Actors live in a world of make-believe. One minute you're a Viking, the next a Civil War general and the next you're battling a motorcycle gang.
Or, like Donal Logue, all three at once.
The busy Ottawa native is currently starring in three top TV dramas. He plays Horik, King of Denmark, in "Vikings." He jumps ahead about 1200 years to play an ex-U.S. Marshall out for revenge on "Sons of Anarchy" (returning for a sixth season Sept. 10 at 10 p.m. on Super Channel). Then he jumps back 150 years to play a Civil War general-turned-boss of New York on "Copper." Season 2 premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showcase.
On the day of this interview, Logue is on the vast, richly detailed set of "Copper," shot in an old Toronto auto parts factory. Set designer Tony Ianni has recreated several cobblestone blocks of lower Manhattan's tough scrabble Five Points neighbourhood, circa 1864.
The tremendous attention to detail helps Logue find his character.
"It's a lesson I've learned from working with David Fincher," says Logue of his collaboration with that director on 2007's mystery-thriller "Zodiac." Fincher preached having "every detail around you to be real so you don't really have to do much, it's just there for you."
Logue brings his own authenticity to the part. First of all, he has his character's Irish heritage. Logue's parents emigrated from Ireland to Canada in the mid-'60s. Then there's his look. With his long, reddish hair and greying whiskers, he looks like he just came from a photo shoot with Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady.
And while he's starting to look like the son of Willie Nelson, the long hair works for "Vikings" and "Sons of Anarchy," too.
Logue has worked steadily in film and television even before landing the lead in the Fox comedy "Grounded for Life" (2001-05). He knows getting to do three shows at once is crazy rare and teaming with "three great writing voices" the ultimate TV jackpot.
The "Copper" showrunners include revered veteran Tom Fontana ("Homicide: Life on the Street"), with season 2 supervised by author/executive producer Thomas Kelly.
"He's the engine driving this train right now this year," says Logue, lauding Kelly as "a guy who can write beautiful novels but also knows how to handle a shovel."
Kelly was looking for an actor who could come in and play this strong city-boss in season 2, someone who could go mano-a-mano with the tough Irish "Copper" at the core of the series, Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones).
"Donal brought a lot to the table," says Kelly. "Besides years of experience, he's just a funny, generous, gregarious guy."
Plus, as Kelly says, Logue got the character.
"His parents were off the boat from County Kerry, Ireland, and he'd lived there as a kid. I didn't have to explain one iota of the character to him, which is extremely rare."
It didn't hurt that Logue also studied history at Harvard and was familiar with early Manhattan politics.
The creators/writers on Logue's other shows are also at the top of any actor's bucket list: Kurt Sutter on "Sons" and Michael Hirst on "Vikings." Doing "Sons" was something Logue really wanted.
"It's like being asked to join the Rolling Stones," he says. "You get a lot of props for that."
Logue says he's doubly blessed to be also working with some great actors.
"Inviting, too, because I'm joining every one of these trains after they've left the station already."
Logue has stepped onto established hits before, most notably on "ER." He says the big stars on that series — George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Noah Wyle and Julianna Margulies — set the tone on the set.
"When I jumped in, it was in the midst of the biggest run, a real Magilla Gorilla," he says.
Yet there were no ego flare-ups.
"It was a well-oiled machine."
So, happy sets. What about all that travel? Logue has a lust for it, having roamed the world since he was a kid. His mother and other family members live in Ireland, so shooting "Vikings" there was something of a homecoming. Born in Ottawa but raised in the southern California border town of El Centro, Logue has friends and relatives in all three countries.
So when the schedules broke his way, Logue didn't hesitate.
"Sometimes you won't work for months and months and months because two days don't work out between the two different potential things," he says.
To be able to do these three shows, Logue lucked out with flexible producers. Initially he turned down "Vikings" due to a film commitment, but Hirsh juggled things around to accommodate the actor.
Logue had also reluctantly turned down "Sons" in the past, always locked in some pilot commitment. As he would explain to Sutter, "They can't build a world around you and have you not be there."
With "Vikings" beginning production in Ireland last November, "Copper" in Toronto in February and "Sons" in California in late May, Logue finally had a shot at his three-fer.
"It's an amazing time," he says. "I don't take a second of it for granted."
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
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