Catch Him If You Can: Lone Star's James Wolk on the Art of the Con
It's a provocative premise: In Fox's Lone Star, Bob Allen has been raised a Texas con man, grifting through life until he falls in love for real — twice. Now he wants to go straight, without losing either woman, or the worlds they live in (respectively, an oil-rich dynasty in Houston, and a tight-knit small town in Midland.)
Video: Lone Star cast talks about the pilot
Following someone leading a double life on TV can be done — see: Don Draper, Dexter, Nurse Jackie — but it can be tricky. Will Lone Star be a 22-episode tease? Will his ruse never fall apart? Will his wives never meet? And if they do, does the show morph into something else? Series star James Wolk talks to TVGuide.com about taking on his first major role (and changing his professional name to go with it), playing the sociopath you root for, and what he thinks of the show's super-sexy ad campaign.
TVGuide.com: Lone Star appears to be Fox's new Glee: The network threw you a media party months ago, premiered the pilot episode at the Paley Center, and gave you guys a plum, post-House time period. You're the show's star, and this is your first major role. How are you feeling?
Wolk: It's funny. We're getting really good buzz, which means people are digging the show. I'm anxious for it to come out. When you're working really hard at something and it's going into a vacuum, you're ready for it to roll out and get the response from people. So I'm excited for that. The pressure is a good pressure.
TVGuide.com: I noticed on your IMDB page that you've changed your name from Jimmy to James.
Wolk: I did! I did, so that is a fair question. My birth name is James, so it is my given name. And Jimmy is what my friends and family call me. To be billed as James? I think it differentiates the people I've known my whole life, my good friends, and the people I'm just now introducing myself to. I think it's good to have the separation.
TVGuide.com: I'll be sure to address you as James from now on.
Wolk: No, we'll get to Jimmy! I promise.
Fall TV Gallery: See James Wolk — and the other new faces of the fall season
TVGuide.com: Describe the show to someone who hasn't heard about it.
Wolk: This show is Catch Me If You Can meets Friday Night Lights meets Mad Men. It's fun, it's sexy, it's different, it's dangerous, but it's also really real. It's a character study. And I know that for me, when I wanna watch a movie or turn on the TV, I love a good character study. This is one of those.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about your character, Robert/Bob Allen (depending on where he's at). He's a con man in love with two women. That's just heartbreaking — but not so much for the women. Should we be rooting for him to snow these women and their families?
Wolk: Well, he's a con man who wants to go straight. He wants to do the right thing. This isn't a guy who leaves one of his wives and then calls his buddy and says, "Hey man, you're never gonna believe it. I got two chicks." That's not this guy. This guy really loves these girls. He fully believes that he is madly in love with them. So, he thinks he's fighting for love. I think that is what can make him sympathetic. Yes, he's a sociopath, clearly screws loose. But, nonetheless, someone who thinks he's doing the right thing.
TVGuide.com: Why does he want to get out of conning? He and his dad Jon (David Keith) seem to have a good thing going.
Wolk: He wants to get out of it and keep the two wives. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. Clearly, that won't be easy to do — and that's what provides the conflict for the show. But, to answer your question, why does he want to get out of it? You have to look at why he loves these two girls. Cat (Adrienne Palicki) is wealth and power. He's never had that in his life. Lindsay (Eloise Mumford) is down-home America, the American dream, and he's never had that either. The life of the con has damaged him, and he's finally saying, "I've had enough." He's saying, "Dad, I don't want to lie anymore." But he's also lived a life to such a point that he's a guy that thinks a double life is OK. He wants to leave conning because he wants to go straight, yet, he doesn't want to leave either life. He's like a walking paradox.
How long can Lone Star remain plausible?
TVGuide.com: The ads for the show are super sexy . Think it's a fair way to sell the show?
Wolk: My job is to play the character, right? Play it true and portray him in the most honest light. The network and the creators and editors and directors will then take that and they will set a tone. I haven't seen the episodes past the pilot, but I have great faith that they will find a way to both make it sexy — and certainly the ad campaign you're seeing is — but also make it clear that this is a real character study of real people. I think that is their greatest challenge right now.
TVGuide.com: Past the first episode, what will we see Robert/Bob juggling?
Wolk: He thinks he can give everyone 100 percent, and be there for these girls 100 percent. It's just not possible if you're living a double life. He'll be juggling that, and he'll be juggling his own morals, and his ambivalence about what he's doing to these girls. I think he wants to pull away from his father, but he also loves his dad. He's going to be juggling a lot of internal s---.
TVGuide.com: Talk about working with Jon Voight, who plays Cat's dad Clint, head of a rich oil company. His character is kind of scary.
Wolk: I think it's an interesting dance between them. Clint and Bob genuinely like each other. Yet, Clint's not dumb and Bob is doing some things that are hinting that something's a little off. It's actually kind of fun to see this relationship work itself out because there's both a fondness that they have for each other as people, but also this tumultuous separation of objectives. Clint doesn't want anyone who is a liar in his family, and Bob wants to be in his family. They both have good poker faces.
TVGuide.com: Lone Star is straight-up serialized drama. No jumping in to the show halfway through. What would you say to viewers to get them to invest?
Wolk: I think once people make that decision to watch, I think there's no question about the quality of the show. The writing is wonderful. I do think it's a new concept and a fresh idea. It's a little risqué, and hopefully that just might catch the attention of some people.
TVGuide.com: The writers have said that a 22-episode season will be challenging. How long can it possibly be before this guy is caught? And when he's caught, what happens to the show?
Wolk: I think Bob is smart enough to keep this thing going, but there will be close calls. ... The best way I can answer the question, without giving anything away, is to say this: The sustainability of the show doesn't require Bob sustaining this double life. We can still have a show if Bob starts to deconstruct. I think that's actually going to be the fun of it. And when that deconstruction happens, if it happens, I think it's a little bit a ways off. It's not going to happen any time soon. Bob's going to keep these worlds afloat.
Check out the trailer for Lone Star below:
Lone Star premieres Monday at 9/8c on Fox.