If you thought "Grimm" was a supernatural freak show in Season 1, brace yourself for an even more eerie ride when the NBC series returns next week.
"It's going to be really amped up -- like it's on steroids," promises Russell Hornsby, the Oakland, Calif., native who plays homicide detective Hank Griffin. "The show is going to take on a darker tone and deliver a lot more danger. We're really peering into the underbelly that is 'Grimm.' "
Hornsby says Season 2, which gets an early post-Olympics launch on Monday, will pick up right where that mind-blowing finale left us -- with his partner Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) agonizing over the comatose Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch). Meanwhile, what's up with the sudden reappearance of Nick's mother (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who was presumed to be dead?
As for Hank, he's in "an altered state" as the season begins -- totally freaked out by the bizarre visions he's been having and struggling to process it all.
"I think we should be worried about Hank," Hornsby said during a recent phone interview. "He's very unstable mentally. He's going to seek professional help. He's questioning his sanity and whether he still even wants to be a police officer. And, all the while, Nick has to watch his partner go through this alone."
"Grimm" has been quite a departure for Hornsby, who got the acting bug while attending St. Mary's High School in Berkeley. A three-sport athlete at the time, he tried out, on a dare, for a role in the school's production of "The Wiz." He got the part and became addicted to the stage.
"I was in heaven," Hornsby recalled. "I felt like I had found myself. I felt open and free and creative. As a black man, so often you grow up suppressing your emotions and sensitivity. I had all this passion bottled up in me, and it finally came out."
After graduating, Hornsby studied acting at Boston University and Oxford University in England before relocating to New York. Following several years of stage experience, he moved to Los Angeles, where he has had a steady diet of television and film roles.
Even after all these years, Hornsby still has friends and family in the Bay Area, and he insists that Oakland has left an indelible stamp on him.
"Growing up there taught me that you can be who you want to be -- to stand tall and take (flak) from no one," he said. "That you are a person of value."
Now, "Grimm" has delivered Hornsby and his wife -- for at least part of the year -- to Portland, Ore., where "Grimm" is filmed. He finds it to be a good fit.
"It offers a good quality of life, and the vibe reminds me of Oakland and Berkeley," he said.
Hornsby admits that he never has been an ardent sci-fi/fantasy fan, but he's fascinated by the journey "Grimm" has taken him on.
"It's weird and crazy, but wonderful at the same time," he said. "It's a fun acting job because it allows us to really fire up our imaginations."
Kamau Bell gets biased
Fans of the Bay Area comedy scene are certainly aware of San Francisco's W. Kamau Bell, a sociopolitical comic who has a lot of frank -- and humorous -- things to say about race, religion, politics and pop culture. Now, viewers across the country will have a chance to catch this rising star via a new late-night show called "Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell" (midnight Thursday, FX).
In getting his big TV break, he has a famous supporter in his corner -- executive producer Chris Rock, a guiding light Bell refers to as "the foul-mouthed Yoda."
FX has ordered six half-hour installments of Bell's show, which will consist of monologues, some sketch comedy and plenty of opinions.