During a recent set visit for “Necessary Roughness,” some of the cast talked about what the show is about and how their characters fit into the extraordinary world of a sports therapist who tackles the unusual stressors involved in the high-stakes world of competitive sports. The following are interviews with co-stars Scott Cohen, Hannah Marks and Patrick Johnson. Scott Cohen portrays Nico Careles, the Atlanta Hawks’ fixer. Hannah Marks and Patrick Johnson portray Lindsay and Ray J, the teenage children of Dr. Dani Santino. (To read part 1 of this article, go HERE and to read more from star Callie Thorne about her role as Dr. Dani, visit this article.)
What inspired you to take a role where you are kind of like the ‘big heavy’?
SCOTT: The thing that inspired me really was just the script. The pilot script was just so fantastic. At first, it was like I’m not sure if I wanted to be doing this type of part. Is it big enough? Is it small enough? What is it exactly? Then I had my son who read it and he said, ‘This is an awesome part, Dad. You’re like so mysterious and so dark. So I was like, ‘Oh really?’ and so I did it.
Did you have any sort of sense where your character would be going when you took the pilot?
SCOTT: The writer’s did. But I have actually chosen to not have conversations with them in terms of where they’re sending [Nico], mainly because I love to be surprised in TV. I think if it’s too far in advance you start to have lots of opinions about what happens and then you have to argue every time something comes up. This way it’s like, this is the way it is — and I have no time to argue about it.
Are we going to learn more about Nico?
SCOTT: I hear in an episode or two it starts to be all about Nico and his past. You do learn things. . . . You learn a little, like every episode you learn something about Nico. You learn kind of where he’s from and what his past is. But you’re not really sure if it’s true or if it’s not true — and he remains very dark. Very mysterious. Very sexy.
What can you say about your ‘pancake’ co-star from the pilot?
SCOTT: Biggie. He’s awesome. Biggie is his real name. He’s huge — the guy is huge. He’s actually in this upcoming episode, but we’re not together. I can kind send him off to do his thing, but that’s a really great scene in the pilot. He’s really fun.
Is Nico’s services exclusive to the Atlanta Hawks?
SCOTT: No. Good question. You learn that he’s not. I can’t really talk about anything. They’ve told me to be silent. So far what we’ve learned is that he actually works for the owner of the Hawks. So he knows everything that goes on beyond what’s happening with the football team. The owner of the Hawks is very spread out. He’s a corporate businessman and has his hands in everything, although we don’t see him as of yet.
Does Nico start interacting more with Dani’s therapy practice?
SCOTT: Yeah, I interact with her and I get into kind of helping her with certain people and I bring people to her and things like that. In this episode, I bring somebody to her that has nothing to do with the Hawks or the owner.
So Nico is not just a ‘fix it’ man, he’s kind of a facilitator of a different kind.
SCOTT: Yes. But I fix things too.
How do you describe your character perhaps like in one succinct phrase?
SCOTT: I say that he’s a ‘fixer.’ That’s the best way. I kind of see him is he knows everything there is to know about anything and knows much more than what he lets on to knowing. He seems to know everything that is going on beyond his kind of circle and allows people to kind of follow what they think is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do and then when it goes awry, he fixes it. He’s a fixer. I see him like a Michael Clayton character. . . . He is working without everybody knowing exactly what he’s doing and so he kind of sets people up and makes things right.
Did you build a back-story for Nico?
SCOTT: In TV, sometimes it’s hard — especially this type of character where he was sketchy to begin with. So you’re not really sure where he’s going to go. I definitely had my ideas and some of them were used and some of them weren’t used. I was very surprised to find out what he did in his past. . . You’ll see. I was like ‘holy shit!’ because it was lots of responsibility. But, I think that to me this kind of character is about an energy. It’s about what he is inside the context of Dani’s world and he creates an energy. He creates a kind of safe haven for her to lean on.
Does Nico carry any weapons?
SCOTT: I don’t know. He might, behind his jacket. He might not carry weapons but he definitely knows how to use them.
