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Interview: Brennan Elliott

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Currently airing its second season, the Hallmark Channel original series Cedar Cove has become a solid hit for the network. The show is based on author Debbie Macomber's book series of the same name and follows Judge Olivia Lockhart as she weaves her way through relationships with friends and family as well as her job as a municipal court judge. The show has been consistently winning its time slot on Saturday nights and is pulling in fantastic ratings for the network.

One reason the show is doing so well is the work of actor Brennan Elliott who plays land developer and businessman Warren Saget. Brennan should be a name you know as he has a resume that would be the envy of many in Hollywood. He’s appeared in hit television series like Strong Medicine, Cold Case, The 4400, NCIS and The Crazy Ones to name a few. His talents aren’t just relegated to the small screen; he’s appeared in films such as The Silencer, Confession and Black Widow.

Brennan sat down with the Pop Culture Principle to talk about Cedar Cove, how important the fans are to the series and how he doesn’t play Warren Saget as a bad guy.

Pop Culture Principle – For those who have not seen the show, can you tell us about your character Warren Saget?

Brennan Elliott – Warren is a bit of a transplant. He wanted to leave the East coast and settle in a different kind of locale. I made some interesting backstory choices that for health reasons he wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. Moving to this smaller lifestyle is better for his health and happiness. The island life is a much slower pace and at the same time, there are some business opportunities there as well. He has to deal with the locals and there way of life and how they deal with day to day life. Anybody from the big city who goes to a small town, the dichotomy and the dynamic between those two different types of people and cultures are very different. These differences can add a lot of humor, drama and a lot of interesting dynamics and conflicts.

Warren is a bit of a black sheep when he comes to town. The way he lives his life and operates not only his business, but his personal life, rubs people in Cedar Cove the wrong way.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it about this character that made you want to be part of this project?
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Brennan Elliott – I did a movie with Michael Scott called Kiss at Pine Lake. It was the first role where I was kind of a suit character. It was a fun little role and Michael said you should look at doing a bigger character than this and I definitely wanted to do something with a lot more scope. I’ve never played a character like this and it wasn’t something that I think a lot of the people in the business had seen me do or thought I could do. I thought it was a great character and an opportunity to stretch myself artistically. On the page, it was like a blank canvas and there wasn’t much there in the books as far as who this person was. I mean, you had the basic information that he was a real estate businessman and he moves to a small town, gets into some trouble, goes to jail and then he’s gone. I loved the character and thought it would be a great thing to do. There are so many levels to this guy and I could go so many different ways with him. When you peel the onion back on this guy, there is so much going on and I thought it was a great character to play. I saw him as the kind of person who walks into a room like a peacock.

I started the process form there and as we got into the first couple of episodes, they asked me to come back and finish the first season. As every episode goes on, he evolves and I feel like it’s Christmas every time I read a script. He’s a fun, very complex character and I wanted to take the opportunity to really bite my teeth into something that I haven’t experienced before. In retrospect, it’s probably one of if not the best character I have ever done and the most fun without question.

Pop Culture Principle – Is it fun for you to play a character that elicits such a reaction from the fans?

Brennan Elliott – Absolutely! I always say we have the best fans in the business and they are some of the most loyal, devoted and opinionated fans out there. They have very strong opinions about there shows and you have to understand that genre. They have been so loyal, they either love him or they love to hate him. One of the things that I really wanted to make sure that came across is that you can’t play a bad guy and make him bad. If you are going to play an evil character, you have to find out the real depth and the purpose as to why they are evil. So in Warren, I had to find those reasons as well. He’s insecure, he wants to find love and he believes that the only way he can get a woman to appreciate him is if he has power and is successful. There are people like that out there and they are not evil, they just look at the world in their own framework. I let the audience judge Warren.

It’s amazing that I have fans called the Warrenites and Warren Nation. Sometimes I’m sitting with my wife watching the show and my Twitter account is going crazy. The fans are really responding to this character. I actually get ideas from fans on the character and sometimes I tell the writers and they get ideas as well. Again, they either love him or love to hate him and I really enjoy playing that kind of dynamic.

Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove 1005-- (Photo by Katie Yu/Hallmark)

Pop Culture Principle – Do you consider Warren to be a “bad guy?”

Brennan Elliott – No I don’t. As I said before, he just looks at the world in a different kind of prism than you or I do. By getting to know Warren, you may find out that he is a great guy. Who wouldn’t want to have dinner with him? I think he would be a blast to hang out with. Warren wants love like everybody else; he has big city values and wants to make money. Someone mentioned on Twitter once that they didn’t understand why Warren is considered a bad guy because he’s just trying to make Cedar Cove a better place and help it evolve. Who cares if he wants to build a skyscraper next to a lamp post or restaurant that’s been there for 150 years? He’s trying to make the city grow and some people don’t want to change. When people are stuck in their ways and someone comes in and wants to change the way things are, they are considered evil or a bully. I think as an actor, you can’t judge a character ever. You have to find the truth and depth in that character. We all do things that people don’t like and things that people do like. I don’t play him evil and I don’t see him evil and I never see him as the villain. I don’t play him as a bad guy; I play him as a human being. He’s a person just like everybody else.

Pop Culture Principle – Sue Tenney, from 7th Heaven fame, was brought in to be the show runner for Season two. How has that changed the dynamic of the series?

