No one knew what to think when CBS debuted its nuclear hit Jericho last fall and giant bomb clouds filled the distant skies with a season full of questions. Not too many of those questions have been answered thus far, but now that the show is back from its winter hiatus, viewers can expect more to be revealed as the story continues to unfold. TVGuide.com talked to Lennie James — who plays the dark, secretive know-it-all Robert Hawkins — about tonight's new episode (8 pm/ET), where we'll see what happened just hours before the bombs went off, and what we'll learn as the second half of the season unravels. James, who was very warm and welcoming over the phone — unlike his closed-off character — also hinted at upcoming danger outside of Jericho, a possible "showdown" and why those explosions happened at all.
TVGuide.com: Hey, Lennie! Are you anticipating Jericho's return as much as I am?
Lennie James: I don't know…. How much are you anticipating it? [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: A lot. I actually write about the show here, and it's been a very long hiatus.
James: I've never gone through any of this, so it's all new to me. Although it's not been screening, we've still been filming, so it hasn't really felt like a hiatus to us — any break we had was Christmas.
TVGuide.com: Well, I know fans want answers concerning the show as a whole, but specifically your character, Hawkins. Is it fun playing someone mysterious?
James: Yeah, it is. I'm not trying to play a man of mystery; I'm trying to get to the reality of this guy. It's an incredible amount of fun playing Rob Hawkins, because he has secrets on top of secrets. He has secrets from his family, from Jericho, from the people he's working with and working for — so they're all mixed up in every word he says. He has to have three conversations with himself before he answers any question.
TVGuide.com: In the very first episode, I knew there was something off about your character, and I'm even more confused now than I was then. Are we going to find out more specifics about his job this season?
James: [Laughs] When we come back, Episode 12 is the 36 hours before the bombs dropped. And in that 36 hours, you will find out what Jake was up to before he came home to Jericho, why he came home and why he wanted his grandfather's money. For Robert Hawkins, you will find out what's in the barrel that he's buried in his basement and its relevance. You will find out how he got his family to come to Jericho with him and what he needed to do and say. And then in the subsequent episodes, you will get a sense of the levels on which Hawkins is surviving and playing out his particular role.
TVGuide.com: CBS has a sneak-peek clip of Hawkins taking his family from Washington, D.C., and there's a mention of him not being able to be within 500 feet of their house. So will we find out more about a restraining order?
James: They're going to stretch it out for as long as possible, but for the next four or five episodes, there's a big story arc that is played out for Hawkins and his family.
TVGuide.com: A few episodes back, Jake saw Hawkins working on his computer outside when no one else could get a signal. Is Jake going to find out more about Hawkins before the rest of Jericho does?
James: It's a two-way street. Robert Hawkins is very skeptical of Jake, and both myself and Skeet [Ulrich] are as eager to find out how that's going to play out as the audience seems to be, because our story lines from [Episode] 12 onward are being slightly separated. I like working with Skeet, so I hope they bring that back into play, because when the two of us come together, it adds a different level to what's going on.
TVGuide.com: It's a good dynamic.
James: Yeah, we've said at different points that we miss working with each other, but this is a marathon, not a sprint, and hopefully we'll have plenty of opportunities to work together. We haven't got to those scripts, but there is a rumor going around that in one of the episodes soon, there is a showdown between Jake and Hawkins.
TVGuide.com: That'll be good! Now, are we going to find out the source of the bombs soon or is that being kept at bay?
James: I don't know, to be absolutely honest. Hawkins, in some way, is informed about the bombs and their origin. The revelation of who dropped the bombs is tied up with the reveal of Hawkins' secret. I didn't know what it was for a long time, and now I do know and it's a doozy. When you think you know it, you don't really know it, so I hope they tell his story over as long an arc as humanly possible. But actually thinking about it, you can reveal one [secret] without revealing the other.
TVGuide.com: We saw a picture Hawkins has of what looks like a unit or team that he works with. Will we meet those people?
James: You will meet other people from Hawkins' past and from Episode 12 on. That arc goes until Episode 16, and it's all about Hawkins' past and catching up with him in Jericho.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about Black Jack Fairground. I saw a short clip of it on the CBS site, but I didn't see you in it.
James: I'm not, but I wish I was. When we come back, we leave Jericho a few more times and one of the journeys is to Black Jack's — a trading post that's been set up, where people go to get information, see what they can trade in order to stay alive and also go for some darker purposes.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, it seemed dangerous in the clip.
James: It is dangerous, but once you leave your town — and within Jericho, everybody's governed by a consensus — you don't know who the people are who are making the rules in a lawless society. And Black Jack is a meeting place of people at different levels of desperation — who are prepared to do different things in order to survive — and therefore it needs to be a little frightening and dangerous. That's one of the exciting things about the second half of the story: The people of Jericho, in order to survive, have to leave the relative safety of the town border and rather than other people coming in and offering a threat, they are going out and facing possible threats on the road.
TVGuide.com: Since people are leaving, will other people come into Jericho?
TVGuide.com: And are we going to see any more of the other cities that have been affected? We've only seen Denver.
James: Yes, as far as I know. The rule is, we learn about it when the people of Jericho learn about it. It's not necessarily that we will see it, but we will hear about it when the people of Jericho hear about it. There is much more of a movement happening now with people coming into and leaving Jericho for whatever reason. They can be constructive and destructive and all of that is played out.
TVGuide.com: The show is really about this town dealing with the aftermath of this disaster, but are there going to be any more explosions?
James: I don't know, but there is certainly the possibility. I don't think the danger is over, and from now on it's going to be [about] pulling it back together again. There certainly will be serious conflicts and confrontations in which Jericho will be hit by the fallout.
TVGuide.com: One of the last things we were left with was Jake finding those microchips in the parachutes that dropped the food into town. Is that going to be continued soon or will we have to wait?
James: We are going to have to wait. It's not that they've left it, but circumstances have overtaken it. Other towns might be getting these parachutes. Everybody's not just flying around trying to inform Jericho, they're flying around trying to inform lots of Jerichos all over the United States of America. You might get a little piece of information and you might not get another piece for a long time, because that information has to go out to everybody. Although Jericho is the town through which this story is being told, if Jericho got all the information, that would be incredibly unrealistic. Whoever is in charge, whoever is trying to reorganize the federal government, wherever the federal government is being reorganized and however much they're trying to reunite the United States — the concern is for all the states and all the towns and all the cities, not just for this one town in the middle of Kansas. Jericho has to wait its turn.
TVGuide.com: And do you know anything about the show coming back next season?
James: I wish I did. It would make organizing my life a lot easier. If you hear before I do, please let me know. [Laughs] I think the coming second half is going to be very exciting.
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.