The Calling's Jeff Wilbusch And Juliana Canfield On Their Intense Characters - Exclusive Interview

Of all the genres of television that stand out from the rest, true crime and detective dramas make for the juiciest content. There's nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a web of lies, twists, turns, and unexpected shocks that come with watching a mystery unfold — if you're a pro, you're likely trying to solve the case yourself alongside the on-screen detective. If you're looking for a new show to add to your mystery roster, "The Calling" — dropping on NBC's Peacock — needs to be on your radar, and who better to convince you than the two leading actors, Jeff Wilbusch and Juliana Canfield.

"The Calling" tells the chaotic tale of NYPD detective Avraham Avraham, who — in a Sherlock Holmes kind of way — uses his own psychology and "belief in mankind" to get to the bottom of life-altering mysteries. With such a talent and guiding principle, however, comes personal hurdles, and Avraham is faced with an enemy he perhaps wasn't anticipating: himself. When a routine case throws him for a loop, the detective is forced to confront his own approach to his life.

Phew! Sounds like a doozy, right? If there are two people who agree with such a sentiment, they're Wilbusch and Canfield. Ahead of the show's premiere, we sat down with the actors for an exclusive interview, and they discussed just how far they went to get into character. Their truths will leave you speechless.

Jeff and Juliana were taken by the original characters

The story [focuses on] an NYPD detective so guided by principle, but that principle turns the character upside down. What elements of that personal journey — and the twists and turns that unfold — attracted you both to the project?

Jeff Wilbusch: For me, it was that I never saw such a character ever on TV — not in the U.S., not in Europe — ever. I was so drawn to this character and to the story, and there's so much to explore with this multifaceted character, and it's so interesting. He has so many sides to him that are almost contradictory. This is what drew me in so much [to] this character.

Juliana Canfield: Similarly, when I read the script for the first time, I love mysteries and detective dramas, and I'd never seen or read a character like [Avraham]. In a way, Janine, as the new rookie detective, is like an audience surrogate. I felt [when] reading it as fascinated as Janine seems to be by Avi, and I wanted to learn more about him. 

I think the best shows on television hinge upon strong relationships, and I was really intrigued at the prospect of being half of that odd couple. If Avi comes with intensity or single-mindedness, how can Janine be a foil to that? A complement to that? That's a fun puzzle as an actor, so that was what got me excited about it.

Wilbusch: I must add to this that Avi is very mysterious but he is not complete without the character of Janine. It's a good starting point, but I think what makes the story so interesting is this relationship.

Jeff and Juliana connected over their mutual theater experience

I'm sure that's a really fun dynamic for both of you to explore as actors, as scene partners. Tell me a little bit about that on-set dynamic.

Canfield: When I met Jeff, we established very quickly that both of us have a background in theater, and that brings a certain all-hands-on-deck, let's-put-it-in-the-pot-and-see-what-happens [approach]. It makes it so much fun as an actor to be with another actor who's open and playful and willing to give and take. The ease that we had as actors and as friends on set only lent itself to creating an unusual, fun, fizzy, fraternal, jokey, antagonistic dynamic, which I hope is fun to watch.

Wilbusch: It's like it's two musicians that do this funky music together, and they enjoy doing it, and they can take from each other even without talking. They feel each other and they know. It was beautiful. And it can also go the other way around because we didn't have a chemistry read, and it was such a special thing that it works so well. You have such great chemistry and it's beautiful.

The actors reveal the intense ways they got into character

The plot involves so many occurrences: murder, a bomb plot, disappearance. Where did you both source inspiration from when approaching those topics?

Canfield: First of all, I thought the scripts had so much in them, detail and suspense and richly drawn characters and tension. That's always my first and last resort: What's happening in the story and how is it unfolding? What does Janine know? In terms of where I drew inspiration, unfortunately, the news isn't so different. Being a New Yorker, living in New York, and having a relationship with the constant onslaught of delicious chaos was a great way to prepare for the ups and downs of "The Calling."

Wilbusch: Because [Avi] was also such an experienced detective, I had to be on my game. The moment I got the role — I think it was a couple of months until we started shooting — I was immersed in this detective world. I interrogated so many detectives and asked them so many questions, and I went to a precinct and watched hours [and] hours [and] hours of footage that also had a toll on me because some things are really dark. But I had to do that. At some point when I visited the precinct and they wanted to give me a case, I was [like], "Oh, I need to play this character. I'm an actor. I'm going to play a detective and not be a detective."

Canfield: You went too deep.

Wilbusch: I went too deep. I was like Avi. I was very immersed in that.

"The Calling" drops on Peacock on November 10. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.