'Grimm' star Silas Weir Mitchell revels in 'otherness'

Mitchell, who attended Montgomery Country Day and the Tarleton School, got his start as Hansel in third grade. associated press
Mitchell, who attended Montgomery Country Day and the Tarleton School, got his start as Hansel in third grade. associated press
Posted: March 23, 2012

GRIMM. 9 tonight, NBC 10.

SILAS WEIR Mitchell doesn't know who wrote the Wikipedia entry that describes him as an "actor known for playing disturbing or unstable characters."

"But I don't disagree with it," he said in a phone interview last week.

Before he was Monroe, who practices Pilates to tame his inner Big Bad Wolf in NBC's "Grimm," the Chester County native was probably best known as "Prison Break" convict Charles "Haywire" Patoshik, who had "schizoaffective disorder with bipolar tendencies," and as ex-con Donny Jones on "My Name Is Earl," "who had a very quick temper, sort of a hairtrigger."

So "if I'm ever in a romantic comedy, I will definitely be the other guy. But I enjoy the otherness of that. I really genuinely do. I've always enjoyed the outer reaches of things," said Mitchell.

Characters don't get much more "other" than Monroe, an unusually disciplined member of a tribe of mythical wolf-like creatures known as Blutbaden (BLOOT-baad-en) who in "Grimm" strikes up an unlikely alliance with Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli).

Burkhardt's only recently discovered his own legacy as a descendant of "Grimms," who've spent centuries hunting Monroe's people and other mythical creatures hiding in plain sight as ordinary-looking humans.

Mitchell's own legacy is a bit more down to the earth.

He carries the name of a prominent Philadelphia ancestor, physician and writer Silas Weir Mitchell, who's sometimes been called "the father of neurology," and he's used to the occasional confusion that causes in a wired world.

"I think I've taken him over on Google. If you Google 'Silas Weir Mitchell' now, I think finally I'm first," he said, describing his illustrious predecessor as "way back on the tree."

The actor, who attended Montgomery Country Day and the Tarleton School - where he recalls making his theatrical debut as the Grimm Brothers' character Hansel of "Hansel and Gretel" in third grade - has a master's in theater from the University of California at San Diego and majored in theater and religious studies at Brown.

Studying religion turned out to be "apropos" for his understanding of "Grimm," he said.

"The way I tend to look at what goes on in that world, not to sound high-faluting, forgive me, but it's sort of psycho-mythological in a lot of ways," Mitchell said. "I think a lot of mythology is meaningful to us as humans because it puts psychological forms in a kind of an organization that we can understand."

Like his character, Mitchell's no stranger to the discipline of Pilates, which he practiced for "about 10, 12 years," though he's not currently doing it.

"The wonderful thing about the Pilates element …Joseph Pilates' original term for what he called this form of exercise that he discovered? He called it 'contrology.' I mean, how apropos is that?" he said.

Not that Mitchell seems to be looking for a perfectly controlled Monroe.

"The inner conflict is really something that is delightful to play," he said. "Fighting your nature. It's a rich field, a rich soil for an actor." n

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.comor follow on Twitter @elgray.Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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