Q&A: Don Cheadle Talks ‘House Of Lies,’ Marty Kaan Character & Corporate America

By Staff  |  12/31/2012

Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan in Showtime's HOUSE OF LIES.

The second season of Showtime's dramatic/comedy television series, House Of Lies, is set to premiere in just two weeks, so we offer a new interview with its lead actor, Don Cheadle, who's performance has earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

The TV series centers around the world of consulting, and Cheadle stars as the charming, fast talking Marty Kaan who, along with his team, plays the corporate game better than anyone. It's gotten rave reviews... and has built anticipation for the upcoming season.

In this Q&A, the 48-year-old Cheadle explains why he auditioned for House Of Lies, offers some insight into his Marty Kaan character, and discusses the debauchery that goes on behind the scenes in the corporate world, which he infamously portrays in the series.

Season 2 of House Of Lies premieres on January 13th at 10pm ET/PT on Showtime. For more info, visit Sho.com.

You had co-starring roles on several memorable television series (Golden Palace, Picket Fences) and even an Emmy nominated guest arc (ER), but what made you want to headline a show?

I wasn't thinking about headlining a show, necessarily, as a goal in my career or anything like that. I read a script, House Of Lies, that I really dug and thought would be a very interesting take on an industry and a business that we know very little about and I thought the script was really great and well executed. It was also an opportunity to be at home with my family, and when all the math was done on the reasons to do a show, starting obviously with the material itself, everything lined up and equaled a yes.

Give us a take on "Marty Kaan". What makes him tick?

Good question. I don't know that I have the answer. One of the things that makes him tick is his desire not to lose. Given his emotional background, which you come to learn through the course of the series, he can't back-up, he can't lose. He can't ever be in a position where he doesn't come out on top because every instance is about survival, in my opinion.

Were you at all surprised by the antics behind the scenes (strips clubs, debauchery, etc.) in big business on this level? Do you think the average person knows what goes on in this side of consulting?

No. I imagine successful people in all different businesses avail themselves of whatever recreation is available to them. They're adults and they're in a dirty business, so it's not surprising that the way they blow off steam is not in your down-the-middle-of-the-road entertainment. I don't think the average person knows much about consulting. I think you've only seen it if you've been in a business and have had the pleasure or displeasure, as it were, sometimes to see it up close.

Have you met author Martin Kihn (the real "Marty Kaan")? What was that like?

I've met Marty Kihn. It was pretty interesting. He's not like me at all in the outside packaging, but he's an interesting cat, obviously. He's coined so many of the phrases that we've used on the show and has been a great touchstone for us and a great source for material and insight and is the kind of technical adviser that he acts in the capacity of. It's good to be able to go right to a player and ask questions.

What role do you play as an Executive Producer? Are you involved with the scripts, casting, etc.?

As an Executive Producer, I'm involved in the stories, the scripts and the casting and the editing and the final piece that gets put out -- soup to nuts.

What's it been like working with the cast? Have you previously worked with any of your co-stars?

It's a brand new cast to me and they're great. I love everyone on the show. We come from different backgrounds. Josh and Ben come out of improv, which is a similar background that we have. We just love to go at it on the show. It's kind of wide open for us. The scripts are great -- we have the storylines that we follow -- but we're also allowed and given the opportunity to stretch out, and a lot of times, that's where we find the best stuff between all of us. It's fun to have that latitude as well as the comfort that you're in good hands when you're playing with these guys. And Kristen is a professional. She's already been a lead on a series, so she understands the level of commitment and how to really keep hold of a character and follow them through an entire series and be mindful of the story that she's responsible for telling from her seat. It's a good mix of people.