After roles on less-than-successful series Miss Guided and Valentine, Kris Polaha has come into his own on The CW’s critically lauded Life Unexpected. He plays Baze, the scruffy manchild whose life is upended when he meets the 16-year-old daughter he never knew he had. Although the second season has only just begun, Baze has already faced hardship—first, after sleeping with his kid’s mom’s sister-in-law (as awkward as it sounds), and then in dealing with the destruction of his bar. I spoke to Polaha about Baze’s career change, his pursuit of Cate, and of course, the Roswell connection.
Kris Polaha: Yeah, I think it’s much bigger. I think last season, what we were able to do as a cast and what Liz [Tigelaar] was able to do as a writer, was really focus on Cate, Baze, and Lux, the relationship between these three people who started something in high school, who 16 years later had to deal with the repercussions of that, the consequences of their actions, basically. So you never really got to see the story from Ryan’s point of view, and you never really got to see the story from Math’s point of view, and you never really got to see the story from really anybody’s point of view other than Cate, Baze, and Lux. And I think this year, what you are definitely going to see—and I think we’ve already seen it, like in Episode 1, Baze’s bar burns down. Boom. That world’s over. Now he has to get outside and start doing other stuff. Cate gets fired from the radio station, so boom, her world’s over. She’s got to get outside and start doing other stuff. So the world is opening up, and I think you’re gonna see the story come alive from Ryan’s point of view and from Math’s point of view and from Tasha’s point of view. We’ve met new characters, like Paige, Eric, and Emma. You’re gonna see sort of my family, like Jack and Ellen—the story’s gonna get more inclusive of them. So yeah, the world is definitely getting bigger, which is a natural progression for a TV show, I think.
What’s next for Baze, career-wise, now that the bar is gone?
It’s burned down, so he’s either got to rebuild the bar or find a new career. We found out at the end of Episode 2 that he gets hired at his dad’s money managing firm. His dad owns a money management firm called Fenmore Financial. And he becomes an analyst for them, if you believe it or not. Out of the blue as that may sound, it is the family business, and he did take business courses in college. So we’re going to see there’s a little more to Baze than meets the eye.
So is there a chance we’re going to eventually look back on this fire as the best thing that ever happened to Baze?
Maybe, yeah. What I loved about that fire scene is when he ran into the building for Lux. I read that, and I was like, “I love this guy. This is money.” The fact that he’s willing to throw his life down on the line for this little girl just shows—it showed to me as the actor interpreting the role, but I think it also shows the audience just how much integrity Baze has. And he’s being called to a higher character. Last year you got to see this really fun character, this sort of ne’er-do-well, Peter Pan-kind of guy, who didn’t want to grow up, didn’t want to take responsibility, didn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning let alone have a relationship with anybody longer than a few weeks. And all the sudden he met this girl, Lux, and he’s like, “I want to be a better man for her. I want to prove something to her.” And then, in the interim, he falls in love with the girl’s mom. Now she’s married. He’s going to respect that marriage, and he’s gonna try to move on from his feelings, but all the while, he’s still gonna try to be the best person, the best man that he can be for Lux. And also for his dad. He’s gonna try to prove that he’s worthy.
When Life Unexpected started, Baze didn’t really seem like father material, but he’s obviously matured a lot since then. In your mind, how is his relationship with Lux different now?
A really simple little decision I made with Lux and Baze is, I didn’t touch her in any way. The most affection that Baze ever paid to Lux was like a pat on the top of the head. And then you’ll see, at the end of Season 1, they adopt her and they embrace. They have this huge hug. And then, starting immediately after—it’s basically like, he feels 100 percent claim to this girl. He’s like, “This is my daughter.” And so, he’s a lot more affectionate with Lux. There’s more authority already. This is my kid. Now I’m a dad. And I think he’s a little more forgiving of himself, so he’s not—being a better father’s now about the bigger picture. Can he provide for his kid? Can he be someone she’s proud of? When he shows up, she’s not gonna be embarrassed. So he’s trying to be a better man for Lux. He has confidence in that area, and now it’s about his life at large that he’s trying to make better.
Let’s talk about Baze and Cate. As you said, she’s a married woman now. Obviously there has to be some distance between them, but is he really giving up this pursuit, or is it something he’s just putting on hold for a while?
Well, between you and me and all your readers, I think that he is hoping that it goes terribly wrong for Ryan and Cate. And he’ll be there to pick up the pieces. But in the meantime, and really what you’re gonna see, Baze is gonna move on. He’s totally 100 percent going to respect the institution of marriage, and the fact that Cate and Ryan are married means that he’s done. He’s going to try his hardest to move on and put those feelings away.
How long do you think we’ll have to wait to see these Baze and Cate together? You know, a lot of us are holding out for it.
I know. It’s funny when you have something that’s so compelling and then it gets put on the backburner. I don’t know. If Liz does it, if she decided to really tease the heck out of it, this entire season could go by— There are moments. It’s like in real life. When you love somebody and you can’t have that person, that person’s always there. That person is always on your mind. That person is always in your heart. But at the same time, Baze just can’t sit there and wait and rot away. He feels compelled to get on with his life, too. I think that’s another reason why the show is broadening out. If you think about it in color: Lux, Baze, and Cate, there was this one thread of color. Now what’s happening is Cate’s thread is branching off in one direction, Lux’s head is branching off in one direction, and Baze’s thread is branching off in another direction. You’ve now got these three threads that are standing independent of one another—they’re still interacting, but they each have to figure out who they are to make that other thread complete again.
Will Baze have other romantic entanglements in the near future? There was that fling with Paige, but what about other relationship possibilities this season?
Yeah, I think there’s some strong possibilities of some romantic entanglements between Baze and—a woman.
A woman? Just a mystery woman?
You know, I don’t want to give anything away. I think you will see it soon enough.
When I talked to Shiri, we were talking about a Roswell reunion. She’d love to have Jason Behr on Life Unexpected, but she was worried you might feel threatened by that old Roswell chemistry. So would you be OK with having Jason on the show?
I mean, if by “OK,” you mean things come to fisticuffs… I’ve got to put him in his place. Lock him in his trailer. If that’s what you mean by “OK,” then sure, I’m fine with it.
You did an episode of Roswell yourself, right?
Yeah, [Jason]’s actually a really cool guy. I did do an episode of Roswell [“I Married An Alien”], and I worked with Adam Rodriguez. I was his high school friend and I came back and was snooping around. I got to work a lot with Adam Rodriguez and Katherine Heigl. I did meet Shiri on set, and I did meet Brendan [Fehr] and Jason. All of them were really cool kids. It’d actually be cool. Brendan Fehr, he and I are actually buddies now—it would be cool to have him. They should have a Roswell reunion. All of them should come back.