Nick Wechsler -- the long-suffering, and sometimes rather dense-seeming, Jack Porter on ABC's "Revenge" – got his first big TV break on "Team Knight Rider" back in the '90s. He's also played Kyle Valenti on "Roswell" and guested on "It's Always Sunny" and "Without a Trace." Yahoo! TV spoke to Wechsler last week about how to play a character as innocent, not dumb; building a bridge while you're driving; and whether we can expect a "Roswell" reunion movie. (Spoiler: nope.)
What is it like to be the only mostly good character on a show that's about how entertainingly evil everyone can be?
Do you like playing that good guy or is being a villain more fun for you?
It's been… bad guy after bad guy until this, pretty much. And that is a lot of fun. It's funny, it's a grass-is-greener kind of situation, every time, 'cause you play bad guys your whole career and you're like, "God, I wish somebody would just" -- you know, you just get bored with playing that, and you just wish somebody would take you seriously as a good guy. And someone hires you as a good guy and you're like, "Give me something bad to do."
Do you ever wish the writers would just give you a "heel turn," as they say in wrestling, so you could do some of the fun scheming that your colleagues are getting to do every day on the set?
I think it's important that he not get too mired in that? But I would like to see him go a little darker, stand up for himself and his family, be a little… I don't know, like, legally questionable. I'm not dying for him to do something illegal, but… I might be a pretty moral guy. Like, pretty damn moral. And I would hurt you if you came near my family. I mean, I would only do it if it were my only option.
Right. And it looks like that might be where it's going; we're not asking you to spoil anything, of course, but as Jack is getting a clue about what the Ryans are really up to… these are pretty menacing guys; do think that is where it's going, that Jack is gonna go to a slightly darker place?
He's got those thoughts. I don't know if he's gonna do it. But he's got that… you know when you reach for a dog's bowl when it's eating, and it gives you that warning, dangerous growl, like, "Don't come any closer"? I think Jack's starting to feel that way, starting to have those thoughts, about anyone getting near his family, you know, and threatening them.
But I don't know that he is gonna do anything about them. The thing is, he would only do it if it was totally morally justified. It's only morally justifiable if there's no other option. And I don't actually know if that's ever gonna come out. I just think that having a family, and having a child now, especially, makes him more capable of that kind of protection than ever before.
Not asking you for specifics necessarily, but we did wonder how much you know in advance about what Jack will be getting up to. Do you see the whole season arc, or just a few episodes in advance, or do you get to the set and it's like, this is where this is going this week?
We just get like two or three episodes in the can ahead of what the audience sees. So that's it. We've got like two or three that are shot, ahead of what you guys are seeing. And I don't know anything until, like, the next script. It's like driving down a road -- driving down a bridge, and they're building the bridge as you're driving. It's this constant sensation you're gonna drive off a cliff, except you know they're always working on it [to] get some road under your tires, but sometimes you just don't know exactly where it's all going. Three episodes into the future, but that's it.
From a prep standpoint, does that give you agita, or in this genre, sort of soapy drama, do you think it's better not to know?
It actually makes interviews stressful, for me.
No no, it's all right, it's fine. It means my answer is "I don't know," a lot. Just because we -- 13 episodes, I can't remember what happened in every one; I can't remember every detail along the way. I remember my basic emotional through line, and the things that have happened basically, I remember, but I can't remember much detail of 13 episodes. I was actually, before these interviews, trying to bone up and I was reminding myself, I was reading, but I only got to Episode 5 of this season, reading all my scripts, trying to… have some idea of where I was, and trajectory, and specific moments.
But yeah, it's hard, to not know where you're going and not always remember where you were. I just hope to deflect with inappropriate jokes for 20 minutes until… yeah, it's just hard. It's hard sometimes.
Viewers have expressed some… disbelief? That your character hasn't figured out, really, who Emily is, and despite the dog always running to her and all this stuff -- from an acting standpoint, how do you approach that, making Jack still a good guy and still sympathetic, but not making him seem too dense?
