It is better to be faithful than famous. (Theodore Roosevelt)
Tonight marks the series finale of Burn Notice, one of the shows that I can say I’ve been involved with from the beginning to the end. I was writing about Burn Notice before I was blogging as a career, and way before I ever got paid for it. That’s seven seasons of writing, and a lot of memories besides, so I thought the least I could do was give its departure a little blog space.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing many of the Burn Notice cast and crew over the years, some of them multiple times. That includes series creator Matt Nix, co-executive producer Alfredo Barrios, the legendary Bruce Campbell, and many of the recurring actors and guest stars, like Seth Peterson (who played Nate Westen), Jay Karnes (Tyler Brennen), Garret Dillahunt (Simon Escher), Ben Shenkman (Tom Strickler), Chris Vance (Mason Gilroy), and Tim Matheson (‘Crazy’ Larry Sizemore). One of my favorite early Comic-Con memories was of a Burn Notice press room in 2009 that was mostly composed of guest stars. Jay Karnes blew my mind with how much interesting stuff he had to say in our interview; I’m convinced he’s a genius.
I’m not going to forget that, or the hilarity that ensued before my roundtable interview with Chris Vance, when the entire table went into a panic. Chris wasn’t on the list of names we’d been given beforehand, and for some reason none of us could remember his name, even though we all thought he looked familiar. We spent the next five minutes trying to place him, and nailed it all of maybe thirty seconds before he showed up to talk to us. Given that Gilroy was one of my favorite Burn Notice villains, I’ve always been privately embarrassed that I blanked that day, but it’s one of my favorite flubs.
Burn Notice has introduced me to a number of great folks, whether it’s the people on the show or the fans (hi, Colleen!), and I am grateful for all of them. Over seven seasons, you create a lot of memories, and so of course it’s going to be sad when a show you’ve put that much time and effort into comes to an end.
But there’s one thing above all I have to thank this show for, and that’s my friendship with Coby Bell. I had never even heard his name before Burn Notice, and like many loyal fans, I was opposed to the idea of adding a new cast member. I may have even said so publicly. Yet once I saw Coby in action, I realized that it wasn’t only a good move, but because of what he was able to bring to the table, it was a great move. I made sure to admit that I was wrong, and then I asked the folks at USA if it was possible to do an interview with this guy who’d just changed my mind.
Coby and I hit it off from that very first phone call, and we’ve been friends ever since. For awhile there, between Burn Notice and his other show The Game, we were doing interviews together every three or four months, and they weren’t so much interviews as 15 minutes of questions and another 45 just talking about anything else that crossed our minds, from Christmas lights to him asking how I was doing in physical therapy. He became the very first celebrity friend I made in this business, and it was our clicking together that made me realize I could belong here. Not to mention that he’s said a lot of very nice things about me over the years that I hold dear.
Regardless of what you might think of his Burn Notice character (and here I’ll admit that I became one of Jesse’s most vocal defenders, if only because I read and heard a lot of unfair things), know that Coby is one of the kindest and funniest people I’ve gotten to know. A running thing between us was how he never got to be involved with the Burn Notice proceedings at Comic-Con. In 2011, after he asked how the convention went and I told him I’d spent half of it running off with Maroon 5, his response was, “I told Bruce [Campbell] to keep you out of trouble.” Still makes me smile just thinking about it.
That’s nowhere near as funny, though, as what happened the one time we finally got to meet in person. BET invited me to the red-carpet premiere of its first season of The Game in Los Angeles, and I asked Coby’s manager if he was coming, because I wanted to be sure I ran into him. She did me one better: when she recognized me on the press line, she turned around and yelled down the line at him – in the way your parents do when they want you to come in for dinner – that I was there. The entire room was looking at me. Coby, for his part, came right over and pulled me into a huge hug, telling me how happy he was to see me there. I felt like a million bucks at that moment, especially since it was the first press appearance I’d made since my surgery and I was convinced that I was a shell of my former self. I’m not sure he knows this, but the way he treated me gave me back my pride in myself.
Then after the screening, he asked me what I thought of the premiere episode, and that baffled me. I couldn’t believe my opinion actually mattered to him. But that’s the kind of class act that Coby is, and I’m so happy to have been able to work on not one but two of his shows, because I’m still so very lucky to have him in my life. And I would never have even heard of him if not for Burn Notice.
All good shows come to an end eventually, and tonight it’s time for Burn Notice to say goodbye. But as always, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate all those things that a show like this brings into our lives, even – especially – the ones that have nothing to do with what we’re watching. I hope all the Burn Notice fans enjoy tonight’s finale, and that you’ve had as great a ride with Michael Westen and company as I have.