Rick Bentley

Vincent D’Onofrio goes from Kingpin to Wizard; ‘Stranger Things’ actress loves dark roles

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the Wizard in the new NBC drama “Emerald City.”
Vincent D’Onofrio plays the Wizard in the new NBC drama “Emerald City.” Rico Torres/NBC

I met with Vincent D’Onofrio for a lunch interview at the Universal Studios lot to talk about his role as the Wizard in the new NBC series, “Emerald City.” We finally got around to talking about the TV show but there was no way I was going to let the opportunity pass to chat with D’Onofrio about his work on the Netflix series “Daredevil.”

His work as the Wizard will have to go a long way to top his performance as kingpin Wilson Fisk. It was a role that D’Onofrio liked so much he was happy to talk about playing the chief foil to Daredevil.

“The writing was so good. Normally, actors have to deal with changes to scripts but there were none with this show,” D’Onofrio says. “I hope they bring the character back because I would love to play Fisk again.”

If there is a call, it won’t take D’Onofrio long to get back into the role. He explains that in finding the way Fisk would think, he turned to a dramatic moment in his own life. D’Onofrio won’t say what that event was, but he assures me all he has to do is think about that moment in his own life and he’s back in character as Fisk.

D’Onofrio has been creating memorable characters for 30 years. He first caught our attention in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film “Full Metal Jacket.” He put on 70 pounds to play the character.

Since then his credits include “JFK,” “Men in Black,” “The Break-Up,” “The Judge,” “The Magnificent Seven” and the NBC series “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” He agreed to be in “Emerald City” once he learned Tarsem Singh would be directing the first 10 episodes of the TV series. The pair previously worked together on “The Cell.”

As for playing the Wizard, D’Onofrio says, “I feel bad for him. Because I’ve played him, I have this natural sort of affection for him. I think he cares for the city of Oz in his own pathetic way. I think that he’s a dreamer. That’s the best thing about him. … He has his good qualities and bad qualities. It’s hard to talk about something that you have played so close to your heart.”

One of the key elements D’Onofrio brings to the Wizard is showing him as a man who knows the truth. He understands that he’s not a hero and spends a lot of time trying to deal with that.

Breakout star

It was a record year in 2016 with a total of 455 scripted programs on the networks, basic cable, premium cable and streaming services. That means it took a spectacular performance to stand out in that massive crowd.

Millie Bobby Brown had such a performance as the character known as Eleven in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” It was so good that the 12-year-old actor earned a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for acting in a drama series.

That puts her in competition with: Claire Foy, “The Crown”; Thandie Newton, “Westworld”; Winona Ryder, “Stranger Things”; and Robin Wright, “House of Cards.” The awards will be presented Jan. 29.

If you have not seen the series, find a way. Her outstanding performance is one of many in the tale of a group of young friends in the 1980s who encounter a young girl with no memory but some extraordinary powers.

“Stranger Things” is the latest project in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. She appeared as the young Alice in “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” and in the short-lived series “Intruders.”

“I do always have a sweet spot for some serious, dark roles,” Millie says. “But I do like doing stuff I have never done before. So when I had done ‘Intruders,’ obviously I loved the project, and ‘Stranger Things.’ But I can’t imagine myself doing a comedy.”

Working on the series set decades before Millie was born was a learning experience and not just in the realm of acting. She’s so young that a record player looked like an alien device to her.

Other news

Cast additions: David Thewlis, Michael Stulhbarg and Jim Gaffigan have been added to the cast for the third seson of “Fargo.” They join Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Production is set to start this month in Calgary.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1