I know, I know, it's a good question; I think there are other things that support that idea too, "How does he not know?" If I knew my dad killed somebody named Joe Ryan -- I'm sorry, not my dad but my dad's friend, and my dad was involved in helping cover that up… and then a guy named Kenny Ryan, a mere six years later, wants to buy into my bar… hmmm?
For me to not have some [idea]… there are other things, where we just had to suspend our disbelief. But no, I'm with you. It's hard to do that sometimes. They're working hard to come up with interesting directions for the story to go in, and… I think there's something about Jack, sort of representing innocence, in a way, on the show? That he tends to fall victim to a lot of this stuff. And to, like, not see anything coming, that… it's a little hard for me, sometimes.
Honestly, I hope it doesn't ever get to the point where the audience stops feeling bad for him, because then it starts feeling like, "Well, now you're just being stupid." You know? I hope it doesn't ever get to that point. But in the meantime I'm justifying it that he's got… he's just so good, that he doesn't expect bad from other people.
This is what they say about people in general falling for con artists?
That in retrospect it seems very obvious, but most people expect most other people to be good and they won't be on the lookout for it. So we think that's a good rationalization, and from what we've seen, the fans, they'll bend over backwards to find a reason why. Like, "Ryan is a very common last name! Maybe he just didn't put it together!"
(Laughs) Yeah. I know people who've, like, responded to those emails… you know, you wanna make a bunch of money, we have a bunch of money in your name!
Oh right, the Nigerian prince, sure.
Yeah, like that kinda [thing]. I know people who've responded to those. I know people who've responded to scams, and sent money, thinking they were gonna get more money back, and never did. And if you spoke to [these people], you wouldn't think they were... it sometimes doesn't jibe with what you know about the rest of them? "You seem smart! You seem like you would never fall for that."
I mean, I'm not saying Jack is even as bad as they are, but I just think… people miss all kinds of warning signs -- in relationships, the warning signs. By the time we're 35, we're kind of like, "OK! I finally know to not waste time in this kind of relationship" -- you know, we'll spend like two or three months in a relationship that isn't good for us, where we might have spent three years when we were younger.
… That's what I'm saying, is I hope the audience doesn't eventually stop feeling bad for him, 'cause I think in his life up to this point, to the point of Season 1, it doesn't seem like -- at least we didn't see things being bad for him all the time. But since we've caught up with him, he's had a lot of bad stuff going on! So if he doesn't start to catch on, or develop a… I'm afraid to use the word "cynicism," 'cause I don't know that that's, like… Jack, exactly.
Right, but like a BS detector, maybe.
Yeah, yeah, where you start to, like, detect that someone's going to… you know, just pick up on some warning signs, dude.
All right, we only have one question left and it's a nice light fluffy one: "Roswell" reunion? Anyone?
I don't think everyone -- people were campaigning for a reunion, or a movie, years ago, but I think it was a one-sided campaign. The fans were like, "Do it, do it," the studio and we -- I think; I can only speak for myself, I was like, "Noooo. No. I just kinda don't want to." I was very grateful for the opportunity; it just… and even as my career kind of died after that -- not because of that, it actually got me more opportunities than I had before, of course -- but I was kind of lowest on the totem pole of the main cast, and I wasn't the first one people were gonna come to with offers, you know. My career had lost steam, and I had faded into obscurity, and even when I was in obscurity, and I could have used the gig to kind of lift me out, even then I didn't want the "Roswell" movie.
It's like you were in a band, and the band broke up, for good reason, and then the fans are like, "Oh man, do a reunion tour," and you'd all decided you'd never do a reunion tour?
And then you do it?
Yeah, you're just feeling, "Eh, I'm a sellout, this is cheesy."
"Roswell" is long gone, but you can watch a first-season episode right here:
"Revenge" airs Sundays at 9 PM on ABC.
- Arts & Entertainment