Q&A: The Event’s Jason Ritter

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It’s hard to say what will fill the void left by long-running TV favorites LOST or 24, absent from our screens for the first time this season, but NBC’s The Event will certainly on of this year’s most willing understudies. A show that promises us one of the greatest government cover ups in this drama-filled alt history, tonight’s premiere (9 p.m. on NBC) will introduce us to Sean Walker, played by Jason Ritter, as he searches for his missing fiancee and slowly pieces together the larger conspiracy behind her disappearance.

Techland talks to Ritter about being the “nice” guy, his thoughts on LOST’s series finale and keeping secrets.

Allie Townsend: You’ve been around the business for most of your life. What was it about this show that really appealed to you?

Jason Ritter: It was such an exciting read. It was really exciting to piece it all together. I was also really intrigued by my character. Within the first couple scenes you see him asking his future father in law if he could marry his daughter and then 11 days later, you see him pulling a gun on a flight attendant.

Once I finished I couldn’t wait to read the second episode. That was definitely a sign. You read a pilot most of the time and say, “Wow, that was really good. And I’m sure next week something very similar happens. Maybe the sexual tension is duly increased for a moment.” But with this one really seemed to have a lot of forward momentum.

AT: I’ve heard your character described as a good guy, an ‘everyman,’ but is there something more than just this nice guy?

JR: He’s a video game programmer. He knows his way around computers, but that’s about as close of a special skill as he has. He doesn’t come out to be a Judo master or anything like that.

He’s regular in that way, but one of the things I really liked about the character is that he is a really nice guy. So often, nice guys are written as these toothless pushovers, but one of the things I really liked is how strong he can be when he needs to be. His fiancée goes missing and he loves her more than anything in the world and actually will do anything to get her back. I thought that was really cool to have a character who’s nice but can step up when things get tough.

AT: You got a really emotional role to play. Did you base him off of other characters? How did you get into that?

JR: I did watch a couple other movies and TV shows just to see how other actors dealt with a similar problem: having to act something you’ve, hopefully, never experienced in everyday life. You can’t just pull on a “Oh, I stumbled upon the biggest government cover up ever last week, so I know how this feels.” I watched The Fugitive, and then it’s just trying to wrap my head around the circumstances. The lucky thing is that because the circumstances are unbelievable, my character is having trouble believing them as well.

AT: How do you feel about the comparisons between The Event to LOST and 24?

JR: I’m certainly happy to be lumped in with those two shows. It’s much better than people saying that it reminds them of Knight Rider 2000. Now, I’m not saying anything bad about Knight Rider 2000. (Laughs.) I never saw it.

But really, it is great that people are drawing those comparisons. It’s a little scary because those really are big shoes to fill. I hope that we can fill that void for people, and I think we have a good shot at it. I was a huge LOST fan and getting these scripts every week has really fulfilled a need for me. There are new characters and a whole, new mythology. I’m already going on the NBC website and I’m trying to figure out all the clues. It’s nice to do that again. I used to go online after LOST to read what people are saying about it.

AT: So you’re a LOST fan, but were you happy with the way the series ended?

JR: You know, I was and then I started to talk to people about and they were telling me that my interpretation of it was incorrect and that I should be disappointed. The thing that happened to me with LOST was that at a certain point, I was just enjoying the performances and the journey. I was more interested in how the characters were dealing with things. I really loved how they explained things like how the ship got there, but I for me, I could have just had them never wrap it up and just had it be a days of our lives things and see what happens after years and years. I was just sad to see these characters that I love go away.

There were certain things. I wish I could figure out more about the numbers. I spent a long time trying to decode those things and looking up old numbered codes from the 40s and 50s but I never found anything. But other than that, I certainly couldn’t have written a better ending to the show so I don’t want to throw them under the bus.

AT: I was having similar feelings watching the previews for your show. “Okay, so what’s The Event?” Is it tough to keep the secret?

JR: It’s not tough for me to keep it a secret because I don’t know what the event is. We all got these character bios before we shot the pilot that told us what our characters know. Laura Innes for example, knows what The Event is, what the master plan is and where this is all going and then other people are in various stages of dark. I think I’m in some basement at night, far, far away. It’s very easy for me to keep the secrets, which is good because I’m a little bit of a blabber mouth, so it’s nice not to be saddled with keeping a secret.

AT: Get Laura to tell you.

JR: I’ve been trying to. I keep trying to saddle up to her at various NBC events. “Come on, what’s The Event?” I even tried to pretend that I had a big secret that I was ready to tell her, but then she told me to go first and I couldn’t think of anything fast enough.

AT: How much action will we see from your character?

JR: There is a lot. I wasn’t 100% sure how much they would continue after the pilot, but there have been at least one or two really exciting action sequences in every episode so far. And, they don’t feel forced or rushed. It’s just that these are the stakes in which these characters have found themselves in. When you find yourself in the center of a conspiracy, there are a lot of powers out to get you. There’s a lot of running and escaping and having to outsmart people. It’s been a lot of fun. I certainly know that if it had been Jason who had been put into any one of these situations he’d probably be arrested or dead, but Sean Walker figures out a way.

AT: We know the series has at least something to do with science fiction. How deep into sci-fi are we going to go?

JR: Not too deep. The pilot you’ll see is about 95% action and love story and there’s about 5% sci-fi and that’s how the show is. It’s an augmented world as we know it. We know everything that’s happening, it’s just a slightly different reality that takes us into that realm. And it’s fun, I’m a huge science fiction fan.

AT: What’s some of your favorite sci-fi stuff?

JR: Well, I grew up with Star Wars, it was huge in my life, but for some reason I thought there was some war between Star Wars and Star Trek fans growing up, but my girlfriend is a huge Next Generation fan. Recently, we got the full box set and we started with episode one season one and now I’ve seen every single one. I’m a believer now. I can talk about Borgs now.

AT: You’re a nerd now.

JR: Exactly.

AT: Were you at Comic-Con this year?

JR: Yes, we were. I had been a couple of times before with friends, but this was the first time I’d ever been with something and I was so nervous because I really wanted everyone to like it. I almost felt like if they didn’t like it, then I didn’t care who else did. It was ruined. “Don’t even air it.”

Having been there and gone to screenings, I’ve heard them love things and be totally enthusiastic, and I’ve heard them just tear things apart. I think sometimes people can think, “Oh, there are a few superheroes in this. You guys will like it.” But just because they’re enthusiastic about the things that they love doesn’t mean that they just will love anything that you throw in front of them. I was really excited that it got their stamp of approval. It was really fun to walk around on the floor afterwards and have the time to say hello. I didn’t even have to pay for the train ticket this time.

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