Chris Evans Interview: ‘Defending Jacob’
While most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe know Chris Evans as Captain America, he gets to trade his red-white-and-blue patriotic costume for some well-tailored business suits in the AppleTV+ limited series “Defending Jacob.” He plays a respected assistant district attorney, Andy Barber, in the quaint town of Newton, Massachusetts, whose cozy family life is up-ended after his 14-year-old son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is accused of stabbing to death a bullying classmate and is put on trial.
Complicating matters is the fact that his background includes a father known as “Bloody Billy Barber” (J.K. Simmons), who is serving time in a federal prison after he killed and raped a young woman years ago. The fact that his dad is in jail comes as a surprise to his wife, Laurie (Michelle Dockery), as his son’s situation dredges up his dad’s own headline-grabbing crime from the past.
The show, based on a book by William Landay, is directed by Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) and written by Mark Bomback (the most recent “Planet of the Apes” films). What made him sign up for the streaming crime drama? “Initially, I was drawn to the role. I liked the idea of someone who had a traumatic childhood and, as a result, developed methods of coping that are essentially building walls. And he just buries things down with no intention of examining them later in life as a survival tactic more than anything else.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
He adds, “As he’s aged, he considers that less problematic and I think he just considers that status quo. He’s developed a belief system and an identity that is more connected to his present than his past. He’s a husband, he’s a father and that’s his life now. And, all of a sudden, to have all of that exhumed in such a public fashion I thought was really interesting thing to explore.”
Evans also was drawn to the presence of Bomback and Tyldum. “I got to say it was Mark and Morten. Because you can have a great role or you could have a great script. But without a creative team that you feel comfortable with and inspired to work with, it can be tricky. Acting is a very vulnerable thing and you want to make sure you’re in an environment every day that you’re excited to kind of get in that sandbox and take risks.
Evans grew up in Boston, which is near the town of Newton, where “Defending Jacob” was shot and the plot takes place. But being Andy Barber kept him quite occupied. “I didn’t have much down time, but luckily my home was very close to where we filmed. So on weekends you just kind of had everyone come back to your house and have a few drinks.”
The actor also appreciated being able to sport some impressive facial hair. “It’s always welcome when I get to grow the beard out,” something his clean-shaven superhero wouldn’t be able to do.
Both he and Martell bonded a bit when they both appeared in last year’s “Knives Out” as two of Christopher Plummer‘s grandchildren. “Technically, we had done another film together,” namely the 2014 rom-com “Playing It Cool.” “He told me about it. I didn’t know this. Years ago, I did a very small movie where he apparently played a younger version of me in just one quick scene. But the first day of ‘Knives Out,’ when we actually met, I said, ‘Yeah, I think you’re going to be my son.’ It was nice to get together on that set knowing that we had ‘Jacob’ in the future.”
Evans goes on to discuss on the web video how the situation that the Barber family finds themselves in after Jacob is arrested is very much like being self-quarantined in their well-appointed home as their situation becomes the talk of the town. He also discusses the open-ended conclusion of the series that is quite different from the book and whether there could be a second season.