Where do you think his moral compass lies, like is he a good guy?
SCOTT: He’s a good guy, I think. But I think that he can do bad things. But what they kind of bring out for him is that he has definitely done bad things, but he’s a good guy.
Does he step further into Dani’s personal world, like with her divorce conflict?
SCOTT: Not so much yet, but possibly. I mean, he deals with her kids and the divorce actually is very big in Episode 105, in the fifth episode.
Are you able to relate to your character?
SCOTT: Well, he’s sexy. Do I relate to him? I don’t at all, which is kind of one of the things that lead me to the character because he is so not like me. Maybe other people think that — I have no idea — but I love that it doesn’t take many words for him to say what he’s saying or to get the idea of what he needs to accomplish. I don’t think I’ve ever played a part like that and so that’s really fun to do.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for this character?
SCOTT: I would say that it’s hard to say without saying exactly what his past is. The inspiration has come from different…the idea of energy came from Clive Owen because I’ve watched him a lot and I’ve watched interviews with him and I kind of got ideas from like how he approached his characters. But inspiration in terms of the character really comes up in terms of what they’ve been writing.
It sounds like your character evolves a little bit as the show progresses. But in the pilot, there is sort of this unambiguous approach to things, to problem solving.
SCOTT: Yes, he’s very head on. Very straightforward. That’s what I love about it too. It’s like he says what he means. Does what he says. There’s no question. That’s what it is. I love it. I really love that. I’ve always played people that people can’t quite figure out.
Can you maybe describe what has been a fun scene for you to work with so far, maybe generally without giving away a specific plot line?
SCOTT: The pilot, the scene in the car with the guy, that was a fantastic scene . . .
I enjoy everything. I really do. Every scene I’ve had so far I’ve enjoyed. Because they’ve been very, very careful with Nico. . . They’ve been so treating him with kid gloves. It’s really great because I feel really very special. They’re not just giving him anything, they’re giving him specific things to do.
So you like being the mystery of the show?
SCOTT: I love it.
Are there real Nicos you think for sports teams? Is he based on anything?
SCOTT: The research that I did — I found out that there are Nicos — usually they’re agents that are like that type of security, like that type of people around sports teams. Those people are very much around them and they are actually security — like the people that are hired to protect a younger kind generation of athletes that are not quite ready to make the step, but they are going to make the step. There’s publicity people and security people. I mean, heads of security are everywhere. I talked to one person that works at Fox Sports and he told me you can do as much research as you want. I could tell you that there are those people, but you will never be able to speak to them.
Have you had to hide a body as Nico?
SCOTT: No. I haven’t had to hide a body. It’s really interesting though. Like, Burgess is coming out of prison. That’s the type of people that we’re dealing with. And it’s not just football they have in the show. We have every sport that comes up. Really kind of interesting. Next episode is a skateboarder and that’s really like a type of Tony Hawk kind of character and other characters like that. In terms of football or any other major sport, people like Michael Vick and Burgess, those are the people that we are dealing with which have issues beyond your normal kind of therapy issue and they’re much more difficult to deal with. I think that in terms of Dani’s life, she’s able to deal with this ‘necessary roughness’ kind of concept. It’s very hard to deal with these people and their issues because they are so deeply-seated that there has to be somebody else on the outside to help facilitate to get them to a place where they are doing the job they are supposed to be doing. Because I think that’s what Nico’s job is in the end is. Everybody needs to do their job. My job is to make sure everyone else is doing their job.
Are there any boundaries that your character cannot do in the show?
SCOTT: Not yet, nothing. I am hoping nothing. Seriously. I’m sure it has to be in the context of Dani’s life somewhere. But hopefully the boundaries are unclear because that is really fun to play — and really to remain stoic in complicated scenarios, I think that will be even more of a challenge, which is really pretty interesting.
What actors would you like to see act opposite as part of your character?
