BY ALICIA RANCILIO
Rainn Wilson knows he’ll be remembered as Dwight Schrute, the odd, overly confident character lacking social graces that he played on NBC’s “The Office” for nine seasons.
“I have no problem being known as Dwight until the day that I die. I’m so blessed and lucky,” the 49-year-old actor said in a recent interview.
He’s hoping that his newest role will also make an impression and put him in a category with Ed O’Neill and Bryan Cranston as “great TV actors who’ve done very different roles” and still find their audience.
Wilson stars in Fox’s “Backstrom,” premiering at 8 p.m. Thursday on WFLD-Channel 32. The New Trier High grad plays Everett Backstrom, a cantankerous detective living in Portland, Oregon, who is as good at his job as he is offensive. As the series progresses, viewers see that Backstrom has as much contempt for himself as he does for the world around him. His emotions are all over the place, and Wilson loves that complexity.
“There can be scenes with him crying, scenes with him acting ridiculous and everything in between,” he said. “For an actor you just love that.”
The show is based on a Swedish book series that was also adapted for TV. Cast members include Dennis Haysbert, Kristoffer Polaha and Thomas Dekker.
Q.Is starring in a show like this more work than “The Office”?
A.Oh, dude, you have no idea. It is so much more work. “The Office” we shot somewhere between 10 and 12 hours a day and I was there for most of that time but not all of it necessarily. In that [time] Steve Carell had all the heavy lifting. … Dwight would just throw in some kind of funny line. When you are, as they say, number one on the call sheet and you’re the lead, not only do you have the most lines, not only are you in the most scenes, but the amount of energy it takes is greater because you’re driving those scenes. Your intentionality is the motor of the scenes so there’s no sitting back on your heels and throwing in a couple funny lines here and there.
Q.Is it accurate to call “Backstrom” a procedural?
A.It’s definitely a procedural in that we solve a crime every week but not in the way say “CSI” is, where the characters all kind of speak the same. There really is personality in “Backstrom” where every character has a different voice.
Q.You’re also an executive producer of “Backstrom.” Why did you take that on?
A.That was kind of a deal breaker for me. I want to be a part of the decision-making process. I want to be in the rooms when they’re talking about where the show’s going and the issues they’re having. I needed to be more deeply involved.
Q.You also have a book coming out next fall.
A.I’m very excited. I have been working hard on it and it’s a comedic memoir of my life.