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On Monday, NBC launches its new sci-fi/conspiracy thriller The Event, and Spinoff Online is here to get you ready. The pilot was a hit in July at Comic-Con International, and readers haven’t been able to flip through a comic book for weeks without seeing ads for what the network hopes will be must-see TV.
All this week, Spinoff Online has presented interviews with the cast and crew of The Event. Today we conclude our series with actors Laura Innes, Ian Anthony Dale and Scott Patterson.
Innes received two Emmy Award nominations and won three Screen Actors Guild Awards for her role as Dr. Kerry Weaver on the long-running NBC medical drama ER. She returns to the network on The Event, playing Sophia, the mysterious leader of the detainees at Inostranka.
Lee is no stranger to genre television after playing significant roles on Surface, Charmed, Daybreak and Dollhouse. With appearances on action-thrillers like 24 and CSI on his resume, too, it’s no surprise to see him portraying double agent Simon Lee on The Event.
Known best for his roles as Luke Danes on Gilmore Girls and Agent Strahm in Saw IV, V and VI, Scott Patterson is thrust directly into the action in The Event‘s series premiere when his character, airline pilot Michael Buchanan, is forced to do the unthinkable in an effort to save his daughter.
LAURA INNES on SOPHIA MAGUIRE
Spinoff Online: While ER had multiple plot threads and storylines throughout its long run, I don’t think it will have the same breadth of mythos and expanded, fan-fueled universe that The Event will generate. Are you excited to be a part of this world that is sure to attract a very intense online following?
Laura Innes: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun and, like you said, it’s totally new to me. I mean, the ER fans were fairly active online but nothing like a culture of a show like this has, I guess you would call it, fanboy interest. The sort of culture of people who are maybe at the computer while watching TV, I don’t know if that’s true, but there’s certainly that interaction with the fans and that’s pretty cool. And it’s fun, and I’m sure the fans will be some part of the show, in terms of what they respond to and what they don’t respond to. It’s really kind of a gas. It’s a whole new thing for me.
Was that intense fan base part of what made you want to sign on for a project like The Event?
I think that’s part of it. I think for me a lot of scripts that I read or parts that I read or are considered or offered are sort of similar. And they’re similar to what I did on ER or not necessarily that interesting to me. But this part was very interesting and there is a tremendous amount of mystery about the character and the character can go in a lot of different directions. So that was compelling to me and the fact that it is a more active thing is a lot more fun, just in the day-to-day workings. I mean, ER was really fun partly because we got to run around all of the time and it’s not it’s a show where you are sitting down at the dining room table or sitting behind a desk, you know. So this kind of thing did appeal to me and I really liked being a part of a big ensemble. It’s fun and it’s a great community but it’s also great for your real life because you don’t work every single day.
So we won’t expect the Laura Innes Show anytime soon?
I have two kids, so I don’t know how you work that much. So for me, this is great. I get to come in, do some cool stuff and then I get to go home with my family.
And honestly, the scripts have been really good, so it’s been exciting. This kind of show is so challenging to maintain but so far, the scripts have been really fantastic.
Originally, your role was conceived as a male part. But after you showed some interest they switched the role to female lead character, right?
What happened to me was that I read a lot of pilots and a lot of the pilots that I read, for me anyways, were fairly derivative. Sort of a lot of procedurals, so there wasn’t that much that was jumping off the page. And I’m also a director so that’s kind of what I do when I’m not acting, so that’s an active part of my life. So I knew I had that and I wasn’t actively looking for a show but my manager called me and he said, “I think you should read the script. I think it’s really good. And they’re interested in you.”
So I read the script without even knowing what part, and I really liked the script. I just thought it was really well done and I thought [creator] Nick [Wauters] did a great job on the pilot. It was just very fun and real, genuine page-turner. So I said, “What part?” and they said, “The vice president.” And I wasn’t really interested in that part. So I said, “Tell them good luck because I think it’s great.” So then he called me back and said, “What if they change the character, I think his name was Terry or something, to a woman?” And I said, “Well that’s really an interesting part.” Because in the pilot, you just don’t know who is this mysterious figure. And are they good or are they bad? And there is this sense that they are very powerful but you don’t know what the source of the power is. And to me it was great that they turned that character into a woman because it’s also – I mean, from my vantage point – expected when they say in the pilot, “Come meet the leader,” that it’s going to be a man and then this sort of soft, at least initially soft, woman comes in. And that’s great.
