January 31, 2020|2:49pm
Harry Ambroseis at a crossroadsat the beginning of Season 3 of “The Sinner.” The veteran detective, played by Bill Pullman, could retire easily. Some of his colleagues in the police department in Dorchester, NY, particularly the younger ones, would applaud that decision. The wear and tear of the job — Harry suffers from sciatica — are evident.
Yet, when Harry goes out on a routine investigation of a late-night car accident, he becomes all fired up again to stake his reputation on the solution of a crime. The corpse of a middle-aged man, Nick Haas (Chris Messina), is sticking through a car windshield on the access road to a house owned by an enigmatic painter, Sonya (Jessica Hecht). As Harry learns, there was a passenger in the car, Jamie Burns (Matt Bomer), a high school teacher who waited quite a while before dialing 911 to report the crash.
The mysterious and dark relationship between these two men, college buddies who have not seen each other in 18 years, forms the crux of his season’s mystery. The investigation pulls Ambrose way out of his comfort zone as he learns about Haas and Burns’ affinity for the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the principle of the “Übermensch” and how that made them take dangerous risks in the hope of proving their superiority.
Pullman, 66, spoke to The Post over coffee and a blueberry bran muffin at the Grey Dog cafe near his West Village apartment. (He also has homes in Montana and California.)
Were you on set when Chris Messina appeared to have gone through the windshield?
Yeah, that was him. Oh my God. He was on his back on the hood of the car. It’s so challenging to do those uncomfortable scenes. You have the sense that it was a very violent death. An injury to the gut means you bleed to death very slowly.
When they brought this new story to you, how did you react, based on the show’s first two seasons?
There was always this feeling that there would be this [Fyodor] Dostoyevsky, “Notes From the Underground”-style encounter that brings [the show] from the personal trauma that had been the hallmark of the first two seasons, encountering people with some personal trauma, to something larger. And that sense of being outside the law and how you can rationalize that. Übermensch. I’m special. And I’ve been given this ticket to rise outside of what everybody else has to do. Jamie Burns is fluid, a shape-shifter. He goes from being incredibly arrogant to being very vulnerable and needy.
Do we find out exactly what Jamie and Nick were getting up to in college?
You see quite more about that. It’s both repugnant and compelling.
There is a connection between Harry and Sonya, the painter of male nudes. Does she put the moves on him?
You’re putting your sword against my throat. She triggers something in him that makes him think I should be more available to somebody, be more vulnerable, and maybe I should try this. At the same time, he thinks something like this always goes bad.
Do you see “The Sinner” going on for another year or two?
After the first year, I thought, “How is this going to be a series?” At this stage of life I don’t feel that I’m needy. Something always comes along. But I am still a little surprised at how engaged I am. And I avoided [television] for so long. I wasn’t a watcher of television growing up. Now I feel like I’m in a long Dickens novel.
“The Sinner” Season 3 premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on USA Network