Interview with actors Norbert Leo Butz and Scroobius Pip of “Debris” on NBC by Suzanne 2/22/21
This was a fun interview. These guys are so funny and personable. I watched the first episode of “Debris” and really liked it. I’ll keep watching it, and I hope it’s successful. We had fun in this video interview, so I hope you like it as much as I did.
Here’s the video of our chat!
Question: How likely do you think that this scenario actually is? I mean, not necessarily in terms of the exact personnel investigating it, but the possibility that something fell out of the universe onto Earth, and we’re just finding out about it now.
Scroobius: I think it’s really interesting, because I think it’s crazy to assume that anything that would come here from an unknown place would have properties that we’re familiar with. All of these kind of things, the assumption that it’d be a chunk of what we know as metal is crazy. So, yeah, I think it’s highly possible and, I don’t know, weirdly exciting and interesting to imagine what could come and what the impact of that would be.
Norbert: I’m so glad you asked that question, because Pip, I don’t know if you had this experience. I’ve always been very aware that in doing a piece of sci-fi, it’s not very likely at all, I would have said. And if I did not get up today – I don’t know if you had this experience. Have you heard about this? [There was] a plane that sort of fell apart over Denver, and they were interviewing and showing video, and I got chills up and down my arm from these massive pieces of metal on people’s front lawns.
Norbert: Interviewing and listening to what these people were describing, what the sound was, what they thought they were seeing, what they thought they were hearing, I got chills up and down my body. It’s the exact same thing that the characters of our show – of course, the properties in our debris, you know, change matter and make people do crazy things. But this idea, the basic laws of physics, you know, gravity, what goes up must come down. Suddenly, I don’t know, I got it on a very real level, as this man, he’s sort of beside himself. He’s laughing. He’s kind of upset, and there’s this massive piece of bizarre…
Scroobius: It’s debris, yeah.
Norbert: …metal from this airplane. Luckily, no one was hurt. I don’t know if you read about this story.
Scroobius: Yeah, completely. No one was hurt, and it felt like the best guerrilla marketing campaign for debris ever, but it was just this plane.
Norbert: It was his idea that there are objects, intergalactic objects, spacecraft, God knows what, we know that there is a lot of, you know, there’s matter. So, who knows?
Question: What can you tell us about the characters that you play and how you prepared going in?
Norbert: Well, Pip never prepares. He just he just shows up, and he says, “Oh, I’ve got an accent. Everybody like me. Everybody likes me.”
Scroobius: [unintelligible] nightmare. I’ve got accent and a beard. I’ve got an accent and a beard.
Norbert: He doesn’t have to prepare. He just shows up and people are like, “Oh, British, beard, we love him.”
Scroobius: Joking aside, the weird world that we’re in and the weird situation meant that we had a month or two of isolation out here in Vancouver. So, I found that, obviously, it was tough as a human, but as an actor, having more time to prepare and get to know your character is amazing. So, one of the things I did was put together a playlist for Anson Ash. I’d go out for walks in an evening and just kind of really get myself into that mindset and into that character.
Norbert: When we wrap, I want to see that playlist.
Norbert: I want you to give it [to me]. I’m a little scared of it, but I want to see it.
Scroobius: It’s an aggressive playlist. I told a friend of mine about it. He was saying, “You know, last time we spoke, you were saying that you’re having insomnia? I think it’s because you’re putting on this really aggressive playlist and walking around Vancouver at night.” I was like, “That could well be it,” but anything for the role. But, yeah, I think it allowed us kind of a really gracious extra amount of time to get to know these characters before we even set foot on set. Right?
Norbert: Yeah. That’s such a cool point. I really agree with you. The life of of a CIA operative, my character, Craig Maddox, would be sort of be heading this division, dealing with the debris. He’s somebody that would have come up through special ops work, paramilitary work, probably recruited for his IT knowledge or his tech knowledge. He is a guy who was a soldier. My character would have sort of made his name, not just in the Middle East, but say, sort of like in Central America, sort of battling the huge drug wars of the 80s is where he would have started to go.