Honestly, for somebody in my age category, this is a really interesting part. A lot of the parts for women my age, frankly, aren’t that interesting. So I really enjoyed it.
What do we need to know about Sophia coming into Monday’s premiere? And for your fans from ER what qualities, if any, does Sophia share with Dr. Weaver?
I think she does share some characteristics with the character on ER. She’s in a leadership position and stuff. But it’s very different, and I like the fact that when I watched the pilot, I really did not know, especially in the scene with Ian [Anthony Dale] if she is good or if she is bad. We shot that scene 20 times, maybe not that many, but because everything now is shot in HD, you can keep on shooting and shooting, so we shot it a bunch of different ways and then they edited together this scene in a way that it is fairly enigmatic. You don’t know what her deal is. So I like that about it. And I also think the character has a lot of potential in terms of what could happen to her.
I think one thing that I do like about the show is that every character is a very subjective thing. I think whatever you’re doing to achieve your goals is something you think is the right thing to do. And where one person might think you’re a monster, but you’re doing what you need to do in terms of what your priorities are and for her, it’s all about protecting these people, which she is responsible for so she’ll do anything they have to do.
I asked Željko Ivanek if he was a good guy or a bad guy and he said it depends on who’s asking.
Exactly. I think that’s part of the actor’s job. Do you think your character is doing the right thing?
Often with shows like this, reveals, especially major ones, usually take weeks or even months to be shared with the audience. Perhaps donning your director’s hat for a minute, what do you think about the pacing of The Event?
The show is a bit of a hybrid. I mean it’s certainly got action elements to it. And it’s been compared somewhat to 24, which is accurate, but it also has this sci-fi element or mystery element or whatever you want to call it. But I do think that it’s a show that is meant to be fun. It’s also intense. And I think the cast is quite good. I do think the cast keeps it from feeling cheesy. But on the other hand, the show is completely designed to be pacey and fun and satisfying to the viewer. And I think that, to a certain degree … I wouldn’t say that we’re an improvement on shows of this genre that have come before us but we’re a little bit on the learning curve of those shows. You see that the fans get frustrated – and I know I have – if I don’t get enough juicy morsels to keep me tuned in next week. So you can go, “Oh, my God. Can you believe what happened last night on The Event?” Or on Lost? Or on FlashForward? Or whatever that is. And I think we benefited from that learning curve from other shows. So far we’re up to Episode 6 we’re shooting and they have actually fulfilled their promise of giving yummy, surprising pieces every week.
While The Event is fictional, stories of detainees and interrogations and tortures are not. Does that enter your mind when you’re playing a part like Sophia?
I think it does. It’s not a pure sci-fi show, but I think genre shows are often allegories or metaphorical and are certainly more about this idea of fearing, and/or battling with and/or trying to understand the other, no matter what the other is. Whether the other is another race or another sex or another species or animal or Al-Qaeda or whatever it is. I think that’s a very compelling struggle of the human condition and I think it’s always made for great storytelling. And although our show is basically a pretty fun action show, it does have some underpinnings that give it a little more weight and depth part of that story. What does it mean to be fearful of a group of people that you don’t understand? And how does that manifest itself? And when is it justified and when is it not?
IAN ANTHONY DALE on SIMON LEE
Ian Anthony Dale: When I first read the script, it was one of the quickest reads of my career, just because it was such a page-turner. It was so good. And I just wanted an opportunity to read for it and I was fortunate enough to get that and then with the role I read for, Simon Lee, it was one of those characters where I felt like I could identify with this guy. I didn’t have to over prepare. I just felt like I could go in there and make some strong instinctual choices and just let it all hang out. And that’s what I did and it felt great. I had some people on the creative end of things that I’d worked with before and they kind of lobbied for me to get the part and here I am today, preparing for Episode 6.
This was originally conceived as a straight action-thriller, and the sci-fi elements were added later. You’re no stranger to genre television, having played previous roles on shows like Surface and Charmed. What draws you into these types of shows?
Definitely with serialized dramas like this, you’re going to get new challenges every episode. There is not that procedural staccato thing that happens in many of the procedurals you get to see. You get to do new things and see new challenges and with a character like Simon Lee, you get to play a duplicitous role being a double agent working undercover. It’s such a cool opportunity to play such a cool character. We’re not privy to too much information prior to us getting the scripts, so we’re kind of on this adventure like everybody else. We’re kind of tearing into those scripts like a kid on Christmas morning every time we get one. We’re just kind of eager to see what we’re going to do in the new episode.
