From Reluctance To Love, Clayne Crawford On His Role As Martin Riggs In Lethal Weapon
The actor who plays one half of the cop duo in Warner Bros' TV reboot of the '80s classic, Lethal Weapon talks his initial reluctance to join the cast to delving into his character and honouring the film's legacy.
Based on the hit movie franchise of the same name, Lethal Weapon follows cop duo Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) as they work a crime-ridden beat in modern-day Los Angeles.
Grief-stricken after the loss of his young wife and unborn child, ex-Navy SEAL-turned-detective Martin Riggs (moves to California to "start over" at the LAPD. He's paired up with Roger Murtaugh who's just coming back to the job after a near-fatal heart attack. While their partnership starts off on a rocky footing, their partnershio warms up to become a solid pair.
Drawing influences from the '80s hit, Lethal Weapon has been noted to carry a strong storyline with sharply drawn characters and have garnered positive reviews. We speak to actor Clayne Crawfod who plays Martin Riggs to get to know more of the series, his role and him.
ESQUIRE: How did you secure your role in this series?
CLAYNE CRAWFORD: I didn’t even audition. The producers actually just called my agent and said they are interested in me for this new TV show. I immediately passed because I was just finishing another series Rectify. I was really happy with where I was creatively and wanted to let some time pass before looking for another cable series. Plus I have children and we live on a farm in Alabama, so the idea of coming to LA for nine months of the year didn’t really sound that appealing. And then a couple of phone calls later they told me that it was Lethal Weapon and I shut it down because I thought that the Lethal Weapon film should be kept in a tiny little precious box like a time capsule and never disturbed. But when the president of Warner Bros called me and told me that I had to read the script and he was getting on a plane to Alabama to talk to me, it went from an adamant “No!” to reading the material to me kind of falling in love.
"They told me that it was Lethal Weapon and I shut it down because I thought that the Lethal Weapon film should be kept in a tiny little precious box like a time capsule and never disturbed."
ESQ: What was your first meeting like between you and Damon Wayons? How did you two build that chemistry between each other for the show?
CC: You know after I met with Peter Roth from Warner Bros and we made the decision that night that I was going to do this, they wanted me to meet Damon at the breakfast the very next morning! For me, being a father and my family always comes first. With Damon, I’ve met another human with the same priorities. Amazingly, he's a grandfather now. For him to express in those first few minutes how much he loves his children I knew right away that I am going to be working with a good human being.
Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans).
ESQ: Have you always been a fan of the Lethal Weapon movies?
CC: Yeah I’m a huge fan of the films. But we're not trying to mimic what they did—and Damon would say the same thing—because it was lightning in a bottle. The only thing we can do is take this incredible concept that Shane Black put together as a template and we're just trying to follow that. But doing it in a different way because I can't be Mel, you know. If I was him, I would have been famous long time ago. I can only bring what that Clayne has, and the same with Damon. I think it’s us not trying to repeat what they did, just kind of build upon it.
"We're not trying to mimic what they did—and Damon would say the same thing—because it was lightning in a bottle. The only thing we can do is take this incredible concept that Shane Black put together as a template and we're just trying to follow that."
ESQ: In the first movie, Mel Gibson's interpretation of the character is one that's almost sort of dangerously unhinged at times. You seem to have gone a little bit less crazy. We're curious as to what the degree of unstableness was that you were going for with the character.
CC: I was playing more of just the sadness. If I lost my children, I don't know how I would get up and pay the bills; I don't know how I would kind of continue with life. So I approached it from that way, but yet having that urge, that desire to kind of catch bad guys. I try to just ground Riggs in an honest place. What Mel Gibson did was so incredible in 1987 with that role, but I think that we, as an audience, kind of want things a little more grounded today in a little bit more truth. For me, I had to find the heart of the piece. I had to come from that place and not go so big with it.
ESQ: What kind of challenges do you face in playing your characters?
CC: I think the biggest challenge I've had to overcome is that I'm in a pretty large shadow with some big shoes to fill. So the battle is not judging what I’m doing, second-guessing or comparing what I'm doing. As an actor, that's a death sentence. It's approaching every day with the knowledge that I'm going to fail and I’m going to try again and through those failures, we will find some success.
"I think the biggest challenge I've had to overcome is that I'm in a pretty large shadow with some big shoes to fill."
ESQ: You've spent four years playing a fairly depressed person who deals with his depression in not so healthy ways on Rectify. Is there a contrast between the depression of Riggs and Teddy?
CC: Oh, yeah! Teddy was just an insecure, sad, little fellow, wasn't he? Teddy was a peacock to hide all of his insecurities. Riggs doesn't really care. There's a big difference. Teddy was sad because he didn't know who he was or what he wanted. He was lost in this role. He'd been playing an idea of what other people thought of him, so he was kind of playing those projections. Riggs is very confident in who he is and he's a very strong individual. He just has nothing. So it's a very different place to come from.
I never really played Teddy sad. I played Teddy as someone who was kind of clinging to the edge of a cliff and was constantly losing his grip. Riggs is free-falling. So it's quite different. And one's just fun. The other one wasn't. Teddy was not fun to play by any means. It was very gut-wrenching. And as you know, "Rectify" is a piece, right? It's a process. Lethal Weapon is fun. We get to cut up and I jump off cars and beat people up every night, so, yeah.
Lethal Weapon airs on Warner TV HB (HyppTV Channel 613) every Thursday, 9.50pm.