INTERVIEW: Colony’s Peter Jacobson
Peter Jacobson, one of the stars of the USA Network’s drama series Colony. He plays Proxy Snyder — the opportunistic leader from the Green Zone in an occupied Los Angeles talked to reporters about the series.
Can you talk a bit about developing your character? Did you take it all from the script? Was there, kind of, any person or character maybe that you took inspiration from or anything like that?
Peter Jacobson: Right. Nobody particular inspired me. I was inspired certainly by the script itself and by the way the character was described in the script and also how he, you know, he plays out in the script. So, you know, what was one of the things that I liked most about the script when I read it was that Proxy Snyder sort of jumped off the page to me as — at me, really — as somebody who is in sort of, you know, obviously in a very unique situation and is sort of a unique character in that we don’t necessarily see him right away as sort of the typical villain. He’s somebody who has a lot of mystery to him and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy whom would necessarily be in the position of power that he’s in. And I thought that was very interesting.
And can you talk about how you got the role? Hello?
Peter Jacobson: Yes. I was given the script to look at and asked if I wanted to audition and I had never met Carlton or (Ryan) before. I think the casting director, (April Webster), knew who, you know, knew my work and thought “Well this could be an interesting fit.” And when I read the script right away I, you know, I thought “Well, this is really a terrific pilot and an even more terrific character.” And so I was able, you know – so then I had the audition and then wound up getting the part.
I was wondering if you have any interesting or fun stories about filming the show or getting the part — anything like that.
Peter Jacobson: There was nothing interesting or fun about – well, it’s always interesting and fun to audition for a character that is himself interesting and fun. But it wasn’t unique in – or anything particularly interesting about getting the role. In fact, it’s pretty un-fun to wait until you hear that you actually got it. But that’s what every actor goes through with, you know, just about every audition.
And in terms of interesting or fun on the set while we’re shooting, it is an interestingly fun group of people. Only that I, you know – it’s just every person who we, you know – who’s on the show has been so great and fun and nice to work with. (Josh) and I have gotten along really, really well. He’s just always fun to work with. (Sarah) is great. The two of them are great together.
I always find it sort of fun to work with (Josh) especially just because he and I are such different physical – everything. We’re just so different and I always feel like this sort of, you know, strange little homunculus next to that guy. It’s just always so fun. I think the contrast between the two of us as human beings and as characters brings a lot of, sort of, spirit and interesting, you know – sort of brings an interesting cake to the relationship and it’s always really fun to work with him.
This show is fascinating. Can you give us a little bit of insight of how much you know about your character? There’s a lot of mystery around him. How much did you know going in and how much do you know of his future?
Peter Jacobson: I only knew going in what was in the pilot. And — as I said — one of the things that fascinated me about him is that you don’t know all that much about him. It’s just, you know – interestingly, he was just sort of – atypical person very much in charge. And that intrigued me so I did – but what I liked again with it, I didn’t really know why he was there and how long he was going to be there. And that’s – and then, you know – that’s part of being in Carlton, you know – in a show with Carlton Cuse. You don’t always know what’s coming down the line.
So I just knew from the pilot what was there. I never really knew much more than an episode or two ahead while we were shooting the first 10 episodes, which served me fine. Some actors like to know, you know – have a much better idea what’s, you know, what’s coming down the pike, you know, at – way down the line. And that can certainly be helpful but I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of real specifics on this. And so I was real happy to just sort of go along knowing, you know, an episode or two ahead what was coming. And as of now I certainly know what happens all the way through the season because we shot it a while ago. But I have no idea what’s coming or what’s going in Season 2.
My question’s actually kind of following up on what you just said. We don’t have a lot of background information on Snyder yet. But what can we learn – what can we expect to learn about Snyder’s motivations and maybe the reasons behind why he’s joined the Transitional Authority?
Peter Jacobson: Real good question and I’ve had many of those questions as the season – as we shot. And it was always interesting to talk about, you know – and talk about why he’s there. This episode coming up tomorrow — Yoknapatawpha — will be the moment in the season when you really do begin to really sort of get some more detail and some specifics as to why Snyder is where he is and how he got there. That being said, I can’t guarantee that the explanations he gives are necessarily the truth. I don’t mean to make it more confusing than it is but it’s – to me, it’s my favorite episode of the season really for that reason — that we sort of begin to sort of see much more about, you know, who Snyder is and why he is who he is.
