Interview with Norbert Leo Butz and Scroobius Pip of “Debris” on NBC by Suzanne 3/23/21
This is a good series, and it was great to speak to these two fine actors again. They’re very entertaining in the video. I hope you enjoy it!
Here’s the video version of it.
Question: …Both of you have some really interesting characters. Talking to you first, [Norbert], about your [character]. He comes off as very dubious and secretive from first episode on, and then we discover more and more. There is a lot of distrust, or some distrust, at least in government and stuff and all that. How did you prepare for a character like this, and how do you still work on making a character like this relatable, or at least people have empathy towards somebody like him?
Norbert: Was that for me or for Scroobius?
Question: For you.
Norbert: Yeah, oh, thank you. Yes, he is a secretive guy. I knew almost [nothing]. What intrigued me about the project [is], I think, I’d never done science fiction before, and I’d never played somebody working in like, intelligence, government intelligence, or special ops, or this kind of level of spying.
So, I started with the script. Joel Wyman was really, really helpful. He’s really well schooled in this whole world.
I found a couple of books that were really, really instrumental in helping me. I think the first one was [Surprise, Kill, Vanish ] by Annie Jacobsen. It was a really invaluable book to me. It is specifically about special ops services during the early days of the war on terror or sort of just post 9/11, and that’s when Maddox would have been coming through the CIA as a soldier himself, probably working in it. That was a really important book to try to start to get into the mind of number one, just what technically the job is. Maddox is in an interesting field; he is in government, so he does like geopolitical stuff on a world stage, trying to infiltrate other governments’ special ops forces.
So, there’s this government spying part of it. There’s a science part of him. He definitely comes from some sort of tech background or IT background with his specialization and all that kind of stuff. So, he was probably recruited from MIT or something like that.
Then, there’s this other part of him that’s a soldier. So, he’s not somebody who’s afraid of – he’s somebody that can use a semi automatic military weapon and has been in bunkers and jungles and Central America fighting dictators and busting drug lords. So, an interesting guy, kind of brains and brawn, if you will, and that was an interesting.
And now we find him sort of in his middle-aged, less of a soldier, and a mentor to Bryan. He would have recruited Bryan, that’s Tucker’s character, into the CIA Special Forces.
So, [Surprise, Kill, Vanish], and then a couple of other books. I just thought it was interesting to try to get into the mind of these guys who spend so much time in extreme situations under extreme duress. The methods that they use to bring their heart rates down, focus their minds, it’s a very unique type of person cut out for this kind of work, and it’s been really, really interesting to work on in that respect.
Question: …How do you – in a character like this – avoid falling into the bad guy trope?…[like] he’s buying black market debris?
Norbert: That’s a great question. You know, Pip is playing our bad guy heavy, and I’m on the US good side, but here’s the thing. In this world, it’s kind of what I was saying before, the morality is a very fluid thing. In this world, people do terrible things in the moment, awful things for an end that justifies the means. So, that ability to kind of be dualistic in your morality is part of the guy.
Scroobius: And for me, with Anson, it was believing in him in many ways. One of the things that me and Joel hit it off about was the belief that if there was this new technology coming into the world, there would be people who don’t trust it in the hands of the government, so [they] want to do all they can to stop that.
And I read a great book and was lucky enough to talk to a journalist called Souad Mekhennet. She was the journalist who uncovered the identity of Jihadi John, and she did a lot of work with extremists and people who’ve been radicalized, because her belief is the only way to defeat that is to understand it, rather than to try and bomb it off the planet. That will always cause more people to be radicalized. You know, that’s just a never ending cycle. So, her approach has always been to try and understand it. So, having had conversations with her, it was easy to get into that mindset of, this is a guy who believes he’s the good guy. He doesn’t think he’s the bad guy. That made it easy to to avoid those more obvious tropes, I hope.
Question: Yep, thank you so much, guys. You guys are amazing in this show. I love it. Thanks.
Scroobius: Thanks, man.
Suzanne: It’s great seeing you guys again. I’m really enjoying the show. You’re on my DVR, so I’ll watch it forever.
Suzanne: Before this show, were either of you already science fiction fans in general? Or, specifically, had you watched Wyman’s previous show, Fringe, which is kind of similar to this one?
Norbert: I can answer that very, very quickly.
Scroobius: Go on.
Norbert: No, I don’t know much science fiction and never ever saw Fringe, even though I had a really good friend on it, actually. So, it’s definitely my first foray into sci-fi, and it’s not even a genre that generally attracts me usually, which is kind of one of the reasons that it excited me about it, a whole new world for me to kind of get into. Go ahead, Pip.
Scroobius: For me, I didn’t catch Fringe, because it wasn’t as immediately available in the UK, as we’re seeing with Debris. The question I get asked the most is, “When is it going to be in the UK?” And it will be at some point, I’m sure.
But yeah, I am a sci-fi fan, and that’s one of the things that excited me as I read each episode, because there’re episodes where, obviously, the show has the feel of Fringe or X-Files or The Outer Limits even, but each episode has its own feel. There’s one coming up that made me think of Primer or Time Crimes, and there’re ones that feel like Cocoon, and all sorts of other stuff. So, it’s great to have this show that can emulate so many areas of sci-fi rather than just being [one thing]. It’s a bit like X-Files, but not, kind of thing. It can jump into so many areas of the genre. So, yes, it’s exciting.
Suzanne: Okay, great. And you both have extensive musical backgrounds. I don’t suppose we’re going to get to see you sing on the show, either of you?
Norbert: You never know.
Scroobius: The big reveal could be that the season finale is a musical battle between Norbert and myself. That’d be a hell of a crazy episode.
Norbert: We should get that, Scroob, one episode where the debris just makes you turn into just a rock and roller. The debris just makes you turn into, you know, Freddie Mercury.
Scroobius: Joel has done musical episodes before, right? I think. So, again, I think that’s gonna be – Let’s get to season two, and then we can take it there.
Suzanne: There are plenty shows where they have that musical episode. I think it started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Scroobius: Yeah, exactly.
Suzanne: Maybe before that.
Scroobius: The Buffy one comes straight to mind. Yeah.
Suzanne: All right. Thank you, guys.
Scroobius: Thank you.
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