Tribune Interview with Robbie Coltrane
Coltrane's Comic Background Leavens The Grimness of Cracker
actor Robbie Coltrane has been cracking up movie audiences for
years in such comedies as "Nuns on the Run" and
"The Pope Must Die(t)." But what's so funny about
"Cracker," the British TV series about an ace criminal
psychologist with a knack for getting under the skin of
criminals? After all, Dr. Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald
drinks way too much, has a serious gambling problem, endures
strained relationships with his wife, family and colleagues and
really isn't well-liked. Doesn't sound like a laugh-a-thon. But
one of Coltrane's strong suits is his ability to bring his
comedy background into play when creating the character, whom
American viewers have enjoyed on the Arts & Entertainment
cable channel. "I think it's important, really,"
Coltrane said in a telephone interview from New York where he
was doing publicity for the CableACE-award winning show.
"It attempts to make things realistic. And people in the
worst situations make the worst sorts of jokes, as we know,
hallmark of the show is the interrogation process that Fitz
conducts with a criminal, and "those huge, long interview
scenes are very difficult just to learn and to pace right,"
said Coltrane. Sometimes there are as many as 12 pages of
scripted dialogue, he added. And that scene can be done 10 or 15
times a day, just to get the right camera angles. "It's
pretty tiring," Coltrane admitted. "It's not that much
fun at the time, but it's nice to see it cut together, I must
say. And the response has been fantastic, just amazing," he
said. Still, we've got a tough shooting process, a character who
is not endearing to the other characters on the series and
sometimes depressing subject matter. On Tuesday, the third
season of three "Cracker" movies premieres at 8 p.m.
on A&E. "Cracker: Brotherly Love," the first of
three new mysteries A&E will show this summer, picks up from
last season's finale, where Detective Jane Penhaligon (Geraldine
Somerville) was raped. She thinks her attacker was another
detective, Jimmy Beck (Lorcan Cranitch), and is still feeling
the effects four months later.
Fitz is working on a homicide involving a prostitute and the man
who police think is the killer, when he gets some tragic family
news. Coltrane is scheduled to work on a new "Cracker"
mystery set in Hong Kong, and a long-rumored plan of making a
big-screen version of "Cracker" is getting closer to
reality. Coltrane insisted however that "the script is
still pretty much in the outline area." If the show is such
an emotional drain in both the making and the watching, what is
the appeal? Aside from its high-quality acting and writing,
Coltrane said that, believe it or not, it is the character
himself. "He does cut people down to size who badly need
it," Coltrane said. "He gets to say all the things
that we would all like to say but don't because we don't want to
be disliked. So in that sense, he's quite a liberating
character." And on top of all that, "he's a great
psychologist," Coltrane added. "I think he does redeem
himself by getting the man. I mean, if he was all the things he
is and incompetent, I think we'd be in deep trouble."
Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006