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The Event – Jason Ritter on coping with the higher pressure

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The Event, Season 1 - Taylor Cole, Zeljko Ivanek, Blair Underwood, Jason Ritter, Sarah Roemer, Laura Innes and Ian Anthony Dale
Season 1 - Vicky Roberts (Taylor Cole), Blake Sterling (Zeljko Ivanek), Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood), Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer), Sophia McGuire (Laura Innes) and Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale) © 2010 NBC Universal, Photo by: Patrick Ecclesine/NBC
The Event, 1.03 - Jason Ritter
Episode 1.03 "Protect Them From The Truth" - Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) © 2010 NBC Universal

Son of the popular late actor John Ritter, Jason has forged his own successful career in TV and movies. Best known for his role as Kevin Girardi in the TV series Joan of Arcadia, he has also had major roles in Freddy vs. Jason, Raise Your Voice, Happy Endings and Oliver Stone’s W, in which he portrayed Jeb Bush.

In his new series The Event he plays Sean Walker, an Everyman whose girlfriend is kidnapped while they are on vacation. His search for her begins to expose the biggest cover-up in US history.

In the past few years you’ve done a lot of low-key independent movies. How does it feel to go from that to something as big as The Event?

The Event, 1.02 - Jason Ritter and Sarah Roemer
Episode 1.02 "To Keep Us Safe" - Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) and Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer) © 2010 NBC Universal

It feels great. After a couple of years of doing that I felt really ready to jump into something like this and challenge myself. I worked hard on the audition and I was excited.

The audition scenes were so different; one of me storming a cockpit with a gun and then me asking my (potential) father-in-law’s blessing. I loved that we got to see him in all these different scenes. That’s one of the benefits you get from jumping back and forth (in time). If you have it completely linear, there has to be a believable build, but if you jump around, you can do anything.

What are the challenges in doing a project this big?

The one thing about an independent movie, there’s a lot of room to experiment and make mistakes. On a show like this, where there’s so much money going into it, the pressure is higher. But you realize that most of that is coming from yourself. It’s still just a group of people making the best thing they can and it’s been a lot of fun.

What was it about the script that interested you?

The Event, 1.02 - Scott Patterson and Jason Ritter
Episode 1.02 "To Keep Us Safe" - Mark Buchanan (Scott Patterson) and Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) © 2010 NBC Universal

I was fascinated by having to put all these puzzle pieces together. Seeing these characters jump back and forth through time. That my character is in a completely different place emotionally in the space of 11 days was really intriguing to me. And then all the characters felt fully fleshed out and real and it felt like we were in the first chapter of a really great story.

I guess you’re not going to tell us what the event is?

I’m in the dark so I’m trying to figure it out. But there is a specific event. They have a plan.

I’m terrible at keeping secrets so it’s actually a relief for me not to know what the event is so that when people ask me I don’t have to lie.

You’ve done television in the past, but nothing like this that has so much mythology. How different does it feel to you?

The Event, Season 1 - Jason Ritter
Season: 1 - Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) gallery picture © 2010 NBC Universal

It feels completely different. I’ve never had to be this physically active before and it’s a nice addition to feel invigorated in that way at the end of every day.

So have you been doing your own stunts?

I’ve been running; I’ve crawled out of wreckage and I’ve done lots of swimming. The one stunt that I didn’t do was jumping off the cliff in the pilot. Although I thought about it, but when I saw the actual cliff it looked a little too dangerous and something you just want to leave to the professionals.

Was acting on the cliff scary?

It was pretty scary filming it. We were all tied in and it was very secure but I had to run right up to the edge and pretend I was going to jump and I wouldn’t have fallen all the way down but it wouldn’t have been pleasant had I slipped over the edge. So it was a little terrifying, which was great.

Do you think you’ll ever turn into Jack Bauer?

I don’t think so, although Sean Walker has definitely had to grow. He’s grown a lot in these last couple of weeks. I think that there was a certain innocence to his character before all of this happens, and he quickly has to become a man. But I don’t think I’ll be torturing anyone anytime soon.

When you don’t know what’s happening in the story is there a specific challenge in making character choices and how you’re going to play a scene?

The Event, 1.01 - Sarah Roemer and Jason Ritter
Episode 1.01 "Pilot" - Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer) and Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) © 2010 NBC Universal

That’s an interesting question. We’ve all been brought up to speed with what our characters know up to the point of the pilot. It’s probably more difficult for me the other way.

Once I know something in the script, because I’ve read the new episode, there’s so much new information coming in and it’s such a big thing, that’s more of a challenge for me to wrap my head around. ‘Well, what would I do if I found out that I had stumbled onto the biggest cover up in U.S. history?’ So the challenge is once I find out all the information pretending like I forgot it.

Do you personally believe in any kind of conspiracy theory?

There are a few conspiracy theories that I believe in, not too many. Area 51 is an interesting one, where strange aircrafts land in New Mexico. Don’t think Elvis Presley is still alive. That’s one that I can’t quite get into. But I enjoy those unanswered questions.