I have been a Stan fan since I first saw Sebastian in The Covenant (don't judge me), and while his career choices since then have been solid (Gossip Girl, Captain America, Black Swan, Once Upon A Time), he's lacked the proper project that proved him to be more than just a pretty face. Then along came Political Animals.
As T.J. Hammond, a recovering (poorly) addict and openly gay son of the former president, Sebastian captures a dynamic duality that would vex lesser actors. His creation is charming and aloof, but you never forget that those emotions are simply masking the pain underneath. It's a remarkable performance -- and one that will easily alter his perception in Hollywood.
I caught up with Sebastian to talk about this powerful new role and discovered just how deeply T.J. resonated with him. Additionally, I asked about the odds we'd see him reprise a pair of previous parts in the months to come. Read on to find out if he'll back back on Once Upon A Time or in Captain America: The Winter Soldier!
TheInsider.com: What attracted you to Political Animals?
Sebastian Stan: For one thing, every character was complex and really well-written. By the end of the script, I was genuinely curious to see what happened to everyone – especially T.J. And that doesn't happen to me often. There was just so much material to crunch your teeth on and I thought it would be interesting to explore.
Insider.com: What was your first impression of T.J.?
Sebastian: I saw that there was a genuine desperate need to do something great. Which, ultimately meant there was so much at stake. I was curious to see whether or not he'd come out at the end as a success or not.
Insider.com: I really felt his desperation in the scene when he stole from his grandmother, who he is arguable the closest with in his family.
Sebastian: Yes, exactly. T.J. recognizes how guilty he feels about that because she's been the one who always looked out for him. T.J. has such an impulsive nature and lives so much in the moment. That's why all the consequences add up for him in the end – you can't get away from that. It's also a side-effect of somebody who is constantly using drugs and drinking. It's a really great relationship for the characters, and for me, it's been a bonus to work opposite with Ellen [Burstyn]. I had a very close relationship with my grandmother, so it's that much more special for me.
Insider.com: I also love T.J.'s relationship with his brother, Douglas -- who was revealed to be his twin in the third episode. What will we see there coming up?
Sebastian: [James Wolk, who plays Douglas] is an incredibly generous person and one of the most caring people I've ever met. You could say they share a deep bond because they are twins, but in later episodes, we're going to explore if their relationship was always so close. Again, he exists in a world where he's constantly looking for allies and his brother was always the closest with him -- I'm glad it reads that way.
Insider.com: Sigourney Weaver's character had a speech about T.J. being forced into coming out as a gay man as a result of being born into this political family. How much did that lack of control influence the way you play him?
Sebastian: It does and it doesn't. Each of these characters are looking to be loved. They all have good intentions, but the problem is they might not realize how their good intentions change others. On the surface, more than others, T.J. is feeling the pressure of being forced into situations because he didn't choose the world he was born into. But it's about how you deal with that world. He, and Douglas to some extent, are changed by the actions of their parents. And those are clues you can hang onto in terms of discovering what's at the core of what he really wants. Those are clues to his quest for figuring out his identity in this world, and no longer fighting against the world he is in.
Insider.com: Is there any difference for you doing a straight love scene versus a gay love scene?
Sebastian: At the end of the day, the basics are always the same whether it's a gay or straight character. You try to make it as authentic as you can, but in my opinion, they're the least natural scenes actors can do. You're surrounded by 50 people who have been there since 8 a.m., it's incredibly focused, choreographed and a technical experience. There is so much going on – you're not drifting away on a dream and forgetting where you are. There's lighting, camera angles and a director to worry about.
Insider.com: In my opinion, this is the second amazing character you've played on TV this year. Have there been conversations about bringing you back to Once Upon A Time in season two?
Sebastian: Thank you so much! I loved that character. There's definitely been conversations, but there are so many other things at work in terms of scheduling that are more technical and need to be worked out in order for me to return. But I had a great time. I grew up reading and loving [The Mad Hatter], so to have the opportunity to bring him to life in such a brilliant way as the showrunners have written him was a blessing. I enjoyed that very much, and I hope there's more of him.
Insider.com: That said, would you like to play T.J. again in a potential second series?
Sebastian: I think Greg [Berlanti, creator] has done a really great job with these six episodes fleshing out the characters and leaving it open ended. It's been a tremendous pleasure working with that company and I would be hopeful that it's something Greg would continue. I'm interested in knowing what's next – obviously it's too early to give a complete answer for that, but it's been a great experience and it would be nice to see everybody back together in some way.
Insider.com: Rumor has it you'll also be back in the Captain America sequel -- anything you can say to that?
Sebastian: Unfortunately not – other than the first one was such a phenomenal experience. Chris [Evans] and I had an incredible time, and I would work with Marvel any time in the future – no matter when. I'll leave the rest up to you to figure out.
Political Animals airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on USA.
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- Sebastian Stan