Interview with Peter Facinelli of NBC’s “American Odyssey”

Peter Facinelli

At January’s Television Critic’s Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour, I sat down with the stars of NBC’s American Odyssey (then called Odyssey), to chat about the character-driven drama. Peter Facinelli shared what drives his character, also named Peter. Below is our conversation, edited slightly for clarity.

Peter Facinelli
Image credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Is this the first time you’re playing a character named Peter?
It is! Ironically, the actress playing my wife is Sarah Winter, and her character’s name is Sarah in the show. It’s very easy on set to be called by your character name.

In American Odyssey, what drives Peter, your character?
When I sat down to play this character, I tried to figure out what drives him. There’s an earnestness about him, but I don’t think that’s enough. I had to figure out why he does what he does. What propels him. He’s like an addict in the sense that he’s addicted to getting the truth. So when he worked at the US Attorney’s office, he brought down a lot of big companies. Now that he’s out of the US Attorney’s office working on corporate mergers, it’s like he’s in rehab. He’s like “okay, I’m not doing that anymore.” he’s enjoying his safe, corporate job and his safe, suburban life, but when someone waves a little bag of truth in front of him, and he gets a taste of it, he goes after it. As he goes after the truth, it snowballs. And it’s an obsession that he can not stop and it comes at a big cost. His family is getting threatened, he’s marriage starts to fall apart, his kids are being threatened, his job is being threatened, and yet, he continues to try to get that truth out there.

It almost seems like a compulsion…
That compulsion is his flaw. I think everybody has flaws and even there’s a greater good that he’s trying to get out there, that supersedes his family life and job because it’s such a big truth and someone else’s life is on the line here because he has to try to bring that soldier home.

There is a part of him that can’t stop until that truth comes out and that becomes his character flaw.

What is it about Odelle that Peter latches onto?
The uncovering on truth. I don’t know if Peter takes it personally, there is a human life at stake, but people are dying every day. So why this soldier? Because this soldier is linked to a major conspiracy. And by saving her, he’s uncovering the truth.

And when he finds out in that slush fund that there’s money missing and it’s being used to fund Al Qaida and this woman is a penalty to that cover, if I can uncover that coverup, I can save her and put a stop to it before it happens to more people. And it continues to happen.

One think that I find rieting is that there are three legs to this story who are operating independently. And while they’re all searching for the truth, how are each of you approaching it from different directions?
I think that’s what’s so fun to watch, you have three individuals who are Davids going up against these Goliaths, and how they’re approaching the struggle is very interesting. They’re all from different areas of the social structure: You have a political activist, you have someone from the corporate world, and you have a U.S. Soldier. The only thing that these those three people together is the same injustice and the same cover-up that they’re trying to expose. And to see them tackle it differently, is what’s fun. The anticipation of “are they ever going to come together?” If three people have the same knowledge that is affecting their lives differently, and they’re going about solving it in different ways, are they ever going to come together and help each other and I think the main objective, it’s called Odyssey it’s based on the poem, It’s about bringing that woman home.

Related: About NBC’s American Odyssey

The idea of the ultimate journey and the goal of bringing someone home. it has those themes. I don’t think that people have asked, “Are you pulling storylines form todays world and putting them into the show” We’re not, we’re not taking what’s happening in the Middle East and putting it into out show. The themes are similar, but these characters are fictional, the storylines are fictional, but the themes that are happening in the show are similar to what are happening on a global scale.

At that point will our three protagonists, operating independently, realize that they’re all fighting the same giant? 
That’s to be determined. There’s an anticipation that you hope that thy meet up, and they band together to slay this proverbial giant. At this point, Jake’s character and my character both know about Odelle, but we don’t know her struggle, we don’t know her battle, we don’t even know if she’s really fully alive. We have a hunch, I don’t know Jake at all, his character, and he really doesn’t know me. But at some point, these characters will hopefully meet up to slay the giant together.

Peter Facinelli
Image Credit: Myles Aronowitz/NBC

You would think that Peter’s world is very cerebral, but very quickly he’s pulled into an action-driven story.
It’s a completely different world for me. But I think that the thing that he’s used to is the tension, so that tension of whether he’s taking down big tobacco or he’s taking down big corporations or now entering the political the government world of war, there’s that tension. It’s not an action show, there are action elements, it’s not like 24 where it’s all about the action, it’s the tension that drives you each week and the character study of these three people under that tension.

Do you think that the tension of your storyline is different from the tension that the characters are bringing to Odyssey?
Yeah, his world is different. He has kids, he has a family. He represents the American Family. And also someone who works in the corporate world Where Jake is younger, he’s a =political activist. He represents a different ideology. And you have a solider, who has a daughter. She’s a female solider in a man’s world, who struggles in her own right. Each of our struggles are relatable to people. I think, I hope that the audience will be able to relate to at least one of the characters.

The all have an immense amount of courage. I don’t know if I have the same amount of character as any of the characters, to be able to put your life on the line for the greater good. But you know what, I guess you don’t know it until your back is to the wall and you have to make those decisions and that’s what happens here

The TCA panel with the show’s producers said that you and the other characters are ordinary people who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Will this show open up conversation and dialogue: “could you do it?” “Could you survive?” “Would you sacrifice your job for the truth?” “Would you sacrifice your family for the truth?” 
I hope it does. In our country and even with freedom of speech, it’s hard to do and hard to say what you wanna say because if it goes against everybody you get attacked. And your thinking can get you in trouble. And not even what you’re doing can get you into trouble, but what you’re thinking and what you’re saying can get you into trouble. Having that freedom of speech is something to fight for, and we should continue to fight for.

American Odyssey airs Sundays at 10pm ET on NBC

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