Interview | Scott Wolf Reports On V’s Chad Decker
V quite literally set the sky on fire with the conclusion of its first season in 2010. When the show returns on Tuesday (January 2) with its second season premiere, viewers will learn a whole lot more about the titular “Red Rain,” thanks in large to the work of broadcast news journalist and television personality Chad Decker.
Scott Wolf plays Decker on V, lending an appropriate smarminess to the dangerously ambitious newsman. Suffice it to say that Chad isn’t always the most likable character on the series what with his wavering allegiances and his dumbfounding loyalty to the reptilian alien invaders. But Wolf insists that Chad has other layers waiting to be discovered — layers he’ll get to explore in the new season.
Wolf spoke with Spinoff Online and a handful of other journalists during our visit to the Vancouver set of V last summer, offering us a tease of the new season and a detailed analysis of Chad’s complicated psyche and frequently maddening decision-making skills.
Spinoff Online: How is the season treating you so far?
Scott Wolf: So far, so good. We’ve just scratched the surface — we’re in the middle of [shooting] our first episode — but it’s good to be back. It’s so much better than the alternative. [Laughs] We’re really excited. I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve had our bumps in the road last year, and I think any first year series probably experiences some of that. It’s a huge show with a giant cast and epic story and big mythology, so I think having everybody on the same page was difficult last year. This year, it’s completely different. It just feels like they’ve used the time [between seasons] to figure all the things out that they might not have figured out before. They have a very clear plan that everyone agrees is a great plan for the story of the year and for each individual character. It feels like they’re going to have the brain power this year because it felt like things were on two wheels at times last year. To get really specific and to tell the story as well as possible became increasingly difficult. It feels like this year, they’re way ahead of it. We’re getting scripts way ahead of time…
They’re not changing at the last minute?
No. It was really — truth be told — it was fairly chaotic last year. The fact that a show aired every Tuesday was sort of miraculous. [Laughs] But it’s a whole new year. Everyone is very optimistic and very glad to be back. Already, this first script really lets it rip. I think the thing that everybody saw last year was down the stretch in those last few episodes, you started to see the show that this could and should be. It feels like we’ve launched from there and we just got our second script, which we start shooting next week, and it’s even better than this first one.
I have to say that one of the greatest things about being back is this group of people. This cast is outstanding. You look around and I have not just admiration for their talent — I just love these people. They’re great. I’m blessed. It’s cliched to say, “Oh, we love each other,” but it really does… and especially last year, when things were unnerving in terms of… well, you guys all know: getting material at the last second, having major things changing within the confines of the show and the writing, it felt [good] to have a group of people that you looked around and trusted and counted on and knew that everyone would rise to the occasion. I think our writers and producers did a pretty amazing job given the fact that — you know, especially with [new showrunner Scott Rosenbaum] coming in halfway through a season and having a tricky job ahead of him, I’m pretty proud of what he was able to accomplish last year, especially with the end of the season. No one around here ever put their heads down or phoned it in or gave half of a performance: everybody gave everything they had, and I’d like to think that that’s at least part of the reason why we’re still here.
Last season, Chad might have done some things for the betterment of his own career that also had some adverse affects for the rest of the world.
I suppose you could frame it that way. [Laughs] One of the fun things about this character, and I’ve talked about this before, is that he sort of lives in this gray area. You have a lot of characters who are pretty explicitly pro-V or anti-V, so the fun of Chad, in terms of playing him and in terms of the way they’ve written him, is that it’s hard to tell who this guy really was and who he’d be in the end. Not until the very, very end of the first season did we see him really come face-to-face with the truth for the first time. Whether he was blinding himself from that beforehand or choosing not to see it or really not seeing it, one of the things that was interesting is that certain people forget to some degree what Chad actually and literally has or hasn’t seen. It was easy for an audience to sit back and go, “What is he thinking? She’s a crazy and evil alien that wants to hurt and kill us all!” [Laughs] From his perspective, and this is an actor justifying himself of course, but he had only seen so much. He had seen her go into Timbal with blue energy and heal the place, the equivalent of fixing Haiti today. As far as he was told, he had been healed of a brain aneurysm that would have killed him. He had seen the good side of Anna, and yes, he’s built in a way where he’s looking for that and trying not to see the rest. But she made it easy for him to do that.
One of the things that Scott has talked about recently, which to me I always loved about the promise of the show from the beginning, is that ultimately, this is a show about humanity and how our frailties and our strengths each factor into the choices we make in our lives and the things that we do and the people that we spend our time with. In the end here, our survival is going to depend on which part of our humanity winds up ruling the day. Through Chad, we watched what happens if potentially greed or ambition or power, which you could say are part of our frailties as people, when that’s front and center, the sky turns red. [Laughs] I’ve always known that Chad Decker, in the end, could be a person who helps save the world or helps destroy it. It’s a lot of fun to stand in that body and even himself not quite knowing.
This is a hard show to talk about without giving stuff away, but pretty immediately, we see a Chad Decker who has seen the light. What was fun about the end of last season is that there’s a sense of, okay, now he knows. But there’s still this question about him. We still don’t know… he hasn’t proven himself to be a person that once he knows, he’ll fight for the right side. What I can say is that in the season premiere, we see Chad, for the first time, truly declaring his allegiance to one side.
Who is Chad spending the most time with in that first episode?
Chad spends most of his time in the first episode speaking with Father Jack. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything… [Laughs] What will hopefully remain fun about Chad is that he’s always — people are who they are. He’s built a certain way and he wants certain things out of his lifetime. That, for the most part, isn’t going to change much, how he functions in the world. But the way he uses who he is could change given what he’s found out. For me, I feel like what will continue to be enjoyable about playing the character is that he’s vulnerable. Playing a character like that is fun: there are no absolutes for him. Every other character has some sort of absolute value. Anna will do anything to take care of her people. Erica will do anything for Tyler. Ryan would have done anything for Val, and now, could do anything for his baby. We haven’t seen that Chad has anything in his life that he would do anything for, and it’ll be interesting to see if the character finds that through our story.