SCOTT: Oh gosh, that’s a crazy question. I could name thousands. Anybody whose good. It’s the four of us — Mehcad, Marc and Callie — the thing that I came out of the pilot with was that I am part of one of the most balanced cast I’ve ever been a part of in my life. Across the board is high level acting to me. Hopefully, that gets translated and its true. Working opposite Callie is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever had in my life. The easiest, most talented woman actor, I should say I’ve ever worked with. Besides that, it’s like anybody who comes in and wants to participate, come on in — let’s have a good time. But most of my stuff is with those guys — so far those guys have been brilliant.
So it’s not like a ‘boy’s club’ with like the three men and Callie?
SCOTT: Completely opposite. I mean, she controls us. She is awesome. She’s really, really awesome. She’s a great actress and her ability to be challenging and natural and present — I’ve really never seen it before and she works every day. She works almost every scene. I don’t think we’ve shot a scene where she’s not in. Actually, I think this episode is the first episode where she’s not in a scene. . . She’s incredible. She’s really, really incredible and I’m not saying that because it’s our show. I think she’s a phenomenal actress. It’s really an honor to work with her.
How early in the process did you sort of feel that chemistry click?
SCOTT: Right before I did this, I did a short movie with her which was really fun to do. So I always knew her and I always loved her. But I knew the minute I walked on set — the minute I said a line and she responded — I was like, ‘Wow, this is really easy.’ And when its somebody that you feel really comfortable with and she’s making you feel comfortable, it just is so easy and it’s so interesting. She responds to what you do and you respond to what she does, and you feel like the two of you make something bigger and better than what was just written on the page. . . [Callie and I] didn’t audition together. We didn’t test together. I don’t know if she tested with anybody actually. I don’t know if she tested with Marc or Mehcad. It’s hit or miss, but I think she has chemistry with everybody — which I think is a very difficult thing to have accomplished. I think that is just a testament to her talent and her ability to include everybody at every level. I mean, guest stars that come in, she’s like that with them as well. With us, she’s like that. She really has an ability to make everybody comfortable and everybody feel like they are doing something special.
Is most of your time on screen with Callie?
What other characters are involved with Nico on screen?
SCOTT: With the coach. I’m with him a lot because, so far, the first few episodes it’s been about the team. I have some stuff coming up with TK, with Mehcad, which I adore him –that will be really cool. He’s fantastic.
So you don’t do many scenes with Marc [Blucas]?
SCOTT: No, Marc and I — there’s some tension that they’re developing [between Matt and Nico]. He has something going on with [Dani] and I don’t have anything going on with her, but I think they want to create some kind of tension.
Do you think they are actually deliberately fostering that for your character?
SCOTT: I think so.
That’s a big clue.
SCOTT: Yeah, but I think overtime. I think it will be a relationship that doesn’t ever happen.
They’re just letting it lie there?
SCOTT: I think so. Maybe season three. For some reason season three is like the season in relationships where they’re like, ‘Alright, let’s put them together, we have nothing else.’
Have you seen the full pilot yet?
SCOTT: Yes. I loved it.
What’s your favorite part?
SCOTT: I don’t really have a favorite part. I love that it’s an hour and half and I’m never bored. I’m really kind of like, ‘This is really good!’ When you’re shooting it, you have no idea how it’s going to be put together. But their ability to put the football together, I thought was really quite incredible. I think that’s really hard to do. Mark Ellis who did choreography for the football stuff was pretty phenomenal. We shot in the Georgia Dome which we’re going to shoot at again and that was really special
Do you find that there’s inadvertent moments of comedy because you’re playing such the straight heavy person?
SCOTT: I hope so. I hope [Nico’s] moments of real charm are funny. I see them like that. I hope others will see them like that.
Are you playing for that or is it just happening?
SCOTT: No, just happening.
Does Nico get involved with Dani’s kids at all?
SCOTT: Yes, in this episode. Like show we’re shooting, we get the next episode, sometimes it gets a little confusing. This episode, yeah.
Does he ‘fix’ them?
SCOTT: Yes he does, actually.
That’s awesome. Those kids were out of control.
