Interview with Jonathan Tucker and Olivia Wilde

By Lila Holland

Mar 14, 2007

As NBC drama The Black Donnellys gains momentum with TV.com users and other fans, the storyline is also picking up speed--especially regarding the seemingly doomed love affair between Tommy Donnelly and Jenny Riley. In a conference call with reporters, Donnellys actors Jonathan Tucker and Olivia Wilde took time to shed some light on their characters.

Although both actors grew up in relatively high-brow families, they manage to give convincing performances of streetwise, working-class characters. When asked about the kind of preparation needed for such a transformation, Wilde said, "I met with Barbara Moresco, who is Bobby Moresco's wife, before we shot the pilot, and discussed what it was like to grow up as a young woman in this type of neighborhood. I found it fascinating that so many difficult things--so many painful things--had happened in her life, and yet she didn't feel sorry for herself...she was very strong and resilient and I think that's what I try to take and put into Jenny."

When asked how the women in The Black Donnellys balance the tough and nurturing sides of their personalities, Wilde said, "I think it is a matter of survival. I think that's what they have to do in order to keep going in that world. I think that's what's so great about Kate [Mulgrew]'s character, is that she's sort of coaching Jenny in the ways of being a woman in this neighborhood. Even though she's grown up as one of the boys, now she's going to have to start covering for them." In regards to the moral struggle Jenny is dealing with, "she'll clean up the blood but she won't knowingly condone the violence. At least not yet."

"For me," said Tucker, "the truth that I was able to find in regards to that working class, Irish American experience, was very close to home. I grew up, as I joke around, in the 'People's Republic of Charlestown' in the city of Boston. And I was blessed to be raised right there, on Monument Square in Charlestown and every morning, I'd hop on the bus and go on a 45-minute ride out to the suburbs in Brooklyn for elementary school. And I got to have my seat, really, in both worlds."

"I have a younger sister--I'm actually here in DC right now surprising her for her 21st birthday--and, you know, I love her very much. I think that as much as this is a show that's specifically about New York City, about the Irish and the Black Irish, and the working class group of brothers, it is a universal story in regards to family and what you would do for a family. I don't have any brothers, but I really fundamentally can understand being put into a position where I have to make an extraordinary choice to take arms to protect the people I love."

The ideas of choice and protection extend beyond the Donnelly household and into the relationship between Tommy and Jenny. After years of suppressing their mutual attraction, the pair finally hits the sheets...only to part ways again at Jenny's insistence.

"It continues to be this very difficult decision," said Wilde, "of 'do we give in to our instincts or do we remember that this can't happen? A: Because I'm married, and B: because I morally object to everything that he's doing, and I told him not to do it, and he did it against my will.' And I think that's what really stops them. I don't think they're, you know, too shy. I don't think it's the fact that she's married...I mean, he knows her husband is dead and he doesn't have the heart to tell her. And she maybe suspects that, and she knows he's not coming back. But the stakes are too high to give in to anything just yet, I think."

"What we were really talking about on the set of The Donnellys was how we are fighting against someone," added Tucker. "And that's particularly true between Tommy and Jenny. We're fighting again, not sure how much we care about each other or to not show how much something hurts us or costs us emotionally. And in order to fight against it, you have to have a lot going on under the water."

  • Comments (12)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • AliquotFilms Apr 19, 2010

    Hey fans. The world premiere of Johnathan's next film MESKADA is next week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Check out the trailer here: www.meskada.com. Follow us on Twitter/Meskada, and on Facebook as well!!

  • nikthebrief85 Dec 08, 2007

    This show is brilliant as was tru calling and all the other shows that weren't even given a chance!

    Why do all these great shows keep getting cancelled when they keep so much s**t on the air?

    What is wrong with all those american execs?

  • kalsirsk Mar 16, 2007

    This show is great and wont stop watching until it offically goes downhill

  • lyric_crossborn Mar 14, 2007

    The only thing Black Donnellys has going for it is Kate Mulgrew and if they don't get significantly more of her onscreen soon, I won't be bothering to watch.

  • MemnochZERO Mar 14, 2007

    It's a great show, hopefully NBC doesn't wimp out and cancel it like they do every new show that isn't Heroes. They go well together monday night, too, you've got the Heroes, then the anti-heroes.

  • dyle123 Mar 14, 2007

    It's a great show! A personal favourite already!

  • Corko21 Mar 14, 2007

    I too thought Studio 60 was a great show...right up until this show started. If they change this show back out for S60, or any other show for that matter, I will tell everyone I know that watching NBC gives you brain tumors.

  • bermyblue Mar 14, 2007

    I wasnt watching, but I think I might start now. I love hearing about the effort people put into their work as opposed to those shows where it hardly seems like they're acting at all. I suppose thats why I hate reality TV.

  • tinkslh Mar 14, 2007

    Great interview. More people need to watch this show! It really is one of the best things on TV right now.

  • redthor Mar 14, 2007

    I thought Studio 60 was a much better show. Don't understand why NBC was to see CBS and ABC ratings increase in the Monday 10 PM time slot. Of course it could be argued that many of NBC's decisions this year are are not in the best interest of a TV network (like the way Heroes is being handled).

  • See More Comments (2)