Geoff Stults is no stranger to TV, with past roles on 7th Heaven and October Road. But Happy Town is his first chance to play the lead—even if his character’s a bit torn-up about it. We spoke to Stults about Happy Town’s many secrets and why his fellow cast members are worth gushing over.
TV.com: So you’re the Magic Man, right?
Yeah, God, I wish. I kept saying, “Can I be the Magic Man and can I have an affair with the nanny?” No one would go for either one of them.
How hard is it to keep all the secrets on a show with so many mysteries?
Well, the good news is that the creators did a great job of not telling us anything, so we really didn’t know until the end. So I didn’t have to keep too many secrets. Part of the fun for me as an actor, as Tommy Conroy and as Geoff Stults every week, was getting the scripts and learning new things. The whole cast was kind of kept in the dark a little bit. And we all would try to get the producers drunk, corner them and get more information out of them. But they did a good job of keeping things from us until the end.
When we spoke at WonderCon, you talked about being drawn to the role of Tommy because he’s a reluctant hero. What appeals to you about playing a leader who doesn’t really want to be in charge?
I just feel, at least for me, that there’s just so much to sink your teeth into—I know it’s a cliché. If he’s the guy who’s like, “We’re gonna do this! I’m the superhero! I’m the action star!” then there’s not as much to do. There’s not as much to play with. Over the course of the series, you want to be able to have some things to do and have some places to go. And Tommy, he’s just really content. He’s happy living in the shadow of his father in a town with no crime, happy being a husband and a father. He’s living this seemingly picturesque, all-American life, and then things kind of fundamentally change for him. He’s forced to be a grown-up. He’s forced to take charge, and he doesn’t want to. He’s not very confident. In the last few years, he’s lost his mom and now he could be losing his dad, who he looks up to and works with and loves. His whole being is just shaken up, and that’s fun to play. That’s fun to do. Instead of just, “Hey, let’s go save the day!”
A few of the cast and crew members I’ve spoken to about Happy Town have said that Tommy is the one who keeps the show grounded. Do you feel a lot of responsibility, as an actor, to pull everything together?
[laughs] I don’t know about that. Maybe a little bit. But the good news about that is, I might be the lead of the show, but Lauren German carries her weight like crazy. She’s the lead girl. I have people like Sam Neill and Steven Weber and Frances Conroy and Bob Wisdom to work with every day. As the lead of the show, as Geoff Stults the lead, I feel like I’m just very lucky to be a part of an amazing cast. And Tommy Conroy, as a character, he’s just going through it every day, just trying to figure out how not to screw up. [laughs] So Geoff Stults does that, too.
How does the show give all these actors a chance to step forward? Will different episodes be devoted to different characters?
The first season is eight episodes, and there’s a lot thrown into those eight episodes. I’ll tell you what, people won’t be bored. There’s a lot going on. A lot of the storyline, a lot of the first season—you’re developing, you’re showing backstory and all that stuff. Everybody works a lot. I think a lot of the first season is kind of told through the eyes of Tommy and Henley. Every day, I got a chance to work with different people. And these guys, they’re just fantastic. I’m just very lucky to have that kind of cast to work with.
Audiences today are a lot smarter and more connected to the shows that they watch. Do you think viewers at home will be able to solve the mystery before some of the characters do?
I think some people will for sure. There are hints, starting in the pilot. There are hints for sure. And now that I know, I can go back and be like, “Oh, of course!” I mean, obviously the goal is to have people care enough that they’re starting to maybe blog about it and talk about it and think about it. That took on a life of its own for us as actors. We would sit and have dinners and lunches. Everyone would have their own theory. Each week, we’d get a new script and those theories would either multiply or change. And then the crew people got involved, too, which was fantastic. I’ve never been on a show where the crew gave a shit. Every couple weeks, they’d be asking for scripts. I’ve never seen that happen. They wanted scripts so they could read. It was watercooler conversation like crazy—so much so that we had an office pool about who was the Magic Man.
Aside from that mystery, what will draw an audience to Happy Town? What else will keep them watching?
Sam Neill. That’s what I go to every time. He’s f**king phenomenal. He’s so much fun to watch. You know, there’s elements of—I don’t want to do that cliché, “There’s something for everybody!” But I do think it’s the kind of show that people are either really going to love or just not get. It’s a small town, there’s mystery, there’s drama. Even politics, in the relationships between people who are trying to get things from other people, and everybody’s got an angle. Like in real-life politics, not everything is as it appears.
Now, you obviously don’t know about a second season at this point.
Leaving that up to you and your readers, basically!
Do you know if the creators and writers have a plan for continuing the story after Season 1?
Yeah. These guys have a bible, basically, that they wrote out for the show. They know how they want to end the first season. They know what they want to do for subsequent seasons after that. And they know how they want to end the show.
Wow, so it’s all planned out?
Yeah. Or they’re just lying to me. [laughs] But no, they’ve got an idea. That doesn’t mean they’ve got every scene written or planned, but they definitely have an idea of what they want to do.
Happy Town airs Wednesdays at 10pm on ABC.
Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom