UH Alum Brett Cullen Offers the Dirt on “Devious Maids”
University of Houston alum Brett Cullen isn’t hard to find these days. Just turn on the TV, and there’s a good chance you can spot him in a movie or television show.
This month, HBO is airing “Dark Knight Rises,” which features Cullen as a seedy congressman. He also has a recurring role as Nathan Ingram on CBS series “Person of Interest.”
This weekend, his latest project premieres. Original Lifetime series “Devious Maids” debuts at 9 p.m., June 23. The pilot also can be viewed online.
The show follows five ambitious maids (Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Edy Ganem, Judy Reyes, Rosalyn Sanchez) who oversee the households of California’s most powerful families. Cullen plays Beverly Hills lawyer Michael Stappord. The show also stars Susan Lucci, Grant Show (“Melrose Place”) and Tom Irwin (“My So Called Life”).
The show’s team of producers is a who’s who of Hollywood veterans including the talents behind “Desperate Housewives – Marc Cherry, Sabrina Wind and Eva Longoria.
Creative Pride: What should audiences expect from “Devious Maids?”
Brett Cullen: They should expect a lot of laughs, some great storytelling and another great show from Marc Cherry and Sabrina Wind. It’s basically about these maids in Beverly Hills, and they all have dreams. One wants to be a singer. Another one is trying to get her son from El Salvador. And, two work for Susan Lucci’s character’s son, and one of them is in love with him. And my character’s maid is not actually a maid…but I can’t say much more about that.
The pilot episode is really good, but it just gets better with each episode.
CP: Tell me about your character.
Cullen: I play a Beverly Hills attorney with a trophy wife, who has a secret of her own…and an ex-wife who is completely nuts.
CP: What kind of research did you do for this character?
Cullen: Living in California, I know quite a few lawyers. So, that wasn’t difficult.
The interesting thing to me about my character is that he’s ruled by the women in his life. I’m used to playing stronger characters, so this appealed to me. I had to look sharp in this role and dress well. He’s got a trophy wife, so I have to look the part.
CP: Several other TV veterans are in the cast.
CP: Is it serialized like “Desperate Housewives?”
Cullen: Yes, but it’s going to be very different. It’s really about social structure. It’s kind of like “Upstairs Downstairs.”
CP: What is working with Susan Lucci like?
Cullen: She’s a gas. She is one of the sweetest, funniest women I’ve worked with. Marc Cherry said, “I love writing for her.” She delivers. She brings it to the set every day.
CP: You bounce back and forth from film to TV. What’s it like to be back on a series?
Cullen: Playing a regular character is harder work in the sense that you have to be there every day. As a recurring character, you’re on the set for just a few days, then you go home.
The tough part for me is being away from my wife and my daughter, who just finished high school and is about to enroll as a Cougar.
There’s not a big difference between TV and film except that in TV, you have to work more quickly. There’s not a lot of time for retakes.
Some films, however, move quickly. I’m about to start work on a film in North Carolina, and it will wrap in 18 days. That’s pretty quick for a movie. It all depends on budget and other factors.
CP: How did your experience at UH help prepare you for your career as a professional actor?
Cullen: It’s real simple. Cecil Pickett groomed myself and so many other actors including Dennis Quaid. He gave us the tools that we use on a daily basis. Working with him and Sidney Berger is why we’re all working today. Learning Shakespeare from these guys gave all of us the discipline necessary to learn lines and perform to the best of our talents.
Cullen played a detective on “Desperate Housewives” and worked again with Cherry and Wind on a pilot for a proposed series titled “Hallelujah.”
A Houston native, Cullen honed his acting talents under the tutelage of UH professors Cecil Pickett and Sidney Berger. Since leaving Cougar Country for Tinsel Town, Cullen has appeared in dozens of films and television series.
Recent roles include “Guilt Trip” (with Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen) and the remake of “Red Dawn.”
Creative Pride caught up with Cullen to get a preview of “Devious Maids.”