Editor’s note: Every Friday, HLN brings you the "My First Time" series, which explores the first time your favorite celebrities did something significant or memorable (so get your mind out of the gutter!).
HLN: How different are your characters from your own personality?
Leah Gibson: I don’t personally feel I’m much like Cathy. On the surface, she’s married to a hot-headed gangster, she’s in this crime family, and she has a very nasty, hard side to her. I was actually excited about playing a side of a woman that I’ve never really been before. What I do feel in Cathy is what it is to be devoted to your partner. I have a boyfriend that I feel very connected to. He has a young daughter, who is very much a part of my life now. And so here I am in the TV show, married to this man with a young daughter who’s the center of our universe. So I brought tenderness to Cathy, but the strength and the power is something that I’ve learned through playing her.
Joshua Sasse: I think casting directors do typecast to a certain degree. And with a TV show, you’re living with a character for so long, that I think it’s important you are quite similar. Obviously, the decisions you’re making are being made for you by someone else. But Alec’s very hot-headed, very explosive — I haven’t got a temper like he does. But he’s very loving towards his daughter and his wife and very loyal to his father. I like to try to play on the simplicity of this man and doing that has made my job easy because it’s allowed me to focus on some of my own character traits and transfer them very directly to him. So I feel like my character is actually very similar to Alec’s.
HLN: What lessons did you take away from your character or the show?
JS: When you’re filming, you’re on set for 16 hours a day, six days a week, so you have to have an incredible amount of patience and endurance. You’re learning as a character because you’re there and you take that home with you, and that’s certainly a lesson that you learn.
LG: I feel like I’ve learned a lot from playing this character. I think of pre-Cathy Leah and now I’m more in touch with my strength. And my temper in some ways, too — Cathy sometimes comes out! I remember traveling with my boyfriend and waiting in line for Starbucks and snapping. Adam just looked at me and said, “Babe, how’s Cathy?” I’m also stronger about expressing boundaries now, and I notice that it’s from growing with her the last few months.
HLN: Do you feel more empowered after having player her?
LG: Yes, very much. I think it’s important to be able to always learn from your characters and grow with them. And it’s very empowering to really understand their faults and insecurities, their strengths and struggles.
HLN: Josh, your character has a very close relationship with his dad and always has a takeaway after speaking with him. Is there a lesson that your dad taught you that still resonates with you today?
JS: Actually my father died when I was 5 years old in a plane crash going out to Nepal. My mom married his best friend, and I’m very privileged to have an incredible man raise me. My stepfather’s temperance is wonderful: He’s the most kind and gentle man, and watching him take my sister and me on and love my mother… He’s the most incredible role model because he instills this serene ambiance when you’re around him, no matter what happens. And that’s been the most wonderful lesson, especially now as I’m about to be a father myself.
HLN: Congratulations! What lessons do you want to pass on to your son?
JS: I think one has to be very careful about imposing your vision and structure of life on somebody else or your child. I’ve had so many conversations with his mother about how we’re going to raise him and really the only thing I care about is his happiness. If he wants to be a photographer, or lay brick, or be a soldier — whatever, as long as he’s happy. I don’t want to impose on that too much. I can only shape and round and educate him so much.
HLN: Leah, It’s a boys’ world in the show—how do you manage to remain a strong, ambitious woman in it?
LG: Someone said to me once: A man can take action and move forward but the woman will see what’s behind the mountain in front of him. Cathy is a classically strong and very cunning female; she sees what the men don’t. She knows how to maneuver and she anticipates and she senses, but she’s not vocal about these things. She’s so in touch with the female instinct that she knows how to manipulate her husband without him being aware of it.
HLN: What’s your favorite thing about the show? Why do you want people to watch it?
LG: The writing is so fabulous. It explores these classic themes that we’ve seen in very famous films: It’s a cop show but it’s not a cop show because it’s very human. It’s much more human than what you’ve seen on TV in this kind of genre before.
JS: The thing that really bothers me about watching television these days is that there are so many restrictions. People can’t swear people can’t have sex; people can’t have violence. Art mirrors life, and that’s what TV’s not delivering at the moment. I think Direct TV has really taken the gloves off, breaking some new boundaries here. All the issues that the characters are dealing with, they’re dealing with properly. It’s not just doing sex for sex's sake or violence for violence’s sake or for the entertainment’s sake — they’re doing it because it’s part of the story. And these scenes are just as important as the dramatic scenes or the conversation pieces in setting up what’s happening in the future. So I think it’s very thrilling for an audience to watch something so gritty and raw and real — that’s the only reason people sit down and switch on, isn’t it?