If you were to consider all of the possible hobbies for Conrad Grayson, woodworking would probably not be among them. And yet that’s just the thing that grounds Henry Czerny, the devilishly handsome Toronto native who portrays the powerful Hamptons patriarch on “Revenge,” which airs its two-hour season finale Sunday, May 12, on ABC.
When Zap2it caught up with the star on the last day of principal shooting for Season 2, he was busy putting together a slide show for the cast’s wrap party.
“I’ve got about a thousand that I had taken on set, and I’m trying to organize them into a three-minute video,” says Czerny. “So good luck to me.”
But once filming is finished and the 54-year-old actor has come back to Toronto to visit his 85-year-old mother, he’ll head back to Southern California and start on some woodworking he’s doing with a friend.
“It’s kind of a serious hobby; I make jewelry boxes and some furniture,” says Czerny. “What I am making now with someone who wants to learn how to do it — not that I know enough to teach him — is a cubby for his gym. It’s … for people to put their backpacks into. We’re using tiger wood and oak on the edging.”
Just the visual of Czerny as Grayson working a lathe or fitting a joint as though he’s Mike Holmes is a wonderful departure from the daily threats and scheming that usually emit from the Grayson demeanor.
“That’s one of the reasons he is so what he is,” says Czerny. “There is a profound and sequestered frustration in that I think he really just wants to make heirloom furniture for his best friends, and he’s trapped on Wall Street. I think in Season 7 we might find him making furniture in prison.”
Right now, of course, viewers are riveted by Grayson’s skyrocketing political interests and are sure to be left with yet another gripping cliffhanger. As with any soap, the arc of characters can swing wildly throughout a season, and Conrad has been on a roller-coaster ride.
To start the season, he thought his wife, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), had died in a plane crash, only to find out she’d just faked her death. But the couple reunited in order to further their interests and keep the Initiative at bay. He then aligned himself with local thugs in an attempt to turn Montauk into the next Atlantic City. But when that didn’t work out, he set his sights on the governorship of New York.
Phew. That’s tiring.
“I’m fascinated, frankly, with the struggle of that which you think is the case and the reality in which you live,” says Czerny. “That tickles me. And Conrad is one of those people who I think imagines himself to be on a path of control, and yet the further he goes along that path — not unlike (Grayson family nemesis)?Emily (Emily VanCamp) — the control seems to be more and more elusive.
“Because if there is a notion that you have it all, the reality is daily, second by second, that you don’t. So if you are fishing for ‘it all,’ you will never gather all the fish in the lake. If your plan is to do so, you will be at it forever. If you are second, then you are last, for some people.”
And that makes Czerny’s portrayal of Conrad all the more satisfying. He grew up one of three children to working-class Polish immigrants in Toronto.
“They raised three kids best they could, all about getting the work done, doing an honest day’s work,” says Czerny. “And from out of that springs this odd weed that decided to go off to some theater school somewhere — and it’s profoundly shocking for them. We didn’t go to the cinemas, we didn’t go to the theaters, there was no storytelling. It certainly wasn’t discouraged, but we didn’t have time for that, we didn’t have the money for it, we didn’t have the inclination to do it.”
And yet here is Czerny, portraying an evil, powerful patriarch many North Americans love to hate, even though his real life looks remarkably different — woodworking and all.
“It’s so profoundly different it’s astonishing,” says Czerny with a laugh. “At one point there was talk of an interview that would take place in my home, and I thought, ‘Truly the last thing that I think would be helpful to anyone looking for that interview would be to visit me at my very middle-class, very routine, melt-into-the background home.’ “
That is, unless you’d like to borrow a miter saw from Conrad Grayson.