Entertainment

Paul Scheer Was Too Good to Get Killed Off in 'Black Monday'

The actor talked to VICE about preparing for his role and escaping his planned death in the first season of the Showtime series.
Ashwin Rodrigues
Brooklyn, US
March 16, 2020, 8:28pm
Paul Scheer and Regina King
Screenshot via Showtime 

On March 15, Showtime’s Black Monday returned to television in a two-episode premiere of its second season. The first season, starring Don Cheadle and Regina King, concluded with the 1987 stock market crash, which unfortunately feels hyper-relevant given the real-world market’s current reaction to the Coronavirus. “If you're asking me, did Showtime make the stock market crash? I can't comment on that.” Paul Scheer told VICE. “But I will just say we're doing wonders in the world of viral marketing.”

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In Black Monday, Scheer plays Keith Shankar, a closeted New York stockbroker who, over the course of the first season, comes out, leaves his wife and kids, collaborates and then betrays the FBI, and flees to Miami. To prepare for season two, Scheer began an intense exercise regimen and changed his diet, losing 30 pounds in the process. But when he first joined the show, Scheer was not supposed to make it to another season.

“I was supposed to be the person that died. I was supposed to be the body that crashed into that car. That's how I signed on to the show,” he said. (In the first episode of the first season, a dead body is shown on top of a red stretch Lamborghini, but the identity is not revealed until the finale.) But the show’s creators, Jordan Cahan and David Caspe, told Scheer they didn’t want to kill him, so they cut a new ending to spare Keith.

In his role, Scheer is responsible for portraying a gay man. He acknowledged the challenge in playing this role, and manages to avoid coming across as hacky or predictable in his performance. “It was something I really took on incredibly seriously, you know, I wanted to play this character as truthfully as I could,” Scheer said. The character was compelling to Scheer, who said Keith was not a cliche, and more complex than other roles he’s played in the past. “He was simply someone who was wrestling with who he is to different people in his life. I'm not a gay man, but on a base level, I could understand the masks that we put on for different people.”

Scheer, who grew up on Long Island, also drew from his personal experience growing up around the New York finance types. “It was very easy for me to remember all the people that my parents were friends with, who were kind of total dicks,” Scheer said. In one particular example, Scheer recalled a time when a forty-year-old man felt threatened by a 12-year-old Scheer, who said he wanted to be a comedian. The man put Scheer in a headlock and said he was funnier than Scheer.

“It's sort of like the energy of what you see on Succession where you know, they're doing that thing where everyone's chasing the sausage on the floor,” Scheer said.

For those who did not watch the first season, Scheer summarized his character and gave a preview of this season’s arc: “Keith is a stockbroker who is on the run and living his best life in Miami as a small-time drug dealer in a dirty roadside motel, happy to be disappeared from his old life. And then through the course of events, he is pulled back into his old life, but he is not the old Keith.”