It was less than three hours away from the East Coast premiere of Paper Soldiers on NCIS Los Angeles, and NCISLA Magazine was fortunate enough to sit down and interview the man of the evening… Peter Cambor! Peter, who was scheduled for a return visit as Nate Getz on Tuesday night’s episode was a delight to speak with and it’s no surprise that Peter’s fans always look forward to seeing him return to the show… even if it is not as often as we would like! With the show only hours away, we sat down to talk to Cambor about his emotional and intellectual relationship with Hetty, why he enjoys seeing Nate being ethically challenged and his current undercover roll as rock god (Eddie) in the Wedding Band.
Peter always enjoys returning to play his alter ego, Nate Getz, so right off the bat we wanted to know if it was easy getting back into character after being away from the series for so long?
Yes, it’s one of those things when you are doing a show, and coming in everyday you get used to doing it so much it does kind of become old hat and a lot of it has to do with the cast which is so great and the crew which is so great, you kind of just slip back into it. It’s always weird when you go and guest star on a show somewhere, all eyes are on you, but that’s not always easy. But here, when I do come back it’s just another day at the office. You all kind of slip back into old patterns, ribbing each other and all that comes with it… trying to kick box with LL Cool J and failing at it! There is such a great vibe on that set… so that’s what makes it easy. Of course I loved doing the show as a regular, but it’s so much fun to come back in this capacity because the story lines tend to be so extensive for Nate and it’s a mystery trying to fill in the gaps. It’s kind of fun to be on these secret missions as part of what I do. It’s a real treat and you get some great moving scenes out of it.
Nate’s come a long way in the past four years, including working in the field… what character changes are we going to see in his return to the show in Paper Soldiers?
I think the first time he came back in the episode, Lockup where we do the whole episode in the prison… I actually choke someone out. It’s like this whole other side of Nate where he’s really in the mix… it’s like Kung Fu Nate. But Hetty, is always putting you to the test, even if you are just painting the house, painting the fence, sanding the floor or waxing the car… she is making you into a great fighter. Hetty is an intellectual warrior and she is not going to be physically imposing but she is credibly capable. And she’s ruthless if she needs to be. Her intellect is honed as a real weapon. I think that Nate is on the way of going down that path.
Whatever the end result and if the show goes on, for god willing ten to fifteen years, he will be someone who is capable of that kind of skill set. A lot along the lines of where Nell is at… but Nell, as we found out, is a physical warrior too. But Nate comes into this episode and into a situation which he is very uncomfortable with but to that end I don’t think he wants to go and paint a house, he wants to go kick stuff and be a karate fighter. (In this episode) Nate doesn’t want to be involved in a complicated situation with someone who he has a lot of feelings for… that being Rose. But Hetty feels like she has to do that. I feel the road he is going down is a psychological, intellectual change but I think all the characters go through that at different levels. Hetty is always aware of that every time she calls someone up to the Ops centers, she says “You guys take this and you take this” and I think there is a method to her madness!
The great thing about Linda is that she comes from a theatre background and it’s really challenging with Linda. She’s really fabulous to work with and talented. Besides the fact she has won an Academy Award, she comes from a time when theatre had some incredibly interesting people in it like Peter Brooks and the real cutting edge way of thinking about theatre in the 60’s and 70’s. I remember the first days I was on set and it was early on in the series and she said “So how did you get out here and wind up in the show?” So I said “Well I came to LA to do a production of the Cherry Orchard by Chekhov.” She said “Oh I was in a production of that which Peter Brooks directed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music”… and I’m like “Oh my God, Peter Brooks!” You can just imagine what that was like. And anyone who was a working acting in New York and spent time in New York, cutting their teeth as an actor, like Renee and myself, there is kind of a little extra spark every time you get to see Linda, especially on stage.
So this episode is a lot of fun in the sense, there is this element of a game of chess going on and I’m trying to outwit Hetty much to Nate’s folly and chagrin. Which is kind of impossible but whenever you play those scenes it’s always the stuff in-between the lines like Chekhov that’s important… we are fortunate to have some fantastic writers on the show. A lot of stuff happens in the subtext of what’s not being said which is why I love all those scenes with Hetty. Especially the ones with Callen and Hetty but Nate in this episode gets a little bit of intellectual jesting and sword play with her. And it’s fun whenever I see her on set. I’m a giant, I’m like 6’5” and she is so small… so it’s a wonderful game we play. And it’s great to have great people to act with and that’s one of the reason these NCIS shows work really well. There’s a terrific chemistry with everyone.
Shane Brennan has said he would love to have Nate return to NCIS:LA. If you have a say, what would you like to see happen to Nate in future episodes? More adventure, undercover work? Or back working at the Mission with the gang?
