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Jason Wiles Previews New NBC Series 'Persons Unknown'

by Chris Harnick, posted Jun 6th 2010 5:00PM
Jason WilesNBC has a mystery on its hands. Seven people are inexplicably abducted and transported to a ghost town in the new summer series 'Persons Unknown' (Mon., June 7 at 10PM ET). They have no idea what they're doing there or how they're connected, but they have 13 episodes to figure it out.

Among those unlucky captives is veteran actor Jason Wiles of 'Third Watch' fame. Wiles plays Joe Tucker, a mysterious character (obviously) who becomes the leader of the pack. Not much is being realized about this new mystery series, but one thing is clear: It's intense.

Wiles chatted with TV Squad about his new role, keeping the mood light on the intense set and why he's always in dramatic roles.

How do you sell this show to your friends? There's just so much mystery.
Yeah, you know what? You've got to sell this by telling them to stay tuned because there's so many secrets and each secret is sort of revealed episode by episode. The first episode is kind of hard, you've got to say "Stick with it," because I think the first episode -- it's not repetitive -- but you really got to get to know these seven characters and spend 42 minutes really getting to know them. The characters are intriguing. And the thought of seven people being abducted and not knowing how they got there or why they're there and how to get out is intriguing enough and for me is a nightmare enough. The thought of that is a nightmare to me, having kids and everything else. I just tell them to check it out and see if it's what I believe, which is it's a scary thought being taken out of your life and put into this strange sort of "game on."

Persons Unknown Is this a miniseries? Is there any chance this could come back for a second season?
I don't know. We originally shot 13 episodes down in Mexico for Fox TV Studios. This is a sort of new formula for them. I really don't know, they're definitely selling it as a miniseries. I haven't seen the last episode, so I'm sure they could do a lot of things with it. I'm hoping it has legs so that we could maybe do another one. I really don't know, that's sort of out of my hands, but it would be nice to keep going for sure. It's a great cast.

So will viewers get a resolution at the end of the summer?
Yeah, I guess there's a season-end resolution that could be the show resolution. I don't know how they're going to do it, whether or not it's going to stay true to -- originally it was supposed to be a series. I would've thought it'd be open-ended, but I'm sure they're going to close it out if that's where it's going. Unfortunately, I have no idea.

Can you tell me about your character, Joe?
He's pretty mysterious. That's sort of his deal. Right now he doesn't trust too many people, he sort of does fall into a leadership role and he's definitely got some secrets. The main thing going into it is that he's not trusting, he doesn't know why he's there. His first and foremost goal is to get out of there and not play games or sit and talk about it.

What drew you to this project?
Chris McQuarrie [writer of 'The Usual Suspects'] first off. I had done his first pilot 10 years ago called 'The Underworld' with Kevin Pollak and it was sort of a take on 'The Usual Suspects.' He's a great writer and that sort of brought me to it. Doing it down in Mexico City was kind of an experience. Everybody was scared to go do the project, but I thought it was just a great opportunity to go see the world and be protected at the same time ... Knowing you're shooting for 13 is always a good one to jump on. When I did 'Third Watch,' it was the same sort of thing, we were 13 on the air and it was like, "Whoa, I like that. Let's go with that, It seems like it has legs." [Laughs]

Do you think the public is ready to embrace another "concept show" given how 'V' and 'FlashForward' did in the ratings? 'Lost' just ended, but are audiences ready for another longer mystery?
'Lost' did alright, you know. Not that I didn't get into it, I just never watched enough of them, but the uphill battle is that you've got to stay tuned. You've got to get viewers to stay tuned week in and week out because you've sort of got to know each episode to get you to the next level, but I don't know. Hm, I don't know, it's a tough one.

How much of the plot were you pitched before? Were you going episode by episode?
Yeah, as we were going we were like an episode or two ahead. It was really collaborative. Remi Aubuchon who was the showrunner, executive producer and wrote a lot, would take each of us aside and give us updates on where the character is and what we needed to know for that episode. We didn't know where it was going exactly. My character obviously has a lot of secrets, so I started to know about those a little bit ahead of time. It gave me a little bit of leeway to start to build the character a little bit, but he goes on such a crazy emotional and psychological journey with his past. It's something I've never been apart of, especially doing a lot of cop shows. This was such a departure for me.

Persons UnknownIt seems like a really intense show and there are all sorts of spooky things going on, how did you lighten the mood on the set?
Oh man, Alan Ruck, No. 1. Having a great cast, we were all sort of like -- casts either have chemistry or they don't. They can look at each other and dig each other and it just happened for us. Also, it was a Spanish speaking crew, so you can imagine seven actors down there or however many American actors, it was just bizarre. We would have several American directors, a couple of English directors, some Australian directors, but we were the minority as far as language and it made for some pretty light and funny times. It was such a fun ride because of the cast. There was no attitude, there were really no bad apples. Again, going up and shooting in these places, we definitely made our fun. It was a lot of fun.

You mentioned you've done a lot of cop shows. Do you have any desire to do a comedy or something like that?
I would love to do a comedy, but comedy probably in the sense of a dark comedy like 'Californication,' that sort of thing. Yeah, sure, I think I'm funny. [Laughs] I think on 'Third Watch' that I was the comic relief on a lot of that. I mean, I definitely had dark moments but people tended to think he was funny even if the character himself wasn't having a fun time. [Laughs] Everybody seemed to be laughing at him getting so worked up all the time. I like doing what I do, but I like having the opportunity to do different things and obviously comedy would be a fun jump. I've just been lucky enough to stay working. In my case, playing intense roles or playing character roles is something that people will hire me for, but yeah, I'd like somebody to think I'm funny. I guess we all do, right? [Laughs]

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Love the show....wish they would have done more promotion.......

August 01 2010 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

who get abducted out of their lives as well as put in a bizarre place where they're being watched. They do not know since they're there or how they're starting to get out."

June 08 2010 at 2:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just watched the pilot, reminds me of a certain Twilight Zone (or Outer Limits) episodes back when, but of course, they're going to stretch it for 13 eps, ugh. As long as they don't LOSTagak it into a silly six season run.

June 07 2010 at 11:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds like it could end up being "Strangers" by Dean Koontz.

June 07 2010 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"...how 'their' connected..."? Really? How about "they're"?

(No correction link, or I would have done it that way.)

June 06 2010 at 9:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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