The Westworld actor is now starring in Epix’s new drama, Perpetual Grace, Ltd.
If you have a favorite show, Jimmi Simpson has probably been on it. Whether you first caught him as computer hacker Gavin Orsay on House of Cards, or laughed at his creepy weird antics Liam McPoyle on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Simpson has had an enviable career playing a wide array of complex characters. His latest role in Perpetual Grace, Ltd., has him starring as con artist James, opposite acting legends Ben Kingsley and Jacki Weaver as Pastor “Pa” and “Ma” Brown, respectively. But in this neo-noir drama from Epix, appearances turn out to be very deceiving. We caught up with Simpson to chat about working with Sir Ben Kingsley, skateboarding and his recent wedding to actress Sophia Del Pizzo.
What drew you to Perpetual Grace, Ltd.? JIMMI SIMPSON: It was Steve Conrad, who is our writer, director, and creator. He's kind of an auteur, as far as I'm concerned. He’s just got a vision that he's able to execute like no other. And so, he wrote this script and it was the best script I'd read years. I realized, “Well, this is the one. This is that thing that I was hoping for.” I've never really worked on anything so beautifully simple, yet complex.
What was it like working with Sir Ben Kingsley? JS: I mean, obviously, Sir Ben Kingsley, we've all just been watching since we were teeny and he's a kind of an acting god. My favorite memory from filming was the first time I pulled my chair close to the proximity of Sir Ben and he waved me over. And then we're talking about Shakespeare and the plays that we've done, and we just warmed up to each other. And obviously I was ready to be warm, but I was amazed that he was so – that he wanted to talk to me about some of my favorite stuff. And it was some of his favorite stuff. I think he's done 13 Shakespeare plays. And so, he had plenty to talk about and to share with me – my god, the wisdom coming out of that man!
You shot this in New Mexico, but you live in LA now. What do you love about the city? JS: I came to LA from New York City and I was born and raised in Jersey. And so, my entire childhood, people would say, “Well, California's plastic compared to New York. Why would you ever go there? This is where all the culture is!” And when I touched down in 2002, this wave of calm rushed over me. Los Angeles is everything you need it to be and you don't need to take part in the things that aren't part of you. So, I never spend any time doing Hollywood red carpet-y, type things. I don't even really know what that lifestyle is like. But I do know I've had yards and dogs and t-shirt-wearing-days most of the year, and options from hiking, to city dining, to skiing, to a little drive to the ocean. So as far as I'm concerned, there could not be a better town that I'm required to be in to access my career. I flat out love it. Love it.
You’re a skateboarder, too. Where do you like to go in LA? JS: Even though I'm a middle-aged man [laughs]. It's in my DNA and it brings me such joy. I like skating on Mulholland Drive, but I don't recommend that because it's super, super sketchy and you've gotta be hyper aware of what's around you. But having lived here for a few years, being so comfortable on my long board, I love to do that even though I should be wearing like a safety vest so people can see me. But, you have this view of the entire city and the observatory and you just get to cruise.
And congrats on the recent wedding! What was it like? JS: Basically Sophia [Del Pizzo] and I were planning on getting married last fall and then Perpetual Grace came. This career, as my family knows, it's a blessing and a curse. Yes, I get these opportunities, but goddammit, I can't hold a family meetup date for anything. At the end of the shoot we were like, “Okay, we have a month and a half before things get silly again. How do we organize all the families?” She's from London, so her family would need to come in from there. I have family all over the country. And we just looked at each other and said, "I want to get married! Let’s just get married because it'll feel nice.” And so, we set up an appointment at the courthouse, went in and got the rules, and then we went about calling our folks for permission. We basically had kind of an expedited wedding ceremony and it was just as beautiful as anything I could have hoped for.
Now you need a honeymoon. JS: The goal is, maybe it's a bit conventional, but the goal is to find ourselves in Hawaii to celebrate this marriage as soon as possible. Of course, there's other stuff happening already, but we're going to get there and it's going to be relaxing.