Over the past year, we’ve seen television make good when it comes to the concept of a limited series. Just look at what “Under the Dome” (originally billed as much) did for CBS, or what “True Detective” has achieved over on HBO in the past few months.
Now, ABC is bringing forward a new series in “Resurrection” that asks a very interesting question: How can someone come back to life, especially as if so much time has passed? This is a of the question that one of the show’s stars in Mark Hildreth was forced to grapple with while filming the show. He plays the part of Pastor Tom Hale, a man who was best friends with the believed-to-be-deceased Jacob back when they were eight years old. So when Jacob shows back up (and still only eight), you can imagine that this would rock even the most religious man to his core. Across the small town that serves as the setting for this show, multiple characters will encounter similar situations.
We recently chatted with Hildreth via email about the new show, his character, his co-stars, and the psychology that goes into playing such an extraordinary situation. Think of it as a great preview to the series, and a look inside how a show like this is made and the relationship between the actors.
CarterMatt – The whole idea of this show is interesting, since it brings into play questions about the afterlife and spirituality. Was that a subject matter that you were interested in exploring?
Mark Hildreth – Nobody knows for sure what happens after we die. But it’s a question that we all ask. In Resurrection, the characters deal with the reality of what would happen if someone were to really come back to you after having been gone for years. Whether you believe in a particular God or not, we all have to deal with the realities of loss, grief and remorse. So Resurrection really gets into the most fundamental questions that everyone, religious or atheistic, must struggle with: why are we here? And what is the meaning of our lives?
What can you say about your character Tom Hale? What makes him interesting for you to play?
Tom may be the most interesting character I’ve ever played. I immediately was interested in what makes a Pastor tick? What makes someone follow such a vocation? I did a lot of research; I introduced myself to the pastor of the 2nd Ponce De Leon baptist church in Atlanta, made friends, went to his house for dinner with him, his wife and a number of other ministers, played golf together. They were wonderful and very open about their experiences. I wanted to give Tom very human reasons for doing what he does – being the spiritual leader in the community of the little town of Arcadia where Resurrection takes place, and taking care of people. I started to look at what it would be like to lose your best friend when you’re 8 years old – as Tom did when Jacob (the little boy who returns in the pilot episode) drowned at age 8. Tom and Jacob were best friends, and when Jacob re-appears to Tom, Tom has been preaching the miracles of God for a decade and when he sees a real miracle in the flesh has trouble believing it could be true. This throws Tom into a whole crisis of faith and he must now rediscover who he is, as each of the characters in Resurrection must do. Tom is a guy for whom it is really, really important to do the right thing, but he’s also a flawed individual who has made poor, selfish choices in his past and now wants to redeem himself in his own mind. And even in the first season, you’re going to see Tom make some mistakes that he may never, ever be able to take back. That’s what interested me in playing Tom – seeing the very human struggle of someone who, because of his faith and his position as Pastor, is expected to be super-human.
What’s the feeling of anticipation like right now for the show to air? You’ve done so much work on it, and yet you’re still waiting for almost a month until it comes on the air.
We are all so excited for people to experience Resurrection. It is a show that goes beyond where other shows go. It has a lot of heart and soul, and we tell stories in a way that I don’t think anybody else is doing on TV in quite the same way. It has a million and one twists over the course of the first season, and one hell of a cliff hanger at the end. We all know it’s a special show and we can’t wait for people to see it.
Our cast is amazing. You’ve never seen Kurtwood Smith do such deep, powerful, emotional work. He and the incomparable Frances Fisher really carry the heart and soul of the show in the first few episodes and it is such an honor to have them in our TV family. Matt Craven is a powerhouse actor and is perfect in his role as Arcadia’s local sheriff. And of course Omar Epps leads the cast with a beautiful, understated performance. I look up to each and every actor on this show.
These sort of high-concept series are something that has become more popular the past couple of years, as has the model of either doing event series or shows with a smaller episode. Does it change how you work at all to know that the story is contained in a little bit less space than a standard 22-episode show?
I love the ‘cable model’, and I admire Paul Lee and ABC for adopting it for our show. Having worked previously on Showtime’s ‘The Tudors’ I saw how well a shorter season can work – you really get to dig into the 8 shows you have, instead of spreading out the creativity over a longer season. Every episode of Resurrection is packed with drama, and this format of TV really leaves no dull moment anywhere in the season.
With something that is somewhat paranormal or unexplained at the center of the show, how do you research it, and tap into what keeps your character grounded despite the events around him? Did your work on some other shows a la ‘V’ help to prepare you for that?
V and Resurrection couldn’t be more different. But in some ways Joshua, my character on V, and Pastor Tom Hale have some similarities. They are both fighting for humanity. And that’s what Resurrection focuses on: people fighting to do the right thing under incredible circumstances, when all their beliefs are being questioned. I think this is such an important thing to have on TV. There are enough shows exploring how to be a psychopath, how to maneuver in the world when you have no conscience and are very destructive. While we have characters like that on Resurrection too, what the show is really focused on is good people trying to do the right thing under incredible circumstances. So the paranormal element in Resurrection – people long since dead returning to the living – is really just a jumping off point for the characters in the town of Arcadia to explore love, loss, forgiveness and redemption. This is why people will all have something or someone to relate to in Resurrection.
This is a little more of a method question, but as someone who is also a frequent voice actor, how do the processes differ? Do you prepare for a character like Tom differently, or do you find the preparation is the same regardless of if you are on a set or in a studio?
The two processes are very very different. Film and TV acting usually requires me to do much more research, and is very taxing because it takes all of your vocal and physical skills to do it well. But I love voice acting too because you can do it in your pajamas!
Finally, what would you say to people who are interested in Resurrection to give the show a chance?
If you’ve ever lost someone, if you’ve ever been faced with the question of what to do in a real crisis of conscience, trying to do the right thing, Resurrection will take you on an incredible journey that will make you question everything you thought you knew.
Just in case you haven’t seen anything on “Resurrection” just yet, take a look at the show’s full trailer below. We know that Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern is probably the most-competitive spot on TV these days, but this is definitely one to keep your eyes on in the weeks ahead.
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