On last night’s season 2 premiere of Jericho, fans saw Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) begin his new journey: stop the Cheyenne government by exposing its involvement in the terrorist attacks. The remaining six episodes of this shortened season will hopefully bring a satisfactory conclusion to that storyline.
BuddyTV spoke to Lennie James about this new season of Jericho. Among the many topics discussed were the writers’ original plan for a 22-episode second season, the two different endings they filmed for the last episode, depending on whether it’s a season or series finale, and his awesome British accent. Continue reading for the full transcript, and the mp3 audio file to hear how Lennie James really speaks.
This is John from BuddyTV, and I’m talking to Lennie James, who plays Robert Hawkins on Jericho. Hi, Lennie.
Hi, John. How are you?
OK. As an actor going into it and just about the season, what are some of the differences between season 1 and season 2 of Jericho?
Season 2 is a much leaner, meaner, darker machine really. It’s kind of the difference between, I was going to say the different Terminators. It’s the same thing, but it’s a different model. This time we’ve got seven episodes to tell our story, where before we had 22 episodes, so there’s not a lot of padding in the second season. The second season is a roller coaster ride. Once we get started we plow on all the way straight to the end, with little to no distractions. It’s really exciting, and we did it with less time, less money, less everything really. But I think that the episodes we put out are seven of the best we’ve done.
In the first season, Robert Hawkins had a lot of secrets, and I think one of the surprises as a viewer, at least for me, is that the show actually answered a lot of those questions about the mysteries behind this character. Are there any secrets left that Robert Hawkins has that we’ll find out more about this season?
Yeah, there are more secrets. There’s always more secrets. You only find out as much as you need to know as it were. Like all good agents, he lets you know as much as you need to know in order to do whatever it is he wants you to do next. I think that outside of the secrets of Robert Hawkins, much, much more beyond that, even when you know who he is and where his allegiances lie, that’s not the end of him. You still have to deal with the fact that you have no idea what he’s capable of doing in any given situation, or what are the choices he’s gonna make, because he has his mission. The measure of the man is what he’s willing to do, and always has been what he’s willing to do to complete that mission, but also what he’s willing to sacrifice to complete that mission. Certainly in this second season, you learn that about him. You learn what he’s capable of, but also what he’s willing to sacrifice.
Even though we’re all hoping for a third season, with these seven episodes, is there a conclusion to this massive mystery that was left hanging with the government and Valente coming after Hawkins? As a fan, if these are the last seven episodes, do we get closure for the Robert Hawkins storyline do you think?
We shot an alternate ending, and I think the ending that we’d all like to go on is the ending that gives more of a possibility of a third season. The alternate ending, it’s not ultimate closure. It’s not suddenly everything is tied up in a nice pretty bow, but one of the things that does happen is that the alternate ending on one level lets you know that everybody is kind of okay. One of the things we do is that initially when we were hoping for a second season there would have been 22 or 24 episodes, we were going to tell our story in three distinct areas. It was going to be New York, Cheyenne, and Jericho. What we decided to do is to tell the Jericho portion of that story in the seven episodes, and that arc is completed. It’s not completed in the sense of ending the series as a whole, but it is completed as making that arc coming to a satisfying conclusion.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot in New York that we’ve heard about, or characters that we know in New York. [ED. NOTE: During the interview, I temporarily forgot about Skyler’s parents.]
In our particular telling of that story, we would go to New York with somebody from Jericho. We would arrive there and discover New York as one of our characters from Jericho discovers New York, and the same with Cheyenne if we had been able to tell the story in that way. We would have gone there and found out what was left of that place with someone from Jericho. We haven’t told that part of the story in these seven episodes. These seven episodes very much focus around the mythology that we’ve created, which is somehow explaining why Jericho is so strategically important to the nation. Why it was the place that was picked as the rallying point for Hawkins and his team. Why it is important in the battle for the new nation. Over the new seven episodes, we learn that America is split over what we’re calling the blue line, and the blue line is the Mississippi. Everything west of the Mississippi has become the Allied States of America, and everything east of the Mississippi is what is remaining of the United States of America. The battleground is between the United States of America and the Allied States of America, and that battle to a greater or lesser extent will be won or lost in Jericho. That’s the story of the second season.
In the first episode of the second season, it seems that April Parker, who plays Robert’s wife Darcy, plays a bit of a more significant role than she did in the first season. Does that continue throughout these seven episodes? Is she more of a presence?
It does, yes. The facts are, as far as Robert Hawkins is concerned, his team that he set out on his initial undercover mission for five years ago, his team has been pretty much decimated. There’s only two left standing. In order to complete his new mission, which is to get his bomb, his evidence to the right people to prove who were the masterminds behind the terrorist attacks, in order to do that he’s going to have to start using people who aren’t as trained as he is. Who aren’t of the same mind set that he is. That’s going to start with somebody he cares deeply about, i.e. his wife, Darcy, played by April, and also Jake. That’s where it’s gonna start. It throws Hawkins into a new kind of dilemma, because he’s used to being the one who goes into the dangerous situation, and his wife is left hoping and wondering whether he’s going to return home. In these new seven episodes, in the second season, you see that the tables have turned around. He discovers new things about his wife and what she’s capable of, but he has to deal with the fact that he’s putting someone he loves in harm’s way, and he’s not used to doing that.
In talking, it’s obvious you’re from England, and the accent is very different from what you hear on TV. When you meet with fans and you talk to them, are they surprised, shocked, or kind of thrown off by this accent?
They are, yeah. I’ve got friends who have been in other shows from England doing kind of American accents, and everybody deals with it in very different ways. I have one particular friend who, whenever he meets fans of his particular show, he always speaks in the accent of the show, because he doesn’t necessarily want to let the fans down. But I am an English guy, and I don’t really think about it as me putting on an accent. Just as I wear different clothes when I’m Robert Hawkins than I do when I’m myself, Lennie James, he also just speaks in a different way. He has a different mind set, he has different principles, he has different rules of engagement, so for me it’s not about putting on an American accent. It’s about being Robert’s character and speaking in his voice, and that just happens to be his voice.
Well, it’s a terrific accent, it’s a terrific character, and it’s a terrific show. We’re all definitely looking forward to these next episodes of Jericho.
Thank you very much. We’re very much offering these seven episodes as a kind of gift to our fans really, to say thank you very much for bringing us back. That’s what these episodes are, these are our thank you to the fans who fought so tirelessly and so hard to bring the show back. It’s back, and it’s back for them and all the new fans we hope we garner over these seven episodes.
-Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of CBS)