And — again — even if some of that he might be hedging or might be fibbing or might be not being completely direct, that in and of itself tells you even more about who he is. And again it’s a very exciting episode. It’s the three of us. It’s (Will), (Katie) and Proxy Snyder stuck together in a very tight space for a very long time and it’s not necessarily a threesome that is enjoying each other.
Also there’s this big mystery around the invasion. Are we ever really going to learn any more about that in this season possibly?
Peter Jacobson: Yes. You will learn more. I’m not at liberty to say how much. There will be, you know, you will learn more but it’s a very Carlton Cuse – in a very Carlton Cuse-ine way. The information will be doled out sparingly and the second season you’ll be learning a lot more.
Your character is currently presented as, like, the worst kind of collaborator operating almost purely out of self-interests. Is there more than him? And does he believe his own altruistic claims that he’s doing it for the betterment of everyone in the colony?
Peter Jacobson: Great question. There is certainly much more to him — much more to him than that. But, yes. And he absolutely believes that the way he’s going about it is the right way. I’m sure that Snyder is, you know, like anybody would be, you know, confused about whether or not it’s always, you know – whether or not things are going to work out in the way that he hopes that they will and has moments of doubt about whether or not he’s doing the right thing. But ultimately the passion that he expresses about “This is the way it should be done” is absolutely real and I think he believes it to his core.
I look at the character of Snyder as, I mean, he’s just like (Will). (Will) is collaborating for the best of himself and his family. We don’t know if Snyder has a family but that’s how I look at him. And I’m curious. How is it to play such a villain as opposed to playing a good guy?
Peter Jacobson: Absolutely. Snyder does have a family and he absolutely is doing what he thinks is the right thing. I think — interestingly — any, you know, anybody in the situation like this with this kind of occupation would ultimately do what is best for them and their family. And Snyder believes that that’s what’s going on. So everybody is a collaborator in that regard. Playing a villain like that I absolutely love. I’m very used to playing a lot of doctors and lawyers and they’re often terrific roles. But rarely do I get to play somebody who’s, you know – has this much power and is this capable of some pretty bad behavior. I mean, I’ve played obnoxious people before. I’ve played bad guys before. But this is the baddest that I’ve ever gotten to play and I just love it.
Well, the one true evil thing was him putting Geronimo to death last week. I mean, that was… That was absolutely evil. But one other very quick question, how long did it take you to learn how to pronounce The Yonk’s proper name?
Peter Jacobson: I did not – I was able to – I got it relatively quickly. I had five years on the show House in which I was tackling even more difficult words every week with some disease that I couldn’t pronounce. And I got pretty adept at that kind of thing and I’ve built it into my muscle memory pretty quickly. So The Yonk was actually no problem for me.
You previously mentioned that Snyder has a daughter. I was wondering if you could tell us if she’ll fold into the story at some point or if having a child will color his perception of helping (Will) find his son.
Peter Jacobson: Well, I think we’ll learn – what we’ll learn tomorrow is that having the child definitely has colored his – how he’s, you know, how he’s dealing with (Will). Again, to what extent you believe the depths of Snyder’s feelings about it — that’s always up for question, which is what I love about the character. My daughter does not play an active role plot-wise until the very end of the season.
There’s a little bit more of, you know – she has a little bit more of a presence. But right now, you know, from this point of the season through until the end it’s more just sort of the sense of who is she in Snyder’s life and how is she impacting his decisions and what he’s doing. And it’s more of an emotional question. And hopefully — as an actor — I’m, you know, letting that stuff come through and indicating – not actually indicating but, you know, emotionally indicating where my daughter is at play in my mind and in my feelings. But she’s, you know, at this point she’s not front and center. But she’s definitely there.
You’re well known for your role in House, which lasted for several seasons. How hard is it as an actor to transition – you know, is there a transition to go from a show like that to a show like this? Do you approach things differently? And then I have a quick follow-up after that.