I can tease that Chad, in episode two, for the first time, I’m going to be involved in a stunt. That’s very exciting! I just spend all my time yapping…
What kind of training is required for the stunt?
I don’t think there’s any kind of training. It’s not like a punch or a kick — that I would enjoy, too — but it’s an event that I’m there for. I’m just excited that I get to see the stunt coordinator. [Laughs] I’m inching towards throwing a punch!
You’ve said that Chad’s going to make a decision regarding his loyalty. Will that decision stick for a while? Do you think it’ll stick forever?
Again, because of the way this guy is built and who he is, I don’t think that there’s a forever in his life. But it’ll stick for a while. I think everyone’s allegiances were tested towards the end of last year and his will continue to be tested, just because he’s a vulnerable human being. Despite what he now knows, he still wants certain things out of his life and I think he wants to continue to rise in this lifetime. Even if he finds different avenues to get there, I think that’s still what he’s after. He’ll always be vulnerable to a better plan to get what he wants, but I think we’ll see a different Chad Decker this year: somebody who is much more proactive. Last year, I think he was very much in this space of waiting to see which team was better. Now, once he picks a team, it’ll be interesting to see him a little bit more the master of his own domain.
Were you expecting him to choose the [side] that he did, or were you surprised by his choice?
I’m sorry for the vagary that I have to talk about this in, but it’s revealed pretty quickly what he decides to do. But no, I suppose it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. What I like, and what I think is the most fun about the position that he’s in, is that he’s in this rare position in the middle where he has access to both [sides]. His only access to the Fifth Column and the resistance has been Father Jack, and they don’t quite know whether they can trust him or not. Throughout the first season, he was in a position where he was playing both sides and it seemed in a way to have both sides believing that they had a very useful ally and tool in him. In the beginning of this second season, he’s still in the middle but he has work to do to convince both sides that he’s worthwhile. At the end of that last season, his last exchange with Anna, she seems to see that he’s changed and that something’s different in him. So she threatens him: “I’ve made life pretty nice for you and I could make it not nice for you.” What I can say is that it takes a minute before we see Chad and Anna in the same room again, and a lot changes between the last time they saw each other and this time. I’m looking forward to seeing that dynamic moving forward. He’s in a position to be something of a double agent one way or the other, which is fun.
Do you watch news broadcasts at all to get templates for insincerity?
Yeah, I do! [Laughs] It’s funny. There’s a big news broadcast that Chad does to open this second season, and my approach to it changed a little bit because of this awakening he’s had. Let’s just say he has a renewed need to connect with his audience. Chad has survived so far with his toes in some pretty scary waters, and I think there’s a reason for that. He’s proven himself to be useful and he’s found power for himself in the world through his relationship with Anna. I think we now see a guy who, to some degree, is way in over his head, deeper than he could have thought. I think he was operating with business as usual: “I’m going to control this person and get what I need from them.” He might not have stepped back and actually seen the big picture. It’s funny that he’s built that way, but I think he was able to focus in on what he wanted, and it took until the end of the year for him to realize, “Holy crap. These are aliens! I could have been killed at any time, and it’s kind of crazy that I’m still alive. But I have this aneurysm; how long will I stay alive?” He’s a little more in scramble mode now, and I think part of scramble mode for him is making sure that the public is still with him and he’s still with them. I’m actually shooting [the broadcast] tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it, because I feel it has an urgency that some of the other broadcasts haven’t. It’s fun to play this news guy. This was a career that I would have wanted to have if I hadn’t been an actor, probably. It’ll be fun playing a news guy who is actually now not just the surface elements of it. The way he approaches his work is going to change because of the situation he’s in.
There’s talk about Chad’s father coming into play this season, right?
I know a little bit about it. There are a couple of stories midway through the season that involve Chad, and both sound pretty exciting. The father one is pretty great. All I know is a little more than I can tell you. [Laughs] Meeting him explains a lot about why Chad is the person he is in the world, why he’s made some of the decisions he’s made. His dad is in a position of power, so it won’t just be a private Chad-and-his-father side story; it’ll be part of the big fabric of the Visitors and how the government interacts with them and all these kinds of things. I’m excited about it. The first season is really just the big building blocks of a story, and now things get a lot more personal and specific. Ultimately, the plot of our story is pretty cool and you can only really get as involved as much as you care about the characters and relationships. I’m excited that about a year now, it’ll still have incredible story, but it’ll be rooted a lot more in why these people are who they are and why they’re making the decisions they’ve made, why they’re heroes or villains.
Ultimately, it’s funny that I like Chad, and I’m the only one who does. [Laughs] But I like him a lot. Any actor has to justify and find a way to believe in their character and understand why he does what he does. I think this father story will really serve to explain how a guy becomes someone who functions like Chad does. I’ve played likable characters in other stories I’ve been in, and I’ve also played characters who aren’t so instantly likable. I don’t really care about that; I don’t put much thought into that. As a matter of fact, I was making some choices in a scene I did yesterday and the director goes, “We want people to like this guy.” I get that, and there is something about wanting people to participate with your character. That’s important on a television series, even if that’s actively hating them. But I think it’ll be interesting to see how the audience handles Chad if he’s asking to be seen in a new light. It’s one thing for our characters in our show and how they handle it, but it’ll be interesting to see if an audience is willing to give him a second chance.
V begins its second season on January 4, 2011 at 9/8 PM central, only on ABC.