To me, Scott Patterson will always be Luke Danes. The baseball player-turned-actor spent seven years on Gilmore Girls as the lovable, curmudgeonly diner owner before taking parts on 90210 and the short-lived TV.com staff favorite Aliens in America. Now he's starring in The Event, NBC's ominously-titled new thriller. I spoke to Patterson about big scripts, exciting scripts, and how his new show is kinda like Led Zeppelin.
TV.com: How would you describe The Event?
Scott Patterson: Well... I describe it as a high-octane-action-suspense-thriller-conspiracy kind of a deal. [laughs]
That’s a lot of adjectives.
Why not, right? You know, if you have limited language ability, why not just throw the whole kitchen sink at it?
[Then we got into a spoiler-filled discussion about the pilot and the mysterious motives of his character, Michael Buchanan. So let's skip ahead to Patterson's description of his character's conflict.]
He adores his family, loves his quiet, peaceful life and, these things happen to him, and he is thrust into a situation that is unprecedented in history. So there you have it.
I think the audience could see this guy sitting on a sofa, then the next thing you know, he’s [doing something really dangerous], what the hell? These are the questions that we want to pose to the audience. We want these questions to arise in the minds of the audience. Like, how did this guy get to this point? Why is he doing this? And that’s really the function of the pilot for that character. Those questions subsequently will be answered in Episode 2.
I won’t even bother to ask what is is, but can you can you talk about whether knowing what it is has changed the way that you play the character?
I think at times it could, but so far, no. So far, Michael is driven by love and he is driven by loss and he is driven to get his family back.
Well, now I'm pumped for the second episode!
You know what? It might be even better than the pilot. I saw parts of it last night. I was doing some ADR at Universal and they showed me a few scenes and it is extraordinary.
How do you think audiences will receive the show?
I think they’ll go crazy. I think they’ll love it. And I think they’ll tell all their friends and I think it’s going to be a big, successful show and I think people will talk about it at the water coolers Tuesday morning at work. It’s just remarkable what they’re attempting here. Each script that comes in—I have script 107 coming in a couple of hours, and I’ll be waiting at the mailbox for it. These scripts are 60 pages, and they’re such page-turners. You read them in, like, 15 minutes. You’re just dying to get to the next page, that’s how good the writing is. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.
What kind of audience do you think that The Event is geared toward?
Anyone and everyone. I don’t really know about demographics, I don’t know how they’re targeting it, but anybody. Any demographic is going to groove on this.
What about fans of shows like Lost and 24 and FlashForward?
Again, I think a lot of the Lost and the 24 people are going to like it. There’ll probably be some people that miss those shows so much that they’re going to make these inevitable comparisons. You know what I mean? Maybe there’ll be a small percentage that’ll rebel in some way, but we’ll get them, because it’s great television and why would you deny yourself? I mean, if you’re going to spend an hour staring at a box, this is a pretty good way to do it, you know. [laughs]
The real beauty of this show is—let me compare it to something. Think of Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin was an iconic arena rock band, because why? Because they have the heavy and they have the light, right? The Led and the Zeppelin, that’s what they had. They had tremendously melodic, beautiful love songs, ethereal songs and then they could just bring the house down with power chords and beats and bass lines. And that’s kind of how our show is. We can bring the house down with power chords like you’ve never heard before, at a volume you’ve never heard before. But the Zeppelin-type, light, melodic stuff is the character connections, the inter-relations between the characters and the stories of the characters. And they’re never going to get away from that, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s going to be a lot of action, a lot of high-octane, thrilling-pace and all that, but you’re always going to get what’s going on inside the characters and what they’re after, and the stakes are always very high for these characters. There’s always going to be a grounded, human-relationship element in this show, and I think that’s where a lot of shows that are ambitious go wrong. They forget about that and they just concentrate on the action. And you know what? That gets to be tedious.
Do you have a favorite character so far, besides Michael?
I like Jason [Ritter's] character a lot. We have the same kind of drive, and I watched his pilot performance and thought, boy, that’s really terrific. That would be fun to play.
Going back to your Gilmore Girls days, what was it like to be on a show for seven years?
I mean, in Hollywood, to have a job for seven minutes is good. Seven years is, you know, unthinkable. It’s a gift from above, what can you say? I just felt lucky every day.
Where did your character, Luke Danes, come from?
I think Amy [Sherman-Palladino, the show creator] saw in me a lot of similarities with this guy and I happen to agree with her. I’m not terribly castable. I don’t know that I have a wide range of characters that I can play, but this one was right in my wheelhouse. I really understood him. He was a bit of an outsider, a little bit of a malcontent, well-read, opinionated, doesn’t suffer fools, that kind of a thing. And I think she saw in me an essence that could really bring this character to life, without pushing the acting. A very naturalistic style of acting.
How did you develop that chemistry with Lauren Graham?
Oh, it was just there. You know, I was not a series regular on the pilot. I was just a guest star, and the chemistry was so evident that they came at us and made a deal [for me] to become a series regular. It either happens with two actors or it doesn’t, and in this case, it really did, sparks really did fly.
Now it seems like everyone from Gilmore Girls is back on TV again—Melissa McCarthy is on Mike & Molly, Lauren Graham is on Parenthood, and Matt Czuchry is on The Good Wife, to name a few. Do you keep in touch with any of them or follow their work?
In touch yes, follow the work, no. I mean, I caught a little bit of Lauren’s stuff on Parenthood, just an episode and thought it was terrific. I haven’t seen The Good Wife at all. It’s just basically text messages, once in awhile you run into somebody in a restaurant, but everybody’s busy, you know. If you’re on a show, you’re busy, you don’t have any free time. But I wish them all well, I think they’re doing terrific stuff.
Is it true what they say about those massive Gilmore Girls scripts? Were they really that difficult to learn?
Well, it’s like anything else, you know, it’s like a muscle and you develop it and you strengthen it the more you do it. But I knew that we were going to be okay. One of the first episodes we did in Season 1, we were in the make-up chair and they threw a ten-page scene at us that had just been written. And they wanted to shoot it in 20 minutes. And so Lauren and I just learned the scene and we realized that, at that point, we could do anything... That gave us a clue as to what our abilities were and what we could handle... It was a great training ground, I’ll tell you, because I can pretty much handle anything anybody throws at me with any amount of prep time. So that’s one of the benefits of that show.
What has it been like to transition from playing single-guy Luke to fathers, like Gary Tolchuck on Aliens in America or Finn Court on 90210 or now Michael on The Event?
You know, I got a little older, so it’s more believable for me. [laugh] Gilmore was 2000, now it’s ten years later. So it’s really not such a mystery. The writing is there, the sets are there, this one’s your wife, this one’s your girlfriend, it doesn’t really make any difference. It’s in how good the writing is. And then the better the writing is, the less you have to do. If you have to make a big effort, then the writing probably isn’t there and needs to be adjusted. I’ve been very picky, and for me, it’s always been around the writing or the character arc.