Featured Interviews

POLITICAL ANIMALS: James Wolk on Playing “The Good Guy”

It feels pretty good to be James Wolk right now.

In USA’s new hit miniseries Political Animals, the Michigan-born actor is earning rave reviews with his portrayal of Douglas Hammond, the driven, newly engaged son of presidential candidate Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver.) And if that’s not enough, his new big screen comedy For A Good Time, Call… (starring Justin Long, Ari Graynor and Seth Rogan) is set to hit theaters at the end of August.

But proving that recent success hasn’t changed him, Wolk was more than happy to put aside time to sit down with reporters during a recent telephone press conference  and chat about working with an all-star cast, the arc of his character, and more.

On Douglas’ relationship with his dad, Bud:

“The kind of anger he feels towards his dad is borne out of growing up as a young man watching the infidelity – the rampant infidelity that went all around, and his father’s dishonesty towards Elaine. And when Elaine fell to the ground, Douglas was the one that picked her up, time and time again. And when she was publicly embarrassed, Douglas was the one that was there for her. And, you know, he really feels like his father was responsible for tearing the family apart and kind of tarnishing his mother, who he holds in such high esteem. Douglas loves his dad and, you know, there’s a thin line between love and hate – you always hear that phrase, and that’s exactly what Douglas feels for his dad.”

On working with Academy Award nominated actress Sigourney Weaver:

“She’s wonderful. You know, she’s a consummate professional. She’s an amazing actress. And what you see and what you think she will be as a person, she lives up to that and more. It’s a real treat to work with her. You know, you learn a lot from her both behind and in front of the camera, just in terms of how to kind of carry yourself on a set. It’s a joy, it’s like being a young tennis player and being able to play tennis and volley with the pros. And she is a total pro and it’s a real joy to work with her.”

On the dynamic between Douglas and his brother, T.J. [Sebastian Stan]:

“Douglas and T.J. are kind of the only people in each other’s lives who they fully trust and who they can always count on. And so it’s been a blast to play that out with Sebastian [Stan], to kind of find that brother relationship. You know, they’re twins, and so they really – they feel responsible for each other, and I think they feel like either one could have gone either way. And so that will play out really interestingly in the limited series that we’ll see initially here. They are each other’s rock and they are there for each other through thick and thin. They both go through some really bad shit, so it’s fun to see them there for each other.”

Political Animals has taken off as one of the most talked about series this year. What do you think attracts people to the show?

“You know, I think quite frankly it’s that we have such – politicians are such a celebrity in our culture now. It’s kind of one in the same, they go along with each other. And when we watch the news and we watch our President and our Senators and, you know, candidates running, they become these celebrities. And then they step away from the camera and they step away from where we’re able to see them very clearly, and you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, unless, of course, leaks happen or what have you. But the point is that with this show, we’re pulling the veil back on this former first family and we’re stepping inside where you usually don’t get to follow and you’re seeing how these pristine people really do have flaws and really do struggle. And I think it’s really putting the magnifying glass on a portion of it that we don’t get to see in real life but that we imagine in our heads, that we’re curious about finding out.”

Does working on this show give you pressure to have a voice in politics?

“Well, I think first and foremost, for those actors that do really have a voice in politics, I think that at a certain point you have the bully pulpit. You have the ability to speak because you’re in a place with you in the public eye. And I think if you have something intelligent to say and you’re passionate about what you feel, then by all means, it’s okay to speak. But I don’t think that there should be a responsibility that necessarily comes with being in the public eye of having to speak about politics. And for me personally, you know, I’m educated in politics; I follow it. I wouldn’t say by any means that I’m a political junkie. But I just feel like in this upcoming election, whether or not I was on this show I would definitely have an opinion either way.”

What would you like to see happen to Douglas in the next season if you were writing the story?

“We have such great writers; we really do. One of them, in fact, wrote a play that I starred in with him just this year. And so we have these guys that come from theater; they come from everywhere you could possibly want – film, TV…and they are writing the hell out of these characters. I really couldn’t imagine bringing anything more to them than they’ve created and I mean that. They blow me away every week. When we get these scripts, it’s like opening up a Christmas present. And you open it up and you can’t wait to see what’s happening with your character and where it’s going.”

Political Animals airs the first of three all new episodes this Sunday at 10pm on USA. Missed an episode, or just want more of the Hammonds? USA’s got you covered with photos, recaps and more at their website!

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