That’s a good question. We always joke around the set and wonder if there is this character bible locked away in some safe in the corner of Shane Brennan’s office with every secret about the characters. But of course there’s not… but in some ways there is because it’s always up to the creator. I think one of the great lines from television is by the guy who created the Sopranos who said he always knew how the show was going to end. The smart question to ask any of these guys like Shane who write these series is what is the end of the show… what is wrapping everything up? For Nate in a show like this you have to keep obstacles in front of him going forward… as many obstacles as possible for Nate because he is a physiologist and there is an ethical element to that because as a physiologist you have to take the Hippocratic Oath and there are all sorts of guidelines you have to adhere to.
Personally what becomes interesting to me is when he comes close to crossing the line ethically. In season two when I left the show to go on my mission, I was in the firing range firing a gun which was him taking that forward step. Doctors aren’t supposed to go out shooting people! It’s this element which puts him in danger or when things get compromised and make things difficult for him that’s great to explore. But I like that idea of him being ethically challenged and him having to go and do something he isn’t comfortable with which is exactly what happens in tonight’s episode. I’d also love to do things like jumping out of helicopters with Eric Christian Olsen and Chris O’Donnell too!
Because it’s an hour long show, there is a little bit of more space to work with in terms of the comedy. A lot of times when you are doing a half hour show, the jokes are packed on the page, but this is more situational. And I really liked that about the show and when they say cut, we’re like, oh you mean you guys are rolling? You don’t even know when we stop or when we’re starting because there is a great rapport between the cast. We’re like a boys club, when you see the four of us up there we are just kind of goofing off. It’s great to have a gig like that when you just roll camera and you have a good time and getting to play music which is a very important part of the show for me because I play music and I have for a long time. It’s just a lot of fun. Great fun;great group. It’s an offbeat quirky show and it’s been a real treat to do that.
You seem to be the only family guy in the band, complete with a wife and kids. How does your character juggle being the responsible/parental figure and the weekend rock god?
The two creators of the show in many ways their lives mirror Eddie’s in the show. They are both television writers and they work incredibly hard but they are also married and have two kids So they know the game and personally relate to the story on some level… it’s always great when it’s there on the page and the writing is really good because it makes it so much easier. He (Eddie) has two loves in his life. The band and his wife and his family and he loves them for two different reasons. Music is something that is important to him and his wife understands that. It’s all the passions in life that is important. It’s so real and important in my life. Having been in a band before, if you really have the opportunity to perform live in front of a crowd that is really into it, there is nothing like it. It’s intoxicating and to have that every week is fantastic and he’s got that.
What’s it like doing comedy after coming off of a drama like NCIS Los Angeles?
It’s funny because NCISLA is such a unique exception because it is a workplace kind of show instead of a crime show in the sense that fans want to hang with those people, you want to be in that atmosphere like Cheers or the Larry Sanders Show. When I think of NCIS LA you want to work in those cubicles and work next to those people solving crimes and fighting the good fight. You really are attracted to the lighter side of it. If NCISLA had been more dark and brooding like some other kind of crime show, I don’t know if I would have been necessarily into it.
But I think the way things are with that show, I fit into it because of my quirkiness and more comedic side because I did a comedy before NCISLA. I like doing the serious stuff as well but you got to find the humor in it, and find the jokes in it. The tragedies will take care of themselves. When you go out to hang out with the actual NCIS agents, they are so funny and they are not like ‘we got to go solve a crime’ or super serious guys. Obviously this is different because the stakes are lesser in something like Wedding Band. It’s not like life and death is at stake. But there is so much more that goes on with NCISLA and really helps the show and adds this human element to it. It’s really an enjoyable place to work as well.
I always would love to do more theatre. When you move to LA you think you’re going to do a play a year and you kind of keep that in your back pocket and then you start working and that becomes more and more difficult to do. Sometimes the timing doesn’t work out and to find the right play at the right place is kind of hard for that to happen too. It had been over 4-5 years since I did a play, and finally this Shakespeare play fell into my lap and I spent a week on this audition because I was so rusty on my Shakespeare that I just worked and worked on it and went in and had a ball and later that afternoon I was cast in this thing. There is nothing like being in front of a live audience and this was outdoors which I never done before which was great too. It reminds you why you became an actor in the first place. Not to be corny but it’s definitely chicken soup for the soul. I was humbled by it and it was challenging and a great experience.
What’s up next for Peter Cambor?
Saturday is the season finally of the Wedding Band and we’ll find out if it’s coming back. I’m in a holding pattern; maybe do some more pilots and comeback to do more NCISLA. That’s the life of an actor; you go where the winds take you!
To celebrate the return of Peter Cambor this week to NCIS Los Angeles, we have commissioned a special Nate NCISLA Magazine cover by Sweet Lu! Peter’s cover will be put in rotation along with the rest of the cast covers that you see above. Be sure to watch the season finally of the Wedding Band on TNT, Saturday, January 19 at 10 pm (EST). Thanks go out to Peter for taking the time to speak with us and we eagerly await his return to the set of NCIS LA. Also, be sure to follow Peter on Twitter: @petercambor and on IMBD here.