Peter Jacobson: I don’t approach it – as an actor there’s no difference for me. It’s all about the character and the relationships and the, you know, the life of the show. And Dr. Taub in House was just – that was that world and I had the great luck of being able to be in that world for five years. And, you know, that was a good three years ago and I’ve played some other things in the interim. But this is the first opportunity to sort of dive into a — again — a long arc of a character where I knew I had at least, you know, I had 10 episodes to really flesh it out.
But in terms of my approach it’s just, “Oh. Well here’s a new person.” And this guy is nothing like Dr. Taub. At the same time, it’s me. So I’m going to bring, you know – the qualities that I brought to Taub, I’m going to bring them to Snyder. But they’re going to obviously be manifested in very different ways. And I – certainly nothing is more fun for an actor than to have really, you know, a wildly different character to play. And I see that, you know, the jump from Taub to Snyder is a pretty big one. And that’s been really fun.
Last week, you know, we saw the first major death on the series, which was (Phyllis).
Peter Jacobson: Yes.
How is that going affect the Transitional Authority and how will that affect Snyder going forward?
Peter Jacobson: Well there will be — certainly — ripples in terms of who’s in what position of authority. I will act to fill that vacuum. I already did. I put (Will) in her position. So already we begin, you know, the ripple effects to her death. It’s certainly the death that motivates Snyder in a big way because the shocking nature of somebody of that status being, you know, killed in the Green Zone — the place where we’re all supposed to be protected — you know, just shows how potentially more dangerous the Resistance is and can be.
So Snyder’s got that very much on his mind and it really does propel him forward in terms of the actions that he takes and also the fears and concerns that he has that fuel those actions. So it was a very pivotal moment. And again we’ll see that in the more intense, personal, human level – the ways in which it’s playing out for Snyder in this episode tomorrow night when, you know, three people stuck in the same spot under these intense circumstances. There’s going to be a lot of sparks flying and a lot of – frankly, a lot more honesty than what we’ve seen so far.
You’ve done a lot of stage and some feature film work. What do you prefer — TV, film, or stage — and why?
Peter Jacobson: TV and film are more similar. Stage is a completely different animal. I started out doing nothing but stage and it was my first love as an actor. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been doing it. And I miss it but I love, love, love doing film and television — much more television than film for me — in the last few years. I just love the intimacy of it. I like the schedule better. I like the money better.
But mostly it’s just a much more internal process and it’s quieter and it feels more real. And that’s just something that I’ve – as I’ve gotten older and stayed in TV I’ve just really begun to love and appreciate even, you know, more and more as I go. It’s just – it feels very, very intimate and I like that. It, it just – some of the more – the artifice of the theater — of making sure that you’re out there projecting every night and hitting your mark and doing it for a paying audience — is thrilling.
But for some reason that’s not been as exciting to me as the sort of – again, the immediacy of TV as in – you always get the, you know, you get the chance to do it over again in the moment, which is nice. The bummer is that once you’re done, you’re done. That scene is over forever. And in theater you get to try again the next night and make it better.
You said that you wrapped filming for this season. Can you give us some insight on some future projects that you’re working on?
Peter Jacobson: I am currently playing a recurring role on The Americans — as I mentioned as a show that I like. And that’s – I like it even more now that I’m on it. And we’re – my character comes on the end of the fourth season, which – and so I’ve been doing that for the last few weeks and I’ve got a few more weeks on that. And just, you know, poking around looking for other stuff to fill the gaps until we get revved up again for Colony.
I’m just curious. Now, characters such as Snyder eventually get their comeuppance. Out of whose hands would you like to see him go?
Peter Jacobson: That’s a good question. I’m so lost in the righteousness of Snyder’s – of what Snyder’s doing that it’s hard for me to, you know, break outside enough to see – and see him going in any way, shape, or form. He feels immortal to me at the moment. But in terms of the characters, I mean, I’m – I really do think that (Katie) is – I mean, I just – she’s so – all these characters are beautifully drawn but I just, you know, again, her conviction and the intensity with which she pursues what she wants and what she thinks is right in the face of everything she’s up against just as a, you know, as a fellow, you know, as a fellow person who is that committed. I would find it honorable to go at the hands of (Katie).