“Graceland” is the newest drama coming to the USA network this summer, and it looks to be another hit. The show, which focuses on a group of federal agents living in a beachfront safe house, stars Aaron Tveit (“Les Miserables”) and Daniel Sunjata (“Rescue Me”).

During a set visit to “Graceland” this winter, we talked to Tveit about his first starring role on television.

What attracted you to the role of Mike on “Graceland”?

Aaron Tveit: I really liked the whole construct of the show, but really what drove me to Mike is that they speak about how he’s kind of the top of his class. He’s a really smart guy, but he’s very much a winning character. He was a person with a good moral structure and good values. I saw with all the things that were going to happen in the show, and I could see with the character of Briggs and how much he was going to admire someone like that. I saw that those morals were going to be pushed a little bit and hauled into play over the course of the series. 

That’s the other thing that I really loved about Mike is that he was … I mean this guy, he’s a brilliant agent, and he kind of has no field experience.  So I thought it was very interesting to see how all those things are going to come together, and I just was instantly drawn to it.

What is Mike’s evolution over the first season?

Aaron Tveit: Mike is thrown right in it. I mean, he’s someone who’s very prepared for this job, but he doesn’t actually have the sea legs. But I mean they drop him right in the water and kind of tell him to figure out how to swim right away. So I have to learn really fast what happens. Then over the course of the season, he grows up real quick. I grow up real quick in the show.

There’s a fine line between right and wrong on the show. Where do you see the characters of Mike and Briggs in relation to that?

Aaron Tveit: It’s a really, really complex relationship, which is a lot of fun. At the core of it, if there’s a line between what’s right and what’s wrong as an FBI agent, I think that Mike is on one side of the line, and Briggs on the other side. As we kind of grow together, I think we almost learn from each other to grow towards the middle of it. But we’re really still on each side of this line. 

But it’s really complex because I really like this guy. I mean Mike really likes Briggs. Briggs is a great agent, and [Mike] realizes that he can learn a lot from him. But at the end of the day, they just both go about things in very, very different ways. So they’re always going to be at odds.

How has the adjustment been going from a stage to a television series?

Aaron Tveit: You know, it’s something that I’ve had to work on a lot. When I started working on television, I was doing “Gossip Girl” while I was doing “Next to Normal” on stage. So I was actually doing those two jobs at the same time for a while.

Working on camera and film and television, it’s a much more technical medium at the outset, how to use, how to tell the story through using the camera frame. 

There’s a great quote in Michael Caine‘s book about — and I’m going to misquote him, but it’s about basically how working on a stage is the ability to show everyone the machinery that you have, and working on camera is hiding it from everyone. That’s something that really rings true to me.  It’s all the same work, but [on stage] it’s basically trying to hit to the back of the house. When there’s a camera frame in your face, you really can play it really close.

They’re two very different things, but I think it all starts in the same place.

What is the process of choosing to be on a series like this?

Aaron Tveit: It’s really been an amazing few years. I worked on “Next to Normal” for so long and development, and at the same time, I was also working on “Catch Me If You Can” and developments.  So being involved in those two shows, it kind of took me out of the possibility of even auditioning for a pilot or a television series.

I was just really, really lucky that I was able to work in the theater but also kind of get my sea legs a little bit, working on camera doing guest stars in New York for the shows that shot there that I didn’t have to have a contract on. 

[“Graceland”] was the first real pilot season that I was going to be available for.  And I just … the script, I loved it, and I auditioned for it and it happened really fast.

“Graceland” premieres on Thursday, June 6 at 10pm on USA.

Posted by:Laurel Brown