For all you ladies out there with crushes on James Tupper, who plays the heartthrob Jack Slattery on ABC's Men in Trees, let me just say this: you have my blessing. During my conversation with the 42-year-old actor, there wasn't a hint of pretentiousness or any stink of Hollywood on him at all. In fact, a third of our talk was just idle chit-chat about my hometown, where he also spent some time.
This affable personality shines through in his character, who is torn between two women in the remote town of Elmo, Alaska. On one end, he's supposed to be destined for the show's lead Marin, played by Anne Heche. However, Jack's ex-girlfriend Lynn, played by Justine Bateman, returns to Alaska with a bun in the oven and Jack heads back to her.
This move did not sit well with fans, who commiserated on message boards with cries for them to get back together.
Two episodes into season two, Tupper answered a few questions about the show and his character in an exclusive interview with TV.com.
TV.com: Let's get this out of the way really quickly. Who would you like to see Jack end up with, Lynn or Marin?
James Tupper: Oh, I think you can probably guess.
TV.com: Mm-hmm. Everyone seems to go Marin. Why do you think that relationship just kind of hit a chord with all the viewers?
James Tupper: I don't know. I think that Anne and I have a kind of chemistry and so people say that. I think that in the next episode, in the one that's playing tonight, there's a big surprise that will make people happy.
TV.com: Let's go back to when Lynn came on the show. There was an uproar over her arrival among fans who saw her (quite accurately) as a threat. What kind of an impact do you think the breakup between Jack and Marin had?
James Tupper: I don't know. When I started reading the scripts even before we shot them, I went to Jenny [Bicks, creator of the show], and I said, "Jenny, people are going to be angry at Jack." She's like, "Well, that's OK, I guess." But I think that it's hard being an actor and making America angry.
You know, when an ex-girlfriend comes back, worlds get thrown, and I think that Jack thought that he was over the relationship. He grew up without a lot of family and I guess he considered Lynn his family. They had an [attachment] to each other, and he wasn't quite through with it, couldn't quite let it go.
TV.com: Do you ever get fans approaching you saying, "I'm kind of mad at you." Confusing you with the character?
James Tupper: No, they don't lead with that. They lead with other things, like "I like the show. Can I have an autograph?"
TV.com: What's Jack's outlook for the season, or what can we expect from your character?
James Tupper: Well, there might be a nautical adventure. And Jack might get a wolf. Which is great. I love working with the animals. I had to do scenes with a bear, that was really something. I had to actually cross an electric fence--step over an electric fence into a pen where a bear lived. And it was hilarious because the trainer was [telling me], "James [the bear is] the top of the food chain so don't be really confident. But also don't seem nervous at all 'cause that's prey behaviour." And I was like, "Well, that's not a lot of wiggle room."
TV.com: Got to find some happy medium in order to not get eaten by a bear. You know, a lot of people talk about the chemistry between your character and not only Anne, but also with Justine. How do you get that going with an actress?
James Tupper: I think that you have to create an environment where they feel safe and you can collaborate and work freely. And I think I've had good luck because in the buildup to it, you work on it, you practice, and you rehearse it before you shoot it. The nice thing about Men in Trees is that people are really into working on this. A lot of the actors have a theater background, and they really believe in the process. They want to get together and work and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse to try to make a detailed scene happen, you know.
TV.com: Do you go out of your way to sort of spend extra time off camera with the rest of the crew?
James Tupper: Oh, you know, we feel like we're Elmo up here. A few weekends ago we had a baseball game, and all the cast and crew came over to my house, and we played a giant baseball game. But it was the Leos against the Geminis.
TV.com: How cool!
James Tupper: Yeah. This Saturday we're having a barbecue. It's crazy. I think it's because we're in Vancouver and not in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles you can keep your life going. You have all your old friends. You can go out on the weekend with them. People leave the set, and they leave the world.
But here, we live up in Vancouver. We've all been displaced up here and we're exploring the city together. It feels like Elmo. We feel like Elmo. We feel like we are Elmo.
TV.com: That's got to be nothing but positive for our on-camera stuff.
James Tupper: And also, man, that's not unfun, is it?
TV.com: Yeah, it sounds great. Who are your favorite actors on the show, and of the people who aren't as familiar to the world, who do you think is going to break out and be a household name?
James Tupper: I remember watching the pilot, and I remember thinking that every single one of the people in the pilot had delivered something really unique and beautiful, had put themselves out there, and I went to each actor and actress and, as I said, "I just have to say, I didn't know what your work was going to be like, and seeing it is just...you've blown me away." I feel amazing respect for everybody.