SCOTT: Yes, they do get out of control. [Laughter]
Hannah Marks and Patrick Johnson
Can you talk a little bit about your characters?
PATRICK: How do I say this, Ray J is a lady’s man — which I don’t see how I can play that part, but Ray J, he’s best friends with TK and he looks up to him. I don’t think he means any harm to anyone else, but yet he gets away with everything.
HANNAH: I do mean harm, unlike Ray J. [Lindsay’s] definitely really rebellious and she’s going through that stage where she really wants to be cool and she really wants to hate her mom and her brother and her whole family and everyone. She’s just really mad at the world right now. But it’s just kind of her way of coping with her parents’ divorce even though she would never show it to anyone else. And she’s just trying to learn how to be popular, and make friends in high school.
Is there sort of a jealousy between Lindsay and Ray J?
PATRICK: If there’s a jealousy, I don’t notice it and that’s Ray J’s sense that everything is about him. He’s oblivious to everything.
HANNAH: I feel left out because [Ray J] is trying to take my best friend away from me because he thinks she’s cute and I just think he’s going to be using her as one of his girls. So I get really jealous because Ray J gets everything and Lindsay seems to always be left in the corner.
Is there going to be any romantic interests for Lindsay?
HANNAH: I’ve had a couple already actually. I was surprised actually. The first boyfriend [Lindsay] had was like really rebellious. He had like purple hair and piercings and Callie, of course, was like, ‘No way, can’t have it’ and then there’s a boy that I have a crush on that is like the popular guy in school, but he’s not into me yet. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.
Are we going to see Ray J continue his friendship with TK throughout the season and progress?
PATRICK: Yeah, definitely. I think there’s going to be, because from the pilot, TK helped him succeed in football – so yeah, he’s my best friend for sure and he looks out for me. But [Ray J] knows that there’s trouble there always.
For your character, there’s something dangerous about somebody who is self absorbed and they make friends with someone who’s a star and they pretty much get what they want.
PATRICK: That’s the problem because Ray J just doesn’t know. That’s why I’m hoping as well, that farther down, that Ray J understands what he’s doing — that he finally wakes up and he’s like, ‘Maybe I need to grow up a little bit and stop thinking about myself.’
What do you think makes your characters relatable?
PATRICK: We’re both rebellious.
HANNAH: Oh god, because I think every high school teenage girl has been through exactly what Lindsay is going through — where she’s striving to be pretty, striving to be popular, striving to get her family to even like her – so I think she relates to every girl.
PATRICK: And Ray J, I guess I was always that kid because I have four older brothers and one little sister so I got away with everything because my older brothers would pick on me, but I would get away with everything. I would just look at my mom and say, ‘It wasn’t me, I promise’ and she believed it. Just like Ray J. I don’t know what it is. That’s how I can relate to Ray J so much.
Has that made you two connect personally because in some ways it’s the two of you and there’s all of these other people who are more grown up and more…
HANNAH: I feel like we’ve bonded as a family almost. Like a little unit of three. . . Our first day we did like this family photo shoot and that’s when it really clicked for all of us and we’re like, ‘Yeah, this is going to be great’ because we all got along really well.
You did a family photo shoot with Craig [Bierko] as well?
HANNAH: Yeah, we did.
PATRICK: I remember that because it was like the first day we walked in and they’re like he’s your dad and I’m like, ‘This is cool.’
HANNAH: We took the pictures and Craig just had to look like the cheating husband so we’re doing all of these awkward family poses.
Do you think the kids knew about the dad’s infidelities?
PATRICK: I honestly don’t think so.
HANNAH: I think Lindsay had an idea because Lindsay is like ten steps ahead of everyone.
PATRICK: I don’t think Ray J knew at all.
There is an upcoming episode where Nico intervenes on behalf of Ray J and Lindsay.
PATRICK: I cannot wait… I’m so excited. The day that I met Scott [Cohen], I was like, ‘I can’t wait to work with you!’ Just because he reminds me of Robert Downey, Jr. so I’m excited. That’s tomorrow, yeah, where he catches us and that’s going to be awesome. I’m so excited.
