'Deception' Star Jack Cutmore-Scott Masters the Art of Illusion in Genre-Bending FBI Drama (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Warning: There is a small spoiler about the main character in the interview below. Do not proceed if you wish to remain spoiler-free.
The spotlight is on the world of magic in ABC's new FBI procedural, Deception.
Led by charming British actor Jack Cutmore-Scott, the midseason series kicks into high gear when superstar TV illusionist Cameron Black's (Cutmore-Scott) high-profile career is marred by scandal. The only way for him to regain his past glory days and practice his perfected art of deception is to team up with the FBI, led by Agent Kay Daniels (Ilfenesh Hadera), to help solve their most elusive cases, using every trick in his arsenal.
The only possible hiccup? Cameron has his own agenda for working with the FBI -- and it has something to do with a deep, dark family secret no one is aware of just yet: He has a twin brother, Jonathan (also Cutmore-Scott), and he's desperate to break him out of prison. And so begins Deception's surprisingly twisty journey.
"What fans might feel like is a conventional and familiar setting of the FBI fighting crime, we've spun it in a really fun and different way. When [creator] Chris Fedak talks about the show, he uses the phrase, Magician: Impossible," says Cutmore-Scott, previously the star of Fox comedy Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life. "We don't take ourselves too seriously. We have a really good time. We get to do some fun tricks and illusions, and amazing action and comedy."
Ahead of Sunday's premiere, ET jumped on the phone with the 30-year-old actor to get the scoop on what viewers can expect for the new series.
ET: How did you get involved with Deception?
Jack Cutmore-Scott: Through the usual channels. I auditioned… a year ago now, wow. I read the script and I loved that it was a huge amount of fun. I felt like it would be a really exciting challenge for whoever got to play Cameron. I went up for it, and went through the standard few rounds of auditions, and I got lucky.
What was the audition process like? How much magic was involved?
It was fairly standard with the exception of the fact that I play a couple of characters on the show. They wanted to see how I would differentiate between those characters and show both sides of me in that way. There was a little bit of magic in the audition, but [it was] stressed that we could learn that on the job.
Because Cameron is a character who's lived and breathed magic, what has the process been like to actually learn the tricks and illusions he's supposed to be a master of?
Pretty much from the get go, [illusionist] David [Kwong, also a Deception producer,] was working with me on the basics and trying to get me to [where] I knew how to hold a deck of cards properly. For the first episode, we were exclusively focused on the tricks that I do in that episode. Once we finished that, they put me in a magic boot camp, where I was starting out from scratch and practicing anything and everything they would throw at me. [By] the time we got the scripts in, I would start to know ahead of time the tricks I should be focusing my energy on, with a couple of weeks lead time so that by the fourth or fifth take, people would believe it's something Cameron Black would do. (Laughs.) But essentially it's been a lot of practice, a lot of work, because the ease and the effortlessness that these guys do magic, that is the illusion. All I have been focusing on is trying to not let it show just how little I know.
Cameron has a swagger and an air of confidence about him. Is he the complete opposite from who you are in real life?
It's very far removed from me in real life. Equally, an important thing about Cameron is that he's riddled with insecurities. He's got all kinds of issues. He's just really good at covering them up. I think that anyone who's worked in this industry for a little while knows what that feels like. You've gotta be able to turn it on, you've gotta be able to walk into an audition room when you have horrendous food poisoning and make it look like you're ecstatic to be there. That is what Cameron has been doing his entire life. I haven't been doing it my entire life, but I've had enough occasions where I've had to do similar things -- make it look like I know exactly what I'm doing when I have no idea.
One of the early twists is that Cameron Black has a twin brother, Jonathan, who’s currently in prison and has lived in Cameron's shadow his entire life, so much so that no one knows he exists. Is this the first time you’ve played opposite yourself? How did you differentiate Cameron from Jonathan?
(Laughs.) I think this is the first time I'm playing two characters simultaneously, yeah. In terms of the differences between the two brothers, that definitely was a part of what I wanted to focus on going into it. These guys have essentially been living as one person, so they've become very good at appearing to be the same person, even though they're not. In my head, what I focused on was that Cameron is the performer. He's very comfortable in the spotlight and his public persona has been very well honed and perfected over 20-something years, whereas Jonathan has primarily been in the shadows. He's more of the backstage, introverted, very private person who has had more time to develop that side of his personality. Jonathan has a strong sense of self without being in the spotlight -- and Cameron likes the attention, but he's not so good at being himself.
How did you land on Cameron and Jonathan's physical appearances and how different they should look?
Jonathan's appearance does change a bit more over the course of the season. We had conversations about how different [the brothers] should be. There's 30 years of them being intentionally identical, and a lot of work has gone into them appearing to be the same person for so long that old habits die hard. Jonathan is also in prison. That was a big thing for me: How do we reflect the fact that he would change physically, which we can't really do because I have to switch back and forth on a daily basis. I found a happy place where it comes through how they present themselves to each other, sort of focused on how they interact and how their relationship develops.
When you have a magician working with the FBI, the obvious question will be raised: Will he use his tricks to break his brother out of prison?
It's definitely a question that will surface and resurface throughout the season. The whole reason that Cameron's working with the FBI in the first place is to clear Jonathan's name, so that really is at the heart of the show. In terms of whether [that happens], I think everybody will just have to tune in and find out.
Deception premieres Sunday, March 11 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.