Devane says he tries to build conflict in his roles. “You always try to find the argument,” he explained. “As [director] Elia Kazan said, ‘If you can’t find the argument you can’t find the play.’ ”
So when Devane first met with the producers, he told them he was interested in playing a president “that doesn’t want to be president, he can’t handle it,” said the actor over the phone from London where he’s been filming “Live Another Day” since January.
The producers had come up with an even better conflict — Heller’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Executive producers Manny Coto and Evan Katz were plotting out the 12-part series last year when they thought of bringing back Devane.
“First, we wanted Audrey in the show,” said Katz. “And separately we wanted a president that was affected with early Alzheimer’s. We just had a brainstorm moment. Heller is the perfect person to [have] early Alzheimer’s and Audrey is working with him.”
Heller’s dementia, said Coto, is “playing out quite wonderfully in the season and it leads to one of the best episodes of the year coming up. We think we have treated it in such a way that it is going to be surprising how it plays out.”
Devane found inspiration for his portrayal of President Heller and his struggle with dementia in the Nobel Prize-winning author Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who died in April.
“He had a position about characters,” said Devane. “You have a public character, you have a private character and you have a secret character. I kind of tried to apply that to this.”