Jake Robinson on NBC's Ambitious Drama 'American Odyssey'
The 24-year-old actor, who quickly became a fan favorite on the short-lived CW series The Carrie Diaries, stars as political activist Harrison Walters in the new NBC drama.
The show follows three stories – Jake‘s Harrison, a female Special Forces soldier (Anna Friel), and a disillusioned corporate lawyer (Peter Facinelli) – as their lives unexpectedly collide amid a massive military-industrial-complex conspiracy that proves a major U.S. corporation is funding the jihadists.
We caught up with Jake to chat about how he got the role, his experience filming on location in New York City, and more.
American Odyssey airs Sunday, April 5 @ 10PM on NBC! And be sure to follow Jake on Twitter to get more scoop on the show ahead of its premiere!
JustJared.com: My first thought after watching the pilot was that it didn’t seem like your typical network show. Were you surprised that NBC had a script like this and wanted to take this on?
Jake Robinson: Yeah, you know Robert Greenblatt comes from Showtime and I feel like he is always trying to break the mold of what network is. And I think networks are constantly having to adapt and change because of different platforms and how people are viewing content. I was definitely impressed by his risk-taking. But also at the same time, I was like yeah, I think this is kind of where most networks need to head in order to compete.
Click inside to read the rest of our interview with Jake Robinson…
JustJared.com Interview – Jake Robinson
JJ: Tell me how you got the role.
JR: I think I got it in November of 2013 and I did an audition via flip camera in my manager’s living room. I heard back in either October or November that there was interest in me for it. And then there was interest in me for another big show that was happening as well. I really liked the American Odyssey script better, so I Skyped with Adam Armus, Peter Horton, and Kay Foster. And I got the offer for it and I was totally on board because the script was so good. It was just honestly head and shoulders above almost any other pilot script that I have ever read. So I was incredibly excited to be part of it.
JJ: I know you live in New York. Were you here when the Occupy Wall Street stuff was going on? Did any of that help with your research for the role?
JR: Yeah, I kind of came in at the tail end of it. But I think social movements and social activism are kind of defining our generation a little bit, and so I think there’s constantly things going on where people are rising up. During shooting actually, the Black Lives Matter protests were going on and they were shutting down bridges, so we were having to find different routes. I would get done shooting and then all the teamsters would be on their radios like, “Yeah we can’t take the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s shut down. We’ll have to go this way.” And yeah, I went to a couple of protests to kind of prepare for the role and to get a feel for it for what it was like.
JJ: You’ve filmed Smash and The Carrie Diaries here in New York as well. Was this experience any different? You guys had a lot of people. There had to be tons of extras – a huge production.
JR: Yeah, I think just the sheer size of the show was what was very different about it, especially in the first two episodes because you have those protest scenes. I think we had like 400 plus extras, police on horseback, riot police, and all these crane shots. We shut down Bowling Green park. We actually had someone from Occupy – they were pretty high up in the Occupy movement – who came down. He wasn’t really officially affiliated with the show, but he just came down, looked around, and was emotionally moved by it because it was such an amazing experience for him. It was kind of a once in a lifetime event and then to see what our show was doing, he just thought it was incredibly authentic. It brought him back to that time for him, so he was really excited about it, which made me even more excited about it. In episode two, I give a big speech and we’re shooting at like 11 p.m. down in Bowling Green park with all the extras, and I didn’t need any extra motivation besides the fact that all these people had gathered there to hear me speak. The environment spoke for itself. It was amazing. The whole show really just, across the board, is done on such a large scale. It felt like we were shooting a big budget movie or something rather than a television show.
JJ: Let’s talk about the storylines. There are a lot of secrets floating around that kind of unravel as the show goes on. How much did you know about where the story was going and how much did you learn script-by-script?
JR: What was amazing about this show is they had all 13 scripts written before we even started filming. I think it actually shows in the shooting. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how television moves forward in the future because it gave us such a clarity and a coherence in the way that it was shot throughout the season. I think it made our show a lot stronger because there are so many pieces and we’re shooting in so many different locations. If you didn’t have everything planned out and written out beforehand, I just think it would have gotten totally behind and lost. I knew what was happening with my character and I knew what was going to happen in the season with my character from the beginning.
JJ: In the pilot, it’s tough to tell which characters you can take at face value. Does Harrison have a lot of secrets? What can you tell us about him?
JR: His journey is incredibly extensive…That’s the really tough thing about Harrison. He doesn’t really particularly like to confide in people that are close to him because he has a hard time with that kind of relationship. He is always after what he wants and kind of leaves people in the dust. It’s interesting…he confides more and more in Ruby who is not necessarily particularly close to him, but she takes a real interest in what he is doing. His relationship with his dad is crappy and his mom is a little bit overbearing even though he loves her very much. It was a tough upbringing. I think he spent a lot of time trying to get away from it and trying to disassociate himself from it, even though at the same time he’s living off his parents’ money and has a lot of identity issues when it comes to that stuff. But I think the real question is, how much do we really trust any human being? I mean, we all have stuff that’s kind of under the surface that sets us off, that we don’t particularly want to share and we confide in certain people more than other people. I think it’s just a really honest look at that kind of behavior and I think it’s different from anything on network television right now.
JJ: Because the show has several different stories happening at once, did you not meet some of your co-stars until deep into shooting?
JR: Yeah, I mean I saw Peter around on set, but I think what’s unique about the show is that it does stick to the mold where its three weeks with three different stories that are all centered around the same thing. I didn’t meet Anna until we all had to do press together at Upfronts. That was my first time meeting her because she shot almost exclusively over in Morocco or Barcelona. So it was funny, and we had emailed back and forth – Anna and I and Peter – we all talk obviously because we have to be on the same page about stuff. But my first time meeting her was at Upfronts and we all had to sit down to do a video interview, and do red carpets together, which is hilarious because we all had different thoughts of what we thought the show was about. Most of it was similar, but you know, it’s always one of those things where you’re like, “Oh you think that?” It was our first time really talking and hanging out together, which was pretty interesting.
JJ: In terms of filming, do you have a memorable scene or moment that sticks out for you?
JR: Well, there are two. The protest scene was an incredible way to start because we started with shooting that, so just to have all those extras and to have that environment, that was incredible. I had been researching it and to show up, it felt so real and we were so in the zone with what we were doing. That was an amazing scene to shoot. There’s a scene in episode four where I do a big speech to a group of people…that was a particularly great scene to shoot. There are so many throughout the show. Honestly, it was such a good show to work on and there are so many good scenes.
JJ: Does it feel like an events series or is it possible that they can do another season?
JR: Oh yeah, it’s geared toward multiple seasons. It will never ever be more than 13 episodes though, at least I don’t think they want to do more than 13 [a season]. I’m saying all this but I don’t really know. It can all change, but I think just all the planning and how big it is, it’s one of those things where the amount of sheer prep time, you can’t do more than 13 at a time, which is great for me because sometimes with one-hour dramas especially, by the time you get through 22 episodes, you’ve had to cover so much material…then you get like three months off and you go do it again. It can be exhausting and it gets hard on storylines, for sure.
JJ: So going into the pilot, what advice would you give your own character? If you could tell him something, what would it be?
JR: To be grateful for the people that he has in his life.
– Reporting by Sharon Tharp (@SharonTharp)