|Photo by Eric Liebowitz/NBC|
What's the challenge of playing these two wildly different personalities?
SP: The ultimate challenge is that I didn't want to create a guy who had an alter-ego that was so completely different behaviorally that all of the peripheral characters would be aware of what is happening. So we wanted to create a gray area in terms of at least their physical behavior and their physical life — the way they walk, the way they sound, the way they move. So that when peripheral characters intersect with either Jason or Ian, that's where all the drama can happen. So we didn't want to make it where one guy's a monster and one guy's all good. We wanted to find a little bit of gray area with both of them.
There's kind of a cat and mouse game going on between Jason and Ian as the series unfolds. Can you describe the dynamic between these two guys and how it evolves during the course of the first season?
SP: Well, in a nutshell, for the past five years, Dr. Jason Cole has kept his alter-ego at bay with an experimental sedative that he takes every night, which has been concocted by a coworker, a brilliant chemist played by Lin Manuel-Miranda. In the first episode, Ian, the alter-ego, has developed an immunity to that drug and he makes an appearance for the first time in five years. Now he's been basically locked away, imprisoned in Jason's mind for the last five years. And that's one of the many reasons that Ian is hellbent on exacting revenge on Jason's life. So they're sort of at war with each other right out of the gate, and it doesn't really let up at all the whole season.
Jason's condition is loosely based on dissociative-identity disorder, otherwise known as split-personality disorder. What kind of research, if any, did you do on the condition?
SP: I did a lot of research. But I didn't want to get too literal with it because it is a fictitious condition [on the show]. We wanted to do everything we could to benefit our storytelling. But for people who suffer from alternate personalities, there are things that are universally true: One is that in order to create an alternate personality, there has to be some serious trauma in a person's life. So I think holding on to that idea, but not knowing what it is. Although there will be a very mysterious plot point that gets quasi-revealed by the season finale about what the origin of his condition is. Secondly, multiple personalities is a very real thing. So like people who live with an alternate personality, sometimes one personality has eyesight that is better than the other; or one is left-handed, and the other is right-handed; or one has a skill-set that the other doesn't have. It's really fascinating how it plays out in the real world. So I liked the idea that it can just be this big, confusing thing for the audience in terms of: Where did Jason come from and where did Ian come from and why did they split into two? We want it to feel like two distinct, different individuals who just happen to inhabit the same body.
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