What Book Helped Jon Bernthal Prepare for ‘Mob City’?

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, Featured Article, TV Shows
on November 25, 2013

What has Jon Bernthal been doing since his character Shane was killed on “The Walking Dead”?
—Jillian Goddard, Bellevue, Nebraska

While Jon Bernthal, 37, says that it was hard leaving “The Walking Dead,” the fact that he was going right into filming the new Martin Scorsese movie, “Wolf of Wall Street,” and knowing that he was going to be reunited with Frank Darabont, the original producer on “Walking Dead,” for a new TV series, helped ease the pain.

“I’ve been super blessed since I left there,” he says “It was always set in stone when I was leaving ‘Walking Dead,’ but it was a very hard group of people to leave. I love them with all my heart, so it was very hard to think about leaving them.”

This December, Bernthal returns to TV in Darabont’s new TNT series, “Mob City,” based on the true story of the battle between the L.A.P.D. and the mob as the gangsters tried to infiltrate Los Angeles in the late ’40s. The Washington, D.C.-born actor plays the fictional hero Joe Teague, who after returning from World War II joins the L.A.P.D. and tries to clean up the city.

“Because of his experiences in the war, he’s a guy who really keeps to himself,” says Bernthal. “He is very much a part of the lives of the people he loves, but he does it from afar. He is not looking for the girl to say ‘I love you,’ he is not looking for a kid to say ‘I love you,’ and he is not looking for any sort of pat on the back or career advancement. He’s just out there to look after the people he loves and remain in the background.”

In order to play Teague and get into the mindset of ’40s Los Angeles, Bernthal watched several movies, read a lot of Raymond Chandler, but he says the most helpful book was “The White Jazz” by James Elroy. He also says the previous work he had done for HBO’s “The Pacific,” which taught him what the Marines went through for the invasion of Guadalcanal, helped him relate to Teague.

For “Grudge Match,” a movie set in the world of boxing coming out at Christmas, in which he plays Robert De Niro’s estranged son, Bernthal didn’t need to do near as much research.

“I’ve been boxing for years,” Bernthal says. “My best friend is a pro-fighter and I’ve been sparring with him since I was kid. I actually play De Niro’s son in the movie, but then in the flashbacks, I play the young De Niro, as well, and do all the boxing for him.”