And he’s worked his way up and has been asked to lead this division to deal with this debris. He recruits Bryan, Jonathan [Tucker]’s character, because he sees tremendous potential in him as a soldier but also as a spy and as a tactician. So, I sort of recruit him into this program. And it’s a really interesting relationship that I have with with Jonathan’s character.
But Pip said something so smart. You know, I’ve read some books on CIA ops and Special Ops. Capture Kill Vanish [sic] is a pretty famous book, an amazing book. But Pip is right, the isolation of COVID has really made me think a lot. These are characters who live in tremendous isolation, right? So, these are people who keep their own company a vast majority of the time, and it’s been interesting to reflect on that, you know, with just this aloneness, how you keep your mind engaged and stay disciplined. That’s something that these guys would do a lot. And you’re right, it has added to, I think, what we’re doing in front of the camera. The world of CIA life is, I don’t want to say lonely, because Craig would never use a word like, “Oh, it’s lonely or not,” but from the outside looking in, these are people who really have to compartmentalize their lives. They have to keep information from even their most intimate relationships, their families, their friends. They thrive in isolation. I’m so different from that; I’m totally relational. But that’s what I love about what we get to do. You make these huge leaps out of your comfort zone. So, it’s been a really cool world to explore.
Suzanne: Mr. Pip, what can you tell us about your character? We’ve only seen the first episode.
Scroobius: It’s kind of great, because the mystery of Anton Ash continues throughout, really, and we get more and more information as we come along. What I can tell you, is he’s ex-military. I kind of see – I’ve been thinking more and more as we were talking about the research. Definitely more than looking into the military side, I looked into radicalization, because I think he sees himself as a revolutionary, as a radical. That’s a really interesting mindset and a really interesting world, because the perception from the outside and from the inside is completely opposite. There’s no crossover. So, yeah, he definitely sees himself as a revolutionary and feels that he’s fighting an important fight. Then it’s up to you guys to decide if you from the outside see him as the good guy or the bad guy as such.
Suzanne: And is there anything else you can tell us about Craig?
Norbert: All I would say about Craig, is one of the great, you know, one of the thrilling parts about playing it this season, [is] the audience will get into his home life; they will as the season goes on. He’s married, he has a 17 year old son, and this is not easy work. You know, spying, Special Ops, it’s not easy work for people; it’s not easy for the people who love them. So, we do get to explore his home life a little bit. It’s a complicated marriage, [as] anybody who’s married in this line of work would say. So, he’s a guy who’s trying to do the right thing all the time, extremely intelligent, but constantly having to remain morally flexible.
Question: I don’t know if you guys would know this, but were there any episodes about germs from the space debris, and if there were, did you actually shoot those episodes? Or did they change them, because of COVID?
Norbert: Not that I know of. There was nothing on germs, but the metaphor is so obvious. Hopefully, it’s not too obvious, but the debris, we’re trying to harness what this stuff even is. We haven’t even begun to sort of get to the depths of its power. It’s all unseen, it’s all a mystery. And that’s how so many of us feel about this virus as well, you know, it all gets down to what the human being can control and what the human being can’t control. The show gets right to the heart of that. It’s really an existential question, you know.
Question: So, from the different perspectives, what do each of your characters think of this team-up between the CIA and MI-6 working together on this?
Scroobius: From my character’s perspective, it’s that they’re the enemy, that the enemy has just gotten stronger. You know, two of my enemies have come together. The outlook of Anson and his influx teammates is that neither the American government or the British government can be trusted with this technology and control of this. I think he’s got a lot of historical evidence on that belief. There’s been a lot of misuse of power and misuse of tech over the years within the government. So, yeah, for him that team-up is very much, whether it goes smoothly or not smoothly, it’s the strengthening of his enemies.
