing of a woman just so I had like a prop,” Wechsler remembered.
“In the wrong room or a different room, that could have just been distracting to casting and everyone else. I might not have made it past the initial audition phase, but they were so lovely to me and supportive and were okay with me doing these weird things,” he said. “They were dying laughing.”
Wechsler said approaching the audition in that way was almost a bit of him “pushing back.”
“You know, I was on Roswell, and I remember Brendan Fehr saying [once], ‘Watching Nick try to stick to the script was one of my favorite things about working with him,’ or something like that, and there was truth to that. I always did, but he could tell I was dying to… it’s like I had more to say.”
“The reason it was one of the best auditions I’ve ever had was because I just did my own thing, and it was so rewarding to not feel boxed in,” he added.
Wechsler’s love for comedy is part of why he got into acting in the first place.
“I’ve gotten way more dramatic work than I ever expected to. I started out just wanting to make my friends laugh, and I got a lot of the dramatic stuff by being the only one who made them laugh.”
“I was always shy. I was always kind of quiet growing up,” he revealed. “I just noticed I would like, retreat into my mind and entertain myself sometimes.”
“It was like a hiding place. My sense of humor was a place to go and entertain myself,” Wechsler said. “When things were tough or whatever, I would escape within my mind, and I just thought of things that would make me laugh. And I didn’t know if they would ever make anybody else laugh, and then I — I was really nervous and shy, and I started saying them out loud sometimes, and I could make people laugh.”
He wasn’t interested in stand-up comedy or anything like that, though. “If I’m funny at all, I need to make fun of what you’re saying. I need someone else with me, and then we can sort of riff. So that led me to acting because I [need] a scene partner. I need someone else to work with. That was how I found myself doing plays in high school, and that was mostly because I wanted an audience for these silly thoughts that would occur to me. It was a little harder to do then when I was being scripted, but I would still try to find ways to infuse a character or dialogue that had been written for me with my sensibilities.”
“Again, it was mostly because I was like, I just want to find myself in a place where I can make people laugh. And now I’m probably better known for making people cry,” Wechsler laughed. “Which is weird because I didn’t intend to go that route.”
Being an actor actually wasn’t the first thing Wechsler ever wanted to do, however. He had something else in mind first.
“The first thing I wanted to be was a singer in a band. But there was really only one singer I wanted to be, and he was already him,” Wechsler said. “Mike Patton. The singer for Faith No More and Mr. Bungle.”
“He was just an idol to me, and the most gifted, and remains, I think, the most gifted rock vocalist I’ve ever heard,” he continued. “He also had a major influence on my taste. I think because of him I was exposed to a lot of different types of music.”
Be sure to catch Nick Wechsler on this season of Shades of Blue, which premieres Sunday, June 17th at 10/9c on NBC.
Check out all of our coverage of the ATX Television Festival right here. There is still more to come!
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