There's something unsettling about watching Martin Short play the mysterious Leonard Winstone on Damages.
Maybe it's that we're used to him making us laugh. But Short doesn't buy that. "Actors are just actors," he tells TVGuide.com. "Whether they're making you laugh or making you frown, there's a talent to make a character three-dimensional and sympathetic. It's just different objectives. People have typecasting in their heads of how they think so-and-so can make them laugh but can't make them cry."
The alternative, then, is that Winstone - a hard-edged attorney and Godfather-like consigliere to the Ponzi-scheming Tobin family at the center of Season 3 - gives us the creeps because he isn't all that he seems. It is Damages, after all.
First off, Short says Louis Tobin (Len Cariou), the patriarch and mastermind of the scam, is more than an ordinary client. "Tobin's also a surrogate father to this guy," Short says. "So, Leonard Winstone's motives are not just tied to financial gain by protecting a client, but also emotional involvement, given that this man has been closer to him than his own father."
With such a strong bond, will Winstone go further to protect Old Man Tobin versus his seemingly uninvolved son, Joe (Campbell Scott), when push comes to shove?
"The fascination of doing this show is the actors don't know a great deal about where it's going," Short says. "We play the scenes, but whether there is a secret agenda, you don't always know. So, whether Leonard Winstone is a sincere assistant remains to be seen. I'm not saying Leonard isn't what he seems, but there are certainly deviations."
Damages co-creator and executive producer Todd Kessler remains tight-lipped. "There are absolutely some surprises in the reveals about who he is and why he is connected to the Tobins," adding that he loves what Short has brought to the role.
"Something we find extremely exciting is that to an audience, [Martin] seems familiar," Kessler says. "We hope that by the second scene you see him in, you forget that it's Martin Short, but we do want the audience to have that familiarity. The newness of what he's doing is exciting us at every turn."
Speaking to Short, you can hear in his voice that he's a fan of the show, and its star, Glenn Close, against whom Short gets to do battle. But like everything else about Leonard Winstone at this point, we'll have to wait and see whether he or Patty Hewes comes out on top.
"It's a chess match," Short says. "They're both really successful and very good at what they do. So it makes Patty challenged and it makes Leonard challenged. We've done a few scenes, and sometimes Patty seems to exit with the upper hand and sometimes Leonard does."
Damages airs Mondays at 10/9c on FX.