Jeff Newburg is one to watch. He is one of the most audaciously talented individuals I’ve yet had the privilege of encountering. And I’ll be honest with you: it’s easy to write him off because, at least in person, he’s a little too good-looking to take seriously. (Ladies!)
As an actor, Jeff Newburg is subtle and careful. Which is interesting, because Everyday Newburg is emotive and animated and very loose. The interview format actually shortchanges him, and this is very much my fault: it’s difficult to translate how funny and wry and serious he can be.
Jeff Newburg’s first starring TV role arrives in the January 18 episode of Criminal Minds (“True Genius“). The crime procedural is in its seventh season; “True Genius” marks its highly-anticipated midseason return to television.
Jeff agreed to lend us this fly-on-the-wall account of what it’s like to become a serious television actor. He’ll even describe working with the likes of Robert Duvall, Tim Roth, and Matthew Gray Gubler—but you’re also going to read a conversation between two old friends.
Evil Beet: So what is this show called?
Jeff Newburg: It’s this little independent project called Criminal Minds.
Oh! I’ve heard of that!
‘Cause you’re super plugged-in to the art film scene.
Yes. That’s right. Explain to me who you are?
‘Cause I have never seen you before in my life.
Yeah, very good. I am an actor and a writer. This thing, Criminal Minds, on that one, I’m, uh…. When is this gonna get published? I just need to be a little bit careful about, uh, spoiler stuff. On this one, basically—you saw Fincher’s Zodiac, right?
Oh, man! I highly recommend it.
I haven’t seen a David Fincher movie since Alien 3.
Oh, my gosh!
That’s not true.
So this episode of Criminal Minds is in San Francisco, and it’s centered around a seeming return of the Zodiac Killer to, you know, slashing and shooting folks. And I am in fact tied up in all that and—yeah, can’t tell you exactly how I’m tied up in all that—but I think it’s worth watching.
Did you actually have to go to San Francisco to do all this?
My word, no. Yep, Los Angeles: it stands in for every town in America—
Right. [Laughs] Canada stands in for a lot of towns in America these days.
Yeah, they did some reeeally good—that was kind of the theme of the show, was how amazing at their job, while being amazing people, everybody was. And I mean everybody. Like, the giant stars on the show are the most amazingly kind people, in addition to being great actors. And then, like, everybody, the technical people—I, you know, I spent a lot of time with the camera department and they were great.
And the episode is going to look great! They’ll do, you know, a little bit of CG, maybe slap the Golden Gate Bridge in here and there? But generally they just did a really good job with picking locations that were really “buyable.” Like, we did LA’s Chinatown; parts of it are really good, really really convincing “San Francisco Chinatown”—