Interview: Coby Bell Dishes On ‘Burn Notice’ And ‘The Game’


I got an early Christmas present on Monday: the chance for a follow-up chat with one of my favorite actors, Burn Notice and The Game star Coby Bell. Picking up where our August conversation left off, Coby sat down with me to discuss that scene from Burn Notice, his second job on The Game, and a particular guest spot of his that you may have missed. Warning: this interview does contain some spoilers for both series.

You warned us in August that fans were going to be upset with Jesse – now we know why! What was your reaction when you realized Jesse was going to have to shoot Michael to save his life in the Burn Notice summer finale?

I wasn’t crazy about shooting the star of the show. But it was my first season, I’m not going to rock the boat or anything. He was basically shooting him to save him. The Burn Notice writers really research that stuff, and I guess one of them came across a story where someone shot somebody strategically to save them.

A lot of people, myself included, were expecting a much bigger confrontation between Michael and Jesse once Jesse uncovered the truth about his burn notice. Were you happy with the way it played out or would you have liked more conflict between them?

Earlier in the season, I was thinking “This was going to come to Michael and Jesse duking it out.” I think they really wanted to fast-track Jesse onto the team. They kind of did the “Jesse’s pissed off at everyone” and wanted to wrap it up.

What was it like filming the scene in “Eyes Open” where Jesse finally confronts Fiona about his burning? It was certainly tough to watch. Quite a few people speculated that he intended on shooting Michael, had it been Michael who walked through that door.

I had to really pull out all my drama chops on that one. I’ve done a lot of drama in my career, but I’m actually more comfortable doing comedy. Scenes like that I really have to focus. He wouldn’t have shot [Michael] because then the show would be over.

Jesse seems to be the character who’s most visibly changed from the events of the summer finale. He seems like he’s got a bit more anger, a bit more of a chip on his shoulder. Is this a permanent change for him?

I think now, I’m learning and the writers are learning who Jesse really is and where he’s coming from. Blowing up the house shocked me when I read it, but it kind of makes sense. They put him behind a desk because he was going after all the bad guys, not just the ones he was assigned to get. He’s like, “Let’s just take care of it.”

There are rumors that a major character dies by the end of the season, and a lot of people think it’s you by virtue of your being “the new guy.” Put me at ease and tell me that you’ll be back for season five.

Unless they did some fancy editing, it’s not me. I was mad about [Marv dying]. I love working with Richard. They’ve told me when to report back to Miami.

Speaking of coming back, The Game comes back in a little less than a month. How has it been for you settling back into the character of Jason Pitts?

It was a trip. Within like a week and a half, I was jumping from blowing stuff up to making people laugh. I love playing Jason. The writers are really underrated. They do an amazing job. I feel really lucky across the board right now, to be on two shows with great writing and great fans.

Jason may have changed a lot since we left him. Some of the casting sides I’ve seen say he’s out of football and working in sportscasting. How do you tackle what seems like a big change for your character?

I kind of expected it. He’s a thirty-five-year-old football player. He was holding out to be re-signed, they didn’t re-sign him, and so he goes and does the sportscasting thing. He’s on like a Best Damn Sports Show kind of show with Chris Webber. Jason’s the most hard-headed he’s ever been. He has no censor.

I know you weren’t sure about Jason’s future with Kelly, and Brittany Daniel said she thought they’d be spending most of the season apart. Now that you’re back in production, do you know any more about where they might be headed?

All I can say is when we pick back up, we pick up two, two and a half years later. They’re not together when we pick back up. I think that’s part of the reason why Jason’s hard-headedness has increased. I think Kelly was the only person that could keep him in check.

I’ve had a chance to watch a little more of your work since we spoke last, and I have to ask you about Archer. (Coby played new ISIS agent Conway Stern in the episode “Diversity Hire.” If you missed the episode, this clip will show you how wrong but hilarious it was.) That certainly had to be a completely different experience for you.

That was awesome. That was like the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I’d like to do more episodes; I think that show’s hilarious. The creator of the show was saying that [Conway] might be back.

Since it’s the holiday season, I want to end with a Christmas-themed question. What do you think would be on your characters’ wish lists this year?

Jesse needs a new gun and a place to live. I think he moved out of the garage; I don’t know where he is. Jason needs some new knees.

My thanks to Coby Bell for another wonderful interview. Catch him in the Burn Notice season finale this Thursday at 9 PM ET/PT on USA, and on The Game when it returns to BET on January 11.

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  1. Great interview. Jesse is so dreamy. I am kinda glad that the BN writers didn’t write a long drawn out fight between Jesse and Michael. I just think Jesse is a perfect fit in with Sam, Michael and Fiona. I am so glad Jesse will be back, although, I did enjoy Marv.

    Burn Notice ROCKS!