In the upcoming Traveler, three friends--Jay Burchell (Tru Calling's Matthew Bomer), Tyler Fog (The O.C.'s Logan Marshall-Green), and Will Traveler (X2, X-Men: The Last Stand's Aaron Stanford)--set out on a post-graduate-school road trip in the spirit of Jack Kerouac. However, when Will proposes that Jay and Tyler pull a prank on a New York City museum, things quickly go awry.
As Jay and Tyler hurry out of the museum, Will calls Jay and apologizes--the prank was just a cover-up for a more devious plan of Will's. A bomb explodes inside the museum, killing civilians in what the feds think is an act of terrorism, and Jay and Tyler become the chief suspects. As the two try to figure out what just happened, Will disappears, apparently framing the duo for his own act.
And that's just the opening sequence of the show.
TV.com spoke with Stanford from his home in Los Angeles to talk about the show, his backstabbing character, and what made him choose to abandon his cinematic comfort zone in favor of television.
TV.com: In your own words, describe the show and tell us why you were attracted to Traveler.
Aaron Stanford: I read the initial script--the pilot was written by this guy Dave Digillio who's very talented--and it was different from a lot of TV that I've read. It had a lot more detail to it and it was much more character driven. It was nuanced. And I just thought it would be something that would be interesting to get involved in. And the story itself...it's a very engaging story. It's sort of a classic cloak-and-dagger conspiracy-driven drama, and honestly, that's not something that I personally get to do very often. So, I thought it would be interesting to jump on board.
TV.com: And how's ABC backing it? What's the network's attitude with the show?
Aaron Stanford: They seem to be backing it heavily at this point. I say that because of just the number of spots they've been running and when they've been running them. And they also have decided to air the pilot twice--once on May 10 after Grey's Anatomy and then again on May 30--to begin it. So I think they're getting behind it. I hope they are.
TV.com: Let's move on to your character... What's it like playing basically a two-faced sonuvabitch?
Aaron Stanford: [Laughter] Well, he is indeed a two-faced sonuvabitch, there's no getting around that. But it is more complicated than that. And the character, well, I don't want to reveal too much about it. For one reason because [ABC] told me not to, and another reason because I think it's going to be interesting for people watching as the show unfolds to be able to discover how this character develops on their own. But there's a lot more to Will Traveler than meets the eye.
TV.com: I just watched the pilot and noticed your character disappears in the first 10 minutes. How are you going to appear every episode? Is it just going to be flashbacks?
Aaron Stanford: Yes. We initially started with flashbacks and then, hey, who knows, maybe something else unexpected might happen. You know what I mean?
TV.com: Yeah. In the flashbacks you have to do a lot of subtle acting. You have to play for the audience--who knows what a deviant you are--with, I don't know, a little raise of the eyebrow or something, but you still have to play it cool with your friends Jay and Tyler.
Aaron Stanford: Exactly.
TV.com: Is that an easy thing for you to do?
Aaron Stanford: Just like you said, a lot of arching eyebrow. A lot of it is also in the writing. I sort of looked at it every once in a while, and I try to throw something in there [so] it's very clear that there's double meaning or [Will]'s conflicted about something. But a lot of it's in the writing. He'll say something [in the flashbacks] that directly contradicts some of the action you're seeing in present time. And a lot of the time I've found the best way to do that was just with a completely straight face, instead of a lot of pretty facial acting and arching of the eyebrows [to get that].
TV.com: The show starts off in New York, but with Jay and Tyler eventually going on the run, are we going to be seeing a lot of other shots across the country?
Aaron Stanford: Yes. They do travel, but for the most part if I'm not mistaken, in the first eight episodes they're traveling up and down the northeastern seaboard basically.
TV.com: Are the writers pretty much keeping you in the dark about the finale or the future of the show?
