Damon Wayans Talks Making Murtaugh Funny In Fox’s Lethal Weapon
Damon Wayans steps into the iconic action role of Murtaugh on Fox's Lethal Weapon series, proving he's not too old for this...
For decades, the name Danny Glover has been synonymous with his Lethal Weapon catch phrase, “I’m too old for this sh*t.” For the first time, a new actor is taking over the role of Murtaugh in Fox’s television series Lethal Weapon. Damon Wayans can’t say “sh*t” on prime time, but he’s aiming to give Murtaugh many more memorable lines.
Even though Murtaugh was positioned as the straight man to Riggs, he always got some good zingers in the movies, like, “I nailed them both.” The dynamic is even more equal between Wayans and Clayne Crawford as TV’s Riggs. We spoke with Wayans after the Lethal Weapon panel for the Television Critics Association, in which producers revealed Wayans signed on first, long before they found Crawford. He tossed out a few zingers of his own but always gave a serious answer to the question after. Lethal Weapon premieres Wednesday, September 21 at 8PM on Fox.
What was it that made you sign on so early to Lethal Weapon?
The material was great. I read it.
Were you a fan of the movie?
Yes. The chemistry was pretty incredible and the action, it was fun. The first one was dark and it was fun.
Is one of the big differences that it’s not so much of a straight man role? You both get to be funny.
Yeah, I can’t run from funny. But it’s fun to not have to be funny, to be able to hang your hat on something dramatic too.
Did you talk to Danny Glover?
No, I’m scared of him. I’m running from Danny Glover.
What do you like about Murtaugh himself?
I think he’s just a guy who needs some excitement in his life. It kind of reminds me of the episodes of The Little Rascals when Dickie hurt his neck and they took him on this wild ride on this homemade car. I had brain surgery in December. When you go through something like that where you think, “Hey, this could be it,” when you come out and you’re okay, you tend to live life a little scared. I think that’s where Murtaugh’s at. Riggs kind of helps him to have adventure every day because that’s what life is supposed to be, an adventure every day.
Did you look at it as taking on a role someone played before, or just taking on a role?
Well, you have to look at it like Shakespeare. When someone does something as iconic as this, you lose if you try to repeat what they did. It’s almost like here’s my interpretation of that character.
How many times do you go back to the movies and reference them?
Never. I don’t watch them because I don’t want to. I can’t have that in my head. Otherwise I’m going to be doing an impression of Danny Glover.
You said in the panel, “I’m too old for that sh*t” but you can’t say that on Fox. Do you have a version of “too old for this sh*t” for the show?
No, I think in the pilot I think Kee[sha Sharp who plays Trish Murtaugh] says it. But we’re not going to say it. We haven’t figured out catch phrases yet.
If they brought you a script where there was a bomb on the toilet, would you be open to that?
I’m sure that’s coming, but in the pilot, no. I don’t think I would have done it.
How are you preparing for the physicality of Lethal Weapon?
Well, thus far, it’s been all Riggs’ character. I’ve figured out ways to get out of shooting that stuff, playing into the character of that’s not what I really do. I have had to do some running and jumping and shooting, but I haven’t fell or jumped up on a car.
Was the scene in the truck spinning around shooting a machine gun hard?
Yeah, I’m going to do that on my way home. Yeah, it was fun. The stuntmen are amazing on this. Basically, they put me on rollers and they pushed the trust and I come in sliding.
Have you ever used guns before?
In a movie, Bulletproof.
Did you have to train for this?
Well, I did firing stuff and we have a tech on set to help us, how do you enter a hostile situation? How do you de-escalate situations so it was very helpful.
What’s something we don’t know yet about Murtaugh?
He has really pretty feet. I think he just needs a friend. He’s henpecked and a dad. He needs a friend.
You’ve done sitcom comedy and sketch comedy on TV. How does the work of a one-hour drama compare for you?
It’s hard work. Sitcom is the best gig in show business because it’s easy hours, nine to five. This is hard work. Every day’s a challenge. You’ve got to summon that energy to perform. We work sometimes 13, 14 hours?
How are you pacing yourself for 13 or maybe 22 of these?
Crack. I figure after the first five, we’ll be in a rhythm. Right now it’s just I need to get sleep, I need to get sleep. Eventually it’ll become easier and easier. And we’re working with different directors so McG brings a certain energy that’s fun. Then you have other directors that we’re working with now and you go oh, okay. They’re not going to direct us like that. It’s figuring out who you’re with this week.
Was it a challenge finding the chemistry with Clayne?
I mean, that’s what they pay us for, to have chemistry. As actors you have tricks, but he’s easy to work with. He’s a great guy and as an actor I’m learning how to act because that’s not what I do.
Did you do chemistry reads with any other potential Riggs?
Yeah, probably 10 or 12 people, did screen tests too.
What felt different about Clayne after 10 other auditions?
Well, you know, he’s a country boy. I could just picture him wrassling gators because he’s just so down home. He likes to play in dirt and stuff like that. Being a city boy, that’s appealing. It’s just something that makes me smile to listen to him talk about hanging out in the farm.
When did you know you were funny?
When I got thrown out of my third high school. Three high schools. I was funny. I thought I was being funny. I just had an opinion about everything that was said in school so that got me thrown out.
What roles are you proudest of in your career?
Grandpa, because my greatest production is my children. Then to see my grandbabies is the gravy.
Are any of your kids besides Damon Jr. following in your footsteps?
All my kids, I raised artists. So they’re all on the runway to show business but some of them are a little scared.
Are you happy about that?
Oh yeah. They have to want it. You’ve got to want it. I can give you a role. I can’t give you a career.