Mr. Mercedes has a new killer. Morris Bellamy is no Brady Hartsfield. He didn’t premeditate to murder multiple people at once. Morris keeps finding himself in situations where people die though, at his own hands, beginning with author John Rothstein (Bruce Dern). Gabriel Ebert plays Morris on Mr. Mercedes season 3. If you saw the season premiere, you might be wondering just who Gabriel Ebert is.
Gabriel Ebert spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet over the summer after the Mr. Mercedes season 3 panel for the Television Critics Association. After speaking about his role in the series, we delved into Ebert’s background to find out what led him to this role. You can see Gabriel Ebert on Mr. Mercedes every Tuesday at 10 p.m. on AT&T Audience Network.
No, Gabriel Ebert is not related to Roger Ebert
Before Gabriel Ebert, the only famous Ebert was the late film critic Roger Ebert. Gabriel said there’s no relation.
“No, alas, there’s not,” Ebert said. “I’m happy to share a name with him.”
The Ebert family in this case is from the American west. Gabriel moved to the coasts to pursue Broadway and television.
“I grew up in Colorado but I think initially the name is midwest, the west, just past the midwest,” Ebert said. “We’re western folk.”
Gabriel Ebert was in ‘Matilda’ on Broadway
The charming family film Matilda became a hit musical with a rotating crop of young actors in the lead. The adult roles like Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s shady father, had more permanent casts.
“I did it for a whole year which I’d never done before. I’d done long runs but I’ve never done a year. It’s a particular feat, almost an athletic feat in order to do eight shows a week on Broadway of a musical because in a way you’ve got to live like a monk. You’ve got to be able to vocally perform, physically perform and mentally perform eight times a week to a crowd paying $185 a ticket.”
Ebert loved performing for young audiences live.
“A lot of the people in the audience, this may have been the first play they ever saw. There’s these 10-year-old girls filled with wonder because they’re actually watching a protagonist on Broadway which is a 10-year-old girl. So it was really a touching experience. Most of my scenes were with Matilda so I was always working with these young girls. I worked with eight over the course of my year, incredible talents. Also I felt very paternal towards them. I was very protective.”
Gabriel Ebert isn’t happy with his work on ‘The Blacklist’
In between plays, Gabriel Ebert tested the waters of television. He got to play villains in single episodes of long running series. His first, on The Blacklist, taught him he had a lot to learn about television.
“That was one of my first times just doing a network television show so that was kind of a shot out of a cannon experience. I had my one moment with James Spader. I think Blacklist, in my estimation, was some of my weaker work. As I have had more experience on camera, I’ve become more aware of what I need to bring to the party. It wasn’t that I wasn’t memorized or ready to go. I just don’t think I’d considered all the angles that I should have and I’ve learned from that experience.”
By the time Mr. Mercedes cast Ebert, he’d learned from several episodic TV experiences.
“It felt like being a student. It’s a combination of being utterly prepared and knowing exactly what you’re going to do, making your mind up and then getting there and being willing to throw it all away. Sometimes it serves you. Sometimes it doesn’t. Ultimately, it’s like watching great jazz musicians. They know their form, they know their structure but within that, there’s freedom. We applaud the freedom but then we feel comfortable when they get back to the structure.”
He was also on episodes of ‘The Good Fight’ and ‘Elementary’
Gabriel Ebert has played a lot of villains prior to Mr. Mercedes.
“Now I feel very lucky. I’ve done maybe four or five of the procedurals in New York. I’ve gotten to do The Good Fight and I’ve gotten to do Instinct. It’s great. You just pop in as a villain. You commit all the way. If you’re lucky, you get your one scene with the protagonist. I get cast as villainous people a lot on network television. If you can find something human within those villains, lean into that and deliver it. It tends to work out, or at least it has.”
He was in the film Ricki and the Flash
Meryl Street and Kevin Kline were the stars of the rock n’ roll comedy Ricki and the Flash, but just getting to be on set was good experience for Gabriel Ebert.
“That was a great experience because I was working with the great John Demme, one of his final films before he passed away,” Ebert said. “So I feel very blessed that I got to dip into his orbit for a minute. He works with the same crew. Most of his career he worked with the same crew so the amount of love on that set, the amount of reverence whenever he would speak.”
Demme wasn’t the only Hollywood royalty on the set.
“Of course Meryl Streep is there too so there’s reverence with that,” Ebert said. “It was also fascinating watching Kevin Kline and Meryl Streetp work and taking mental notes and seeing how do they bring themselves to this? What moments have they chosen to lean into or to back away from and being surprised by that.”
Gabriel Ebert has been trying to be on television for a while
In addition to those episodes, Gabriel Ebert also filmed some pilots that never went to series. Mr. Mercedes will be his first season-long arc on a show.
“I feel very blessed that this was sort of my maiden voyage,” Ebert said. “I’ve always wanted to build an arc over a long period of time. I’ve gotten to make a couple pilots but nothing that ever went so this was a real dreamy opportunity, something that’s already set, something that’s already beloved. When I watched it, the quality is so high and the acting is so good that I felt very humbled and honored to step into this.”
That means Ebert won’t be on stage for a while.
“Yeah, you’ve got to say no to a couple things in order to keep yourself available, but these are the choices that you make. I’m not upset with any of the choices. The way the film and television industry works, you really have to set it aside for a while and make a committed concerted effort to only audition for TV and film. I did that last year and there was a painful period of months where nothing was quite coming through. The fact that this was the light at the end of the tunnel meant a lot to me and makes it all worthwhile.”
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