- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2011

On CBS‘ “The Mentalist,” Simon Baker’s character has things all figured out. He is able to read people, surroundings and situations so well that he can solve crimes.

In real life, Mr. Baker, along with most other people, was unable to anticipate or make sense of the financial crisis that hit the U.S. in 2008.

His latest film, the financial drama “Margin Call,” focuses on a 24-hour window on the eve of the collapse. He plays a banker fighting to keep control. The movie also stars Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore.

The 42-year-old Australian said he remembers the general confusion felt by the public during that time.

“It was all over the news and in the papers. … It was so hard to see people in the position of making those decisions. It was such a gray area, certainly for me. How do they make these decisions? Who’s there in the room? Yesterday it was fine and today it’s all a mess.”

The timing of “Margin Call” coincides with a monthlong New York City protest against financial corruption called Occupy Wall Street. The protests have spread to cities around the world.

“We’re learning sort of every day globally the economy has been so rattled that we aren’t over it and it doesn’t look like we are going to be over it and I think it’s good people are taking a stand and protesting as long as it remains peaceful,” he said.

Mr. Baker recently directed an upcoming episode of “The Mentalist,” which is now in its fourth season. He said it’s something he likes to do once a season.

Even though he enjoys getting behind the camera every now and then, he said, it’s not difficult to go back to just acting on the series after he has directed an episode.

“I never really turn it off. I just shut up,” he joked. “It still happens in my head.”

Mr. Baker said he also is hoping the series will begin to focus more on its supporting cast, but he is undecided as to whether his character should ever become romantically involved with the character of Teresa Lisbon, played by Robin Tunney. Fans of the show have noticed the two have chemistry.

“Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe you’d be like, ‘Ew. That’s like brothers and sisters kissing each other.’ I don’t know.”

“The Mentalist” airs Thursdays on CBS.

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