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 JDR talks with JOHN MICHAEL BOLGER, Part 1 of a 2 part interview
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 07:56 AM


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Slight spoiler warning!

As you all know, NY actor John Michael Bolger, who played Lt. Johnson for four seasons on "Third Watch" was cast this year as Chicago cop Martin Zarkovich, a pivotol role in next summer's blockbuster "PUBLIC ENEMIES"

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Photo copyright Elizabeth Herzog, used with permission

John came to everyone's attention when he was seen quietly and unobtrusively greeting the fans on location, day after day, night after night. John was second only to Johnny as he was there too, giving and giving.

Here's a youtube clip of John on location

I want to thank Rachel and Jill for their kind assistance. Thanks to Elizabeth Herzog, Michelle Martin the kind use of their pictures!

Site for John Michael Bolger -


I hope you will see the humble and giving man that is John Michael Bolger. He spoke with me openly and from his heart, and was very generous with his time. I thank him sincerely. I've divided this conversation into two parts, the second will run tomorrow as we conclude Public Enemies week here on JDR.

JohnnyDeppReads talks with John Michael Bolger:

JDR: So John, tell me a little about your book "Stoop to Conquer".

JMB: What a nice question to ask. I was born and raised a Catholic and went to Catholic school and the nuns taught me penmanship and I always knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be an actor and it took me a long time to get around to it, I didn't start til I was twenty seven years old, but I always knew in the back of my mind that I was going to use this penmanship someday! And I wrote a book, I started it in 2001, it took me seven years to write it, it's a coming of age story about Hell's Kitchen - where I lived in 1980, seen through the eyes of one kid, Frances Doonan. About these seventeen year old kids growing up in 1980, just a coming of age story. I wrote it, it was hard, it was painful, it was cathartic, it was revelatory and now I'm hoping to get it published, hoping to somehow get it related to the movie when it comes out. I'd love that. It's also got "movie" written all over it. It's also a book about something, like a message to kids that their whole life doesn't happen in one summer or in one month or in one age. You have a long road ahead of you if you can somehow get through those tender years, ya know?

JDR: So is there a little bit of a personal element there?

JMB: Absolutely, absolutely.

JDR: We are all about reading (on jdr) so when you are published we'll have it for one of our book discussions.

JMB: Thank you very much.

JDR: Would you be so kind to talk to us then about it?

JMB: Absolutely, I'll talk to you any time you want.

JDR: You are wonderful! Are you still living in the Hell's Kitchen area of NY?

JMB I am.

JDR: It's sort of a community in transition?

JMB: It is, but what it's becoming, I sort of miss the old neighborhood. I miss the funk!

JDR: You've played a lot of police officers in your career as I look at your listings on IMDb!

JMB: That's very astute of you! smile.gif But ya know, I'm not going to complain because it pays the bills and from stereotype, I can do so much more than that, but not as of yet.

JDR: They LOVE you as a policeman, so many roles!

JMB: It's because I've got this Irish mug, and I think my Shakespearian trained voice doesn't help the situation either. (he laughs) But like I said, I'm not complaining! If they want to keep casting me that way? Cool!

JDR: You were in Third Watch..Law and Order...really good roles in the series.

JMB: I was in Third Watch for four years, I've been very blessed, I've been extremely blessed. I hope the blessings continue. As you know, you have a nice knowledge of the industry, you can work non stop for years and then not work for years, so you've just got to somehow keep your foot in the water and remember your swimming strokes.

JDR: Talking about keeping yourself in the water, you have done a boat load of TV work, and I'm looking at the number of years that you have put into your craft and then BOOM comes this huge Michael Mann film!

JMB: I'll tell you a great story, at the age of twenty seven I got sober, quit and got fired at the same time from a job that I had worked in for ten years, since I got out of high school. And decided to pursue my childhood dream to be an actor because I always loved James Cagney and I always just wanted to be an actor. But I never told anybody, I never was in a school play, I never did anything. I knew inside, I knew deep inside that someday this is where I would end up, I didn't know how I was going to get there, but I knew I would end up there. And apart from getting fired by my public service job, I started to enter in the world of taking acting classes and going around the Actors Studio where I eventually became a member of the Actors Studio. My very first professional job was on a show called "Crime Story" - Michael Mann and Bonnie Timmermann was the casting director. That was twenty years ago. That was one of the better received "Crime Stories," people had always said to me during that time that Michael Mann loves you, Michael Mann loved that episode, he loves you. In the time since, I've told my representation that you've got to get me into that Michael Mann project, he loves me. Twenty years later? I'm back with Michael Mann. He gave me my first break in television and this is a big shot for me in this movie. So...look at that. There's a French word "la ronde" which means full circle and it's just like a full circle to me. It's like back to the beginning again.

JDR: What's up next for you?

JMB: I have no idea.

JDR: Isn't that the wonderful thing about acting though? You never know when that next phone call will come and your whole world will be changed again?