Aaron Stanford: Sometimes they keep us in the dark, but it's TV, so sometimes they keep us in the dark because even they don't know yet. You know what I mean? So, it sort of develops as it goes along and according to various needs that arise. But they do have a very well-developed bible for the show. And there's a lot that we were let in on, which was helpful, so you actually know where the character's coming from, what his history is, and hopefully where he's going.
It's nice to know when you're a part of a story, it's nice to know at least something about the beginning, middle, and end. And the other good thing about this show is there are a lot of shows out there that are along the same lines that pose a lot of questions, and everyone loves a great puzzle. This show is no exception. It's a great puzzle to try to put together. But a lot of shows, they pose questions and they give you a puzzle where there's no solution. And this is a show that does in fact have a solution, so I think people are going to be happy about that.
TV.com: So there's not going to be anything like Lost, where there are like 60 billion unanswered questions?
Aaron Stanford: No, no, none of that. I think everyone involved with Traveler is really aware of how much that pissed everybody off. So they're very conscious of that and they want to make sure that they don't frustrate anybody, and if any questions are posed and riddles are posed, there's going to be an answer to them.
TV.com: As it stands right now, does the last episode have something to continue on?
Aaron Stanford: Of course, you have to have a cliff-hanger, man.
TV.com: Are you curious about what's going to happen or are you even allowed to talk about that?
Aaron Stanford: Honestly, I don't really have any theories about what's going to happen. It's not so much I'm not allowed to talk about it, but I never like to take anything for granted. So once we get more episodes, that's when I'll start actively thinking about it.
TV.com: What was it like working with the cast? It seems like there are a lot of TV acting chops in there.
Aaron Stanford: The cast was fantastic. Viola Davis, she does have a lot of TV acting jobs and she's also a very, very accomplished stage actress. Steven Culp is great and the young guys opposite me--Matt Bomer, Logan Marshall-Green--were also just fantastic. Both Logan and Matt are out of New York. Both of them have training and both of them have done a good bit of theater. So I think when they were casting the show they really did look to get people who had the chops to get it done, so it was nice to work with them.
TV.com: Have you ever been involved in any backstabbing by an old friend, like what Will does to Jay and Tyler?
Aaron Stanford: Never any bombings. Never been picked up or arrested for that. So, I'm pretty much clean on that front.
TV.com: What else do you have in the pipeline right now?
Aaron Stanford: Right now I just got back from the Tribeca film festival where I did an independent film called The Cake Eaters. It's Mary Stuart Masterson's directoral debut. And that's currently making the festival circuit, and hopefully we'll get distribution for it sometime soon. And aside from that, just waiting for the next big thing.
TV.com: What's the latest on the X-Men films?
Aaron Stanford: The latest on X-Men is, I don't think they're going to do any more of them.
TV.com: Really? Well, they're doing a Wolverine spin-off.
Aaron Stanford: I think so, yeah. I think I heard something about them doing a movie just with Wolverine, but I have not heard anything about an X-Men 4.
TV.com: I read something about Magneto also getting a new movie. You have to get on that and get your own flick as Pyro.
Aaron Stanford: Yeah, but I think they're doing a younger Magneto, or something like that. But honestly, I'm usually the last one to find out.
TV.com: And you've mostly done films?
Aaron Stanford: Yep, yep, done mostly film so far.
TV.com: So why did you decide to make the jump to TV?
Aaron Stanford: Because it was a good script and you know, I needed a job. So I was looking at scripts, and I try not to say "no" to anything based on whether it's an independent film, studio film, television, comedy, or whatever it is. I try to look at the story and if it's an interesting story then I'll do it. And that's sort of why I said yes to this.
TV.com: A man of principle.
Aaron Stanford: Yeah.
TV.com: Thanks a lot for talking with us, Aaron.
The series premiere of Traveler airs Thursday, May 10, after Grey's Anatomy on ABC. The episode will be rebroadcast in its regular time slot on Wednesday, May 30, at 10 p.m.