Norbert: There’s a interesting scene that I have with a Russian colleague counterpart in another episode, and we have this little dialogue about the the race to space between the Russian space program and the American space program. They’re kind of ribbing each other a little bit on like, “Well, you know, everybody remembers who Armstrong is, and nobody remembers who your guy [is].” And it’s a little bit like that with MI-6. I’m working with MI-6, we’re gonna help each other, but I still want the US to be the first one to solve this mystery. Do you know what I’m saying? I find the geopolitics of it very, very interesting. So, we are obviously allies with our British counterparts, and yet there are going to be some areas that we’re going to keep just for ourselves, because that is the nature of politics and power…I think that’s interesting. I find the geopolitics of the piece so interesting and so precious. We’re talking about the science fiction stuff that, you know, isn’t real, but the dynamics, the way that diplomacy works, the show gets into that, and I find it fascinating.
Scroobius: I think it’s fascinating, but as you said earlier about how the world of espionage doesn’t exactly lend itself to a marriage, with the other stuff that needs to be shared, similarly, it doesn’t lend itself to collaboration. The whole point is that there’s secrecy. So, it’s interesting to watch the two sides hiding things from each other.
Norbert: And yet, we act as if we’re completely transparent with MI-6, and we’re working on this together. It’s working both sides. For my character, the show is a huge game of chess. It really is. It’s an incremental moving of pieces. Everyone’s strategic. Everyone’s tactical, no matter if people around me don’t know that it is tactical. So, every phone call with MI-6 would have a purpose and would have a future goal. It’s like a big game of chess, isn’t it?
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
When wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft scatters across the Western Hemisphere, it soon becomes apparent the pieces are messing with the laws of physics, changing lives in ways we can’t comprehend. Two agents from different continents, and different mindsets, are tasked to work together to recover the debris, whose mysteries humankind is not quite ready for.
The cast includes Jonathan Tucker, Riann Steele, Norbert Leo Butz and Scroobius Pip.
Creator and showrunner J.H. Wyman will write and executive produce alongside his company, Frequency Films. Jason Hoffs, Jeff Vlaming and Samantha Corbin-Miller will also executive produce.
“Debris” is produced by Frequency Films and Legendary Television in association with Universal Television.
Norbert Leo Butz
Craig Maddox, “Debris”
Norbert Leo Butz stars as Craig Maddox on NBC’s upcoming sci-fi drama, “Debris.”
Butz is an award-winning actor whose talents span across television, film and theater. He most recently starred in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Bloodline,” the FX series “Fosse/Verdon” and on Broadway in “My Fair Lady.” He also starred in “Mercy Street” on PBS and Danny Boyle’s FX series “Trust,” and had starring roles in ABC’s “The Deep End” and the CBS miniseries “Comanche Moon.”
On stage, Butz won his first Tony Award for his performance as Freddy Benson in the Broadway production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and earned his second Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his performance as Carl Hanratty in “Catch Me If You Can.” He additionally appeared on Broadway in “Big Fish,” “Dead Accounts,” “Enron,” “Speed-the-Plow,” “Wicked,” “Is He Dead?,” “Rent” and “Thou Shalt Not,” for which he garnered Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ nominations.
Butz’s film credits include “Better Living Through Chemistry,” with Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde; Daniel Algrant’s “Greetings From Tim Buckley”; “Luce,” opposite Octavia Spencer and Kelvin Harrison; “Disconnect”; “The English Teacher,” with Julianne Moore; “Higher Ground”; “Fair Game”; the animated “Wonder Park”; and “Dan in Real Life.”
His self-penned album, “The Long Haul,” was released in 2019.
Butz received a BFA from Webster University and an MFA from Alabama Shakespeare Theatre.
Anson Ash, “Debris”
Scroobius Pip stars as Anson Ash on NBC’s upcoming sci-fi drama, “Debris.”
Pip is an actor, spoken-word poet and hip-hip recording artist. First gaining recognition as one half of the hip-hop duo “Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip,” he has since made the transition to television. Pip was most recently seen in the independent mystery feature “Kill Ben Lyk,” as well as the British wrestling comedy “Walk Like a Panther” with Stephen Graham. He was also seen in the FX series “Taboo” and Kurt Sutter’s series “The Bastard Executioner.”
Pip is originally from Essex, England.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda