As intellectually frenetic as his projects are, sometimes Aaron Sorkin’s most potent characters come in unassuming packages. The latest? John Gallagher Jr. as senior producer Jim Harper in the HBO drama The Newsroom. The show, premiering this Sunday, June 24, at 10 pm, follows a testy cable news anchor (Jeff Daniels), his impassioned new executive producer (Emily Mortimer), and their staff as they quixotically try to relegitimize the cable news game. Gallagher has spent more than a decade onstage—with a Tony-winning turn in 2007′s Spring Awakening and one of the lead roles in Green Day’s American Idiot—and now feels primed to take on TV.
Name: John Gallagher Jr.
Provenance: Wilmington, Delaware
His Newsroom character is not a womanizer: “The poor guy can’t even talk to girls, at least not yet, but he’s great at his job and knows what makes great news. He’s a quiet force. That’s the thing that I responded to and identified with the character very early on. But also that he’s a nerd in that very sweet way.”
He’s attractive, but not cocky: “There’s a screen direction in the script for the pilot where it says, ‘Jim Harper, mid-20s, enters,’ and it said something to the effect of: ‘He’s confident without being cocky. He has no idea that he could be considered attractive, because he saw All The President’s Men when he was thirteen and never looked up.’ It was just a great little gem of a screen direction, and I felt immediately from just that, that I had a good idea of how to play this guy.”
On working with Aaron Sorkin: “Yeah, he’s very hands-on, because he obviously knows what’s best for his work. At the same time, there’s nothing tyrannical about him. He’ll be there everyday, he’ll watch rehearsals, he’ll have a few things to say, a few notes to give, and then he’s back to his office to work on the next episode and to keep writing. It’s incredible what he does, configuring these seasons and all these characters is amazing. He does it from my point of view so gracefully.”
On transitioning from stage to screen: “I definitely think that balance is something that I’m really interested in striking, because I certainly don’t feel like I’ve exhausted every possibility of performing on stage. It’s something that I’m really passionate about. I love it and can’t wait to get back to it; whenever that may be, who can say for sure, but I’m certainly more than open to the enterprise of spending more time on screen as an actor. It’s been a great experience to do it for the first time.”
On doing a record: “I play pretty regularly in New York City at the Rockwood Music Hall, which is an amazing venue in the Lower East Side. As soon as I get back to New York, I’ll hit the ground running and be playing there as much as I can. Hopefully now that I’ve got a little bit of time this summer after shooting season one, I’m going to finally try to get my act together and record some of it. I’ve been writing songs for several years; I have about 50-plus songs now, to try and figure out which ones I’m going to put on a record.”