Undoubtedly, there is a lot of content to watch, on a wide variety of broadcast and cable networks and streaming services, but even with the countless shows to choose from, there are still some real stand-outs. If you’re in the mood for a twisty, angsty story that’s part crime thriller and part family drama, then you should check out the Apple TV+ original series Defending Jacob, which shows the effects of a shocking crime on one family in a small Massachusetts town and how parents (played by Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery) can be at odds with each other over whether they believe their son (Jaeden Martell) when he proclaims his innocence in murdering a fellow classmate.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Pablo Schreiber — who plays determined prosecutor Neal Loguidice — talked about the appeal of Defending Jacob, working with co-star Chris Evans, the challenge of shooting the Grand Jury sequences, and much more. Plus, Schreiber opened up about shooting the upcoming Showtime series Halo and why a TV series makes sense for telling the Halo story.
COLLIDER: This is a very twisty crime drama, but you’re playing a very straightforward character. When this project came your way, what appealed to you about playing someone like him?
PABLO SCHREIBER: What appealed to me about the job was the material. When I read the scripts, I thought the writing was some of the most complete and well-conceived eight scripts that I’d read, maybe in my career, in terms of as a whole, with the way that Mark Bomback, who wrote the piece, weaves the themes together and keeps you guessing, and puts your attention on the gray areas of human morality and asks, what would you do, in a certain situation? And that’s not just for Andy, but for all of the characters that are posed with that question. There was no pure good and bad. All of the characters were doing their best, and succeeding and failing, at different times. I really was attracted to that dynamic, and to the writing.
Then, it fit very well into a window for me. I had nothing to do, until I was going out to shoot Halo in October, and it fit into my summer window really well. So, even though one of my concerns was that the character could be perceived as an antagonist and I was not wanting to go down that road anymore, because of the areas of gray and human morality, and the fact that Neal, while he is perceived as the antagonist, is actually really just doing his job. He’s a very good prosecutor. He’s just doing everything that he can to win the case. It’s only because you’re following the story through the Barber family and through Andy Barber (Evans), specifically, that he gets perceived as an antagonist. By the end of Episode 8, his actions are forgiven and justified by the fact that he’s really just trying to get justice for this kid.
Coming off of TV shows like Orange is the New Black and American Gods, had you specifically been looking to play a more regular guy?
SCHREIBER: I don’t know that I’d put it in those terms, but I’m always looking to do things that are different from what I’ve done, right before that. To me, I wanna leave behind the widest range of work that I can. The goal is to do as many things, in as many different genres, and having characters that feel as different as possible, at the end of the day, when I’m done. I wouldn’t say that I was looking for a normal guy so much. It’s just that Orange is the New Black and American Gods were both very showy characters. They didn’t have very many boundaries. I had a lot of freedom and range to just be as wild and crazy as I could possibly be, with both of those characters. And so, restraint was on my mind. Restraint was on my mind for Den of Thieves. Playing a character that was doing so much, with as little as possible, was very much on my mind in that movie. And in this project, I would say restraint was very much a part of it, as well.
In the scenes that are spliced in throughout, where Loguidice is interviewing Andy in the Grand Jury, you can’t do too much in those scenes. It would actually be an impediment to the story, if you played it, showy and flashy. You really wanna tell the story, get it moving, get the information out, and get out of the way. And so, there was definitely an appeal to doing something that was restrained.
This is a streaming series, but it was one that still had new episodes weekly, as opposed to making all of the episodes available at once, which means that viewers could have decided to watch this on a week-to-week basis, or just wait until the entire series is available. Which do you think is the best way to watch a show like this?
SCHREIBER: I don’t know. I watched all eight episodes at once, when they were sent to me by Apple, so I didn’t get to have the experience of waiting for it. I could see that it could add to [the tension], for sure, but that would be a question that you’d probably have to ask the people who watched it that way.
What are your own viewing preferences? Are you someone who likes to binge all of the episodes of something at once, or do you watch in chunks of a few at a time?
SCHREIBER: In my normal life, I’m actually not much of a TV watcher, just because the landscape of television is so overwhelming to me that I end up reacting to that by just not watching much. It feels like such a big thing to start something because there’s so much content out there, so I tend to usually only watch things that end up being research for something that I’m doing. But now, obviously, in the quarantine landscape, everything has changed and we don’t know when we’re going back to work. We’ll go back to work on Halo eventually, whenever this thing settles down. It’s not like I have scads of things that I’m preparing for, down the road. So, I’ve been watching a bunch of TV now and I’ve been getting into the binge-ing aspect of going through things quickly. It’s not my normal thing, and I’m learning why. I’m a little antsy, and I would rather be doing many, many more things than sitting around, watching television, but here we are, and we’ve gotta entertain ourselves.
How far did you get into shooting Halo before things shut down?
SCHREIBER: I actually don’t know that I’m supposed to talk about that, or allowed to talk about that. We’re well into shooting the first season, but we haven’t completed. But I don’t know that Showtime wants me to talk too much about the details. We’re well into shooting the first season, and it’s going very, very well. I love the people that I’m working with, and I’m very excited about showing it to the world.
