Confronting monsters and fairy tales as homicide detective Hank Griffin, actor Russell Hornsby of NBC’s “Grimm” sees his role as an imaginative and gratifying opportunity to embrace his inner child.
Hornsby stars along with David Giuntoli (“Turn The Beat Around”), who plays his partner Nick Burkhardt, in a series that gives a police procedural spin to the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Unknown to detective Griffin, Burkhardt is the last member of a family of hunters known as Grimms that strive to keep humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world.
“I’m back to being a kid again a little bit, being just young at heart and really just allowing myself to have fun,” Hornsby recently told Airlock Alpha. “We are like kids; we chase bad guys and every once in a while you are chasing creatures.
“If you like suspense, this is for you. It puts a new face on the genre.”
Best known for starring as police officer Eddie Sutton on the ABC drama “Lincoln Heights,” Hornsby also appeared in HBO’s “In Treatment” opposite Gabriel Byrne. His other credits include “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and roles in the films “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” and “Big Fat Liar.”
However, it’s his extensive theatre experience that Hornsby credits for being particularly advantageous to his role on “Grimm.” He studied theatre at Boston University and the British Academy of Dramatic Arts at Oxford University, and recently appeared on Broadway’s “Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
“Having a theatre background … helps you to really tap into your imagination,” Hornsby explained. “When you are in theatre, you are constantly creating this world of make believe. It really just allows you to use your imagination to the fullest.”
“Grimm” marks Hornsby’s first foray into a genre where CGI and creatures play such a significant role.
“It really is pretty amazing when you get to see the finished product,” he said. “We are taking these huge leaps from the page to the screen. And I think it is really beautiful. It just shows what the imagination can do.
“And I really applaud the imaginations of both the creators and writers, but also the work of our artistic team. They have just done some wonderful work. Everybody’s talent is coming together.”
Part of that talent are the show’s creators and executive producers, who include “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” writer David Greenwalt alongside Jim Kouf, who also penned episodes of “Angel.” Their pilot script was an irresistible draw for Hornsby.
“What really got me was it tapped into this fantasy world,” he explained. “I think that the scripts are smart … I don’t think we are taking the audience for granted. I think because of David and Jim’s history in television … they know exactly what they need to do as writers and as producers and not allow the audience to really get ahead of the show.
“I’m glad that I have met them and I am working with them. And I have just got a lot more familiar with their work and realizing how talented that they are and how fortunate I am to be working with such veterans.”
Another appealing side of working with Greenwalt and Kouf, according to Hornsby, is the freedom they offer him to contribute to the development of his character, who often serves as a relatable and grounding presence for the audience.
“You are hoping that the writers sort of tap into your personality, and you bring some of your own personality to the role,” Hornsby said. “They write for you; you breath life into it, and you have this wonderful marriage, which I think has happened.
“They really have given us the leeway to bring a human element to it. … They have really encouraged me to make Hank honest and real. I think that is reflected in the writing and just the confidence in me as the actor to say ‘We really trust your interpretation of this character.'”
Eventually, Hornsby is hoping to see more of Griffin’s personal life revealed, particularly his love life.
But what do the writers have planned for Griffin’s immediate future? Hornsby offers one clue: A woman will pursue him and a spell is cast in the process.
“He does some crazy things while he is under this spell,” Hornsby teased.
“Grimm,” which airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, also stars Bitsie Tulloch (“Quarterlife”), Silas Weir Mitchell (“Prison Break”), Reggie Lee (“Persons Unknown”), Sasha Roiz (“Caprica”) and Claire Coffee.
In addition to Greenwalt and Kouf, Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner (“Will & Grace”) also serve as executive producers.