Seeing Past His Blindspot
by Jay S. Jacobs
NBC’s buzzworthy new action series Blindspot has one hell of a jumping off point.
One night a large duffle bag mysteriously appears in the middle of New York’s Times Square, with a note on it to contact the FBI. The busiest area in the US is completely evacuated as the bomb squad comes in to see what is in the bag. As they are about to potentially explode the duffle, it starts to move from the inside.
The zipper opens and a naked woman covered head to toe with tattoos (played by Jaimie Alexander of the Thor films) climbs out of the bag. She is completely confused and scared and has no idea who or where she is. Her memory has been obliterated by an experimental drug and all of the tattoos have been drawn on her in the last couple of weeks.
In the series, Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton plays Kurt Weller, an FBI agent who is drawn into the case when it turns out that his name is one of the most conspicuous tattoos placed on her body. Weller is put in charge of figuring out who the woman (they all refer to her as Jane Doe) is and why she was kidnapped. As he gets to know her it becomes obvious that she has certain special military skills and may have been a special forces agent.
This is Sullivan’s second consecutive American series, Blind Spot is literally starting right as his Cinemax military series Strike Back is finishing its fifth (and final) season. Sullivan has also starred in such films as 300: Rise of an Empire, Kill Me Three Times and Gangster Squad.
Right after the series premiere, we were one of several press outlets who had the chance to chat with Stapleton about Blindspot.
So much of the show is about figuring out who Jane is and what her history is, but Weller’s got his own story going on. How much are we going to find out about your character and his back story over the course of the season?
Sullivan Stapleton: We’ll find a lot out about his past and how focused he is on his job. Also trying to help solve the case of who Jane Doe is.
Can you compare the action that you’re going to do in this to what you did in Strike Back? You got hurt really badly making that one.
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, but that was nothing to do with a stunt on the show. You’re going to see some action, drama and thriller [on Blindspot]. But there was absolutely a lot more action in Strike Back. It’s a very different world to play, soldiers as opposed to FBI agents.
After Strike Back, were you inundated with different scripts? If they were, why does this appeal to you the most?
Sullivan Stapleton: This is an awesome story. It’s been created by [Martin] Gero, who’s a great man. The premise for the show, it excited me to actually see where this will go throughout the season. Also, it’s shot in New York. [The] people that created it and the NBC and Warner Brothers family, it was an easy ship to jump onboard.
Just in the first episode he seems like a pretty complex, incredible character.
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, it is. And obviously, you find out more about Kurt as we go on. But yes, it’s interesting to find out what drove him to become an FBI agent. Then, also, what is the connection between these two people, Kurt Weller and Jane Doe? It’s a great start.
We’ve seen so many FBI characters on TV. Often times they’re kind of cookie-cutter. I was really surprised at how intelligent your character was, how compassionate he was, how understanding he was about Jane. Can you speak to what you like about this character and how he’s different from so many FBI agents we’ve seen on television?
Sullivan Stapleton: I love the fact that there is this connection between Kurt and Jane Doe. What is this connection between these two? Just his grasp in trying to solve cases. That is what I love about this character of Kurt. As you said, it’s not the cookie-cutter FBI agent. It’s not just an each-case procedural. We get to explore his past and this connection between himself and Jane Doe. You see the drive that makes this man who he is. He is a very layered man. Very focused at work, but yet you do see some of the emotional characteristics of him.
How does Kurt feel about Jane at this point, going into the second episode. He’s been very good to her, but obviously he must be a little suspicious with some of the interesting things that have come out of her mouth and out of her fists, so…
Sullivan Stapleton: (laughs) At first we are quite suspicious as to why the FBI was directly linked to this case, this target. What the connection is. Why his name was tattooed on her back. Through obviously the investigation and the tests they’ve put her through, he realizes that she’s telling the truth. Therefore I think we do see that almost caring nature of him. The fact that he does sympathize or empathize with the fact that she’s lost. [He] obviously understands that it would be quite hard to lose your identity, who you are or where you’re from.
You’re supposed to be training her, or attempting to train her, until she turns the tables in this week’s episode. Do you see Weller getting more suspicious of her as he starts to realize that she’s got all these skills?
Sullivan Stapleton: No, I don’t know about suspicion. I think that just opens up the door to actually really trying to find out who she is. How she understands the different aspects of the world we’re in. She understands weapons and fighting. That just becomes more intriguing for them as they’re finding stuff out.
