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Feature: Invasion

Space Invader

William Fichtner as Sheriff Tom Underlay William Fichtner gives us his best menacing stare, and chats about his role as Sheriff Tom Underlay in the hit series

William Fichtner is one of the most menacing men on TV. As Invasion's Sheriff Tom Underlay one of his long hard stares would be enough to send most people running, screaming that the aliens have landed. Yet the townsfolk of hurricane-hit Homestead, Florida, seem blissfully unaware that there's something very strange about their Sheriff. While everyone else is battling to cope with the aftermath of the hurricane he's in his element, and he seems only too keen to lock down the town as odd things start happening and he decides to quarantine survivors. And then there's that other-worldly expression that marks him out as a man who's in on a big secret...

So while it shouldn't be unexpected that there's a difference between the actor and the role, it still comes as a surprise to find that in real life Fichtner greets you with a big smile and a firm handshake and is no more scary than ET.

"I've never once in my life practiced the eerie look in front of the mirror," he laughs. "I have never had a moment where I've thought, 'How do I find this eerie look?' or 'How do I find this dark place to go to?'. I'm playing the truth in the story."

Whether it takes practice or it comes naturally there's something downright frightening about Sheriff Underlay, but the actor insists that's because he knows more than everyone else about what's really going on.

"In the beginning, when the hurricane is blowing in and everybody is getting ready for the impending doom of the storm, there's only one person looking up at the sky that's got a little bit of a glint in his eye, and there's a reason for that. That will be revealed in time. It's stuff that's yet to come out, what it is that he understands and the others don't."

But Fichtner insists Underlay isn't the bad guy - there's no archetypal plan for world domination and an evil empire. What's going on is far more complex and multi-layered than that, and if it hadn't been he wouldn't have taken the part.

"If he's bad for bad's sake it's boring. Anyway who told you he's bad? I thought he was so good he was the priest. Although the priest in this show has got that smile, and that look in his eye. I don't even trust him and he's my buddy.

"Shaun Cassidy, who wrote the show, said his plan is that by the end of the first season you aren't going to be sure of what's good and what's bad, and I think he's really starting to weave that in. That's a cool way to go. If it was as definitive as 'You are the dark, you are the evil bad guy', I'd probably be having a contest on who could convince them to write me out.

by Jenny Eden

Read the full interview in
TV Zone #199

Photo © ABC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #199, see below for ordering options
TV Zone #199
March 2006
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