Tonight, ABC offers us a sneak preview of its latest serial drama, Traveler. On the show, Aaron Stanford (X-Men, Tadpole) plays the title character, Will Traveler, a seemingly harmless post-grad student who sets up his two best friends as suspects in a major terrorist bomb plot. In this exclusive interview with Aaron, TV with MeeVee's Managing Editor, Marjorie Kase, gets to know the man behind this cunning character.
Who is Will Traveler?
That's the big question. If I described that, nobody would watch. [Laughter] He's a complex character, and as the episodes go on, more and more will be revealed about him. The only important thing to know for the [first] episodes is that he was a trusted friend of the two main characters, and he betrayed them with an act of terrorism. The writers really wanted to keep the show in that time-honored spy tradition, just make it really, really classic, so you will see in this show bits and pieces and elements from all kinds of spy genre films from across the board.
The Fugitive, certainly.
The Fugitive absolutely is a part of it. The Bourne Identity—which I know Dave DiGilio really, really loved—he wanted to get pieces of that in there.
To prepare, did you read a bunch of spy novels?
I did read up a lot. I didn't read any spy novels, but bits and pieces of research here and there. I looked up various famous spies throughout the ages: what their MOs were; what they were trained in; what made a good field operative. I read up on different parts of field craft, I think they call it. Just looked into that as much I could.
Will there be flashbacks, a la Lost?
There will be flashbacks. They [the writers] didn't tell me exactly what they wanted to say, to reveal, and what not. But I'm obviously going to be very present in these episodes. You will be seeing plenty of my character.
Did you actually shoot in New York City?
The whole pilot was shot in New York.
That's amazing. How did you get the footage of people crossing the bridge?
The footage of people walking, that was all on the actual bridges. The Queensborough Bridge—that was all done right there.
What was the reaction from the locals? Were they nervous?
Yeah, I think people were skittish with good reason. Like originally the museum that the two guys roller blade in was originally the Guggenheim.
That would have been cool!
Yeah, going around and around in circles. It just would have been a great prank. I think that the Guggenheim wasn't interested in having anything having to do with a bomb. So we ended up converting—the New York Public Library where we shot that museum sequence.
Let's [talk] about X-Men? The studio says it's a trilogy and will no longer continue the franchise. But studios have been known to change their mind about this kind of thing. Is there a fourth in the works?
I have not heard anything at all about that. I've heard about spin-offs for Wolverine and Magneto, but as far a fourth goes, I haven't even heard a whisper about that. But I'm usually the last to know.
Pyro is such an iconic character. Have you received any feedback from fans?
Yeah, people like Pyro. He's the bad boy of the young X-Men, and people seem to like that. I have a shockingly loyal fan base because of it. Anytime. I was just in Tribecca this weekend for this small independent film I did called The Cake Eaters. People who were fans of X-Men just showed up. Half a dozen to a dozen people will show up just to see Pyro. It's a trip.
Well, all else fails there's always the Comic-Con circuit. I guess it's kind of like teaching, you'll always have something to fall back on.
I never will. I will never fall back on that. I'd [rather panhandle for] spare change in Times Square. [Laughter] I dig comic books. I'd just never want to eke out a living moving from convention to convention.
Tell me about your favorite comics.
I am a big fan of Alan Moore. I like all of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchmen. Anything written by Garth Ennis. He's fantastic. His Punisher series right now is great. Warren Ellis—I'm a big fan of his, too.
Did you grow up reading X-Men, or watching it on TV?
I used to read a comic book of X-Men, here and there. I read comic books more now that I'm an adult—actually it's strange. And that's kind of a trend. I don't know if you've noticed. But in comic books, the adverts are for, like, Dodge Neons and stuff. They're not for Huffy bicycles. There are things that people in their 20s buy.
It's funny because you go to a convention and you look at the demographic. It's always men ages 25-40.
I think it's because young kids now are so wrapped up in the Internet and video games. A lot of them just don't read comics anymore.
Which is ironic, because there are so many comic book movies coming out.
They love the movies—I guess it's easier to digest. I don't know. You think comic books are pretty easy. Maybe it's not enough.
Aside from X-Men, what's your favorite superhero movie?
Batman, I like a lot. I thought Christian Bale was a great choice for the latest movie.
Your first big movie role was Tadpole where you played a 15 year old boy who falls in love with his step-mother played by Sigourney Weaver. She's such an accomplished actor, plus, she's a lot older than you. What was it like working with her? Were you anxious about performing the love scene?
She's extremely down to earth, and she was really easy to be around and talk to. I remember her actually saying she was really nervous about the kissing scene that we had. She was more nervous than I was. And I thought that was very sweet.
You've been in quite a number of roles. Have people started recognizing you on the street?
As a matter of fact, I'm rarely—very rarely—recognized, because actually I look quite a bit different than I photograph. Most people know me from X-Men, the vast majority of people do, and I look nothing like Pyro in real life.
Hopefully after Traveler, you'll be recognized.
I really like it this way. My dream was always just to be a working actor. I love what I do. I love the craft and I love the reward of doing good work, but the actual fame side of it is pretty frightening. I love right now that I've gotten away up to this point with being able to walk down the street and go wherever I want to go without being recognized.
Tell me, what's on your Tivo?
Honestly, I watch a lot of documentaries and nature shows and things like that. I watch a lot of Discovery Channel, like the Planet Earth documentaries, which I think are amazing. I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and Bill Maher.
We always end our interviews with a college essay question: If you could travel through time and interview any historical figure, whom would you choose, what would you ask, and why?
That's a college essay question? That's hysterical. I think I'm going to give the stock answer here. It'd be Einstein. The theory of relativity would be pretty nice to have explained to me.