'Touch' season 2 premiere: Lukas Haas on new character Calvin Norburg
After getting its season 2 premiere pushed from fall to mid-season, Touch is finally back. The Fox show — about a father and his emotionally challenged but gifted son who has the ability to recognize patterns unseen by others — starts airing its second season tonight.
Along with the search for Lucy’s (Maria Bello) daughter, Touch‘s sophomore outing features the meet-up between Martin (Kiefer Sutherland) and Aster Corps brainiac Calvin Norburg, a new character played by Inception actor Lukas Haas, in his first series regular role.
EW talked with Haas about what fans can expect from the new season and his new character and also about two of his recent film projects, Lincoln and Steve Jobs biopic jOBS.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first watch Touch, and what did you think of it?
LUKAS HAAS: I actually didn’t watch it until I had already started filming this season. I’m not a big TV-watcher, so I haven’t seen really anything. Everybody tells me to watch Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones and all these different shows. I haven’t seen any of them. When I saw [Touch], I actually thought it was very thoughtfully done and well-directed and beautifully shot. It seemed like a very substantial show that reminded me more of my idea of HBO or Showtime. It seemed to fall more in line with those kinds of shows than the ones I typically expect to see on network TV.
Tell us about your character, Calvin Norburg, and what his role is at Aster Corps and in the world of Touch.
He creates these algorithms that Aster Corps uses to get higher profits. They use these algorithms and all kinds of programs that they have to make the programs better. I’ve kind of come upon this special sequence, and I think it’s too important for Aster Corps to own, so I want to continue my work, but I want to do it without Aster Corps. They have kind of a shady way of doing things, and my character doesn’t really see eye-to-eye with them anymore, so he wants out. He wants to get out of his contract and continue his work on his own. Of course, Aster Corps doesn’t want to let that happen. Kiefer’s character finds out that I’m disillusioned with the company. He of course hates Aster Corps because they’re trying to get at his son. He’s trying to protect his son, so he basically wants to take down Aster Corps, and when he finds out that I’m disillusioned with the company but held a high position there, he wants to basically team up with me in the hopes of bringing Aster Corps down. That’s kind of the set-up.
You were in three episodes of 24. What was it like to work with Kiefer Sutherland again?
It’s awesome. He’s such an old pro. He’s been doing these TV shows for such a long time that it’s really like clockwork. He’s very, very hands-on actually. He’s re-writing everyday. He really has a lot to do with how the show comes out – more than any actor on any movie I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like he has a position that he’s made up all his own – producer, actor, almost director at times. He’s just such a professional that it’s fun to get to watch him work. We work together basically the whole show. I’m not sure when the first time I met up with him. I think at some point in the second episode or third episode is the first time we actually meet.
This is the first time that you’re a series regular on a TV show – why did you decide it was the right time in your career for that?
Well, it was an opportunity that just sort of fell into my lap. They called me out of the blue, and I wasn’t working on anything else. Really the role sounded interesting. How I make my decisions is normally based on the character and the role and whether or not it’ll be a challenge and interesting for me. I don’t always get the opportunity to make my decisions based on that, but I try to. And in this case, the role is extremely dynamic and versatile and interesting. He’s all different shades of gray. He’s not black-or-white. You never quite know where he stands. You can’t put a finger on him. It was exciting when they offered it to me. I looked forward to the idea of challenging myself with a role like that.
How good are you with numbers – do you think you could hold a conversation with Calvin in real life?
No, definitely not. [Laughs] I’m not good with numbers at all. I was never good in math. I use a calculator to do my division and multiplication.
Yet you’ve played multiple brainy characters, from this role to Inception to jOBS. How much do you feel you have to understand things like the algorithms and technical jargon your characters are talking about to create the whole character?
As an actor you can relate to things that as a person you don’t actually know anything about. You can kind of place one thing in for another, something you do know you can imagine the feeling you have towards that thing that you understand. That’s the same feeling you have in the character that you have towards that thing. Inception‘s a good example. In that case, my character’s an expert in a technology that doesn’t even exist. It’s make-believe. You gotta commit to it. Unless there are very specific things going on, you don’t actually need to know any of it — only if there’s a scene where you’re explaining numbers and writing them down and doing math equations — which there was actually none of in the whole show. [In Touch] it’s more about his background. Although he’s this math genius, you don’t really see him in action.
One of your other recent projects is on the road to the Oscars — you were part of the big cast for Lincoln. Have you been involved in the awards season frenzy for that film at all?
No, that was basically just a cameo in that film. It was a great experience. It’s one of those moments in your life you will never forget even though I was only there for maybe three days. It’s just one of those very, very special movies, and a cool movie to even say you’re a part of.
Did you get to go to the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of jOBS?
No, unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out there. I was working then. But I heard it went great, and I was really excited about that movie. I can’t wait to see it. I think Ashton looks so much like Jobs. Doing the film with him, he would be walking by, and I’d be like, “Wow, that’s just crazy.” He was super-committed to the role, I think more than he has been to any role. At least that’s what he told me, and that was the vibe I was getting. He took it really, really seriously, and I think it meant a lot to him to do justice to the role.
Back to Touch – how does this season compare to or build upon season 1?
To me, season 1 — it started off really strong. I liked it a lot, especially first half, maybe three-fourths of the show, but it slowed down to me. I liked the premise. I love how it’s about connecting all these things and the flow of energy. But this season is much more fast-paced and suspenseful. This season from the very beginning — it’s moving. It’s moving forward. It still has all the elements that it used to have or most of the elements that it used to have. Now it’s just more like a feature film that’s a suspenseful thriller.
The two-hour season 2 premiere of Touch airs Friday, Feb. 8 at 8/7c on Fox.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome