Between Jazz Fest weekends, the cast of Treme did a signing session for the DVD box set of season one at Louisiana Music Factory. While there, OffBeat caught up to Clarke Peters—Albert Lambreaux on the show.
Do you get to enjoy the life of the city when you’re here?
Last night I was at Dr. Lonnie Smith at the Blue Nile. It doesn’t get a lot better than that, baby!
You were just shooting a Jazz Fest scene during Jazz Fest. Do you ever feel like you’re living a parallel life to that of the city?
I got in on Sunday, so I didn’t see Jazz Fest this weekend. We shot last night a mock version of the festival. I’m hoping that’s going to get me easy entry into it cause there’s a lot of things I want to catch. I want to catch the Nevilles. I’m sorry that I missed Tom Jones, I would’ve loved to have seen that cat.
Women are still throwing panties at the stage.
If nothing else, you want to go there to see those panties come off. [laughs] That is just unbelievable.
I know you’ve had Mardi Gras Indian consultants. Is there anything they’ve said that prepared you for when your character, an Indian chief, hits hard times?
I think it’s two elements. One of them is what you get from the tradition, and how a chief carries himself and his responsibility to a community. That forms a posture and an attitude. Then the other side is it doesn’t take much if you’re a property owner, if you have a family, if you’re a responsible adult, to imagine what it’s like to have everything you’ve had taken away. That’s whether you’re an Indian chief or a nurse. That aspect affects the human condition, and you have to flow with it.
I think with Lambreaux—having introduced him in the previous season—we’re curious how this man is going to deal with this. Is he going to hold siege? Is he going to go down to City Hall with a bunch of Indians? He’s going to get his money one way or the other, and you kind of hope he does. And he hopes he does. What’s confounding is that the whole system is corrupt. When he asks, “All these years I’ve been paying and this is what I get back?” I wanted to plant that line so that people would stop and think about what’s being said in the situation. It’s him trying to explain it to the person who’s signing the paper, “Does this sound accurate to you?” If one could take the moment to that point, based on what the audiences have already seen, I think it makes for good drama. I felt in the moment to be as real as I can, everything inside if my being to inform this scene.
One scene that struck me perfectly was the silent patience of you and others waiting for your Road Home case worker, because in those days we became very good at waiting in lines. How specific do the directors get with their directions?
What HBO and this company has been able to do is put together really good actors. Actors that you want to play with because they know how to play. When the casting is done like that, you’re trusted to bring all of your experience and expertise to the text and give the story those nuances. Some directors want to [give specific directions], but they don’t seem to last very long. I think we all know who the characters are and we understand what the project is about. And it’s television, it’s not film. We have different directors all the time. Tim Robbins, for example—he’s a director who, because he is an actor, will hit you with some of those specifics, but he’s doing it with the actor’s language. Directors who have never been actors look all over for some sort of analogy to get you to go there rather than just saying, “Just go there.” My answer to most of them is, “I’m going there, but if you don’t see it, then you need to come here.”