Libraries are a little bit magical, aren’t they? They’re one of the few places you’re still asked to be quiet and reverential; they’re packed full of all sorts of knowledge and stories; and they’re organised due to some kind of arcane system that the average person on the street won’t have a hope of navigating. Okay, so nowadays you can learn pretty much anything you want to know just by firing up Wikipedia, but there’s still something impressive about all those words being housed in one place. In both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, libraries are places for arcane magic to take place.
In a series of TV movies from the early 2000s starring Noah Wyle, librarians are mystical guardians of all kinds of magic. The idea clearly still has a lot of resonance, because a spin-off series is about to kick off, starring Christian Kane and Rebecca Romijn as trainee librarians taking their turn to save the world. I had a chat to former evil-Buffyverse lawyer Christian Kane ahead of its premiere…
Right, so, The Librarians. Tell me about the show – I’m hearing early comparisons to The X Files, is that fair?
You know, that’s good, but – you know, I always like to have a different take. With Leverage, a lot of people said it was like Mission: Impossible, but I thought it was The A Team. So my take is that it’s kind of Indiana Jones, with a lot of magic.
The X Files sounds smart, and our head writer and creator of our show, John, is such a great writer, and he has a team of ninjas behind him, the whole writing staff, but in the role, I like to call it Indiana Jones with magic.
It’s based on the TV movies, do we need to have seen those to get up to speed?
Uh, no, you actually don’t. It would be fun if you did. Noah Wyle did such a terrific job with The Librarian that it would get you up to speed if you check them out, but we have such great writers and it’s a whole new show so you can just start there. I promise you, though, that you will better yourself, and be entertained, if you watch them. But if you miss them, you’ll be able to figure out it.
So they’re like optional background reading, not mandatory homework?
So what first attracted you to the role?
Well, it’s the same bosses, Mr Dean Devlin, who created Independence Day and The Patriot, and John Rogers who created Leverage, so anything I can do to work with these guys, I’m gonna do. So when I heard about this, and John and Dean called and said “hey we’ve got a role for you”, of course I wanted to be a part of it.
Tell us a bit about your character, then.
I play Jacob Stone, and he’s a very different character for me, to be honest. Let me give you the bones of him: he’s an art history major, into Native American art and architecture, he loves that stuff. He’s from Oklahoma where it’s not that cool to be that smart, so he’s not used to letting his brain be out there, he keeps it a secret.
And now all of a sudden he’s around these other people who are as smart as him, and he’s like, wait a minute, it’s okay to talk about who I am, it’s okay to be the person I am, so he finds himself a little family. For him of all people, trust and morals mean so much to him, so when those things break down as they do with everyone, it really kills him, because he looks at this like his family.
Also he shoots from the hip. I think his mouth gets the better of him, and we’ll see that. [laughs]
On Leverage, you played a martial arts expert. Will you be showing off your skills here?
I had to relearn everything I know! The first conversation I had with Dean Devlin he said “you want to do this role?” I said yes, and he said “here’s the thing, you have to unlearn everything you know about fighting. Because this guy doesn’t know how to fight. He’s good in a bar brawl, but he doesn’t know how to fight.” So it’s been very strange to act like I don’t know how to fight. There are fights, and he’s right there, but he’s not Eliot Spencer.
I trained my whole life to fight, so it was like I have to act like I don’t know how to fight. It’s been a fun journey.
What’s been the most fun thing you’ve done on the show so far?
Well, let’s see. Every scene I can do with John Larroquette, I want to do. This guy is like going to acting school watching him. If you want to be a comedian, work with John Larroquette. He is so funny – not fall down, slapstick funny, there’s so much going on inside of him. My favourite thing to do is a scene with John Larroquette. I forget I’m in the scene, I just watch. He’s absolutely brilliant. We all know him from Night Court and The John Larroquette Show, I can’t believe we’ve got him. Some sci-fi fans may not know who he is – well, get ready!
The show’s called The Librarians, and maybe on first glance that doesn’t sound so exciting. I think maybe we have this stereotype of librarians as being quiet, even a bit boring. Unless you’re a Buffy fan, then you think of Giles. So how do librarians come to be heroes?
