The new NBC television series The Event, one of the most highly anticipated fall premieres, is a conspiracy theory thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), an everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his would-be fiancée Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer), and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history.
During a recent interview to promote the premiere of the new dramatic serial, actor Jason Ritter talked about playing the unlikely hero who gets entangled in an immense government conspiracy, becoming an action guy and how scary the comparisons to Lost and 24 are, since they’re a lot to live up to. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Jason: I play Sean Walker, who is dating Leila Buchanan [Sarah Roemer] and frankly can’t believe his luck. Basically, he’s a nice guy who went to MIT. He has some secrets as well, but generally the main drive of my character is his love for his almost fiancée, and he’ll do anything to get her back. That means he has to do a lot of crazy things.
What attracted you to playing an action character?
Jason: I’m always looking to try new and different things. I got to show so many different sides of this character, in the pilot. In a lot of the other ones, they want to make sure that everyone knows who your character is, right off the bat. This character was by far the most intriguing one for my age range.
Will we see you in full action mode?
Jason: Oh, yeah. In the two episodes after the pilot, there is some crazy, crazy stuff.
Have you had to learn how to do anything?
Jason: I had to learn guns. I didn’t have to do anything with guns in the two episodes after the pilot, but there was a big swimming scene that I had to do. Sean is a great swimmer, and I’m a good swimmer.
How do you feel about the comparisons to Jack Bauer on 24, or Jack Shepard on Lost?
Jason: Those are pretty scary because they’re both incredible characters. One of the things that is similar is that people enjoy when characters are fully developed because you know their history and you know why they react to certain things the way that they do. One of the things about Jack Shepherd that I certainly loved was that, because of his past, you know why he needs to fix everything. That makes him more human. I think that’s one of the things that is similar. Sean Walker is completely thought-out, psychologically, for why he does the things that he does.
Jason: The only days that are interesting are the days where it shifts from one mood to another, like when I find out that my girlfriend has disappeared, and it went from thinking my car’s not working to my life is crumbling. That was really interesting. But, the way Jeff [Reiner] directs is so immediate that there’s not too much time to think in between. You just jump right into it and it’s really exciting. But, there were a couple of times where I got a little light-headed from hyperventilating.
Do you have a unique view of television and pilots, considering your family’s history?
Jason: This pilot season, for some reason, I was very careful about what I auditioned for, just because I really enjoyed doing independent films in the past couple years. If a show goes, you could be on it for quite awhile, so I wanted to make sure that, if I was auditioning for something, even at that first step, way before I got a callback or a part, that if I were to be on the show for seven years, I would be excited, every single day, to go to work, and that it would never feel stale. It’s a strange thing because obviously you’re always grateful to have a job as an actor, but I’ve talked to other actors who have been grateful for their success and have also felt artistically stymied on certain television shows.
You don’t think that’ll happen with Sean Walker?
Jason: No. I can’t wait. When I finished this pilot, I couldn’t wait to read the second episode. Then, I read the second one and I couldn’t wait to read the third one. Now, I can’t wait to read the next one.
Do the flashbacks help keep things more fresh?
Jason: That’s the other thing. There’s such a full story to divulge. The writers basically know what the story is. The whole trick is figuring out in what order to tell it, what information to divulge about these characters, and how to keep it exciting, human and realistic. I didn’t feel like the pilot sacrificed any one thing for another. They didn’t say, “Well, we have to make this an action pilot, so let’s throw some stock characters in there.” They all were really thought-out.
What is it like to have to be so secretive about a project that you’re a part of?
Jason: It’s hard. It’s actually great that they don’t tell us a lot because I have a really hard time not divulging everything.
How much have you been informed on what will transpire, to guide your character as you go along?
Jason: Before we shot the pilot, we each got these character dossiers that explained to us who we were, so that we weren’t just blindly going into it and not knowing anything. So, we all knew as much as our characters knew, when we first started. As the episodes come out, we learn more about who they are, but generally we don’t know a whole heck of a lot.
This role gives you a chance to do more, just in the pilot, than most roles ever allow for. Did you realize that when you were auditioning for it? Did you have the full range of it, or were you just working from a couple pages?
Jason: When I read the script, I was so excited by this character. It was the best pilot I had read, and that was one of the things that really attracted me to it. My three audition scenes were so different. There was one of me storming a cockpit with a gun, and one of me asking for my father-in-law’s blessing. I love that. I love that we got to see him in all these different things. That’s one of the benefits you get from jumping back and forth. If you have it completely linear, there has to be a believable build, but if you jump around, you can do anything. It’s exciting because we are all vast as human beings, and we’re all capable of so many different things.
The Event premieres on NBC on September 20th