Eric Lange has logged decades of credits, including roles in “Lost,” “CSI: NY” and “Weeds,” but he says his favorite role is in Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora,” which bows Nov. 18. Lange plays Lyle Mitchell, husband of the real-life woman who aided two inmates in their escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. “It was such a transformation that I wasn’t Eric in any sense,” Lange says.
In “Escape at Dannemora,” you’re playing a real person. Did you meet him?
His take on the whole thing is that the media ruined his family’s life. We did due diligence and asked to talk, but he didn’t want to, and I respect that. When you’re playing a real person and you meet them, sometimes there’s an expectation that you’re going to [get guidance about] how they would like to see themselves. What I see as the truth of someone isn’t what they would like to see, necessarily. So it freed me.
What kind of transformation did you undergo?
It was definitely a stretch. I’m a character actor, so your goal is always to be a chameleon. I spent a couple weeks trying to get his voice. Then I sent the video to a voice teacher of mine in college, and he said, “Look at the way his teeth work; his tongue is hitting the back of his teeth in a certain way.” So I went to a makeup store and bought some fake teeth that were actually Austin Powers teeth, and I put them in and I started talking and it was like, there it is — that’s it. [Director Ben Stiller] called a month before we started shooting and was like, “Could you gain some weight?” So I ended up gaining 40 pounds in about two months.
Do you worry about what Lyle will think if he watches it?
I don’t know how he’ll feel; we tried to give him dignity. He loves his wife endlessly; he’s grateful to have his job. And I think he comes off as sort of the emotional center of the show. Everyone else is trying to get out of something, to get somewhere else, to be someone else. Lyle’s the only person who’s not doing that, who’s steadfast in what he’s carved out for himself.
Things You Didn’t Know About Eric Lange
Age: 45 Birthplace: Hamilton, Ohio Now Binge-Watching: “Succession” Role He’s Still Recognized For: Radzinsky in “Lost” Last Book He Read: “The Dude and the Zen Master,” by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman