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Lloyd Owen on Viva Laughlin

Published August 28, 2007 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of CBS.
Lloyd Owen Lloyd Owen in Viva Laughlin
Viva Laughlin is a drama set in the high stakes world of that town just outside of Vegas. Lloyd Owen stars as Ripley Holden, a gambler trying to open his own casino. Based on the BBC series Viva Blackpool, Owen comes into the remake relatively fresh.

Lloyd Owen Gambles in Laughlin

"I only saw one episode, actually, of the BBC original, which is fortunate, I think, for me because then I don't have anything to get in my way," said Owen. "I've chosen not to watch it yet, but I might get to a position where I do that. I think, from what I saw in one, and where we have, in our episode one, they're very different already, both characters, and I think it's for the best. Some things translate a certain amount culturally, but then there's a limit, and I think they're very different."

The show has its characters break into songs to establish important moments. Not original songs, but very famous songs. Owen's first is a duet with Elvis Pressley himself. "He was very generous to me 'til we had to hit that last note. The difficult thing for that one was that his range is a lot higher than mine. He's a tenor, and I'm a bass baritone, so to find that range was quite tough at times, particularly the end, actually. But I loved it."

In the first episode, Ripley bets it all on a spin of roulette. Most compulsive gamblers will stick to blackjack or poker, but that's what makes Ripley edge. "That's what I personally love about Ripley. Here's a guy who, if he's going to own a casino, should never gamble, but there's something just slightly gone in him that makes him take a choice there. He's not 100 percent stable at times and not to get into an essay about gambling, but I have a friend in mind who did a play about poker, and then he ended up giving up being an actor and he now gambles in casinos. But he will do that worldwide, and he'll end up going through a five-day competition of poker and he'll win it. Then, on his way out, he'll put it all on the roulette table. That's a gambler. That's the nature of gambling."

Laughlin may be just the town for a guy like that. "There's also a guy called Don Laughlin who has the original casino, that riverside casino. This is absolutely the town that a single businessman could start a casino, which you can't in Vegas because they're all owned by companies now, right? It's a great town. It's a one-strip town, but it's rocking."

Owen is one of many British actors to cross the pond to play American characters. Though many of our hits are remakes of theirs, Owen holds Hollywood in high regards. "My experience of watching television in the UK is that we all watch American programs, actually, and those are what we're trying to [emulate]. There definitely are some very good shows in both countries, but I think it's a generalization to say either one or the other. I really do. I think there's pure talent in both countries, and they produce according to their cultures. And both seem to work and cross over. That's the truth."

Viva Laughlin premieres October 18 on CBS.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of CBS.

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