Zoo Round Table Interview with James Wolk at SDCC 2016
Last summer, CBS premiered the show Zoo based on the bestselling novel by James Patterson. The description of his novel warns of total world destruction. “All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the escalating events with an increasing sense of dread. When he witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa the enormity of the violence to come becomes terrifyingly clear. With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz races to warn world leaders before it’s too late. The attacks are growing in ferocity, cunning, and planning, and soon there will be no place left for humans to hide.” (jamespatterson.com)
James Wolk plays the lead, Jackson Oz, in CBS’s summer show. James was able to share his experiences on a show like Zoo and some of the challenges that come with it.
When asked what animals were his favorite and least favorite to work with, James had some interesting answers. His favorite animal to work with was actually not a real animal but a CGI elephant that was in the season two premiere. James said, “I was blown away at what the production team can do to make these feel so real. The back of the elephant was all weathered. It looked like it had been through 19,000 rain storms. You could see crevices… I think it’s amazing the artistry of these guys that can do this.” James then went on to say that his least favorite animal to film with was the sloth despite his wife thinking they were cute on set.
When asked about his character evolving this season, James expressed his gratitude for the writers who bring these rich characters to life. James expressed, “My favorite part of the show is the personal stuff. As an actor, you get excited about doing the show, and it’s exciting because there are animals and it’s crazy. But really, as an actor what you get excited about is communicating with other human beings. You know, bringing humanity to the roles.” He goes on to say, “It surrounds me as an actor with a character where the world is starting to come undone. So, there’s a lot to grab onto emotionally, and it’s been a joy for me to play with that this season. I’ve been really fortunate with the writers with what they’ve given me to work with. And I think that the audience will appreciate that because as much as an audience tunes into our show because they want to see a crazy elephant chase or a rhino hit a car; at the end of the day, if you’re not watching real human beings on screen act in a real way that are grabbing onto something real in their own lives, then I’m just watching characters being chased by animals. So, I love that we’re being given a lot to chew on this year.”
While CGI is always a challenge for actors who have to use their imagination to fill in the gaps, James describes a few of the other challenges filming season two of Zoo. “This show is really active. We’re constantly running, so being in good shape and getting sleep is really important on the show. Or else we will just start dropping like flies.” With the second season shooting in Vancouver, James describes some challenges with the weather. “Vancouver is amazing. It’s gorgeous, but what happens is you get there in January. And you are shooting outside, and it’s rain season. There are actually rain forests there. So we were spending so much time shooting in the rain. And that’s something that if you haven’t shot in Vancouver outside in January, nothing prepares you for that because the crews they don’t get phased by it.”
James ends on a fun note. He was asked if his friends and fans relate to some of the choices that his character, Jackson Oz, has made on screen. “Yeah I got a lot of slack from my friends in season one where Jackson left Abe with the lions, and Abe got attacked. Jackson was supposed to go save him and then took off in the car. And I wanted to be like dude I know but I didn’t write it. I played it to the best of my ability. And then the writing literally said ‘and Jackson gets in the car and goes.’ People like to put themselves in the scenarios.”
From the star of Zoo, James Wolk, promises that you’ll get both action and compelling character drama when you watch the CBS series. For those who haven’t watched Zoo, you can catch the first season on Netflix. Season two is airing now on Tuesdays at 9pm on CBS.