Yesterday I had the chance to interview John Gallagher, Jr., who portrays Jim Harper on The Newsroom, just days before the show’s series finale airs Sunday on HBO. In this 90 minute interview, John discusses his music, his stage work, working with Woody Allen, Pieces of April, Jonah Hex, and his new films The Heart Machine and Valencia, which features Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman.
Discussion then moves to The Newsroom, including the size of the show’s scripts, why the show is only lasting 3 seasons, the possible meanings behind Charlie’s death, Jim’s dating life, the funny similarities the show shares with The Office, and much more.
John also looked back at working with his Newsroom co-stars.
“Jeff’s incredible, I’ve always loved him. When they sent me the script 3 years ago, and I knew that he was playing Will, it was pitch perfect. I knew that he was just going to crush it, then we showed up to the first table read and I heard him do the ‘America is not the greatest country in the world speech.’ It was one of those moments, not to wax too poetic about it, but we were sitting there around a conference table at HBO’s office in New York, and Jeff came in and he had longer hair, and he had a little bit of scruff with glasses on, so he didn’t look like that character would come to look like. It wasn’t word perfect, he stumbled over a few lines because it was two pages, but even with that, there were chills. You could feel it in that room with all of us sitting there, going man, this guy is going to nail this, and bring something really special to it that nobody else really can. He absolutely made good on that promise and then some, tenfold, and to top it off he’s just one of the coolest guys, really professional.
He’s one of the guys on the set who set the bar for everyone. Every time you think you’ve done a lot of preparation, you get there and you realize that you haven’t even scratched the surface compared to what this guy has been doing, he’s incredible. Being such a fan of his to begin with, it’s really cool when your a fan of someone to work from afar, then you get to meet them and work with them, and then you’re a fan of their work for a whole other reason, for all of these different levels, not just the character of who they are as a person, how they are professionally, and their work ethic. So now my fandom for Jeff has gone into this whole other stratosphere.”
“She’s one of my favorite people in the world. She’s become a super dear friend, and is probably one of the nicest performers that I’ve ever met. Just really warm and generous, unpretentious, works really hard, you’ll never catch her seeming like she’s not seeming like she’s having a great time. Even if she’s having a bad day or something’s going on, or she’s got a million things to do, she is always completely in a great mood, and just really generous and kind to everyone, and very secretly funny. She’s funny in a way that you wouldn’t know when you first meet her, but she’s got an incredible wit, and a really funny kind of dark sense of humor. She really brightens everybody’s day, she’s just one of those people. She walks into a room, and everything’s better.”
“Alison really feels like family at this point, I was 17 when I met her. I was a kid living in Wilmington, Delaware who hadn’t moved to New York yet, and we stayed in touch here and there over the years, but doing the show was such a great opportunity to just hang out more. After knowing each other for such a long time, it was so cool to be like, ‘Wow, now we get to know each other even more.’ She’s just super cool, super bad ass, one of the smartest people I think I’ve ever met, quite honestly. She reads a ton, she’s always reading some new book, and not just a thriller or best seller, not to put any book like that down, but she’s always reading some incredibly intellectual volume, or some great autobiography, and it’s like no big deal, she reads it in a week. She’s like, ‘Yeah I read this, I’m onto this now.’ Then I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m still trying to finish the script from this week.’ Just super sweet, and fun.
I’m going to start overlapping with the way that I’m complimenting everyone because they’re all kind of kindred spirits. I think that’s how we all ended up on the show together, I think it’s a lot of like minded people. She’s just really smart, and an unbelievable performer. I’m going to miss her, I already have, we wrapped the show in July, so it’s been a few months of us not being on set together, and also realizing we’re not going to go back. Each time you wrap the show, you think, ‘Oh, I’ll see them in 5 months, then I’ll see them every day for 6 months.’ But now it’s getting to that point of having it soberly sink in that it’s over, that’s taking some getting used to.”
“I want to be Sam when I grow up, I really do, I admire him so much. Incredible actor, and just an all around class act. Much like the same way that Emily is, he kind of lightens everyone’s load, he just comes in and has such an air of sophistication, calm, and ease about him. His resume is so unbelievably staggering and impressive, another really smart person, well versed, and well read. Very non-nonchalant, kind of comes in and always knocks it out of the park and never shows off about it or anything, it’s just right there, and really available. There’s something kind of magical about Sam Waterston, I look at him and that’s the kind of career that I would feel fortunate to have, but also the kind of person he is, I wonder if I could be like that someday.”
“That was a big break for her as an actress. She had been on The Daily Show as a correspondent, and she’d obviously done a ton of stuff for G4, and been in a lot of films, but she’d done some sitcom type of shows, and comedy movies, so she hadn’t really sunk her teeth into a part like that. Not that I’m diminishing any of the stuff that she did before, because that stuff isn’t easy either, and also requires a great deal of talent.
A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘How do you guys do it?’ Obviously I can only speak from my own experience, but looking around at the ensemble, they make it look so easy, watching those guys work. For something that does require so much work, it’s like watching a professional athlete, especially watching Olivia and Tommy Sadoski together, the way that they kind of work off each other, I think that’s why their characters obviously ended up with each other, is because they had a similar way they were acting the material, in a way that makes it feel like you’re watching a Billy Wilder movie or something. The way they read the script off of each other, and take Aaron’s dialog and transcend it to a whole other level was just super exciting. Olivia makes it look so easy, and it’s not easy to make that kind of stuff look easy and natural, and she kills it.”
“One of the cool things about his character’s trajectory is that in the beginning it was like, ‘Oh, maybe this guy is going to be one of the villains or something, or he’s going to be a jerk.’ That’s so obviously not Tommy, so once he was able to put more of his spin on it, Aaron was like, ‘This guy is on the same team as everyone.'”
“He’s like Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream. He’s super playful, unbelievably charismatic, and an incredible actor. He also just comes in and just slays it on a daily basis, but really is like the jester on our set. Sometimes you’re working these 13 or 14 hour days, and it might be a Friday night at midnight, and everybody is like, ‘I want to get out of here, I want to go home, it’s been a long day.’ Dev is always there to crack a joke in between takes to keep everybody laughing. Not just us, but the extras, the crew, and everybody. He just has a real way of keeping everybody laughing and entertained, like right, this is hard work, but man, we actually all are so lucky to be here and have a chance to do this. Dev is awesome.”
Interview conducted by Cameron Cloutier, transcribed by Brett Buchanan