Neal McDonough is having the time of his life on “Project Blue Book,” the new History series based on the real-life UFO studies that took place in the United States in the 1950s. McDonough plays General James Harding, a government official who co-founds Project Blue Book and manages a pair of special investigators, J. Allen Hynek (Aiden Gillen) and Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey) while keeping their extraterrestrial findings out of the public consciousness. “There’s something about General Harding that is so much fun to play,” McDonough admits. “I love to find the goodness in villains and the badness in heroes, ’cause I don’t anyone in life who’s purely evil or purely good.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
As McDonough explains, Harding is loosely based on Nathan Farragut Twining, who served as Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Force from 1953-57. Getting to “jump into these boots” was a humbling experience for the actor. As we see in “Project Blue Book,” Harding is dedicated to quelling any mass hysteria involving these UFO findings but we do not truly see his perspective on alien life. This is very much intentional, as McDonough suggests. “I don’t think Harding or Twining would ever tell you or would admit it himself.”
Even with the fascinating concepts being explored on “Project Blue Book,” McDonough tries hard not to take it home with him. This stems from an early conversation with his now-wife, Ruvé, while he was working on the 2001 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” The History series has rubbed off on him regardless, admitting, “I can’t look at the night sky the same way anymore. I’m looking for things out there, the what-ifs and who else is out there.” He commends “Project Blue Book” for making the audience think a bit and form their own conclusions on what might really be lurking out there.
General Harding is the latest in a long line of memorable characters McDonough has played throughout his 30-year career. He always goes back to First Lieutenant Buck Compton in “Band of Brothers” as a character that remains with him, but “Project Blue Book” is already becoming a favorite. He has received acting nominations with groups like the Television Critics’ Association and the Critics’ Choice Awards for “Boomtown” and “Justified,” respectively, and earned a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble of “Desperate Housewives.”
As McDonough prepares for the next 30 years of his career, he is blessed to still be doing a craft he loves. Speaking from the set of another TV series he’s a part of, Syfy’s “Van Helsing,” his enthusiasm remains as strong as ever. “If you have a great talent and you believe in yourself, the only thing that can stop you is yourself,” he advises. “So for me, I’ve been blessed that I got to find something I was good at, at a very young age, and 30 years later I’m still doing it.”
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