Sprague Grayden, <EM>Jericho</EM> Sprague Grayden, Jericho

Thus far on CBS' Jericho (Wednesdays at 8 pm/ET), the titular Kansas town has been roped off from the rest of the United States by a series of nuclear attacks, and last week the residents braced for the arrival of acid rain. Meanwhile, a secretive good Samaritan named Lenny recently was on the receiving end of a Morse-coded message that he conspicuously shared with no one. Is all on this series not what it seems? TVGuide.com took that question and others to Sprague Grayden, who plays Skeet Ulrich's possible love interest, Heather.

TVGuide.com: What do you think of the early ratings? Among new series, Jericho is considered one of the fall's biggest success stories.
Sprague Grayden: You know, I've done five shows in five years at this point, and [this one] was a really solid ratings showing, which made me really happy. I don't like it when you premiere too high, [because] then you can fall. I feel really great about the fact that we stayed solid [in the second week], too.

TVGuide.com: Especially since there was some criticism leading into the premiere, asking, "Who would want to watch a show about a nuclear holocaust?"
Grayden: My last show [FX's Over There] was about a war! [Laughs] You just kind of go where the interesting work is, and hope people follow.

TVGuide.com: But what do you say to that criticism, which might have some people not tuning in?
Grayden: I say that they should give Jericho a chance. The show does not emphasize the sadness or the tragedy that comes out of the disaster, it emphasizes the hope. It emphasizes what people can be when they come together, how we can take care of each other. [Pauses] Did that make any sense? I went to Barnard [College], so somebody's going to read this and go, "God, she used to be smart." [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Why do you think Jericho's ratings have surged in the back half hour each week?
Grayden: Maybe people started watching Dancing with the Stars and realized that Harry Hamlin was being voted off, so they just gave up. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Actually, every 8 pm show surged in its final 30 minutes....
Grayden: Maybe everybody was on a date, and it didn't end well? That's my official answer!

TVGuide.com: How long is injured Heather going to be hobbling around for?
Grayden: I don't know if I'm allowed to say, but I will say that when the brace is gone, we clapped it out. [Laughs] It was a big event.

TVGuide.com: It was a neat twist that Heather is handy with mechanics and stuff.
Grayden: It is kind of cool! Did you ever read the Star Wars books for [Episodes] 7, 8 and 9? Han Solo and Princess Leia have twins, and their daughter is the mechanical one. I always wanted to play Princess Leia's daughter, but seeing as that option will never be out there, Heather may be the closest I can get.

TVGuide.com: I take it that Jericho will be working a triangle with you, Skeet and Ashley Scott?
Grayden:
There's always a triangle when you've got a brunette and a blonde! It's actually a cool triangle because it's not fueled by the women's cattiness. They've done something unique where the women are actually good friends.

TVGuide.com: Who has time for catfights when...
Grayden: There are bombs falling, yeah. If we were sitting there fighting about a guy, it'd be silly.

TVGuide.com: But since the end of the world appears to be coming, this is Skeet's chance to...
Grayden: Repopulate?

TVGuide.com: No, pitch a threesome: "It's now or never, ladies."
Grayden: [Laughs] It's not HBO, dude!

TVGuide.com: What can you preview about this week's episode? Last we saw, everyone was hunkered down in fallout shelters, cellars and whatnot.
Grayden: It takes place the next day and it's really the first episode, I think, where the town starts accepting what's happened, and thinking about surviving in the long run. At the same time, Heather gets to have a bit of a moral crisis, which is interesting. She sees something.

[Going off the record, TVGuide.com tries to get Grayden to spill about what it is that Heather sees. She good-naturedly refuses, darn it.]

Grayden: I can't tell you, dude! C'mon, I knew for a year that Nate was going to die on Six Feet Under and I didn't tell anybody.

TVGuide.com: Really?! You're good.
Grayden: I am good. I am so good.

TVGuide.com: We're presuming on Jericho that nuclear attacks have taken place in major U.S. cities. But is there a possibility that's not the case? Is that something we're supposed to be wondering?
Grayden: I think you're supposed to wonder whatever you're wondering, and you should trust in the fact  and this is what I love about the show  that you really get large pieces of information every episode. What frustrates me about some high-concept shows is that they don't give you information until sweeps, but Jericho's audience will get a large piece of the puzzle every week. Like, having Lenny [mapping out] the [attacked] cities at the end of the last episode was great. And you get even more information this week.

TVGuide.com: Is Heather more than a kindly schoolmarm?
Grayden: The writers are in love with every single character they have created, which is awesome, so they have these incredible arcs for everyone, separate from the main story line. Heather represents the innocence of the town itself, and I think we will see her grow up a bit.

TVGuide.com: Was Six Feet Under's Anita the baddest egg you've ever played?
Grayden: Yeah, she had no walls whatsoever, she would follow her impulses and satisfy whatever need she had at the time she had it. She made out with everybody, did every drug.... It was really fun because I never was that person. I gave my reel to one of the executive producers of Jericho and he still hasn't seen it because he's afraid to see me play a really, really bad girl. He's afraid it will conflict with his idea of Heather! [Laughs] But one of the cool things about Heather is that she's so quiet, and that's new for me. I always play these exuberant characters that are completely out there, and then you have Heather, who is so strong and yet really sheltered. We're going through her first traumatic experience with her.

TVGuide.com: Last question: Have you ever met someone else named Sprague?
Grayden: Yes! [Laughs] I was 5 years old and at an audition at my agency [in Boston], and when they said, "OK, Sprague, we're ready for you," I assumed that it was me, but this incredibly tall man with a beard stood up, too! I said, "Excuse me, sir, I think they meant me. It's my first name, not my last name." He said, "No, it's my first name, too!" It turns out that all the oldest sons in his family are named Sprague, whereas I was named after my mother's maiden name. Here is where the story gets crazy: My uncle, Monty Sprague, is at a dinner party in California a month later, and a woman says to him, "Sprague runs in our family, too. My older brother is named Sprague." My uncle says, "They named my niece Sprague," and she goes, "Is it the little actress in Boston?" His sister met my uncle!

TVGuide.com: OK, that is too strange and thus my cue to end this interview.

Pick up the new TV Guide to see what Matt Roush has to say about CBS' Jericho.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.