The actor talks about that National Geographic, Kevin Garvey, Sr.’s prophet potential, and why it’s important for his character to listen to the voices in his head.
HBO: What do you envision as Kevin, Sr.’s backstory since the Departure?
Scott Glenn: I don’t work off just the past three years. I work off of at least as far back as the birth of Kevin, Jr. I thought that since Kevin, Jr. and Kevin, Sr. have such a complicated father-son relationship, I should figure out what that was.
HBO: Did you figure it out?
Scott Glenn: Kevin, Jr. refers to it at points, asking Kevin, Sr., “Where were you?” That doesn’t mean, “Where were you three years ago when you went off the deep end?” It means, “Where were you when I was growing up?” I see Kevin, Sr. as a guy who has always heeded the call to personal adventure, often to the detriment of responsibility and relationships, especially with Kevin, Jr. I don’t think Kevin, Sr. was around for a lot of his growing up. Kevin, Sr. is a Vietnam veteran who came back, couldn’t fit in, had a son, and joined the French Foreign Legion and was gone for another three years.
HBO: Is that history referenced in the show?
Scott Glenn: Kevin, Sr. has two tattoos that are put on for the show. One is a French Foreign Legion tattoo with French words that read: “Neither God nor master," meaning that there is no governor on this engine. Basically, “Don’t expect mercy or civilized behavior from me because I don’t have those kind of structures.”
The other is on Kevin, Sr.’s forearm, and it says: “173rd DFA.” That’s from Vietnam, the 173rd airborne battalion. DFA means “death from above.” But as [co-creator] Damon Lindelof has said to me, that could mean “departure from above.” Damon’s writing is like looking at a great piece of art, like the unicorn tapestry, where the more you look at it, the further it goes. I think Kevin, Sr. lived with violence, a lot of it, as a young man, and then as a cop.
HBO: Why did Kevin, Jr. follow in his footsteps as chief of police?
Scott Glenn: Kevin, Jr. kind of backed into that job, partly through nepotism and partly because he’s very good at it. Kevin, Sr. was probably a way harder-assed chief than his son.
HBO: When did Kevin, Sr. begin hearing the voices?
Scott Glenn: Kevin, Sr. committed himself to the institution at the beginning of dealing with the voices. At this point, the voices are real, they’re intrusive, they’re f**king annoying. They seem to come into his life at exactly the wrong time, when Kevin, Sr. is in intimate moments with someone he cares about. But the voices are always truthful, they never bullshit, they never lie. The voices also do Kevin, Sr. a major solid in that they lead him to save his granddaughter’s life.
HBO: Do you think Kevin, Sr. is a prophet?
Scott Glenn: People have asked me that. In his worldview, at least at this stage, he’s not even capable of that kind of awareness yet. I can say this: When Kevin, Sr. ignores the voices, things get really, really bad. When Kevin, Sr. listens to the voices and tries to do what they tell him to do, things don’t necessarily become good, but they become manageable.
What I’m saying is that I think that’s the way you begin going down the road to becoming a prophet. I would guess that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha all began with an annoying, intrusive, scary relationship with whatever they were channeling. I don’t think Moses woke up in the morning and said, “I am the prophet of the children of Israel.” I think Moses heard voices and tried to ignore them and thought if he told people about it, they’d think he was nuts. But it eventually led him to walk up into the mountain and come down with the Ten Commandments and lead his tribe into battle.
The touchy thing that’s happening in Episode 7 is that the voices are including Kevin, Jr. now. The lucky ones get to stay on the sidelines – but Kevin, Sr. and Kevin, Jr. can’t.
HBO: Is the scene in the diner Kevin, Sr.’s way of telling his son to listen to the voices?
Scott Glenn: I think it’s Kevin, Sr. trying to not let Kevin, Jr.’s life go into the toilet. Kevin, Sr. has already seen the beginning of that in his bedroom with all the pill bottles. The voices have essentially told Kevin, Sr. to recruit him: “Your son is part of this deal.” Whatever needs to be resolved, Kevin, Jr. is an active part of it whether he likes it or not.
HBO: Did you get any time to look through the May 1972 National Geographic that Kevin, Sr. tries to give Kevin, Jr.?
Scott Glenn: National Geographic May 1972 could become a collector’s item. Fans should run out and bore through it if they’re interested in it at all.
HBO: Do you have any insight into Kevin, Sr.’s propensity for peanut butter?
Scott Glenn: Nope. All I know is that in Episode 2 when Justin Theroux brings me the peanut butter in the institution, I thought that was kind of cool. Then I hated it. I have close to a monologue with Justin in that scene, and try doing that with peanut butter in your mouth.
HBO: During that scene, Kevin, Sr. mentions that the entire Perfect Strangers cast departed, and in “Solace for Tired Feet” we see Aimee watching the show. Will there be more Perfect Strangers references?
Scott Glenn: The short answer to that is yes. It’s meant to drive you crazy