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Six Questions with the Cast and Crew of “Alcatraz”

JJ Abrams produced it, Jorge Garcia co-stars, and there’s an island prominently involved. Yes, everyone has made the obligatory comparisons between Alcatraz and Lost, but, unlike the latter, the newer show could end tonight. Renewal for a second season, as of this writing, is still up in the air, but when we caught up with the cast and crew recently, they seemed confident that the season finale — and the answers it brings — will satisfy, even if the very last cliffhanger can never be resolved.

Nerdist: Sarah, in the finale tonight there’s a car chase sequence based on the classic scene from Bullitt. What was your reaction when they first told you about it, and how do you prepare to be Steve McQueen?

Sarah Jones: Oh, God! Well, no one’s ever gonna be, come close to touching Steve McQueen. But to be a part of something that honors a pretty iconic chase scene and an iconic actor, of course it’s exciting.

Jorge Garcia: She basically said, “I got the holster; I need the turtleneck.”

SJ: I got the holster, I need the turtleneck, let’s do this. No, I was more focused on being able to do all the technical things that cops do: shootin’ guns, cuffin’ people, running, chasing…

JG: Cuffing people? Man, you had to cuff me onto that…

SJ: Aww, that was terrible. I can’t tell you how many times I completely bruised my wrists practicing. I wanted to make sure I got all the technicalities right of being a cop first. And whatever comes after that, and however people perceive that I play the character is up to them.

N: Jorge, you’ve done wonders as far as breaking the stereotype of what plus-sized actors can be on TV shows, becoming a fully developed romantic lead for example. The audience appreciates that – do you have any sense that the entertainment industry at large is starting to appreciate it?

JG: I appreciate that myself! I dunno — part of it is get invited to the party first, then change their minds later. I guess the fact that I’ve gotten these opportunities is cool — I think if everybody really was going to get serious about it, you know, when it starts veering away from it as a comedy pairing… I might be misstating it. I dunno; we’ll see. This thing where suddenly you’re thrust into this situation where you feel like you’re “representing a people” is definitely kind of a tricky position to be in. It kind of colors my attitude about certain things, but I just try to do my work, see what the role requires, and do that to the best of my ability. That’s enough to have on my plate than to have to think about what this is doing for the bigger picture.

N: As actors, when you imagine a backstory for your character, how is it on a show like this where new backstory is constantly coming up? Is that a challenge?

Jonny Coyne: Well, the little backstory that I did actually work on — I can’t say that it was very much — had to be thrown out the window, because it was constantly changing, and has actually, as the show has developed over the 13 episodes, significantly changed so much so that anything that I would’ve actually had has been thrown out. I did have the idea of a family, with two daughters, a wife, had a peculiar relationship with my invalided sister, and then that changed because it became somebody else’s sister. So there was very little point in holding onto anything like that. We just had to let it go.

Robert Forster: Backstories get contradicted by new writers.

N: Robert, we have to ask you about one of our favorite movies of all time, The Black Hole. How did Disney get away with something that dark and crazy? Were there any concerns at the time?

RF: You know, that has always been my only complaint of the movie: the ending is incoherent. You don’t know what it’s all about. I thought that they should spend another hundred grand, find a great writer, and put an ending on that picture that would give an audience some real satisfaction, but unfortunately…. Don’t forget, it’s from a great Jules Verne story, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, out in space. That was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and then they made it into a space movie and I played the captain! I thought, what a lucky guy! Maximilian Schell played the Captain Nemo part, the bad guy. I think they’re doing a remake; they gotta get some of the old folks in it.

N: Maybe you could be Nemo (Reinhardt)?

RF: Nahh, you gotta get more colorful than me. I’m not colorful enough.

N: If Alcatraz doesn’t get renewed, are you happy with the character arcs you’ve had, and where they end up in the finale?

Daniel Pyne (executive producer): Absolutely. We very much tried to arc the season so it feels like…it’s as if we were writing novels. It’s a series of novels, but if you read only one of them, you feel satisfied, and that’s how we approached it.


The Alcatraz season finale airs tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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