What characteristics do you like about the role you’re playing in the series as compared to other roles?
Sullivan Stapleton: Well, I like that Kurt is a pretty honest and straight-up guy. He’s obviously very focused at his job, for good reasons. Something happened in his past that drives him to try to make the world a better place by chasing criminals, solving cases. Which in turn saves people’s lives. I like the fact that he’s got a big heart. That’s how he lives his life. He’s got things to do. He seems to come from a very positive place.
It seems like from the first episode at least that you and Jaimie have some really good chemistry that’s really playing well into the show. What’s it like working with Jaimie? How well do you guys play off each other during production?
Sullivan Stapleton: She’s awesome. She’s an awesome girl to work with. She’s good at her job, so that working with that every day and working with that aspect just makes work easier. Jaimie and the rest of the cast, we all just get along really well. We do our best to try and make the show the best that we possibly can.
Strike Back was filmed all over the world and Blindspot is filmed mostly in New York. Do you feel more settled filming in one city? What is New York like as a location as an actor?
Sullivan Stapleton: (laughs) Good question. I love it. Yes, you’re right, it’s been nice to settle in to a city for obviously longer than a few months. Strike Back, we were in and out of places after a couple of months. So it’s nice here. New York’s a fantastic city. It is a great place to work. It’s a great character to have in the show. To be able to see the city and then chase criminals through this town, it’s exciting.
Did you meet with any FBI agents or maybe even go to Quantico to learn more about your character?
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, I did. I met up with a couple of agents. We just talked about how they approach work, really. It was an honor to meet the men that do this for real. To hear some of the stories they told me, it was really eye-opening and exciting.
One of the things that I’m really curious about is your relationship with the rest of your FBI team. As the season goes on is that relationship going to develop along with your relationship with Jane?
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes. We’re great friends, the whole group of us. We all enjoy making the show. We’re developing this team as being together for years and so we are quite close and understand each other. I’m sure we will see these relationships develop throughout the course of the season and delve into people’s back stories, different connections of each of the characters.
Earlier we were talking about what you admired about the character of Kurt. As we know, every actor brings a little of himself to the characters. In what ways would you say you’re similar to Kurt, if at all?
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, I would say I’m similar. I think we’re both very focused to our work. Even though Kurt fights the wrongs in the world, I guess I do the same. (chuckles) If something’s not right, I’ll fight against it. It’s similar in that sense. Then also, the camaraderie between Kurt and the other agents, stuff that again is very similar to myself. Working with a great crew that we’re working with and my fellow actors, I have that sense. I enjoy working as a team to do the best we possibly can.
If you had a chance to go hang out on a night on the team, would you rather hang out with Kurt or with Damian or both?
Sullivan Stapleton: (laughs) Great question. Well, probably both. At least you’re not going to get in trouble [with Kurt]. Probably more with Damian because then you’ll get into some trouble.
The best of both worlds.
Sullivan Stapleton: Exactly.
Have you had a chance to see [Strike Back co-star] Philip [Winchester]’s new show The Player?
Sullivan Stapleton: No. We were working last night and I couldn’t watch it. I miss the boy. It was a great partnership. I would like to see him again. I can’t wait to watch his show. It looks awesome. He looks like he’s having a ball, doing all the stunts himself. So, I can’t wait to see it.
In the pilot you get knocked around quite a bit. Weller almost gets blown up, almost gets knifed. What was it like for you to play the guy that for once is getting knocked around a bit, instead of doing the knocking around? How much punishment is Weller going to take this season?
Sullivan Stapleton: Good question. I don’t know. (laughs) Of course, it’s been fun to do… to explore action in a different way on this show. It is a bit different. But that’s fine, I don’t mind getting knocked around. We always seem to end up on the right side at the end of the fight.
I was reading an interview with Martin and he said that each episode is going to revolve around one of Jane Doe’s tattoos. How long do you think that the show can keep that up? How much of the season also is going to be spent on trying to figure out the mystery of why your character’s name is tattooed on her body?
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, I think obviously that is one of the most important [arcs]. Why we connected? Why has Kurt Weller specifically been drawn into this case? But then, we can put lots of tattoos on Jaimie Alexander. (laughs) I’m hoping that hopefully it’s going to make the show go for a long, long time.
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 1, 2015.
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