JMB: I humbly wait at the end of the line. This has been a wonderful year for me, I can't complain, I can't sigh or I can't moan in any way. Just working on that film alone, I have good thoughts and hopes for the film and who knows.

JDR: Judging my what we've seen and heard this film could be very well received. You are going to found by a whole new audience out there that didn't know you existed, didn't see your years on TV.

JMB: Yeah I'm excited about that.

JDR: Do you think that might open some new doors?

JMB: You know, I hope so. I've been plugging away at this for quite a while and the thing about entering into the acting world when you're a bull in a china shop is in the beginning in my case, you don't know what to do, you don't know what NOT to do. I've probably made a few mistakes along the way, but I hope what it shows people is that if you have perseverance and tenacity and you're willing to grow and you're willing to hang in. 'Cuz it's about hanging in, believing in yourself which can sometimes take a person a whole lifetime to just be able to say that. Even upon saying that you still have doubts. I'm excited about the fact that I know Johnny's got an incredible following so I'm excited about the fact that my face is going to be seen by a whole lot of people, on Johnny's back, which I am happy to do.

JDR: This is such a cross marketable film...all the fans of Bale, Depp, Tatum, older people who lived the depression...

JMB: I also think to add to your thought, the times we're living in right now are so similar to those times, and I'm sure that Universal and Michael and everybody's aware of that. Even while we were making the film, while I was doing my own personal research, I went my God this could literally be a story told today. Also there's an incredible boatload of actors as well. Growing up I loved the old Warner Bros. films, like I said, James Cagney...there's just so many characters, mugs and faces and energies, it's going to be interesting, like a big pot of soup.

JDR: You just brought up doing your research, tell me what kind of research that your did to play Det. Martin Sarkovich?

JMB: When I first went into the part, I knew that there was a book, I understand that you've interviewed the writer of the book.

JDR: Yes, and he's a very nice man.

JMB: I went and read the book and ate the pages and then because of my extensive background of playing police officers, there's a mind set that police officers have, so I sort of have that. And then when I got to Chicago there was a lot of material available to me from Michael and from the research team. And then believe it or not, I had these wonderful things happen to me like one time when I came from New York, because I wasn't there for the length of the film, I was there about five different times for big periods of time but then I would leave and come back. One time I came in and got picked up at the airport by this big, older driver and we got to talking on the way in and there was snow and there was traffic and he said to me...yeah what're ya doing?...and I said well ya know I'm working on this film "Public Enemies" and he said "oh yeah" and it turned out that his father there on the night of the shooting, his father was a Chicago cop. So I had little magic things happen to me like that and it turned out that his father knew Zarkovich, so I had these incredible, wonderful. mythical mystical things happen to me. Then this character I played had a nickname, he was called either the "peacock" or the "sheik" because he dressed very well, he too the money and likened himself to be a gangster and a swell dresser with the madam girlfriend. I was walking through Madison, WI where we were filming and I walked into a store, a boutique and before I left there this lady said, I'd like to give you something, and she gave me a peacock feather not knowing...not having any clue. So that peacock feather? I clipped it and wore it on the inside of my pocket through the whole filming. I just had things like that happen to me that put me right there. I'm also a method actor so I was really into Zarkovich, there are still aspects of him peeling away from me. I'm trying to put him to rest, you know we literally had to take these people out of their graves.

JDR: Had you ever played a character that was real person before Zarkovich?

JMB: No, this was the first time.

JDR: Is it harder to capture someone who was a real person?

JMB: It is, because the way I go about it is that I'm aware of the fact that this was a human being and I felt my responsibility was to try to play him as fairly and as honestly as I could... and a responsibility to his soul, if that makes any sense. There were a lot of things about Martin Zarkovich's story that really disturbed me personally because be betrayed. BUT he betrayed Dillinger for the love of his life. And there were a lot of extremely painful moments for me personally during this film portraying Zarkovich realizing the tumult and the pain and the hell that this man went through and ended up living the rest of his days in. It was quite an interesting journey and it took a lot of me.

JDR: I was going to ask you about playing someone who while he loved his Anna Sage, he was basically a dirty cop.

JMB: Yeah he was a bad dude, a bad dude. I believe the only person who meant anything to him at all was Anna. He was just a bad dude. It was interesting because I remember hearing an interview by Anthony Hopkins who I think's a wonderful actor and he was doing a mini series for ABC playing Adolph Hitler and about three days into the filming the producers called him up and told him that he was making this guy likeable and I remember Anthony Hopkins saying every person has a person who likes them and there's got to be a likeability as well as evilness, the bad as well as the good to make a well rounded person. So I kept thinking about that, even though Zarkovich just a prick, I'm sorry, I don't know how else to say it. But there was something that was likeable about him too, he was some mother's son. The internal tug of war was unbelievable.

JDR: So how did you come home alone and work through this character after filming all day?

JMB: When you work the way I work, it's better that I came home alone and wrestled with the demons, you're a smart woman to ask me that question because I'm still wrestling with some of Zarkovich. I'll carry him for the rest of my days and there were moments ......whew....there were subtle moments in this film that I will never forget, ever. Where nothing had to be said and nothing had to be done, I just felt it deep in my core that will always be there.