It has everything to do with Noah Wyle and the first movies. This airs exactly ten years to the day from the date the first Librarian movie came out. And here’s a piece of information not everyone knows – I had the number one cable movie in the history of television for ten years, it’s called Crossfire Trail, and the only movie to ever beat us is The Librarian.
And now you’ve got in on that too!
And now I’m on the show!
Noah Wyle in that movie was very geeky – I love that I can say that term and it’s not a bad word, geek – and he became this superhero over the course of the movie. And that’s where we are. And now there’s three other cats that are thrown into this world like he was, and now he has to build us up. Almost like we’re robots, he’s got to build us, put us through the school of hard knocks.
So when you hear “librarians”, you think, well, there’s guys walking around filing books, but no, it’s not that. The new recruits are a girl with unbelievable kinetic powers, and a thief that’s – I want to knock him out just when I see him on set, he’s so arrogant – and then you’ve got this Oklahoma boy, who’s just like “how ya doin’, howdy ma’am,”, and they’re all superheroes in the making. Noah has become a superhero and now the audience gets to go on a journey with us and watch him create superheroes. I think that’s what’s fun about it, you’re getting in on the ground level.
To go back to Buffy, briefly, it’s been a while since Angel, but how do you feel looking back at your time on that show?
Oh, man. I’m always going to owe Joss Whedon my whole career. He created me on that show as an actor and the one thing he did that I’ll never be able to repay is he gave me the Kaniacs. That’s where they started, with Angel, and now I have this unbelievable army of people who follow me wherever I go and whatever I do, and I’ll never be able to repay Joss for that. For that, I love him so much it’s ridiculous.
He definitely does inspire that kind of undying loyalty in everything he does, and for everyone who’s involved in what he does.
He does. But make no mistake about it, Joss Whedon wanted to kill me off for five years on Angel and I never let it happen. As soon as Angel got cancelled, he fired that gun at me – literally.
Besides acting, you also do music. Are you still recording?
I’m writing right now. The Lord has blessed me this year, I’ve had very few holes in my schedule, it’s just been a great year. So I’ve been writing, and now I have a little more time I’m gonna get back into recording. It’s not the same band members any more but I definitely will be recording. And next year, 2015 will be a big year for me. I’m gonna get out and play – I’ve got to get back out and see my people, I haven’t seen them in a while, so even if it’s an acoustic gig on the side of the road, I’m getting out there.
Any chance you’ll get to show off your talents on the show? You need a karaoke bar or something?
That is a question for John Rogers. But I can guarantee if we go another season I’m sure music will be in the works.
What’s next for you, then?
As of right now I don’t have a job. But what we’ll do is go back to Portland, Oregon, which has been so kind to us, it’s a romantic and rainy city and I love it. It housed us for Leverage for four years, and we’ll go back and shoot the next season of The Librarians, which I’m looking forward to. The thing is with this show, we’re just getting started. We’re all trying to learn our spots, kind of like Leverage, we’re figuring out where we fit. The writers have done such a great job of that and with the second season, now we get to open up the world and show what’s going on. The second and third seasons of a show are so much fun because the writers don’t have to explain the world and who the characters any more, they get to show off who they are.
I think that’s what’s always frustrating about superhero movies is that they’re always rebooting and doing origin stories over and over.
That’s it. But you know what, sci-fi fans are smart, they’re my people, and they understand things right off the bat. We have to explain things to people who maybe don’t usually watch sci-fi. But we have writers who come from the sci-fi genre, and that’s why I love this show.
When I was a kid, I didn’t want to come out here and do crime shows. I wanted to play Jason Bourne, I wanted to play Mr T, I didn’t want to play a lawyer that puts someone on trial. These writers come from sci-fi, from Geoffrey Thorne to all the writers, they know this stuff, so they write for a sci-fi world. We don’t have to beat a dead horse year after year; we trust our audience, we know they’re smart.
Finally, we have a question we always ask everyone, and that’s: what’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?
I used to work out with Jason Statham.
He worked out at a place in Hollywood called Crunch and he was always there lifting heavy weights. He was a nice guy. He was always nice to me. I would just work out next to him. I’m a huge Jason Statham fan. One of my favourite movies of all time is Snatch, but that’s not really a Jason Statham movie. My favourite Jason Statham movie is the first Transporter.
Christian Kane, thank you very much!
The Librarians starts on Monday the 8th of December at 8pm on Syfy.
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