Based on the gripping 2012 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, Defending Jacob premieres on Apple TV+ starting April 24th, 2020.
The miniseries stars Chris Evans (Captain America, Knives Out) and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey, Good Behavior) as Andy and Laurie Barber, the parents of a 14-year-old son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell, Knives Out), whose classmate has been murdered.
The crime stuns the town of Newton, Massachusetts, where Andy is an assistant district attorney. As the investigation unfolds it appears that Jacob might have committed the murder, and Andy is faced with the choice of upholding justice and his unconditional love for his son.
The series was shot in Massachusetts and was written and executive produced by Mark Bomback and directed by Academy Award nominee (The Imitation Game), Morten Tyldum.
Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery came to the TV Critics tour to talk about their new drama.
Chris, are you surprised by the amount of complex characters you’ve been able to play at the same time that you’re playing superheroes?
Chris Evans: To be honest, I’m not an actor that works all the time. So if I were somebody who liked to fill my schedule from January to December with constant work, maybe I’d find that it was a bit more of a struggle. But I’m a little more mercurial by nature and take my time. And luckily when I felt the impetus to work there was a piece of material that fit my creative appetite.
What was it about this that you really wanted to do it?
Chris: It was a project that I had read while I was working on something in New York and I just kept coming back to it. (There are) projects that stick in your head for some reason. And my meetings with Morten and Mark were always so fantastic. Every time I left one of those meetings I was more encouraged, more excited and it felt like I had to do it.
Do people react to you in different ways? Do people come up to you and say they know you from Knives Out or Gifted? Or do they always jump at you because you’re a superhero?
Chris: That’s usually what they lead with. (He laughs) Not to say that people haven’t seen other films and, on occasion, have a nice thing to say. But if I’m spotted in a crowd, it’s probably because of the Marvel stuff now.
Michelle, the variety of your characters is extraordinary. What attracted you to this role?
Michelle Dockery: For me it always starts with the writing, and I was hooked the minute I started reading these scripts. I love this type of genre.
What I loved so much about Defending Jacob is that actually it becomes so much more about the characters. It’s not about the mystery of who did it so much as it’s a real exploration into how would you respond as a parent?
Certainly for me playing Laurie, I was really drawn into how you would react as a parent and what lengths you would go to protect your child?
I’d never really read anything like this before about family and I was instantly drawn to the project. Chris and Jaeden were both attached and Morten and Mark. We instantly had a connection when I met them.
What are the qualities you might share with Laurie? Are you that fierce mother protecting her child in real life?
Michelle: I was drawn to her because she’s very different from any other character that I’ve played. I love her journey throughout the story. Without giving too much away, I think that was something that really intrigued me from the start. I like doing accents, so I liked played another American.
Chris, I wanted to ask you about the Boston aspect of this. Is there a little bit of a hometown pride situation in taking on a project like this?
Chris: Oh yeah. I got to do Knives Out and this back to back, so I started feeling like I just had a regular 9-to-5 job, sleeping in my own bed, seeing my family on weekends, it was great.