JDR: In talking with you today, I have to say that so much of what you share are like what Depp shares as an actor, he like you and Anthony Hopkins say that they strive to make something of an unlikeable character likeable because as you've said, that character has someone who loves them. Depp did that with murderer Sweeney Todd, found a bit of him that people saw as a human being.

JMB: Johnny and I didn't get to spend a lot of time together because it was just insane ...but we liked one another, I am sure of that and we connected and we had a couple of scenes together and whenever we saw one another we were very warm to one another, there was a connection for sure, I am sure of that. When it came time that we were coming to the segment of the shooting I would weep. I would just weep. Because I felt so bad. The way I was brought up, the way I was raised and the way I live my life is that the one thing you do is you have honor, you do not betray anybody. And you do not betray your friends and it still irks me, because I know that Martin Zarkovich after the whole thing was said and done they ended up deporting Anna Sage and he ended up living his life sort of in silence, he never spoke about it again and sort of drifted away. There's a great story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe, he must have lived in his own cask of Amontillado, that's the part that haunts me. I remember looking at Johnny and I uttered under my words "I'm sorry kid". When you look in his (Johnny's) eyes there's a whole reservoir of humanity there. And it was killing me. It killed me. It killed me. Plus Anna Sage was the love of Zarkovich's life..there was a whole lot going on, that I (my character) was afraid for her sake and our safety. I just went back to my religion and I just thought about what Judas Iscariot must have felt like for those pieces of silver...he ended up hanging himself. It was deep, I took it to a deep level, I hope it shows.

Click here for part 2 http://johnnydeppreads.com/index.php?showt...6836&st=0&#last

**This interview is copyright © 2004-2008 JohnnyDeppReads.com and may not be reprinted or reposted in any form without permission. Please use a link back to share. Thanks

This will eventually be rotated over to our interview area to be archived.

This post has been edited by Karen on Jul 13 2009, 08:33 AM

Captain Jack is back! Savvy?
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 12:45 PM

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That's a very well done interview, Karen--I'm looking forward to Part II....

And warm thanks to Mr. Bolger for his time and his willingness to share so much about his experiences. I'm looking forward excitedly to his performance in Public Enemies.

Posted: Dec 11 2008, 02:22 PM

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Wow what a depth of feeling he went thru in this role. I have never had any acting experience, but he brought the process to life for me and made me feel the torment he and his character went through. Thanks for that. Looking forward to part two. thankyou.gif
Rose Sparrow
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 03:08 PM

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Another great interview Karen! Can't wait for part two! woohoocheer.gif
I think you're right about him being seen by a larger audience this time. Unfortunately, I have never seen his work before so I'm looking forward to it!
He sounds like a very down to earth guy and I wish him luck with many more roles and his book!

thankyou.gif Mr. Bolger and Karen! snoopydance1.gif

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Posted: Dec 11 2008, 05:30 PM


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Wow, what a fantastic interview. JMB is a very interesting man and seems to bring a lot of his own emotion into the parts he plays. Can't wait to read the rest of the interview.

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” – Johnny Depp
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 07:23 PM


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claphands.gif Wow-loved this interview! JMB seems so "real", if that makes sense, in his responses. I'm glad he had such a great experience on PE, and as others have said, the research and how he "felt" his character really shines through in his words.

Thanks so much to JMBolger for taking the time to talk with Karen. Thanks also to Karen for sharing this great interview with us on JDR_sign.png Can't wait for the next part, too.



"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 10:06 PM

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This is a great interview! You were able to capture the essence of the man John Michael Bolger. I can't wait for part two.
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 10:20 PM

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Great interview!

A step too far...
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 10:34 PM

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thumbsup.gif Bravo! Very fine interview indeed!!! Excellent!
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 10:39 PM

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Thanks for the interview, Karen. I really enjoyed it. I was there the night that You Tube video was taken. JMB was so nice and had some great things to say. He did seem like a very humble guy and reiterated Johnny's thoughts about how the fans are an actor's "boss"; they are the ones who keep an actor employed. He seemed very sincere and I appreciate the time he spent with us (although I must say that he also seemed to be having a great time hugging all the girls during picture taking rotf.gif ).

I look forward to part 2 of the interview.


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Posted: Dec 11 2008, 10:41 PM


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Thanks everyone for saying such really nice things! JMB is so easy to talk to that I actually forgot that I was supposed to be interviewing him. LOL We'd lapsed into regular chit-chat. Truly a humble and sweet man. I hope the industry recogizes his work in PE!

Captain Jack is back! Savvy?
Posted: Dec 11 2008, 10:42 PM

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WOW! thankyou.gif Can't wait to hear and read more!!

~ captainjack.gif

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Posted: Dec 11 2008, 11:03 PM

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Wonderful, Karen! Thank you and JMB for bringing this interview to JDR. I can't wait for part II! dillinger.gif

Cuidado Piso Mojado


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