There's a "remember where you were" quality to this week's episode. Did you draw on your experience?
When something like that happens, it's impossible to forget where you were at the moment you found out. My own experience was slightly different than Jim Harper's, of course. I'd just seen my friend Michael Esper in Tony Kushner's new play. He told me, and we started reading all the coverage on our phones. If you're a journalist, you're going to get the break on the story ahead of the average person, so it was interesting to play someone that's learning about it early on, and deciding how they want to frame it.
Did it feel strange to recreate that day? How is it reacting to recent events in general?
It's a great opportunity to take a step back and see what's happened since then. That's one of the benefits of Aaron Sorkin setting the show in the not-so-distant-past. You can stop and say, "How far have we come? Have we learned anything or did we just cycle it through the 24-hour news machine and forget about it?" It's also been an opportunity to learn more about the events themselves.
The Jim-Maggie-Don-Lisa quadrangle takes another twist this week, with Jim and Maggie stating they don't have feelings and Jim and Lisa breaking up and starting over. Is Jim honest in his interest in her, or is he being nice? Where is his head at?
I think he's entirely confused and torn in all different directions. I don't think Jim is the kind of guy who's found himself in any kind of love triangle before, and I'm certain he didn't think he'd be involved in one when he started working at ACN. He's putting on a good front and trying to play it cool because he certainly does have feelings for Maggie and cares about her. But there are circumstances in the way of them being able to be together. He is starting to develop real feelings for Lisa, and it's surprising to him. It's a bit of opposites attract. It's an awkward position, since he'd prefer to be with Maggie, but given the place they find themselves in, he thinks, "Why not be with this perfectly nice girl who likes me?" It's like that great line Will tells Charlie, "I've decided to live my life like I'm alive."
This isn't the first time we've seen Jim sitting at a computer during a party-is he just more comfortable with work than with people?
It never really occurred to him to have much of a social life-like when Will asks what he was doing that he never saw Rudy, Jim answers, "My homework." He was probably a major book worm and a really good student, and now he's a workaholic. In big social situations and parties, he doesn't quite know what to do with himself; a quiet corner and a laptop is more of his comfort zone.
When we first meet Jim, he seems impossibly well-connected. What makes him a good newsman?
When it comes to ethics in journalism, he has a strong moral compass and sense of what's right and what's wrong. He recognizes a good story when he hears it and has the ability to filter it through without it getting trivialized or sensationalized. He's got a lot of integrity when it comes to reporting on actual news events. He fits right into the new model of News Night 2.0 that they're trying to put in place. But he's also a realist. MacKenzie comes in guns blazing and he's able to reel her in. They're perfect complements in their profession.
Jim has followed MacKenzie through war. What's their relationship like? How far would we go for her?
He'd jump in front of a bullet for her. He feels he owes her his career, and they have a real familial bond. They can't live or work without each other, but they bicker like an old married couple. There's a lot of real love there. His loyalty to her is extreme.
We see you playing guitar with Jeff Daniels in this episode. What was that like? Did you perform the whole song?
Aaron Sorkin picked that song to appear in the episode. Jeff and I learned it, he arranged it and did a more bluesy cover of the original. We rehearsed it a couple of times and ran it by the show's music supervisor. We went into a recording studio called Sunset Sound in L.A., where the Doors recorded a lot of their material. We laid it down and then played it back while we were shooting the scene, then did a few takes where we sang it live so it wouldn't look like we were just faking it.
Without giving too much away, what can we expect to see from Jim in the rest of this season? And where would you like to see his character go next season?
I think he's dealing with his late-blooming love life, which he's excited about, and he's interested in taking that step toward maturing as an adult. I think over the next few episodes you'll see him try to figure out what he wants and how to go after it.
Beyond that, I'd also love to learn what MacKenzie and Jim have been through together. What it is that forged those intense ties they have. Whether it's through backstory or flashbacks-however Aaron wants to do it. Even if it doesn't make it onto the show, I'd be interested in exploring that.