Brennan Elliott – I felt like we had all the pieces for a show that could last many seasons, and we needed that one person to come in to put it all together. We needed someone who understands the books and the characters, someone who can take the characters into a direction that makes good television and is entertaining. Also, we needed someone who understands not only what Hallmark wants, but what fans of the show want. I think to Debbie’s credit, she has been open to giving the characters broader experiences than they have had in the books (so the stories have the longer life that is required for years of TV entertainment). Sue Tenney is just an incredible genius and I thank God every day that she is our show runner because she is absolutely brilliant.

Pop Culture Principle – As we start learning more about Warren in Season two, do you hope we get to dig more into Warren’s backstory?

Brennan Elliott – I don’t want to disclose much, but there is something going on which is one of the main reasons for his move to Cedar Cove. There is a little bit of back history and back storyline that we are getting into that kind of started already. Over the next six or seven weeks, you will find out the reasons for the move and what he did back East. Everyone who watches the show will have a fun time finding out what’s going on with Warren, Eric and Jack. It’s going to be a really great finish to the year.

Cedar Cove 2001 Final Assets

Pop Culture Principle – You’ve had some intense scenes with Dylan Neal. What has it been like working with him?

Brennan Elliott – He’s a constant professional who I consider a friend and a wonderful person. When we do a scene together, we kind of take the gloves off and we want to do the best scene that we can. We are friends off camera and sometimes it’s not easy going to those combative places together, but when you are working with a professional like him and someone who knows what he is doing, it makes it much easier. I actually have another scene with him later in the season that is probably more combative. We enjoy working together and I think we will have a lot more stuff to do together if we get a third season.

Pop Culture Principle – Warren and Jack obviously do not like each other. Do you think Warren truly believes that Eric will be an asset to his company or is it just a way to get back at Jack?

Brennan Elliott – That’s a very interesting question. There are a myriad of reasons why Warren picked Eric. There is nothing black and white when it comes to Warren. So, those are some of the reasons and there are other ones that will be fleshed out as the season continues. There are some elements of Warren getting back at Jack. I don’t think Warren is just trying to get back at Jack, but I think Warren believes that Eric needs a role model and that he truly enjoys being his mentor. I think he genuinely believes that Eric has talent and wants to nurture that talent. If Jack could just see that he’s not a bad guy all the time and that he really cares about Eric. Again, there are also some alternative motives that I can’t disclose that makes Warren much more fun to watch.

Warren just doesn’t walk into a room just to order a coffee. He doesn’t walk into any scene for just one reason because there is always something going on underneath. For me, that makes him such an interesting character to play.

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Pop Culture Principle – Do you think Warren still has feelings for Justine?

Brennan Elliott – Absolutely. I am hoping that it comes across that I just wasn’t trying to possess her as some of the scenes may suggest. I really believe that Warren loves her, cares about her and wants the best for her. He has a line where he says she is a little lost girl trying to find her way. I believe that Warren thinks if you don’t want to be with me, that’s fine, be with someone else. He still loves her and it hurts. His feelings aren’t going to go anywhere and when he’s with her he is going to be honest and tell her that she shouldn’t be with this guy or that she needs to make some decisions in her life. He’s kind of that wise boyfriend that does love her and wants the best for her and I genuinely played that both seasons.

Many fans have said that Justine needs to be Warren because he does care about her. Some have said that the best guys she’s been with is Warren. Of course, he makes some mistakes in business and does some unsavory things, but he radiates a real genuine care for her. As an actor, that made me feel really good that the fans are seeing that he wasn’t just trying to control her as another conquest and that he really does love her; that was very important to me.

Pop Culture Principle – Why do you think Cedar Cove is resonating so much with its audience?

Brennan Elliott – I think the audiences are saturated with negativity. I think they are saturated with sex, violence, blood and the serial dramas that want to find the killer. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for that, but in the world we live in now with the economy, diseases and war, people just want to be able to come home and feel good after watching an hour of television. I think it’s important in today’s society where after you watch an hour of television you really feel good and you enjoyed it. I don’t think this is a phase and I think a lot of networks are going that way, not just Hallmark.

Our fans have said it best that this is the only show on television that I can leave and I am excited to see it the next week because it makes me feel good. That is a profound statement and I really believe that. It’s not that we are dong fluffy stories because all of our characters are going through stuff. The audiences are really invested and they walk away feeling a little better about their lives and I think that is why we have millions of people watching each week. It makes you feel like you are watching real life on a small island. It’s not about car chases, Golden Globes and making sure we shock the audience. It’s about a little place on earth where you can go and escape and when you are done, you want to go back there. I am proud to be a part of it.

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Pop Culture Principle – Many of the cast from Cedar Cove live tweet with each episode. What has the interaction between the cast and the fans meant to the show and to you personally?

Brennan Elliott – It means everything. In this business, sometimes you kind of forget the audience. They want to be a part of the show because not only do they love the show, they want to be a part of what the actors are experiencing on the show. Social media is where everything is going, so it’s fun to interact with the fans. I enjoy it because I get a chance to hear what the audience thinks of my character or what is going on with the show. We don’t really know because we do the show and go off to the next gig or we go home. To see an audience have a connection or an emotional response to what we are doing, it lets us know that we are doing our job. It also tells us as actors that the audience is invested in the show, so why shouldn’t we be invested in them? If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a show. They are the reason why we are on the air. Spending an hour or two every weekend to connect with the fans is not a big chore; it’s a lot of fun for me personally.

You can catch Brennan in brand new episodes of Cedar Cove every Saturday night at 8/7c. If you would like to keep up with Brennan's career, you can click the links below:

LINKS

Brennan Elliott Official website

Brennan Elliott Official Twitter

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