When we first meet Alexander Koch in the new CBS drama Under The Dome, he’s in a compromising position with co-star Britt Robertson. However, don’t think his part is merely as the boy who may – or may not – win of the heart of the girl he’s longed for since grade school.
Like a lot of things in Under The Dome - adapted from the Stephen King novel and premiering tonight on CBS - things are not as they seem and that includes Junior. And the appearance of a mysterious dome over a small town only brings out everyone’s true colors.
I jumped on the phone with Koch recently to find out what makes Junior tick and how his first big acting gig is going for him...
TV Fanatic: I heard this was your first pilot audition, which is amazing, because it's a big project but also a really good role.
Alexander Koch: Yeah, I still am expecting them to call me any moment and be like ‘this is all a joke.’ I don’t know. It's just like it was such a surreal thing, getting this role, and I like fought so hard for it... I grew up on Stephen King stuff, so just being part of this thing, it's unbelievable. I'm like thanking God every single day that it happened, you know?
TVF: Were you familiar with the project or the book?
AK: My friend was reading it while we were in school. It's a very, very thick book and I had to audition in like a few days. So I called him up and I was like ‘what are the points that I need to know? What's the drive of this character?’ I got the callback for that and I kept getting callbacks and by the time the last few callbacks happened I had finished the book.
I really like the book. Some of those scenes are just so vivid. Like the riot scene at the supermarket and Junior's inner monologue. I love Stephen King's way of writing and it was awesome. Just seeing differences between the script and the book and how it was going to pan out was just really great.
TVF: I have not read the book so I don’t know what's coming, so I'll just be experiencing it on the show. How much will it stay to the book and go off in its own direction?
AK: Stephen King was very much like ‘these are my characters, but you take them, go with them, rock and roll.’ We're in the hands of like two great writers leading this great team with Neal [Baer, Executive Producer] and Brian [K. Vaughan, who developed the series]. So I feel like we're in good hands and hopefully we get a second season and we can develop further and see where it goes.
TVF: Tell me how you approach playing Junior because I'm just curious, is he aware of what we see him doing in the pilot?
AK: I usually work with a lot of music and I actually started listening to an old Roy Orbison record and just kind of the songs of heartbreak and stuff like that. Because I'd known that [Junior’s] mother had passed away and there's something that went off in Junior's childhood that caused him to develop this unhealthy obsession with Angie. And I started from there…what was the starting part of when Junior first got broken?
And what happened subsequently after that with his father, what was the relationship? You know, [his father, played by Dean Norris] was this tough guy, and not very affectionate and wanted Junior to be this character that he is the town jock and hero. He wasn't the sports star that his dad was and this really tough guy, but he's forced to play that role and be a bully. And then when he is around Angie, the same way he could let down his armor with his mom and be this child, he feels the same way with Angie. Like he can see himself and be broken and be vulnerable. So when he loses that, he needs to get that back more than anything.
TVF: The scenes with you and Britt Robertson get pretty intense. How was it working in those scenes with her?
AK: I could not ask for a better partner to work with. She's been so, so amazing. I mean, she's been so supportive and sweet. And we have a very similar way of working together where we don't rehearse. We talk for hours and hours and hours about past history, and the characters, and their relationships, and how they came together. And then on the day we'll come and we'll do the work and we'll fine tune things and we're just very perceptive of each other. So she's been a great person to look up to throughout this whole project. We can just go and have fun, and try new things, and try to be bold.
TVF: Tell me about working in North Carolina because I'm guessing this would be a different experience if you were shooting it on a sound stage in Los Angeles.
AK: Yeah, it's kind of funny. I feel like we're in this weird social experiment or something because sometimes – and I talk about this with other cast members – we feel withdrawn from Los Angeles and New York, and the writers, I feel, sometimes messed with us a little bit. When we were first all here and living in the same hotels, the writers would give us a little bit of information and then they would run off. And then we'd be all talking with each other being like what's that mean or going on with my character? So it was a little bit like being secluded from the outside world. But I loved it.
I like that we're all here together and we're working towards a great project and we can really just focus on it and not get caught up in auditioning for other projects as much. And it's just like we're here, and we're working, we're working hard, trying to make a really great project. And all the people here in North Carolina, they're all very, very sweet and kind people.
TVF: What would be your biggest hope for people when they watch the show? What do you hope they take from the show?
AK: My overall thing is I hope that people look at [the show’s concept] and they start to wonder what they would do in drastic situations like that. I know people will never experience being trapped under this dome but the main central theme of the show is drama. It's not about the sci-fi element of the dome. It's about who these people become when the chips are down, and when they are stuck in this place, and they're trying to not get killed, and live cooperatively with each other. And what kind of character would you become when you are in that drastic, dire-type situation. So I'm really intrigued to see how fans are going to react to the intense things that are going to be coming and unfolding throughout the season.
Under The Dome airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS. For another series preview, read our exclusive interview with Mike Vogel.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.