HANNAH: He has this funny part in the pilot where he says, ‘Xeno has a degree in early childhood development,’ and Callie’s like, ‘Really?’ and he’s like, ‘No.
His timing was so good, we love it.
You could almost believe anything he says.
HANNAH: I know because when I read that character, I was like, ‘How are they going to do that?’ and he just perfectly embodies it. . . He’s mysterious.
PATRICK: There is definitely more to him going on.
What do you think makes Lindsay and Dani’s mother/daughter relationship different than other ones you see on TV these days?
PATRICK: I feel like you can see — especially between them too –they are so alike. Where other TV shows you kind of see some quality that you don’t share with them. You really believe it, especially in the pilot, when Callie grabs [Lindsay]. That whole moment, I’m mean it’s just they’re so alike.
HANNAH: You really see that Callie learned from her mother’s mistakes and she also didn’t — because she’s making some of the same mistakes her mother did. But, in other ways, I think she’s definitely improved and evolved from her mother.
PATRICK: So realistic too.
So what are some of the qualities that drew you to the characters in these roles?
PATRICK: I liked how Ray J — beforehand I got roles that were these douche jocks or what not – and Ray J, he’s not just a douche. He’s real. Because there’s so many people out there that are in his shoes that are a ‘lady’s man.’ Yet people don’t know. They look at him like he’s got everything. He’s still got a heart and he cares, but I think that’s what drew me to Ray J. He was so cool.
HANNAH: I think [Ray J’s] definitely like the light-side of things and [Lindsay’s] the darks-side of things. What drew me to the role was [Lindsay’s] so much like me. She talks like me. She is really sarcastic. She’s really negative. She’s just so much like me and its fun because I find that it’s easier to adlib and make up my own expressions with this for her because it is so similar to me.
Is there some place you’d like to see your character go through the season? Is there something that you think it would be nice if my character did this?
HANNAH: I would like to say that I’d like her to connect with Dani, but I really don’t. Because I think it’s really funny they way they keep butting-heads. I really want to keep that going. I want there to be more tension, if anything. I want there to be more problems with them.
PATRICK: I think it would be cool if Ray J just came in and fixed everything, honestly. That would be awesome. . . . I think it would be cool, especially more bonding with his sister — kind of maybe get her to lighten-up a little bit.
Who else in the cast do you guys get to interact with beside, be opposite on screen with?
HANNAH: Well, we have Amanda [Detmer] that we’ve done a little bit with. Amanda is really cool. She plays Jeanette who is Callie’s best friend. She’s like the ditzy blonde who is about to be botoxed and she’s so funny, she’s really funny.
PATRICK: I want to work more with Conchetta [Tomei].
HANNAH: Oh yeah. She’s funny.
PATRICK: She’s freaking hilarious. She’s amazing.
HANNAH: She’s [Lindsay and Ray J’s] grandmother.
PATRICK: I haven’t had any scenes with her yet, but when she’s on set, she’ll look for me and I’ll look for her and she’s so cool because it’s awesome to have someone like that on set.
HANNAH: She reminds me of my real life grandma. She’s very diva, in the best way possible.
Tell us about having Callie as a TV mom. She always plays such strong, amazing characters. What is she like on and off the set?
PATRICK: Amazing. She is so cool.
HANNAH: She is amazing. She is what made me so excited about this TV show. Because when I had auditioned for it, I like looked her up on YouTube and watched all of these clips of her on RESCUE ME and I was blown way. She is one of my favorite parts of this whole show.
PATRICK: She’s definitely a ‘mom’ on set.
HANNAH: She takes care of us.
PATRICK: Yeah, there’s moments where we need to say something to someone or we need something and she helps us like speak up. She helps us through it so it’s just really cool, but she’s a ‘mom’ on set, for sure!
With that insightful look into the world of “Necessary Roughness,” and the characters brought to life amongst it, be sure to tune in Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. on USA Network.