Summer TV isn’t strictly about “blue sky” shows. No, there’s some freaky-deaky fare to be found as well. First up from that realm is NBC’s ‘Persons Unknown,’ a 13-episode miniseries penned by Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (‘The Usual Suspects’) and kicking off this Monday at 10/9c.
The set-up: Seven strangers awaken in a retro hotel situated in a remote ghost town, where they are under constant surveillance. How did they get there? By whose hand? And to what end? Among the befuddled bunch are Jason Wiles (‘Third Watch’), Alan Ruck (‘Spin City’) and Daisy Betts (‘Shutter’). Wiles gave us a peek inside the “messy” unknown.
‘Persons Unknown’ has a bit of a Stephen King-y vibe, I thought. What was your take when you first read the script?
I had done Christopher McQuarrie’s first pilot like 10 years ago, so I didn’t think Stephen King. It was cool knowing there would be twists and turns that raise eyebrows. It was a nice departure from what I usually fall into, playing “the cop” or some guy with an attitude. It was a multi-layered, different kind of character.
On a scale of 1 to 10, just how dark and twisted are things going to get?
Without saying 10, I’ll say 9 1/2. Especially with my character, Joe, who does some crazy s–t. As an actor, it’s everything you want. It goes into pasts, futures, the psychological unknown….
Joe is very guarded at first. Will his story trickle out sooner rather than later?
You get to know some of the secrets – just not right away. He’s a private guy with a one-track mind: “Let’s get the hell out of here!” But yeah, things starts to get a little messy as far as trust issues and alliances changing week in, week out. It’s like a human videogame.
The abandoned town everyone is trapped in has, amusingly, a working Chinese restaurant. Will other pieces of the village “come to life” as well?
There are a few, but the Chinese restaurant definitely has its place. It’s just so bizarre, like the [hotel's] night manager and his sense of humor. But the town… we’re not necessarily stuck there. The gates sort of open, but you don’t know where you’re running. The level of intensity keeps going up. In the first episode, you spend a lot of time getting to know seven people – that’s what you’ve got to do – but between [Episodes] 2 and 5, a lot is unveiled to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
‘Persons Unknown’ was originally developed by Fox as a series, but NBC bought it and refashioned it as a mini. At the end of Episode 13, will everything be tied up in a nice little bow?
When I read the 13th episode, it could [be considered] tied up in a nice little bow, or it definitely could move to something bigger. It’d be cool to have [viewers] dig this, and then we the actors will get to play a little bit more.
Oftentimes when I mention you in a column, ‘Third Watch‘ fans show up to comment. Why do you think that show resonated so strongly with people?
People loved to hate Bosco! They tended to feel sorry for him. The biggest compliment I could ever get is from police officers, saying that I painted one good soul. I thought that was a great show and it was fun to play my character.
Where do things stand with your ABC pilot, ‘Boston’s Finest’ (starring Katee Sackhoff)? Any chance it’ll get picked up, even for midseason?
Nah… So I’m looking around right now. I want to keep doing different things, out of a uniform. I mean, I like doing cop stuff, it just depends on the characters and the group I’m working with. ‘Boston’s Finest’ was fun – I played the DA, which was a departure for me.
Maybe if grew your hair out nice and “big,” you’d stop getting cast as cops and military types.
Yeah! But there’s actually a story behind that. First of all I had a famous haircut on ‘[Beverly Hills,] 90210,’ so I couldn’t do that anymore. And before that I had really long hair, and I was scared to do that again. When you have long hair, you don’t want to cut it, and then you look back and go, “What the eff was I doing?!” [Laughs]
Watch a preview of one of ‘Persons Unknown’s first wild twists: