From self-circumcision to meth addiction, Nip/Tuck's John Hensley is put through his paces playing the extreme life of Matt McNamara. He talks to Joanna Hunkin
Standing outside their trailers, as the first season of
wrapped, John Hensley turned to his co-stars Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon and said they were done.
Hensley, who plays Matt McNamara - the legal son of Sean McNamara but biological son of Christian Troy, his father's business partner - was convinced the series had run its course.
"I said 'I really think they've done everything they can on this show, in the first season. I can't conceive of any direction in which this show can go'," recalls Hensley in his faded Southern drawl.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Speaking from Los Angeles, Hensley and the cast have just finished filming the fifth season of the provocative plastic surgery drama. With 75 episodes in the can, the series has been confirmed to run for another season, ending with its 100th episode.
In that time, Matt has been through a lot.
He nearly killed a girl while driving stoned; discovered his father Sean was not his real father; unknowingly dated a transsexual twice his age; dated a Neo-Nazi whose family kidnapped him and forced him to cut off a transvestite's penis; became a Scientologist; married his birth father's girlfriend Kimber and impregnated her; made a porn film; became a meth addict; and discovered the love of his life was his half-sister.
Yes, it's a sick and twisted world the characters of
inhabit, and one that Hensley could never have imagined. Although, he realised early on it was not your typical medical drama.
"I remember doing the first season of
and in the second episode the kid gives himself a self-circumcision in his bedroom with a pair scissors. And I thought 'If this is episode two, I'm certainly curious to see what episode three has in store'."
As regular viewers will know, that incident was but the tip of the iceberg of the weird, borderline psychotic, storylines ahead.
He may not always like what the writers come up with but Hensley says he respects their bold ideas, and their unabashed approach to them.
"I can get behind any story that's willing to tell itself without apology.
"The thing that I respect most about Ryan Murphy and all of the writers on the show, is that really, truly, from day one, they have been absolutely willing to tell their story without apologising for the story they're telling.
"They've never once been openly concerned about how people might perceive the show. There's never been a pandering or a type of manipulation that's taken place."
Playing the dysfunctional - and often unlikeable - character hasn't been an easy task for Hensley, but with the end now in sight, he is determined to make the most of his role, even if he doesn't know what the final season will bring.
"If there is a grand plan, it hasn't been revealed to me. I still have no clue other than the fact we are ending with that number," he says.
"If anything, a change has occurred in me. The idea 'OK, I know the end is coming. Now more than ever, don't go on cruise control. Pay this thing the respect it deserves and do your best'."
Despite his new resolve, Hensley admits he still struggles to understand Matt, something which has plagued him throughout his time on the show.
"As an actor, I think it is important you at least almost like the character that you're playing. Or can find a personal justification for the character as to why they're doing what they're doing.
"It would be a lie if I said there haven't been moments where I absolutely could not find that. That can make for a tricky day at work.
"It can go from thinking about the character, to thinking about the show, to thinking about 'My God, is this something I really want to be a part of?' It can snowball out of control."
But the writers know when to hit the brakes, and ease the building tension, says Hensley.
"Ultimately, they redeem themselves," he says. "They take Matt to this place where I, as any logical human being would, look at him and go 'My God, is this the stupidest man on earth? Has life taught him nothing?' And then they bring him to a place of relativity, where you go 'OK, I get it. I totally get it'."
That said, things are set to get a little bit madder for Matt as the fifth season returns to TV2 next month.
"Without giving anything away, this season that we're currently shooting for
has probably been the most enjoyable for me because they've really raised the stakes for Matt. It's out of control."
August 29, 1977 in Kentucky
Plays Matt McNamara, the son of plastic surgeon Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) on
Returns to TV2, Monday February 16.