Bear this in mind

James Wolk will have to share the spotlight with some wild an­i­mals if he wants to be­come a star, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

Will James Wolk fi­nally be a ma­jor star? That’s the ques­tion on Hol­ly­wood is ask­ing as the 300year-old gets set to front big bud­get ad­ven­ture se­ries Zoo.

Back in 2010, Wolk looked the ac­tor-most-likely when Foxox gave him the lead as Texan conon man Bob Allen in 2010’s Lone Star se­ries. The show was axed d af­ter two episodes.

A bit­terly dis­ap­pointed Wolk olk had to set­tle for smaller TV roles af­ter that. But with Zoo he has another shot at glory.

Zoo is based on the James Pat­ter­son best­seller and taps into the para­noia that fu­els The Planet of the Apes fran­chise — an­i­mals ris­ing to at­tack hu­mans.

Wolk plays rene­gade Amer­i­can zo­ol­o­gist Jack­son Oz, who runs sa­faris in Africa with best friend Abra­ham (Nonso Anozie). The pair stum­bles on a camp site and, later, a sa­fari group rav­aged by deadly an­i­mal at­tacks.

In Los An­ge­les, other on­slaughts are tak­ing place and jour­nal­ist Jamie Camp­bell (Kris­ten Con­nolly) reck­ons she knows why.

Camp­bell starts in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether a multi­na­tional com­pany’s new an­i­mal feed could have set off a chain re­ac­tion.

It quickly be­comes ap­par­ent that these aren’t iso­lated in­ci­dents. Vi­cious an­i­mal at­tacks are hap­pen­ing all over the world.

“It is a fresh, kind of strange, in­ter­est­ing idea that I hadn’t seen on TV be­fore,” Wolk says.

“Jack­son is a great char­ac­ter to play be­cause he is kind of flawed. Jack­son comes from a very dark past. His fa­ther was a zool­ogy pro­fes­sor who had the­o­ries about an­i­mals turn­ing on hu­mans (but) his fa­ther had a lot of men­tal ill­ness and that split the fam­ily.

“Jack­son and his mum left the USA for Africa, while Jack­son was still in his early teens to get away from all that.

“Af­ter the sa­fari at­tack, Jack­son re­alises his fa­ther is un­de­ni­ably right about what an­i­mals will do if cer­tain things hap­pen to them. Jack­son be­comes the cen­tre of this global event.

“I did a lot of read­ing and had con­ver­sa­tions with as many peo­ple as I could who had been to Africa and on sa­fari.

“I also pre­pared phys­i­cally. I am a run­ner and I love to stay in shape but I tweaked that up a bit be­cause in my mind Jack­son would be some­one who is very fit.”

The first episode of Zoo has nu­mer­ous scenes of Jack­son be­ing stalked by large packs of lions. Very few CGI spe­cial ef­fects are used. Wolk ad­mits that made him ner­vous.

“There are so many dif­fer­ent kinds of an­i­mals on this show, from lions and leop­ards to bears and wolves,” Wolk says.

“I have a dog at home and I’m a dog lover so when we had the big­ger cats com­ing on the show I get quite ap­pre­hen­sive.

“From an act­ing per­spec­tive, it re­quired a lot of pa­tience be­cause some of the an­i­mals, even the fe­ro­cious ones, got tired and didn’t want to work.

“The show is in­cred­i­bly en­ter­tain­ing but I do think there is an en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage, too.

“It will make peo­ple think. TheTh an­i­mals are the he­roes in a weirdwe kind of way.”

Wolk ad­mits that the Lone StarSta ex­pe­ri­ence stung for a wh while. The show had a topflig flight cast in­clud­ing David Ke Keith, Jon Voight and Andie Mc McDow­ell. It was widely pra praised by crit­ics, but didn’t con con­nect with au­di­ences.

“To have it sky­rocket and the then go away was re­ally try­ing at t the time, but it was also a goo good les­son about the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try,” Wolk said re­cently.

“You have to keep go­ing, and keep rolling with the punches.”

Wolk got his hopes up the fol­low­ing year when he signed to ap­pear in po­lit­i­cal drama Georgetown but that show never made it past the pi­lot.

In 2012, he had guest parts in Shame­less, Happy End­ings and Po­lit­i­cal An­i­mals, op­po­site Sigour­ney Weaver, but still noth­ing re­ally meaty.

Wolk fi­nally snagged a role of sub­stance when he played mys­te­ri­ous advertising ex­ec­u­tive Bob Ben­son in 12 episodes of Mad Men.

Ben­son gen­er­ated lots of buzz among fans with the­o­ries that he was an FBI agent or a cor­po­rate spy.

Another big op­por­tu­nity came when Wolk played advertising copy­writer Zach Crop­per op­po­site Robin Wil­liams in 2013’s The Crazy Ones.

Un­for­tu­nately, The Crazy Ones only lasted one sea­son. Wil­liams died three months af­ter CBS an­nounced it wouldn’t re­new the show.

Later, Wolk de­scribed Wil­liams as “a comedic ge­nius” and “one of the great­est ac­tors we had”.

“Work­ing with him for nine months straight was … an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Wolk said re­cently. “One of the lessons I learned from him was (about) ex­ist­ing in the mo­ment. How much it helps to dig deep and stay present.”

Wolk is philo­soph­i­cal about the path his ca­reer has taken ever since the dis­ap­point­ment of Lone Star.

His ca­reer has turned out to be so much richer and more var­ied af­ter that early blow.

“When I sit back and think of my ca­reer up un­til now I’m grate­ful (for the way it turned out) be­cause I love act­ing and it has been a joy to do that in the com­pany of peo­ple like Robin and Sigour­ney,” Wolk says.

“For me, it has been the per­fect path up un­til this point — to watch and to learn (from the best). I’m proud to have such a wide range of work.”

“The an­i­mals are

the he­roes in a weird kind of way”

JAMES WOLK ON THE REAL STARS

ZOO, CHAN­NEL 10, THURS­DAY, 8.30PM

James Wolk and, be­low, Kris­ten Con­nolly and Billy Burke in Zoo.

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