Even though Hamish Linklater's character on The Newsroom is at the center of the season's slowly unfolding disaster known as "Genoa," the actor has a hard time accepting his character as a villain.
"He's just a true believer who thinks he's on the side of the angels, and that's why he does what he does," Linklater tells TVGuide.com of his character, Jerry Dantana. "But what was great was that they didn't push me into twirling my mustache or being sort of an obvious bad guy."
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Shortly after Jerry came to New York to sub in for Jim (John Gallagher Jr.), he received a tip about "Operation Genoa," a mission during which the United States allegedly used sarin gas on civilians while extracting two captured Marines. Although he slowly built a compelling story, Jerry couldn't quite convince news division president Charlie (Sam Waterston) or "News Night" executive producer MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) to air the story. So, he got desperate, and in the previous episode, Jerry edited interview footage to make it appear that a retired general admitted using chemical weapons in the field.
"He believes the story is true," Linklater says. "He just needs to get rid of one word from this interview in order for him to have enough evidence to get the story on the air. ... He knows he's done something that's wrong. He knows that he's breached ethics, but he believes that, for this story, it was worth it."
Linklater insists that his character's decisions are not motivated by ambition, but rather his ideals. "He's trying to tell news stories that the audience doesn't seem to have much of an appetite for and the network doesn't have much of an appetite for broadcasting," he says. "His beef is with this sort of lazy liberalism that he feels is in the staff and that kind of knee-jerk Obama fandom that he finds around him. He feels [they're] apologizing for too many mistakes."
But indeed it's Jerry's mistakes that will bring the "News Night" team under fire. On Sunday's episode, the "Genoa" story will air, and the wheels start to come off the train almost immediately after the broadcast ends. But it isn't just Jerry's fudged interview footage that is problematic. The episode will also slowly reveal the many other ways the story turned out to be false, which gives Jerry ammunition for his wrongful termination lawsuit.
"Once he's found out... he knows the ax is going to fall," Linklater says. "But he just sticks to his guns. He thinks that everybody was doing a sloppy job and that he's been made the fall guy for it. It's not fair."
And Jerry may have case. Enter ACN attorney Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden), who in the season-long framing device has been prepping the "News Night" team for their upcoming depositions in the lawsuit. On Sunday's episode, Don (Thomas Sadoski), Sloan (Olivia Munn), and even Will (Jeff Daniels) join MacKenzie and Charlie in explaining to Rebecca the mistakes they made along the way. "[Will & Co.] are not used to having to answer to anyone," Harden says. "Her job is to get the facts, and... she lays it straight. 'This is what's going to happen, and if you don't play by my rules, you're going to lose.'"
Indeed, before the episode is over, multiple staffers will submit their resignations. But all hope isn't lost. "Her job is to defend them," Harden says. "She believes in them completely, and she feels she's on the right side. ... As a conscience, she does her job. It's interesting what she unearths, how she helps them. In that journey, I think a lot of them had a certain growth, a certain understanding of their jobs and a certain understanding of the value of truth and news. I think she unearths things that help them reconnect to that message."
Even if the "News Night" team comes out on top, Linklater says Jerry Dantana will likely always believe he was right. "He probably thinks that it was just those sources that fell apart or didn't quite stand up," he says. "He'll go to the grave believing it."
The Newsroom airs Sundays at 10/9c on HBO.