‘V’ star Scott Wolf talks cliffhangers, alien-human love and ‘newsguy hair’
As we discovered in last night’s V pilot, Scott Wolf has a meaty new character in ambitious journalist Chad Decker, whose charm gets him an exclusive interview with lead alien Anna (Morena Baccarin). Yet he has to sacrifice some of his integrity to get ahead.
Wolf stopped by EW’s offices a few hours before V’s big premiere yesterday, and he chatted about potential romance between Chad and Anna, how Chad will try to redeem himself as a journalist, the potential existence of alien life, and of course his Party of Five history. Wolf will resume filming V in Vancouver in January (sadly, no spoilers on those episodes to air in March, he hasn’t seen the scripts yet.)
EW.com: What drew you to the script, was it the Chad character or the overall piece?
Scott Wolf: I originally auditioned for a different character. They were seeing lots of folks… I couldn’t put the script down when I read it, it had this intensity and suspense and momentum, and I can be pretty distract-able, but I read this from start to finish. And I picked up the phone right away. So when I heard their interest was me for the role of Chad Decker, I was really excited. It was the first role to jump out at me. It seemed like fun, but it also seemed to be tapping into some personality stuff that I hadn’t explored yet.
As an actor, you bring a little niceness to him, at least in the pilot.
The fun of casting someone who is not so obviously smarmy is that it’s a little more challenging for the audience to know whether they are rooting for or against the character. That idea — who are the good guys, who are the bad guys — is at the core of what makes V as fun as it is.
Can you talk about Chad’s introductory scene in the pilot, which was reshot?
The original scene we shot was a scene where we see Chad with a woman and we come to understand that he’s been with her just to get an interview opportunity. It felt a little too baldly ambitious. It’s a more interesting story to tell of a guy who is ambitious feeling like he’s being held back, he’s not being seen in the light he feels he deserves to be seen in. As opposed to a guy who is just sleazy and willing to do whatever.
I don’t think Chad Decker knows who he will turn out to be. It’s fun when an audience doesn’t quite know where a character is coming from and going, and it’s even more interesting to play a character that doesn’t know that himself.
You’re a sci-fi fan?
Yes. Growing up the most seminal moments in my childhood were based on the Star Wars movies coming out, and I was a huge Star Trek fan growing up. I always loved how inventive the storytelling was — stories that sweep you out of your everyday life.
Did you watch the original V in 1983?
I knew of it, and remember fighting [with my parents] wanting to stay up to see it … and then being freaked out, which is probably why I wasn’t allowed to watch it! [The new V] is faithful to the original, it’s based on the original miniseries but it’s completely updated. It’s its own story with new characters, and it exists as it happens today. The first one was sort of an allegory for Nazi Germany…This one is really dealing with life now – health care, and also a general unease that’s sort of latent in all of us in a post-9/11 world. The good guys and the bad guys are a lot harder to track. The lines between what’s scarier and what’s inspiring are blurrier than they’ve ever been. One of the underlying currents of this show is what do we embrace and what do we reject and why. That’s an interesting question to ask.
Do you see similarities between District 9 and V?
What I found most compelling about District 9 — and this might be because I’ve just had a son [he and wife Kelley Limp welcomed baby Jackson on March 22] — you’re seeing this world, you’re seeing this alien population and they look scary, and then there is this moment when a child alien comes out and the father rushes him back inside to protect him. And that’s this transformational moment, I thought it was brilliant because you said, “Hey they have children, they love each other, they are scared.” Suddenly instead of seeing them as something scary and different and other, you are standing shoulder to shoulder with them and you are imbuing them with things you think and you feel. I think that was genius and a really important commentary about the world we live in, in terms of how human nature can sometimes be to fear something that’s different. In that way, I hope that V also serves as a commentary on how and why we decide certain things about people in this world.
How soon will the audience know more about these visitors?
[In the pilot] we saw a couple of cracks in the veneer, we already have reason to believe there might be something else going on. The first chapter of our story is being told in November, so by the end of November there’s a clearer picture of what the visitors intend to do here.
I imagine there will be a cliffhanger in the final November episode? [ABC will air four episodes in November and then resume the show in March.]
There will. I can’t share anything specific, other than to say that I expected to read our final script and see one cliffhanger. But it’s like a whole cliffhanger episode. Our larger story — the intention of the visitors, the pro-V movement versus this building resistance — there’s a huge cliffhanger there. But there’s also some cliffhangers involving specific characters and their lives.
Yes, including Chad. Chad is reporting on the visitor healing centers, where they are curing diseases and healing people, and he makes some discoveries there that are (long pause) “dot dot dot” (laughs). That will hopefully have people feeling like they are hanging off the proverbial cliff.
Obviously there was some flirtation between Anna and Chad in the pilot, could there be romance in store for them?
There could, yes. But we’re still in the first few weeks when the visitors have arrived, there is a lot of story to be told before that would potentially happen. There is so much brewing between them as leader of aliens and journalist, there is this really great chess match that they are engaged in. They are learning a lot from each other, they need each other in a way, and I think they both survive on seducing other people, so it’s interesting to watch them seducing each other.
Morena [Baccarin, who plays Anna] and I have a great time working together and I suppose if we didn’t have any sort of spark between us, [the writers] might not lean that way. But after we shot that interview scene, I think people saw there could be some human-alien love in our future.
Did you do any research to play a journalist?
I studied broadcast journalism for a year in school, so I’ve always loved it. In high school, I did some “point-counterpoints” on our high school news show. I was always intrigued by it, so in a way I feel like I’m having the career I never got. I did shadow a guy in Vancouver where we were shooting, Chris Gailus. It was little details and specifics that were most useful when you do a day like that, going to the morning briefing and seeing news break, and that helps me to step into Chad Decker.
One of the interesting challenges for me is that when I’m doing Chad’s news broadcasts I can’t use a teleprompter to read the news…I’m having to memorize. Memorizing lines isn’t particularly difficult for me, but sometimes there are two pages of intricate verbiage. Still, it’s really been fun, and I also like the hair. The newsguy hair.
I have to ask if you get tired of being recognized as Bailey from Party of Five.
I’m so glad I didn’t hate that show or character, because I’ve heard a lot about him since (laughs). I loved, loved, loved playing him and working on that show and I have nothing but great memories. I won’t hate hearing “Hey it’s that guy from V.” It’s like people asking Bill Clinton, “Remember when you were state comptroller?”
I’ll end by asking if you think aliens could exist?
I believe they could. I don’t not believe. I think we keep telling and listening to this story because we’re really curious. Because in some ways it’s more far-fetched to believe that nothing else lives anywhere…I don’t have any videos of flying saucers or anything, but I might soon (laughs).
Photo Credit: Jeff Petry/ABC