Brian Avers

The last time we saw NCIS agent Mike Renko he had been shot in an ambush alongside Sam and Kensi in the episode Burned from Season one of NCIS:LA. Unfortunately, the quirky NCIS undercover agent has been missing from the Mission ever since. Fans of Renko, played by Brian Avers, will not have to wait much longer to see him back in action and working again with Callen and the gang. He is scheduled to make a return in the Season three finale and we couldn’t be more excited!

Avers is a Buckeye (Ohio) native who attended New York University where he received a Master of Fine Arts and a Global Fellowship in the Arts. He has worked on Broadway in such productions as Rock and Roll and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. His film and television credits include Julie and Julia, Gigantic, Law and Order, Castle and The Medium. The actor is currently wrapping up production for the movie The Weekend where he also worked behind the camera for the first time as director and co-writer.

We checked in with Brian to see what he has been up to since season one. NCIS:LAFan asked Brian if he would answer a few fan questions, and he generously agreed to sit down and talk about his time on the show and what’s up next for Mike Renko.

Richtsje would like to know:
– Which fellow actor on the show did you most like to hang out with behind the scenes and which scene from the episodes did you like shooting best?

Honestly, they’re all great people to hang out with, and that goes for everyone off-camera as well: the production staff, the costume department, hair and make-up… It’s a unique team of warm, humorous, hard-working people, and that makes going to set every day an awful lot of fun. And I think you see evidence of that in how successful the show is. But if I absolutely have to choose, I’ll say Peter Cambor. Pete’s been a great friend from day one.

My favorite scene to shoot was probably the one in “Burned”, when I wake up from napping in a chair and Sam & Callen bust my chops as I give them some info. As a scene it’s no big deal, but it stands out because that day everything just felt like it was clicking – no work, all fun – and ideally, that’s how it should be all the time.

Brittany would like to know:
– Which NCIS:LA episode was your favourite to film and why?

Tough call. “Ambush” gave me the most to do. Chris O’Donnell was cracking me up all through “The Bank Job”. “Burned” was the most relaxed. “Sans Voir” (coming up) was a great reunion with everyone. And I can’t forget the “Legend” episodes we did for NCIS, doing those scenes with Mark Harmon was an unforgettable treat.

Gonna say “Ambush” – I was there every day of the shoot, and that’s how I like it.

MommaJonson would like to know:
– Did you think your character would make such a big impact on fans and you have been gone for so long, what have you been working on? Also if you can answer this: What episode will you be appearing in?

Great questions, Momma, thanks. Episode-wise, I’ll be appearing in the two-part finale.
To your first Q, I went into NCIS just wanting to do the best job I could, for myself, for the cast, and for the story as a whole. When people started telling me that fans were excited about Renko – and then missing him when he was gone – it was a very pleasant surprise! In my mind, it all goes back to how strong the show is, and how great the NCIS and NCIS:LA fans are. To have had some fans expressing their interest in Renko, and in me, has been a great experience, and it has meant a lot to me and my family.

In my time away from the show, I’ve done a few plays, and a couple other TV appearances, but mostly I’ve been focusing on a feature film I directed, called The Weekend. As an independently financed movie, it has taken a long time and a lot of work to get it finished, but I’m very excited to start screenings in New York and Los Angeles this summer and hopefully there will be a lot more to say about that project down the road. (For updates, keep an eye on my Facebook fan page!)

Elora Dana would like to know:
– How it feels like returning to NCIS:LA and are you back to stay or just for a single episode? Personally, prefer the first!

Ha, thanks Elora! Returning to the show is always great. I knew Shane Brennan was going to bring Mike back into the picture sooner or later, so it was exciting to find out what would happen next, and to be featured in the last episodes of the season is awesome. I can’t accurately answer your second question because I honestly don’t know… we’ll all find out more on May 15th, and see what Mr. Brennan does from there.

Gisela would like to know:
– If Renko was part of the team, who do you think should be his partner? Could you form a great partnership with Callen, Sam, Kensi or Deeks?

Renko’s a team player and a great guy, so he’d work well with anyone, in my opinion.

If it were up to Renko? Let’s just say he’d welcome as much time with Kensi as Hetty will allow. 😉

Callie would like to know:
Which similarities are there between Renko and Callen and who is Renko more afraid of – Hetty or Gibbs?

Both Renko and Callen are fully committed to their team, and to protecting the lives of innocent people. They’ve both had to make hard personal sacrifices to follow through on that mission. And they’re both deeply loyal. Renko doesn’t yet have Callen’s experience, but if he did, I bet they’d be even more alike.

Gibbs is intimidating… but Hetty is downright scary. She just seems to know things. (And Renko likes to keep his secrets, well… secret.)

Cashkend would like to know:
– Renko, your character in NCIS:LA would tease Kensi, or have fun with Sam and Callen. Have you had the same fun as you did on set this time as compared to Season one or Legend?
– You left the show 2 years ago – and things have changed: you never met Eric Christian Olsen or Renée Felice Smith– have you been able to work with them this year? Did you meet any new crew members? And what things haven’t changed?
– Do you still “feel the love” from NCIS:LA fans who haven’t seen you since Burned? – [Hope you do, French NCIS:LA fans are delighted with your return!]

Ah, merci! J’adore les Francais fans! Aussi, je vous remercie pour le Marquis de Lafayette!

I did have as much fun as ever before, thanks for asking. The show has continued to develop, and everyone on staff has it running like a well-oiled machine, so it was great to get back and jump right in.