I think that Emily Bergl and Derek Richardson, who play Annie and Patrick, [will break out]. I think what Derek is doing with his character is just unbelievable. And he has a big surprise coming up, too. Something really major happens to him, and the way that he's handled it just confirms that he's an amazing and unique talent.
TV.com: All right, cool. What's the status for the season-one DVD so far?
James Tupper: I don't know. I have no idea.
TV.com: It's still up in the air...It's Warner Brothers, right?
James Tupper: Yeah, Warner Brothers. I haven't heard anything. Hey Tim, I don't want to say it's you, but the sun just came in Vancouver.
TV.com: Oh, sweet. I'll take full credit. These aren't my words, but a lot of people like to characterize Men in Trees as "a soapy chick show." Do you have any problems with that?
James Tupper: Well, of course, I do. I'm a guy. But this season they've written a lot more for the guys. In fact, just yesterday I shot a guy scene where it was all guys, and we were hanging out. I feel like one of the surprising things about the show is that a lot of men have caught on to watching it, and they think it's cool. And I think that comes from the casting, because the guys are regular guys up here, you know.
Ty, the guy that plays Plow Guy, he went down to Los Angeles to do an audition. He was staying in a trailer park and there were some Harley Davidson-type guys there. They were hanging out with them one night, and they all started talking about the show. Like how much they loved it. They told him, "You should get on that show, man. That's awesome." He's said, "I am on that show. I'm the wild guy!" So we've crossed over some.
TV.com: After one sort of "previously on Men in Trees" episode, season two is starting with five episodes you actually shot last season. Does that mean there's going to be a cliffhanger about six episodes in?
James Tupper: Yeah, a big one. Yeah. Big plans are made and they fall through in a major way. I think that all of the guys end up in a little bit of peril.
TV.com: Like physical, environmental?
James Tupper: Every kind of peril.
TV.com: I read on show creator Jenny Bink's blog that John Amos owns a fart machine.
James Tupper: Yes, you're right. He does. And he gets endless amusement from it, putting under our cushions. It'll always be right in the middle of a take too. He'll do it on the third or fourth take, and we'll go and we'll sit in the chair and [makes fart noise].
TV.com: So there's a lot of fun like that happening on the set?
James Tupper: Oh yeah. John Amos is planning for us to go down to be on the sidelines of a Seattle Seahawks game. This weekend Emily's brother is in town, and she's coming over for a barbecue. It's just constant.
TV.com: In doing research on you, I just kept on reading "hunky this" and "hunky that." Does that get to you at all, or are you more than just a set of dreamy eyes and rugged stubble?
James Tupper: Oh, I don't know. I find that whole thing a little bit confusing. You know, my dad called me when they talked about me being sexy, and he said, "What the heck is that about?" "I don't know, dad." It's confusing, you know.
TV.com: Well what you're supposed to tell your dad is, "I got it from you, Dad."
James Tupper: Yeah right! He's never going to think of himself that way. He's just a regular guy. You know, I'm an actor, so I want to get some attention. No, I'm just confused, man. I don't know what to say about it. Everybody has a way of seeing themselves, and that wasn't included in the way I saw myself. So it's a trip.
TV.com: What do you find is the biggest difference between Canadian and American actors?
James Tupper: I think that when I was starting to approach acting, I thought it's a craft, it's a trade or whatever, so I had to train and figure out how to do it and get better at it. So I approached it in an almost logical way. I went to drama school, and then I did theatre and worked my way up. And I think in Canada there are two things. It's very hard to break in here, into the Canadian scene. So people tend to probably more, they think of that as building a career.
Also, I was never recognized in Canada in any way. I can't even get a theatre audition in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. There's a local theatre there called the Neptune, and they still won't give me an audition. I went back and they said, "We'll you'll have to sign up. Maybe next April we could see you in The General." So I said, "Oh, guys, come on. Let's do it." So, I think America just gives everyone in the world this amazing opportunity to go out and show what you can do, for which I am incredibly grateful.
TV.com: Any minor spoilers you can give us or just [appease] something for our Men in Trees fans reading?
James Tupper: I think that Jack and Lynn are having problems.
TV.com: OK. So this could be a season where you get back with Marin?
James Tupper: Could be!
TV.com: Thanks for talking to us.
Men in Trees airs Friday nights at 10 p.m. For more on the show, check out TV.com's previous coverage.