'Graceland' Star Aaron Tveit on Mike’s Struggles: His Darkest Days Are Still Ahead

by Philiana Ng 9:00 AM PDT, July 02, 2015
Photo: USA Network

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for Graceland.

Mike Warren is a changed man.

The FBI agent returned to Graceland after dying (for six long minutes) and then coming back to life, but USA Network star Aaron Tveit warns that the idealistic undercover officer viewers saw the first two seasons is a shade of the past for the foreseeable future.

“He’s a very changed person,” the 31-year-old actor tells ETonline of the aftermath following Mike’s resurrection. “He was pushing everyone in the second season – ‘go, go, go’ – and bulldozing everything. He knows now that he can’t do that.”

So what does the future hold for Mike in season three? We jumped on the phone with Tveit to find out just that!

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ETonline: In the Graceland premiere, the Mike that we see – after he almost died – is a completely different guy than who had come to know. How different is Mike? Is this Mike 2.0?

Aaron Tveit: I personally think he’s very different. I talked to [creator] Jeff Eastin a lot about near-death experiences and what happens when you go through that. I mean [Mike] was dead for six minutes and went through whatever it was, or saw something. That will play out in the next few episodes. Now that he’s back alive, he doesn’t know why he was given a second chance. He doesn’t know why he was brought back. It forces him to look at the decisions that he’s made, especially in the second season, and how those were the wrong way of going about things. He’s really holding the mirror up to himself and saying, “If I have a second chance, I’m going to do it right this time.”

ETonline: Mike’s near-death experience physically scarred but also emotionally and mentally, how damaged is he going to be as we progress through the season? At the moment it seems he’s trying to pick up the pieces, yet at the same time, he’s not.

Tveit: That’s a really great way of putting it. He’s a Type A guy so he always thinks he can muscle through things. With something like this he really is hurt emotionally and physically. You’ll see how that plays out over the next few episodes and the consequences of him trying to push forward. For Mike, it gets really, really bad before it gets better.

ETonline: There’s the sense from the first episode or two that “idealistic Mike” is completely gone, is that a fair assessment? Is there no turning back for him at this point?

Tveit: Yeah I think so – especially at the beginning of the season. Hopefully he’ll get back to that again. He’s really wrestling with a lot of questions about his life. Now he’s questioning why he ever wanted to do this frankly.. There is a lot that’s up in the air for him. The guy who he was before, that guy could never be the head of the FBI, which was his dream. I think this guy [can]. Last year every time something’d come up, Mike would pound his opinion in people’s throats, but now he’s sitting back a little bit and he’s not as forthcoming with what he thinks and letting the people find the answers themselves. Those are great attributes of a good leader. Without even knowing it – and this is my hope as the show goes forward – this change that’s happened it, and he doesn’t know it yet, is ultimately going to lead him to what he wanted originally. I think that these changes have, in a way, made him a better person – he just doesn’t know it.

ETonline: We also see Mike relying on his pain medicine and introducing the idea that he could be forming a drug habit. How slippery of a slope is he headed down with regards to that?

Tveit: He’s found himself between a rock and a hard place when he comes out of the hospital. He absolutely gets out way too early and he’s physically not capable of performing but because he’s so Type A driven, he’s forcing himself into action. The only way he can do that is to keep taking his medicine and he starts abusing his medicine, so it’s an interesting thing where he wants to work but can’t work unless he’s popping these pills. What’s that going to do when he keeps popping these pills? He’s stuck in a bit of a spot right now. That rears its head as we move forward and it becomes a much bigger problem.

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ETonline: As Mike going on a downward spiral in that sense, there seems to be some parallels drawn to what Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) went through early in his career.

Tveit: We see as it goes on that they’re both sides of the same coin. They get closer and closer and closer together as the show goes on. Definitely what Mike is going through mirrors what Briggs [went through in his past]. That’s another thing that’s interesting about this season too is that, because of that, they have a shared experience and they have a shared understanding. It gives them a camaraderie that they didn’t necessarily have before, which is fascinating to me. The show is always taking the temperature of where Mike and Briggs are to each other – they’re up, they’re down. That ebb and flow is what makes it interesting with the central action of the house.

ETonline: How different is the house dynamic?

Tveit: There are some fractured relationships. Some of the relationships can never go back to where they were. The fact that other people in the house might not know exactly what happened, there’s an element of keeping secrets from each other that always brings tension. Everyone has to really deal with what they did in the second season and it changes [everything]. They have to see if they can still be this family.

ETonline: Speaking of relationships that may be forever changed, it’s fair to say Mike and Paige (Serinda Swin) have issues to get through. Is there hope for them? 

Tveit: It’s a really difficult thing. When somebody [Paige] basically has somebody else [Mike] killed, it’s difficult to come back from that. But I think at the same time, Mike realizes through his own experiences that he wasn’t in the right – maybe not necessarily he wasn’t in the right but he went about everything the wrong way and he could’ve handled things differently. He does understand what led to her decision. It’s not that he’s 100 percent forgiven her, but he understands that for her, he needs to make it right. He’s taking the high road a little bit for now but that being said, I don’t think they can ever return to what it was and that dynamic does really play out nicely as the season develops and as Mike’s condition goes up and down. You’ll see [their relationship] go up and down with it.

ETonline: What do you want fans to know about the rest of season three?

Tveit: I hope that they’re going to come back to the show and get back to what they enjoyed and first got them to want to watch. It’s really about these people and the relationships between them and how they’re trying to, for the lack of a better term, do some good under really, really bad circumstances. We get back to that this season. If people liked that in the first season, I think people will love it this year. We finally know what the show is.

Graceland airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network.