So, I love genre shows. And I especially like this show. This has been a blast to work on and if you enjoyed the pilot, I can tell you that our script from Episode 102 to 106 that I’ve read and what we’ve shot so far, they match, if not eclipse, the entertainment value of the pilot. The writers are doing a great job. It all starts with the writing and our writing staff is doing a great job and I’m just having a blast getting to play this character.
Your character, Simon Lee, has some pretty intense scenes in the pilot. What do we need to know about him coming into the series?
I think what’s OK for me to tell you is that he is a rogue double agent working undercover for the CIA with mysterious ties to Sophia and the detainees at Inostranka. In the pilot, when we’re introduced to the detainees, we’re not sure exactly who they are or if they’re good or bad or what they’re intentions are. Consequently, you don’t know if Simon is good or bad either, but over the course of the series Simon will become entangled with many of these complex characters within the show and as he becomes further and further entrenched in their lives and dilemmas, it’s going to become increasingly difficult for Simon to keep his cover. And it’s going to be pretty fun to watch him as he tries to keep everything from unraveling.
And I can also tell you that we’re shooting Episode 6 now and he’s definitely being challenged in this category. But it’s so cool. This is one of the coolest projects that I’ve ever got to work on and my fingers are crossed that it does well because I’d certainly like to play this character for as long as possible.
SCOTT PATTERSON on MICHAEL BUCHANAN
Spinoff Online: After reading the script for the pilot, no doubt you realized this was going to be big. But did you think it would get this big because there is certainly a lot of hype surrounding the launch next Monday?
Scott Patterson: You know, I knew it was big. I didn’t think it was going to be this big. I did some ADR [automated dialogue replacement] last night on Episode 2, and it looks amazing. The size of this and the quality of the photography and the sound and the you-name-it is amazing. [Director/Executive Producer] Jeffrey Reiner has done a remarkable job. This is a remarkable achievement in television.
You’re probably best known for your role as Luke on Gilmore Girls, which was a, shall we say, more intimate form of storytelling. Is it fun to play in a big action-thriller?
Oh, yeah. This was always the kind of thing that I wanted to be doing whether it was on the small screen or the big screen. And this is as big as television gets — and may have ever gotten [laughs]. It’s a tremendous amount of fun. It really is. The sets that they are building, with which you are to suspend your disbelief and act to in scenes, are very believable. It’s very easy to do with these sets because they are very realistic and very large and somewhat dangerous, so they’re making it easy for the actors on this one, let me tell you.
You’re no stranger to fanboy excitement, as you were featured in the Saw franchise. And Gilmore Girls also had an intense online following. But how do you respond to interest The Event is generating?
I say, bring it on. I always thought the Gilmore Girls fan base and The Event fan base should get together and sit down and have a cup of coffee. I think they’d like each other. And they’re probably a lot of the same people that populate both camps, but we realized how big this was when we were being driven down into the venue in San Diego for Comic-Con. We saw the thousands and thousands and thousands of people lining up outside to get into the venue. And it just took our breath away. And we thought, boy, we are involved in something that is larger than ourselves.
What can you tell us about the character you’re playing, Michael Buchanan?
There’s not much I can reveal, but I’ll say that he’s a dedicated family man. And he loves his daughters and his wife. He also an outdoorsman, so all family vacations are in national parks for hiking, rock climbing, camping, that kind of thing. And he’s an airline pilot. Otherwise, he leads a quiet, simple life. That’s all I can tell you.
OK, but that said he does get thrown into a pretty incredible and horrific situation in the pilot that’s not so quiet and simple.
Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but imagine one day you’re sitting in your home and you’re enjoying your family and you’re talking to your daughter, who is on vacation and her boyfriend, who you’ve given approval to, is about to ask for her hand in marriage and you get off the phone and this horrible thing happens. And you get thrust into this whole situation and forced to do something that no one in history has ever been forced to do. It is an unthinkable and monstrous situation for him and he has to do what he has to do.
The series premiere of The Event airs Monday, Sept. 20 at 9/8c.
For more coverage of The Event, please check out the following features:
Countdown to The Event, Part I: Creator Nick Wauters
Countdown to The Event, Part II: Željko Ivanek and Lisa Vidal
Countdown to The Event, Part III: Jason Ritter and Clifton Collins, Jr.
Countdown to The Event, Part IV: Blair Underwood and Bill Smitrovich