Let’s get one thing straight: Rob Kazinsky is not playing Frankenstein’s monster. Second Chance is not the story of Frankenstein’s monster. The show was not previously called The Frankenstein Code. Okay, that last one isn’t true, but what is true is that Fox’s new drama delves not into the creation of a monster, but rather the moral and ethical issues of playing God, as well as a question we all face every day: If we had a second chance, would we do things differently?
Inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, Second Chance is a modern-day series about a corrupt sheriff who is killed, then brought back to life in the body of a younger man (Kazinsky) to fight crime. The magical remedy that facilitates Jimmy Pritchard’s return, however, serves a higher purpose: Twin scientists Mary and Otto Goodwin (Dilshad Vadsaria and Adhir Kalyan), who head up tech empire Lookinglass, need his blood to keep Mary from dying from an aggressive form of cancer. While all this sounds like a great way for Jimmy to enjoy some newfound freedom — a younger body could attract more women and handle a lot more alcohol for the former heavy-drinking officer of the law — there’s a pretty big side effect: Jimmy is tied to Lookinglass as his body needs to regenerate every 24 hours.
Will Jimmy make the right decisions the second time around? EW sat down the Kazinsky on the set of Fox’s Vancouver-based series to get insight into the character and why this isn’t a Frankenstein story. (You can also read our full interview with executive producers Rand Ravich and Howard Gordon here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At his core, who is Jimmy Pritchard?
ROB KAZINSKY: Jimmy’s not a good guy. That’s the most important through line with this character is that he’s not a good guy. They could’ve given a second chance to much more deserving characters than to Jimmy Pritchard, who lived his life unapologetically. Also, he’s a man who, for the last 15 years of his life, was ready for the end of it. He kind of gave up, he was very angry and he was resigned to growing old and dying. He didn’t ask to be given this second chance, but he’s been given this second chance and he’s not entirely happy about that. He’s an angry man, he’s a selfish man, and he’s a spoiled man. The beauty of the situation is that by giving him a second chance and another 40 years at life, it has forced him to look introspectively in a way that he had perhaps thought there was no point in doing anymore. At 75 years old, he didn’t think there was any point in making a grand change, and now he’s been given one. It’s time to look at who he is and the character that he has, and make a substantial change if he can.
Is there a part of him that wants to take advantage of the fact that he’s young again? He can drink what he wants. He can have sex with women. He can do whatever he wants.
There is an element of that, but it’s thankfully far less than people would probably suppose. There’s still a deep sadness in this man about a life ruined, a wife destroyed, a son hurt, a family that he never really took care of. There’s still a lot of hurt in this man, so when he drinks, he does not enjoy. When he drinks, it’s still in melancholy. His experiences in this new body so far have been a extension of what his life was like as a 75-year-old man. There’s still a deep catharsis to everything he does.
Is it strange to be playing an old man in a young body? Where are you drawing inspiration from?
I don’t find it weird at all. I’ve always played older than I am. It helps that I’ve looked 35 since I was 12, but there is a certain weariness inside of me that comes with age, perhaps a little bit over what I should have at my age. I have two really great examples of who this man should be and could be in Phillip Baker Hall, who sets the tone for Jimmy Pritchard and then I adapt, and then I have my own father who is 78 years old. Most of this character is my father, most of it. There are elements of fish out of water and old bygone charm that don’t exist today that I’m able to take directly from a source very close to me.
How does Jimmy feel about being a guinea pig for Lookinglass?
He didn’t ask to be brought back. This is not his idea. He finds the twins to be abhorrent. He does not like being tethered to them or having to do what they say he should. They didn’t ask him to be a part of this experiment. They’ve taken his body, they’ve abused it, they’ve re-infused it with life when he didn’t want it, and now they’re forcing him to give them their blood and behave how they want him to behave without seeing if he would agree to it. There’s a deep anger and a deep resentment there and a deep emotional distress that he is not happy about. However, there are silver linings that he does realize: There is a chance to fix his relationship with his son. He has a chance to look after his family, so there is a silver lining here, but it’s not done with happiness.
What’s the dynamic like between creator and monster, in a sense, Mary and Jimmy?
I think about when I was 18 years old and I used to look at 18-year-old girls and think, “Yeah, this is great,” and I’d look at 30-year-old women and think, “Oh God, no.” Now I’m 32 and I look at 18-year-old girls and think, “Children,” and I look at 40-year-old women and think, “Yeah.” So I think Jimmy’s still in that mentality, and he certainly comes to see Mary with a paternal eye. Whether something will develop more, I don’t know, but there is a similarity between the two of them in that they’re both in situations beyond their control, they’re both victims of a system, they’re both restrained by extraneous circumstances, they’re both deeply unhappy really, and they’re both trying to understand what life is meant to be like and how you’re meant to enjoy it. There is a shared suffering between the two of them.
How much is Lookinglass actually able to control him?
He’s limited by the fact that he has to be back at Lookinglass every day or he dies. He has to be in the tank being regenerated or his cells break down and he fails. So they control him in that respect, and he also knows that doing the right thing is very, very important. It’s just that his opinion about what the right thing is very different to what Mary [thinks]. Jimmy comes in to their lives and says “No, there’s more to it. We need to do things with this power.” Jimmy lives his life not being a police officer, but by being a representative of the true ideal of justice. He broke the law to do the right thing. That’s what he did. Jimmy, after years of failing to bring down the man, did it his way, and now he has access to a tool which is beyond all tools. Lookinglass, he’s using that power, that 1984, Big Brother-esque, Facebookian power to currently and at the moment do the right thing. However, what a man like Jimmy Pritchard does with that kind of technology and that kind of access in the fullness of time, when he actually understands how to turn it on and what keyboards do, I think that’s the interesting premise of the show.
What are some of the other side effects he’s facing as he learns how powerful he really is?
Cellular regeneration is an interesting super power if you want to call it a super power. It, scientifically and technically, could possibly be a real thing to have. If you think of your bicep as having a hundred men in it. I don’t need a hundred men to pick up this coffee cup. I need two, but when I put this coffee cup down and I pick up my phone, I’m using two different ones because those two original ones are fatigued. Imagine if you could use a hundred of your men at all times and never become tired. There is enormous strength to the man being able to use a hundred percent of his muscle, enormous speed, enormous cranial capacity. He thinks fast. His synapses fire faster and they don’t fatigue and burn out. It’s just the maximum of what a human body should be able to achieve. You hear these fantastic stories about mothers picking up cars off their children. The human body can do fantastic things when it’s in moments of utter, utter peril, and Jimmy can do it all the time.
Can you talk about some of the themes the show will explore?
Having a second chance, even if you don’t want one, and being forced to live even if you don’t want to, forces you to reevaluate your life in a certain manner. There’s a whole thing of saying nature is more important than nurture, and Jimmy’s tendency to do the wrong thing, even when he knows what the right thing is, is an interesting balance of what could go against him trying to do the right thing now. Thematically, throughout the show, it’s about screwing up more than anything. Everybody in the show is screwing up all the time. We’re in episodes now where [Jimmy’s son] Duval [Tim DeKay] is repeating the same mistakes that I made by neglecting his family for law.
What aspects is the show sort of taking from the original Frankenstein story?
None. The Frankenstein moniker is gone. It was a disingenuous title. The original concept was very different to what we ended up shooting, which is why we changed the title. It would be disingenuous to use the term Frankenstein anymore. It’s a much more 1984 Orwellian theme, and I think that the idea of technology being a monster rather than the person is a much more interesting story to tell.
Read much more about the dynamic between father and son in our in-depth interview with executive producers Rand Ravich and Howard Gordon.
Second Chance debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.