Parke-Mason Auction House

Courtesy Sony/Crackle

Christian Cooke and Dennis Quaid

Courtesy Sony/Crackle

Cary Elwes

Courtesy Sony/Crackle

Car auction

Courtesy Sony/Crackle

Christian Cooke and Kate Bosworth

Courtesy Sony/Crackle
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November 16, 2015
Online Originals

Crackle Offers More

Crackle's first scripted offering, The Art of More, enters the worlds of art and high-end auctions.

Sarah Hirsch

For a show that deals in colorful paintings and bloody showdowns, the characters of The Art of More all live in a world of grey, where moral ambiguity is de rigueur.

The first scripted drama series from streaming network Crackle premieres November 19 with 10 episodes. Set in a world of high-end auction houses — where back-door deals and smuggled artwork are as common as good champagne — the show stars Dennis Quaid (also an executive producer), Kate Bosworth, Christian Cooke and Cary Elwes.

At the center of it all is Cooke, who plays Parke-Mason auction house executive Graham Connor. A former soldier who served multiple tours in Iraq, Connor grew up blue collar, and has managed to finagle his way into a decidedly white-collar circle of billionaire buyers.

“He does very morally questionable things,” says Cooke about his character. “And I think he’s prepared to go very far to protect his own interests.” But the same could be said of the entire cast of characters, a Machiavellian bunch who lie, cheat and manipulate their way to the top.

Connor has his eye set on the wealthy "white whale" played by Quaid — Sam Brukner, a New York real-estate tycoon and the owner of an enviable art collection, who is also pursuing a political career.

Bosworth portrays Connor’s main competition, Roxanna Whitman, account executive for rival auction house DeGraaf, while Elwes appears as prominent art collector and Connor’s mentor, Arthur Davenport.

“They’re all motivated by greed,” Elwes says, matter-of-factly.

For Cooke, the characters are a throwback to another medium — and another era. “It’s interesting that now in television, much like in the ‘70s in film, we have these anti-heroes, like [Taxi Driver’s] Travis Bickle,” he says. “These characters are questionable, they’re sort of morally split, and we still root for them.”

“What I enjoy about them,” Bosworth says, “is that, on the page, they can feel pretty villainous, and yes, there are moments when that comes out, but there’s more than meets the eye to all of them.”

Of her costar Bruce Ramsay, who plays her office adversary Miles Hewitt, Bosworth says, “Bruce brings his own morality to it, which I think bolsters the character and the intrigue of the audience. I hope we’re all bringing those multidimensional shades.”

What Bosworth brought to her role, she says, was “a tip of the hat to a femme fatale.” She continues, “She’s not at the point yet where she’s Lady Macbeth, but you’re also not sure if she’s going to screw you or screw you over…or both. She might do both.”

Such is life in the penthouses of Manhattan. “If you play hardball in New York, not everybody is going to call you a nice guy," Quaid observes. "You’re going to have enemies."

With Sam Brukner being in real estate, "of course we thought of Donald Trump. But he’s not written that way — he’s very much his own character. The coincidence of Trump announcing his run for the presidency…I think we were already on episode six when that happened. It gave us a big laugh.”

Elwes collaborated with the writers to create a backstory for Arthur: “We decided he was almost from another era. And that he’d come from a broken home, had some alcohol problems, tried his hand at writing, stuff like that. But then he entered the art world, and that’s where he found his niche.”

The actual art in this world hovers in the background, allowing the drama to take center stage. Often featured at the top of each episode, a work is introduced in a flashback that will go to auction later in the hour. The show’s auctions occasionally feature real-life items that famously went up for bid, like a Ferrari owned by Steve McQueen and a cache of stolen coins worth $10 million.

Conveniently, the cast’s personal experience with art aligns with their characters’. “My art knowledge is not very extensive,” Cooke admits. “I learned with the show, which is kind of beneficial, because although Graham does know a lot about art, he’s not an expert. He’s one of those few people that managed to slip through the net.”

Elwes, however, grew up among artists: his father and grandfather were portrait painters, his mother an interior designer. “I was blessed that I was brought up in the art world. And also, my mother being in the design world, I went to a lot of auctions as a kid.”

For his part, Quaid says: “I’ve always been an art buff.” But when the question of displaying known artworks on the series comes up, the actor quickly puts on his other hat, and answers as an executive producer.

“That is one of our challenges,” he says. “Getting art can be tough, and because of estates and rights [issues], it can be very expensive as well.”

Quaid has reveled in his role as exec producer. “I feel like I really evolved, and became more involved in the day-to-day production, everything on the set and after the set.”

And of Crackle, he says, “They let us make the show that we all wanted to make, and facilitated us at the same time. That’s what I think a network should be, a facilitator.”

It’s praises all around for the streamer. Says Bosworth, “It’s exciting, we feel like we’re their first-born and there’s a special care and thoughtfulness that comes with that. And expectation, but I think that’s a good thing.”

Says Elwes: “They were very gently nurturing us to explore different things, be creative and experiment, which is nice, and I think unusual for a network.”

Perhaps even more unusual is a cast of characters made entirely of antiheroes, but that’s a challenge that these actors embrace. “The grey area is much more interesting, I think, than trying to paint one way or the other," Elwes says. "That’s too easy.”

Just don’t paint them as villains.

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