There’s a moment in “The Old Man” where FBI agent Angela Adams (Alia Shawkat) calls confrontational CIA agent Raymond Waters (EJ Bonilla) “the most curious mother in the history of the CIA”.
“They wrote to Raymond that he was the type of guy who is so willing to stick to his morals and his worldview that he is ready to denounce his bosses,” said Bonilla, 33, to the Post about his role in “The Old Man.” a gripping FX spy drama starring Jeff Bridges. “He’s not afraid to question anyone, regardless of status, stature or role.”
Waters must embody that mindset, as he’s tasked with reuniting with Dan Chase (Bridges) in the seven-part series airing Thursdays at 10 p.m. (and streaming on Hulu) adapted from Thomas Perry’s 2017 novel.
Chase, a rogue CIA agent who disappeared in 1987, lives quietly as a small-town widower under an assumed name while dealing with the aches and pains of aging (including an enlarged prostate). ). He suddenly finds himself on the run after being chased from his hiding place by his former ally, Afghan warlord Faraz Hamzad, alongside whom he fought after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Now, 30 years later, he’s being pursued by Waters and by FBI chief Harold Harper (John Lithgow) – his ex-boss – and Harold’s loyal FBI protege, Angela, her from the pithy quote about Waters.
“There is something about [Waters] it’s extremely endearing to me,” said Brooklyn-born and raised Bonilla (“Bull,” “The Long Road Home,” “Unforgettable”). “The creators… absolutely gave me the freedom to do with him however I chose. [His qualities] are so necessary in a world of espionage and lies where you have to be ready to look under any rock for an answer. I’m in love with Raymond’s inquisitiveness and curiosity and the fact that he’s not afraid to shut up…and look like a fool.
Bonilla and Lithgow share a lot of screen time; from the start, Waters suspects Harper of hiding something about Chase (he’s right) – and confronts him despite the good faith of the much older Deputy FBI Director.
“There’s an amazing scene between Harper and Ray Waters where Harper says something like, ‘You know, I used to do that when I was an agent,'” Bonilla said. “‘Sometimes I’d ask a question to hear the answer, sometimes just to hear what they didn’t say.’ I tried to root this in Waters; much more is happening than words, which are what we choose to say. [Words] are empty vessels filled with meaning, and what is left unsaid is much more interesting and often more important.
“Honestly, I was a huge fan of his before I met him,” he said of 76-year-old Lithgow. “I went to the casting director’s office for an encore…and when I was in her office, I saw John’s picture behind her and I was like, ‘Wow!’ i’m a big fan of [Lithgow’s old NBC sitcom] ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ and John is easily one of the smartest humans I’ve ever met. It makes it very easy to be present in the scene; if you ever feel lost, all you have to do is find his eyes and he’s anchored – he’s right there.