Interview : Skeet Ulrich

From the new series, “Jericho”


There’s no way around it, “Jericho” is going to be compared to “Lost”. The show – set in a community that’s been exposed to a giant mushroom cloud – like “Lost”, centres on a band of strangers who must band together when the world they know slips away from them at the most inopportune of times.

Actor Skeet Ulrich, playing the show’s involuntary hero Jake Green, doesn’t see the comparison though – because, well, quite simply, he’s never seen “Lost”.

“I haven’t seen Lost”, he admits. “I hear it’s great though?”

Ulrich says that he is familiar with the stencil for the hit castaways series though, and from what he hears, it’s a different beast than his new show.

“My understanding is there’s another element to ‘Lost’… this is sort of a realistic portrayal of what we would do as people in this scenario. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think ‘Lost’ sort of has a different unknown element to it.

“Jericho”, he says, is “ about what would we do if everything was destroyed and how would we react to that? And how we decide what comes first, and what’s important. And what, in that scenario, do we realise is unimportant? I don’t know how that relates to Lost, but it’s kind of a crossover I guess.

It’s that element of picking yourself up and making a fresh start that appealed to the 36-year-old actor.

“Yeah, that’s what drew me to it, the element of rebirth and having to start again.”

Ironically, “Jericho” marks a bit of a re-birth for the actor himself. Kicking of his career in films like “Scream”, “Touch” and “The Newton Boys” – Ulrich drew a large fan base for his TV series “Miracles”, but it was prematurely pulled a couple of years back.

“It was sad to see it end without being able to conclude a lot of the storylines”, Ulrich says of the critically acclaimed 2003 series that lasted only the one season. “I liked that show a lot, I love the character and the ideas behind the show.”

And no fans, there isn’t a movie version in the works. “Actually, originally, that script was a film script, with Jim Caviezel in the lead, but Spyglass entertainment, who made the show, decided to turn it into a TV show. I don’t think there’s any plans for a movie [now].

Like “Miracles”, Ulrich says the script for “Jericho” really spoke to him – he just knew he had to be involved in something so inimitable.

“Like any actor, I read it and if it speaks to me – I can never stop thinking about it. It’s then that you try and get attached to it. This is one of those instances. I just couldn’t stop thinking of the If’s and the What If’s [of the storyline] and the ‘where’s he been?’ element to it.” (In the series, Ulrich’s character Jake Green returns home to his hometown of Jericho after a long absence – but it isn’t clear where he’s been.)

Ulrich borrowed the traits of real-life heroes to build his character – who in the first episode rescues a bus-load of children and their gravely injured teacher.

“We’ve seen a lot of situations like Katrina, the Tsunami and 911 where you find people that step up to the plate in a way that they didn’t even expect they could. There are things you can take from true heroes, to build that side of the character, and then, I build the rest of the character from other things that inspire me – like music, books, films, and start trying to piece stuff together. You try and stay open to all the possibilities within a character and show as many human moments as you can.”

Ulrich, who was also seen recently in the mini-series “Into the West”, says he’s gotten lost in playing Jake Green. “You just get into it, and you can’t stop thinking of moments that might explain him more”.

JERICHO Premieres on Network Ten, Thursday 21st September, 9:30 PM.

- CLINT MORRIS