You’re right about Eric and Renee, though I got to meet them briefly and they’re great people and clearly great for the show. Incredibly, most of the crew is the same – which speaks to how good they are at their jobs! I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed: the fast pace, the spontaneity, the enthusiasm, the attention to detail, and that hard-to-define energy when everyone knows they’re a part of something special and they want to enjoy every second of it.

NCIS Los Angeles FAN would like to know:
-Did you originally have to audition for the role of Renko?

Yep. I had just driven across the country through the coldest spell in a hundred years – an epic drive with my father beside me – and the next day I went into casting director Susan Bluestein’s office to read for the pilot episodes. She had seen me perform the lead role on Broadway in a play called The Lieutenant of Inishmore (I was an understudy who got lucky for a few weeks), so we hit it off pretty quick. A few days later, it was me and Shane Brennan and a camera. A couple weeks later I met the pilot director Tony Wharmby, who had grown up doing plays in northern England with another director I had just worked with (and who is a personal hero of mine), the great Trevor Nunn. We literally sat there, getting teary-eyed, talking about Trevor and art and the nostalgia of youth. I was pretty sure I was going to get hired after that. You don’t usually find yourself getting emotional in an audition, as you reminisce with the director about his beloved childhood friend.

-What was the reason for not bringing you back after Season one?

I think it was simply a case of the writers following the needs of the show. Mike Renko is a guy who works undercover, out in the field, and not with the central team. And when you have all these great characters on the central team, that’s a lot of story you have to tell when you’re building a show — all the stuff on Callen, all the stuff on Sam, those are our leads — and then Hetty, Kensi, Nate, Eric, Dom, introducing Deeks & Nell, among others — it’s a lot of characters and relationships packed into a fast-moving action show. So from the beginning there wasn’t a lot of room to fit Mike in. They’ve definitely tried, and honestly, I feel fortunate to have done as many as I have. It’s not often you get to have a great run with a great show, and play a fun character, one of those great types of characters who walk into the story every once in a while and say ‘hey’, like an old buddy. It’s been a wonderful ride.

– Did you always know that Renko would return?

I was pretty certain he would. Shane likes to bring back characters; he creates a specific world and likes to make that world rich. Also, it’s fun for an audience to see familiar characters reappear, and he knows that. But you never know for sure what’s going to happen, especially in television. That’s what makes it exciting.

-Why did you want to become an actor?

Because the girl I liked was in a play, of course! But then, everyone started reacting as though I might have something special – which I wasn’t used to at all, sad weedy little creature that I was. So that flattery, plus recognising an opportunity to disappear into a world of make believe, plus the addictive adrenaline rush of performing for huge audiences of people… why wouldn’t I want to keep doing that for a very long time?

-You just directed your first film which you also co-wrote…which do you prefer…acting, writing or directing?

Great question. I’m still figuring that out myself. I love acting, and have dedicated most of my life to it. And I always wanted to be a writer, before acting came along, so that’s still an important part of who I am, and I expect to be doing a lot more of it in the coming years.

But directing feels in many ways like the natural fit. I love telling stories, I love great actors, and I love being able to problem solve and delegate on the fly. The stakes are huge as a director, you have to earn a lot of trust and you have to be fully committed and you have to pull off your promises to people. I love the challenge of that. Making The Weekend has been one of the definitive joys of my life. I can’t wait to share it with people — and I can’t wait to get started on the next one.

I might’ve just figured out the answer to your question. 😉

– Tell us about your experience directing The Weekend. How does it differ from directing stage productions?

The Weekend was a collaborative project, much like a stage piece I had created with two close friends in 2007 called Jesse Garon Lives (a kind of sketch revue about America). And it was similar to that production in the sense that I was leading the charge, but everyone was involved in the development of the story. Both experiences were unique, and personal, and extremely rewarding. But the big difference is, this is a film, so it’s not going to just disappear into the ether, never to be seen again. It’s going to be a concrete actual thing that people can watch whenever they want, it’s going to be around for a while, it’s going to be something I’m going to watch again and again. So it really better not suck! (lol)

No, but that is the important difference, to me. The magic of a play is that for one moment in time, one room is having one experience that can never be repeated – and as an actor, you can change the temperature of that room in a hundred different ways. So it ends up being more about language and physicality and atmosphere and imagination.

The magic of a film is that it stays ‘itself’ forever, you can revisit those memorable moments time and time again, and the characters can become like family. So as a film-maker, aiming for that, you try to make sure every moment is the “best” that moment can be — that the story is being told in the “best” possible way from start to finish. So it ends up being more about structure and visual information, and a kind of rigorous honesty in the performances. It wants to have impact, and clarity. Whether it’s romantic comedy, like The Weekend, or anything else, your goal is to make the whole experience permanently effective.

That’s probably why I love the movies, why we all do. The great ones last forever. They promise a kind of beautiful permanence we don’t get in life.

(I’m sure there’s some psychoanalysis available there. Where’s Nate Getz when I need him?)

One of Brian’s biggest fans, MommaJonson is especially glad that Brian is back in the Bullpen. “Special Agent Mike Renko has made a BIG impact on a lot of fans of NCIS:LA. Five episodes are just NOT enough. Please do not leave without notice again!”

We appreciate Brian’s willingness to take the time to answer questions from his fans and we look forward to seeing him on the season finale and invite him back to NCIS Los Angeles FAN anytime!

Sans Voir will air on CBS, May 15, 2012 at 9-11 p.m.

[Leave a comment about the interview on our blog…]