JEFFREY Donovan isn’t your predictable TV hero. Whereas Alex O’Loughlin (Hawaii Five-O), Nathan Fillion (Castle), Michael Weatherly (NCIS), Stephen Amell (Arrow) and Shane West (Nikita) are from the suave and charming stable – let’s not forget those perfectly sculpted torsos on some of them– Donovan has more of a paradoxical “bad boy” appeal as Michael Westen in Burn Notice.
That take-charge approach, underscored with a don’t-mess-with-me attitude, helped to win him many female fans.
The 44-year-old actor started in TV in roles that can be best described as negligible, in Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order in 1995. That same year, he also sauntered into the movie realm with Throwing Down.
Over the years, he, thankfully, bagged better offerings with Bait, Final Draft, Hitch, Changeling and, recently, J Edgar.
But prior to Burn Notice, all Donovan was, really, was a familiar face to fans of The Pretender, Spin City, CSI Miami, Monk and Crossing Jordan. And there was his two-episode role in Touching Evil.
If Donovan has accomplished anything, it is proving that, in defying the Hollywood stereotype, you can still bag your own series.
And he has done a rather praiseworthy job of slipping into his burned agent role.
What makes this spy drama, which is penned by Matt Nix, exciting are the dilemmas Westen is confronted with and how he achieves favourable outcomes with the aid of his trigger-happy girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), and trusty friend, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell).
Thanks to the voiceover commentary, viewers gain insight into the deadly world of espionage as Westen slips into a plethora of cover characters in order to assist people. They also invest in the character and his determination to get to the bottom of who burned him and why.
In an interview with Collider.com, Donovan shares: “Yeah, one of the fun things, that we didn’t actually realise when we first started the show, was that, even though I’m a burned spy and I’m trying to get back in, the fun of the show has always been to help the person that no one else can help, and only Michael’s skills can solve his problem. We though it’d be fun, if that certain cover ID was taken on, just like spies have to do.
“And some of the things that were asked of me were great. If I had to do an accent or some kind of character, it was always fun to make that up with the writer
And then, over the years, they evolved into some wacky guys and some pretty sadistic guys. So, yeah, it keeps it interesting.”
As for his most challenging cover, the actor offers: “The hardest ones were always the ones I hadn’t ever done before. Just like a writer might have a certain style that they’re comfortable with and then someone says: ‘Okay, I want you to do a short story form.’ It might be out of their comfort zone.
“One of the most difficult ones was this character I did, I think it was in season three. I think his name was Louis Cifer, as in Lucifer.
“He was a cross between the devil and Clint Eastwood and I just went out on a limb and played him. I have never received better feed- back from fans.”
This season is going to be explosive as Westen loses a loved one and that sets him off on a dangerous course.
He reveals: “I think fans are going to love the last part of season six because it focuses on Nate’s death, finding the killer and bringing him to justice.
“I think you will see a more hell-bent Michael, trying to navigate the waters towards getting back in with the CIA.
“There’s a huge event that happens between Michael and Fiona that will propel season seven, which, if all goes as planned, will be a different kind of Burn Notice because of the trajectory… but no less dangerous for Michael.”
On also wearing the producer hat, he says: “My role is to make sure the pretzel jar is full. No, I’m kidding. My role is very specific. It’s maintaining the creative truthfulness, day in and day out. One of the things we’ve found is that the tone of the show is very difficult to grasp. It’s high stakes and dangerous, but it has a little cheekiness to it.”
With several characters returning, procedure goes out the window as Weston’s survival instincts kick in. The first episode picks up with Glenanne’s interrogation after she turned herself in and Weston’s hunt for Anson, who still toys with him.
With almost 25 years’ experience, it is heartening to see Donovan finally get the acknowledgement he deserves… in his diverse roles as actor, director and producer.
• Burn Notice airs on M-Net Series (DStv channel 114) tonight at 9.30pm.