ABC's Invasion is back with a bang tonight (10 pm/ET), sharing the first of two new shocker-filled episodes... before taking a five-week break. (Do not get me started.) Still, what's ahead is super stuff, led off by this week's episode, which is fittingly titled "The Fittest." TVGuide.com enjoyed a rather candid convo with none other than shady Sheriff Tom Underlay himself, film vet William Fichtner.
TVGuide.com: Invasion is so much fun. You must be camped out by your mailbox waiting for the next script, eh?
William Fichtner: Yeah, but I'd like to get these scripts sooner than the day before we start shooting them! I'm not ragging on the writers, but it's very hard when we don't have a lot of time with them. So yeah, I am camped out, but not because I'm excited but because we're shooting it in 10 hours!
TVGuide.com: "Redemption," with Tom's flashback, was a pretty trippy episode. You don't think it softened Tom too much, do you?
Fichtner: Call me crazy, but I've never seen Tom as anything but a soft guy. OK, "soft" isn't the right word. But Tom has a lot of concerns about things, he cares about his community and about people.... They can play it all they want like "Tom's the hard guy," but I don't see how you watch this show and think that Tom is pulling all the strings and has all the answers. He doesn't. He's just trying to take care of everybody while not ignoring the fact that there are those who are different. Now we're finding out that there are those who are different but also violent, and Tom's not into that.
TVGuide.com: It's been suggested on screen that he is a sort of stabilizing force amidst this apparent "invasion."
Fichtner: I've always thought that he was the stabilizing force. You've got Russell running around going, "Tom's a bad guy!" C'mon, Russell, watch the show, will ya?
TVGuide.com: "The Fittest" offers up a major development in Christina's pregnancy and a couple of deaths, but what is perhaps most interesting is Tom and Russell working together on a mission.
Fichtner: It's pretty clear to me at this point that Tom's not interested in the stuff that some [hybrids] are doing that is more evil in nature. He is not that guy. And like it or hate it, that says to me that what Russell wants and what Tom wants are not that far apart. When I read these scripts and when I play this part, Russell has the anxiety about Tom. It doesn't hit me as an actor or a character that Tom has any anxiety about Russell. Tom can't deal with Russell's little stuff that he's worried about all the time. "I'm worried about these guys who are strange and different!" All right, all right, get over it, will you? Go hang out with your wife or mine, and let me figure out how to save the people in this town.
TVGuide.com: This week is the first time we see Szura, and without naming names, I have to say that I love the casting. He's played by one of my new favorite creepy actors.
Fichtner: Yeah, he's a great guy, I really like him. I shot a little silent piece with him, just about the look he was giving. Good actors can play something without saying it, and he does that incredibly well. He's a real welcome addition. He'll be around.
TVGuide.com: But is Szura definitely the "boss" of Tom? There's an exchange at the end of the episode that made me wonder....
Fichtner: I'm not sure how much I can say, but from what I really know, I trust Szura for a reason and now I am unsure of it, which you start to see in "The Fittest." He may not be what I was hoping he was going to be to me and for me. But I think the jury's out right now [about their connection].
TVGuide.com: Thinking back to when you shot the pilot, do you think Invasion has fulfilled its promise?
Fichtner: It ended up being a bit of a different show than maybe everyone thought it was going to be back then. When I first read the pilot, the mystery element is what I found to be most appealing, and I'm not sure if that has been the complete direction of where the show went. For whatever reasons, it ended up going a little more in the "good and evil" direction. To this day, I think the mysterious elements of the show are much stronger than the "good and evil" moments. [Pauses] That was pretty diplomatic, huh?
TVGuide.com: Maybe someone decided it needed to offer up more answers more often than, say, its lead-in, Lost?
Fichtner: You watch our pilot and the most interesting moments have always been the look here, the look there, the "What does that mean?" What's mysterious is scary, and scary is scary because it shakes you up and makes you fear the things inside yourself. We don't fear big orange things humming in water.
TVGuide.com: I understand that [series creator] Shaun Cassidy feels that ratings might be better if Invasion wasn't on so late, that people are a bit spent after an hour of Lost so they call it a night.
Fichtner: Yeah, it's been a blessing and a curse. It's great to get some of that Lost "pump," you know, but at the same time, is it too much to have two shows that are kind of similar on the same night? Maybe. They're not similar at all, but the perception might be that they are.
TVGuide.com: I want to congratulate you on Crash's Screen Actors Guild win, for best cast. [This Q&A happened three days before the Oscars.]
Fichtner: Yeah, that was something else. Good for [writer-director] Paul Haggis! That's the little engine that could. And there could be more surprises to come, you know.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about Ultraviolet, the movie you have in theaters this month.
Fichtner: The guy who wrote and directed Ultraviolet, Kurt Wimmer, also made a film that I did called Equilibrium, and he's a fascinating guy. He's very, very bright, and I love the things that he writes. I would definitely put [the character I play] in the nerd family. He's a tech guy at a time in this world where not everyone is accepted, where some have things that make them different. This guy is really crazy about a woman, Milla Jovovich, who's definitely a notch up the ladder. He would do anything for her.
TVGuide.com: Anything else on the horizon?
Fichtner: I did a film that's coming out this summer called The Amateurs and that I am most excited about. It was the best time I have ever had working on a film. Ever. Ever. God, I just loved this thing. It's about six little losers in a small town trying to make something of themselves. It's Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, Joe Pantoliano, Timothy Blake Nelson, Patrick Fugit and a host of other people, like Jeanne Tripplehorn, Glenne Headly, Valerie Perrine.... It was the joy of my life to work on it. It's a comedy, a total character piece, about some guys who are following Jeff Bridges, trying to make something out of their lives, and what they do is... pretty unusual. [Laughs] I can't wait for it to come out.
TVGuide.com: Which of your many films have you always felt got short shrift? Which one really deserves a second look on DVD?
Fichtner: Oh, Go, absolutely. Go is just such a great movie. Such a great movie. It's so funny, so well made.... [Director] Doug Liman's sensibilities are so perfectly twisted and in tune with that movie. Far be it from me to figure out how studios market movies, but I remember that at the time they were really pushing for a teen audience, but the people who really got Go were in their twenties, thirties, forties everybody who remembered what it was like to be 18 and fearless. Go is a really, really good movie that never got its due. You've got to check it out.
TVGuide.com: And before we go, how about a teaser for Invasion's Season 1 finale?
Fichtner: Hey, listen, here's my little tease: Remember that in actual time in Homestead, it's only been a few weeks in Florida; that means it's still hurricane season. I leave you with that one!