John Gallagher Jr.: The beating heart of ‘The Newsroom’

John Gallagher Jr. gets serious on the set of “Newsroom."

“The Newsroom,” which premieres Sunday on HBO, is primarily tied to two names: Aaron Sorkin, the show’s creator, and Jeff Daniels, who stars as Will McAvoy. Although McAvoy is the lead anchorman on a nightly political talk show, the audience quickly learns that the characters working behind the scenes — like lovelorn senior producer Jim Harper, played by Tony Award-winner John Gallagher Jr. — are its true anchors. We spoke to the former “Spring Awakening” actor after screening the series’s first few episodes, which take place in 2010 and 2011.

We love that the show embraces a near-past format that lets you retroactively elaborate on recent, important news items.
 
When I first read the pilot, that was one of the things that really grabbed me about the format of the show. It’s not five years in the past, and it’s not five months in the past, it’s just long enough to remind everyone of how fickle the 24-hour news cycle has become. Once the cycle is over, we tend to just forget and move onto the next thing.
 
You don’t have to tell us, we’re a daily newspaper! So what else attracted you to the role of Jim Harper?

 
I’m a big Aaron Sorkin fan. All the characters jumped off the page for me, in particular Jim. When you read a lot of scripts, you rarely find a character that feels so defined and complete. I love how Jim is so good at what he does professionally, he’s all-in at what he does with his job. And as a result of focusing so much on that, by the time he’s reaching his 20s he’s basically inept with day-to-day social interactions. He was an embedded reporter — he went to Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan — but when he comes home and has to ask a girl out, he has no idea what he’s doing.
 
It seems like this show is a good fit for you, considering your stage history. In the first four episodes alone, I counted seven theater references.

 
I think Aaron said that there’s not a single episode of “The Newsroom” that doesn’t include at least one musical theater reference. There’s a pretty funny “Evita” reference coming up that you’ll get to see in a few weeks.
 
How has it been transitioning from stage to screen?
 
Aaron’s coming from the theater, starting as a playwright, and a lot of the other actors that I get to work with have spent a lot of time onstage and therefore are naturally inclined to create a very good ensemble dynamic — you just play well together. A gentleman who worked backstage on the set said, “I’ve been doing this 25 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cast be so prepared when they show up.” And I said, “A lot of us do runs of plays where you have to be prepared — you have to go out there and do it without a safety net every single night.” So working with actors with a similar background certainly makes it feel more like home. And Aaron is such a theatrical writer, he writes really long scenes for television. One of his staples is very verbose dialogue. Learning those long scenes, it doesn’t feel completely unlike learning a long scene for a play.
 
You also worked with Sorkin’s theatrical brand of writing during a one-episode stint on “The West Wing” many years ago, right?

 
I did the Season 4 premiere, and I didn’t actually get to meet him. The episode shot in Pittsburgh, and I went there for a couple of weeks to shoot. I had never seen an episode of “The West Wing” when I did that; it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I sat down with the DVDs.
 
And speaking of people you’ve previously worked with, you played Alison Pill’s brother on the 2003 film “Pieces of April,” right? And now you’re playing her character’s love interest? Are you two friends offscreen?

 
We’d go through periods where we wouldn’t see or speak to each other for awhile, but she’s always been someone I just love and admire. Whenever we did see each other, it’s a great reunion. I was so excited for the opportunity to work with Alison again, she’s so much fun and it’s been a blast. To have someone that you have a lot of history with in a world that feels so much like a new and foreign enterprise — neither of us have found ourselves doing a season of a television show before — is a very refreshing thing.
 
Wait, was she just on Broadway doing “House of Blue Leaves” when you were doing “Jerusalem”?
 
Yes! And as a result, we never got to see each other’s shows. But we would run into each other in the neighborhood. It would be great to work with her onstage.
 
That’s too funny. So what’s coming up with Jim’s character arc on the show?
 
I think Jim is mainly trying to carve out a position where he can stay put for awhile. He admires his boss, MacKenzie [Mchale, played by Emily Mortimer], so much that I think he really just wants to stick with her and do the best job possible. But he’s also in the market for his second coming-of-age, where he can learn to let his hair down and have just a little bit more fun in life. [It's] equal parts wanting to come into his own as a professional and also come into his own a little bit more socially, get a little bit more of that confidence.
 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy - U.S.…

By Curtis Skinner(Reuters) - Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way.Dogs are capable…

Local

G train riders brace for five-week shutdown

G train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Queens between Friday, July 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 2.

International

Peaches Geldof's death was drugs-related, coroner rules

LONDON (Reuters) - The death of Peaches Geldof, the daughter of musician and Band Aid founder Bob Geldof, was drugs-related, a coroner ruled on Wednesday.The…

Local

Family, supporters gather in Brooklyn for Eric Garner…

Family members gathered on Wednesday for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him.

Going Out

5 must-try dishes at Edible Manhattan's Good Beer

Rooting out the exotic amid the New York City bar scene is noble quest. But if you’d like to have it all come to you,…

Books

Art imitates life (almost) in David Shapiro's new…

David Shapiro talks about his book, "You're Not Much Use To Anyone."

Movies

Dakota Fanning's indie growing pains on 'Very Good…

Dakota Fanning on her latest "Very Good Girls."

Entertainment

Britney Spears launches new lingerie line and fans…

Women everywhere can say that they are not that innocent when Britney Spears launches her new lingerie and loungewear line. “Every woman should feel confident…

MLB

Brandon McCarthy finds his calling on Twitter

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy joined Twitter three year ago for the same reason many people do: to get news quickly.

Sports

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running…

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running game a boost

NFL

3 storylines to watch as Jets open training…

Jets head coach Rex Ryan might be in for an even tougher job in 2014 after arguably his best coaching job last season.

Food

Recharge with a post-workout smoothie from Nicky Hilton

Some people can roll out of bed right as their alarm goes off. And that alarm isn’t set for 20 minutes before they have to…

Education

Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gender-neutral…

  Northwestern University recently made headlines after announcing that it would be installing two gender-neutral bathrooms in the university's student center. “These are two gender-open…

Career

How to prepare to interview for your dream…

    Congratulations! You landed a job interview at your dream company! A lot of hard work has gone into determining which companies to apply…

Style

The shirtdress is a summer must-have

  We love throwing on our boyfriend’s shirt and a pair of jeans (no matter how much he grumbles that it’s his turn to wear the…