Is Rob Morrow’s ‘Numb3rs‘ up? The fate of the CBS procedural (Fridays at 10/9c) is in flux in the wake of its episode count being slashed to 16 and David Krumholtz copping a role on a fall pilot. But until the future becomes clearer, this season will serve up two final episodes – one directed by Morrow himself and concerning gritty subject matter, and a finale featuring a joyous wedding and a big change. Here’s what Morrow shared with us about the show he has called home for six years, and why it was so emotional to say (a possibly final) farewell.
This Friday marks your third time directing ‘Numb3rs.’ Does it get easier?
I wouldn’t say it ever gets easier, but one dynamic of being on the show all these years is my level of anxiety is less than it would be if I was [directing] somewhere where I wasn’t so entrenched.
Did this script present any unique challenges for you as director?
The big challenge was the tone and the material, which deals with pederasty and male-on-male rape. Spending time in that thought process was not fun, but once you enter that world, then it’s just about trying to have a veracity about it. You want to be respectful of people who have been through this stuff. Luckily, Rob Port, the writer, gave the script the humanity and pathos it needed.
Did you have a say in casting? Because Alan Ruck would seem to make an unexpected yet sufficiently off-putting sex offender.
Alan, I think, was my idea, and it was not a slam-dunk in terms of choice because while I knew he could handle it acting-wise, he generally has a sweetness about him. But I happened to be hanging out with Stanley Tucci over the holidays, talking about ‘The Lovely Bones,’ which deals with similar things, and he said the first thing he said to Peter Jackson was, “I want to look different, really different. That will liberate me.” So the first thing I said to Alan was, “I want to shave your head.” I totally expected him to say, “Hey man, I’m working for just two days…,” but he was like, “Let’s do it!” That look plays against his kindness, and he gives a lovely performance ultimately.
Jumping to the March 12 season finale, I see we’re not saving Charlie and Amita’s wedding for the final act.
Right. It doesn’t open the episode, but it’s in the first act.
Is it a pretty straightforward affair?
It’s sweet, it’s small-scale, just immediate friends and family, at the university…. They’re really sweet together, David and Navi [Rawat], so there’s some real warmth to it. And of course you have Peter MacNicol (Larry) as the preacher.
Where do things stand with Don and Robin at this point?
Don needs to make a decision so he doesn’t lose her and keep stagnating in his life… He has to redeem himself, being that it might be the last episode [of the series]. So he does something that is, I think, a good thing.
What’s the significance of Don’s gun going missing in the episode?
These guys have to carry their guns everywhere, and the idea of his being lost is very traumatic, as it would be for any law enforcement person. The fear that it could do some damage somewhere is a tough weight to bear.
Does the season finale sufficiently wrap up the series, if need be?
There’s a change afoot, for sure, but it’s open-ended. We could easily come back, if they decide to keep us on, or it could serve as a farewell. It was a last-minute decision by CBS to cut us from 22 episodes to 16, so they had to find out how to do it in a way that had an ambiguity to it, so they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot. I think they achieved that. [The series] ends on a nice note, if that’s the way they go.
How was the last day of shooting?
The last day on the set was one of the greatest days ever. There were a lot of emotional speeches given throughout the day, by all the actors, [executive producers] Tony Scott and David Zucker came down…. Everyone had their moment, so there was a real sense of appreciation for what we’d been through. At lunch they showed a gag reel, and my daughter (Tu, age 8), who has grown up on the set, was there on my lap. As we watched, I started to cry. I didn’t expect to be that emotional, but it just hit me. And she was just inconsolable, in the sweetest way. It never occurred to me that this was sad for her, too. That informed the rest of the day for me.
What’s your takeaway from the ‘Numb3rs’ experience?
Six years is a long time, so I almost feel like I grew up. I’ve learned a lot of lessons about myself, others, creativity… not taking myself too seriously, being grateful, enjoying the moment… It’s an endless list of things. Having played an archetype like this was a gratifying thing. There are limitations to the genre, but in terms of playing the hero who saves the day with a gun, that attracted the little boy in me. Now I feel ready for something radically different.
Will you be fine with the occasional film role, or might you jump right back into series television?
I just finished ‘The Good Doctor,’ a really cool movie that Orlando Bloom is producing and starring in. It’s just a very different way of working – I spent six hours on a one-page scene, and to be able to take that time to pursue excellence is a real luxury. I’ve given up trying to predict what will be. There are a lot of options for me, and TV is a good job for a family guy like me. That said, I’d love to find a series on cable that allowed me to do less episodes a year. Or maybe I’ll do a play, or a movie… or nothing!