Interview: Burn Notice’s Coby Bell Talks Jesse’s Past, Present and Future

Last year, Coby Bell joined the cast of the hit series Burn Notice on USA as recently-burned spy Jesse to bring a fresh face to the senior series. Tonight, the summer finale of the most recent season airs on USA. I had the opportunity to sit down with Bell and pick his brain about what his experience has been like for him thus far.

It’s always hard for any actor to figure out who a character is, and it’s even harder when that character is introduced at the peak of  a show’s popularity. Bell said in response to how he was received by his fellow cast mates that “they gave [him] such a warm welcome last year, everyone made [him] feel right at home.” He stated that it was his first time ever coming into an established show as opposed to being on from the ground floor. Stating that it took him about half way through the last season to truly figure out who Jesse was and how he fit into the series.

He would have long discussions with show creator Matt Nix who according to Bell, originally wanted him to play a major role in the short lived FOX series The Good Guys, and when that didn’t work out, Bell was cast in Burn Notice. Nix told Bell that “[Nix wanted] Jesse to be just like [Bell] but more badass”

The actor claimed that he feels that Jesse serves the purpose of allowing Michael  (played by Jeffrey Donovan) to be in two places at once. Essentially being Michael’s eyes and ears on the ground, rather than viewing the character as an individual, but instead as a member of Michael’s team, despite the character having his own career this season. He stated that “what we’ve been doing a lot this year is divide and conquer” and often times how the cast rotates between pairings of Jesse, Fi, Sam and Michael himself.

It’s no secret that one of the major elements that makes the show work is the clear fun that the cast is having while making the episodes. When asked about what the experience is like on set, Bell simply said “we do a lot of laughing.” He also went on to state that regardless of what it may seem, the cast doesn’t do much improvising outside of when they are pretending to be a different person in the series. And even then, it’s kept to a minimum. Bell went on to say that the times when he’s pretending to be someone other than Jesse is when he has the most fun during production.

In response to what it’s like to shoot in the dead of summer in Miami he simply stated that it’s brutal. In fact, during the interview he was in between takes waiting for an unplanned storm to move through the area, just to give you an idea of the kind of weather conditions he and rest of the cast work in.

Bell has spent the better part of a year integrating Jesse into the series and there’s no doubt that he has succeeded in doing so.

The summer finale of Burn Notice airs tonight on USA at 9pm, followed by a six-episode run later this winter.

To hear the full audio version of this interview, head over to

From a young age, TV guru Merrill Barr has been obsessed with the small screen. And one day he decided to put that obsession to good use.

Read More from Merrill Barr
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