On Peter Cambor’s first day of filming the Roadies pilot, creator and director Cameron Crowe shocked the star-struck actor.
“I’m like totally nervous as hell going in to shoot my first scene. And Cameron comes up, he’s like, ‘So how do you like to do stuff?’ ” Cambor said. “No one I think has ever asked me that [on a shoot]!”
“Roadies” is Crowe’s comical, behind-the-scenes look at the people who make arena concert tours happen. New episodes air at 9 p.m. CT Sundays on Showtime. (Watch the pilot below.)
Cambor plays Milo, an American bass tech on tour with the fictional Staton-House Band who has adopted a British accent he heard on a previous tour. Milo is crushing on the new tour’s electrician, Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots), but she’s not returning the attention.
Cambor says he was intimidated about working with Crowe because he had long idolized the writer-director for his work on such films as “Jerry Maguire,” “Almost Famous” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Crowe’s willingness to include everyone in the creative process quickly put Cambor and other cast members at ease, he says.
“His generosity and his passion—his giving that to all of us and us sharing it with each other—I think that is going to really translate into something very special for the series,” said the actor, who has recurring roles in “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Grace and Frankie.”
Cambor and I talked briefly in January during a “Roadies” party at the TV Critics Association gathering in Pasadena, Calif. The cast had only filmed the pilot episode at the time. Here’s an edited Q&A.
Your character has picked up the British accent from his previous tour. Can we expect somewhere midseason he’s going to start picking up something different from this tour?
Peter Cambor: I honestly don’t know the answer to that. But knowing Cameron it’s very much a possibility. So I’d say all accents and dialects are on the table for somebody like Milo, for sure.
Milo seems beyond smitten with Imogen’s character, Kelly Ann. Can that ever end well for him?
In terms of the show and how it all sort of fits together and this idea of family, Milo definitely represents this kind of idea that’s in a lot of Cameron’s work of this unrequited love and somebody who just can’t explain it.
For Milo, the sun rises and sets for Kelly Ann and I think that it’s a really cool dynamic to add considering the fact that they would literally sleep in bunks above or below each other.
She’s obviously, for the time being, not into it. Just that element I think is adding spice to this bowl of soup. Like you were saying before, when you spend all this time with family it’s like a prolonged Thanksgiving dinner or something. For all those times you’re with family you love them, but you also want to punch your brother for saying the thing he brought up. It’s like, “That was five years ago. Why are you bringing that up?” So I think it’s just all of that. It’s just one of the many colors of the show.
Milo’s unrequited love is interesting because often only younger people are portrayed with those feelings. I like that we’re seeing an adult character having these feelings…
It’s funny you bring that up because I was watching the pilot with my girlfriend and we were talking about who will watch the show. I felt like young people would. She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no.” She thinks older viewers—middle-aged. I think in some weird way having elements of those things that are sort of juvenile is very relatable because adults went through it. We all absolutely go through it.
Every day is is intense for them, too. That’s got to put the pressure on.
There’s always a deadline. Every day is an insane deadline. You have to accomplish an insurmountable task on a daily basis.
I feel that a lot of concert-goers never think about all the work that goes into a show off stage. How did you try to bring that to light in your performance?
The stories that I like to tell are always about underdogs. My grandparents were immigrants and came from nothing and worked in restaurants and were roofers and were firefighters and stuff like that. Telling their stories through other stories is incredibly important to me. And I just relate to it—even though my life was nothing like my grandparents’ lives. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in every way I can think of and have every opportunity afforded to me. But stories like that are just—what was your original question?
Is it hard to approach this kind of a character when really, only people in that business know that lifestyle?
Yes it is because roadies are very insular about what it is they do and they don’t want to share a lot about the workings of it. There’s so much respect in the community amongst themselves. It’s very much like, “The outside does not get what it is we do, nor do we want them to get or understand it.” …I think there’s a great responsibility to telling their story properly, and Cameron’s really set that up because he cares immensely about that in everything that he does. So in that sense yes, it was difficult.
In the other sense, the characters are approachable because Cameron so understands human shit. Like the pilot began the way it began—with that Dylan song and Imogen in the bus with Luis Guzman—that scene I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s Cameron.” He just understands how to get to the heart of us. So approaching it from the human point of view is so easy because of Cameron.
Getting the roadies shit right is of course difficult and you want to do it completely right. Once you get to know a few roadies and they want you to get it right you just feel this intense obligation to do it.
So you did talk to real roadies for research?
Yeah, absolutely. …They’re great. I think the one thing we as actors can relate to them about is the love/hate relationship with the profession. On a day like today you’re like, “Oh, it’s the best in the world.” But there are days when it’s not working or you haven’t had an audition or you haven’t had a role in a while and it’s the worst. Like, “Why did I ever sign up for this shit?” You’re like 36, 37 years old now and like, “What have I done. It’s too late to go back and do anything else.”
Roadies have a real love/hate relationship with their work, too. When they get off the tour they’re like, “Oh, thank God.” And then after a week they’re like, “I just want to get back on a bus and go back on the road.” It’s that call of the road thing. When I’m not working I want to go back. So in that sense it makes a lot of sense about the inner turmoil of like the day-to-day feelings about the job.
Give us your pitch for the show.
The elevator pitch? I’m trying to think of the best, succinct way to say it, because I can talk endlessly about it. … Music is all about sharing. Cameron gave us that great gift and … it translates over and creates this family on set. I just can’t even explain it. ….
It’s obvious that you all are passionate about the project.
If you told me I was going to be friends with Colson Baker—Machine Gun Kelly—before doing this. We’re like super, super tight. It’s like insane. … That’s all Cameron and that’s all like this show. It’s really special.