That’s something that people have wanted to see as a movie, for a long time, but it seems that the best and most proper way to dig into that world is through a TV series because there’s so much material there.
SCHREIBER: I think it’s the only way to tell that story. I think a movie would never have left enough time to tell that tale. It’s built for television. Long form storytelling is the only way to tell these particular stories.
You have a lot of scenes with Chris Evans, and it’s fun to watch the dynamic between your characters, especially when your character is someone who seems to be immune to his charm. How did you find the experience of working with him and playing that dynamic between you guys?
SCHREIBER: I loved it. I love Chris. I think he does amazing work in this series, and I told him, as soon as I saw it, that I think it’s the best work of his career. He’s so grounded and comfortable and easy in this role, and so relatable. I was blown away by it, immediately. The process of shooting it was quite painless. It was a little terrifying. The courtroom scenes, we shot all together. Episode 7 was shot as a chunk. But the Grand Jury scene, which ended up getting put through the entire season, to drive and move the plot along, we shot in two days. It was 52 pages of dialogue, just he and I, going back and forth. That was one of the most singular challenges of my career, preparing 52 pages of pretty intense scene work, and then packing it into two days of shooting.
Had you ever done anything like that before, where you are so focused on doing the dialogue, in that sense?
SCHREIBER: Yeah, it was the most similar experience I’ve had, in television and film, to doing theater. A lot of things in this felt like theater, to me, in the sense that, number one, I was working with Cherry Jones, in Episode 7, for all of the courtroom stuff. She’s a classic, wonderful theater actress, and we had a lot of fun, prepping and bouncing off each other, in that way. And then, doing 52 pages of dialogue in two days really ended up being that theater-like marathon, where you better know your lines and you better know what you’re saying, in order to get that kind of volume done.
This show has a really specific look, feel and tone, throughout the season. Did it feel like having the same director and the same writer helped with making it feel uniform in its vision?
SCHREIBER: Absolutely. I would say that the only reason that it feels such of a piece is because Morten Tyldum was the director for all of them. We essentially shot it like an eight-hour movie, so that’s how it ends up feeling. They just ended up editing it and cutting it into one-hour chunks, but it essentially was one big, long movie.
This is a story that continues to go back and forth, with whether or not this kid really committed this crime. What did you think about the way the story ended? Were you personally satisfied with how things played out? Did you draw any of your own conclusions?
SCHREIBER: I would say my conclusions were different from what Neal’s might’ve been. I was very satisfied with the ending. My biggest fear about the ending, as I was reading the scripts, would be that it would wrap up in some tidy, neat bow, and that would have been, to me, a huge disservice to everything that had come before, which was really trying to talk about the unknowability of the people that we live with. I’m a father and I have young kids, and I thought about who these people really are that you’re living with, and do you really know them, and how can we ever truly know our offspring or our parents or any of the people that we live with? By the end, if we had really known decidedly, one way or the other, I would have been disappointed.
For me, it had to end, in that way where we don’t know. We really don’t. The rub with human behavior, in general, is that the scariest reality is the truest, and it’s that we are capable of everything. Humans can do so much that that might seem shocking or awful, in any given moment, but it’s all within the realms of human behavior, and we have to reconcile that we, as people, are almost infinite in the possibilities of what we can do and how we might behave. We, ourselves, are unknowable, to ourselves, and that’s a terrifying thought.
You’ve said that you like to play characters that are different from each other, and you have played quite a variety of characters, in the last few years. Is there a type of role, or a real life person, or a specific genre, that you’d love to do and that you feel like you just haven’t had the chance to do yet?
SCHREIBER: There’s a lifetime worth of things that I haven’t done. Part of the beauty of my journey, through being an actor, is that I’ve really loved discovering what’s coming, as it comes. It’s really the joy of my career to discover what’s next. And so, I try not to put too much thought into what I would like to do next, because whatever ends up coming next, always ends up being the perfect thing.
When actors get more into producing, they seem to have to think more about those questions because they have to find projects that they want to develop and be a part of.
SCHREIBER: You’re absolutely right, and that that is definitely a place that I’m heading and a place that I will go. But that almost feels like expanding outside of my realm of, as an actor. As an actor, I feel like I’m presented with these little puzzles and these things to solve, and they all end up being the perfect thing for me to focus on. at the time. in my own personal growth and development. As a producer, as a director and as a writer, it’s that idea of me branching out and creating new opportunities for myself, in the world of storytelling, and part of that is also to have more responsibility in the world of storytelling. As an actor, you really only have control or purview over your own little piece of the story, or big piece of the story, as it were. As a writer and producer, you then get to have a much larger view of the story and more responsibility, in that regard. So, I’m definitely expanding in that way, but I’m loath o let go of the journey that I’ve gone on, as an actor, of just allowing things to come to me and seeing what’s next.
Defending Jacob is available to stream at Apple TV+.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.