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Nearly a year and a half after the warm critical reception and prompt demise of Lone Star, buzzy lead James Wolk returns to television with two recurring roles.
The 26-year-old actor recently started a stint on Showtime’s Shameless, and with the Feb. 8 episode of ABC’s Happy Endings, he kicks off a three-episode arc as Max’s (Adam Pally) new/old boyfriend.
Wolk spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the new gig, segueing into sitcoms, pilot season and what he learned from the brief tenure on his first series.
“The Lone Star experience was tough at the time,” he says, “but it really allowed me to look at things from a 3,000-foot high view. You can think something is the greatest thing in the world, but, as we know, anything can happen. It really taught me that I always want to make choices that I believe in artistically. No one can take that away from you.”
His recent choices include For a Good Time, Call…, an independent comedy that premiered (and sold quickly) at Sundance, and a turn in the Los Angeles production of Next Fall at the Geffen Playhouse. The latter ended right in time for an opportunity to appear on Happy Endings.
“It kind of popped up,” says Wolk. “I actually watch the show and think it’s fantastic. I was finishing up a play in L.A., and they kind of jumped out of nowhere and it was kind of a mutual affection.”
It also presented a chance for Wolk to take his first stab and television comedy. “I started in theater,” he says. “I would liken sitcom work more to theater work than I would, perhaps, to dramatic television. It’s so quick. It kind of feels like the pace of a play. It’s just been refreshing.”
On Happy Endings, Wolk plays Grant, Max’s ex-boyfriend who stages an unexpected return on Valentine’s Day as a client for his gypsy limo service. Wolk describes his character as the kind of guy who “wears a great vest and tie combo.”
“The group never really takes to anybody, particularly Max,” says Wolk. “I think Max and Grant really have an affection for each other because they’re complete opposites. Where Max is very laid back, unkempt at times, Grant is very put together.”
Wolk speaks warmly of the part, but he seems even more fond of the opportunity it afforded him.
“Doing this arc on Happy Endings has spurred in me this excitement for comedy,” he tells THR. “It’s like taking a bite of great food, and you want more. I’m excited for people to see me in that light and thankful for the experience — because now I want to get back to that.”
And with his face popping up on two popular series as the current crop of pilots start casting leads, it’s natural to wonder if Wolk is hoping to parlay his guest gigs into another stab at full-time series work.
“I am open,” he admits. “I think you always want to be open to things… it’s just the matter of finding something I believe in, finding a character I believe in, and I think that’s the way it should always be. I’m looking for things that excite me.”
That includes Happy Endings. Wolk, only booked for this limited run, says the show is something he’d gladly to return to — particularity for the onscreen sparring with Pally.
“You’ve got to be on your toes. You’ve got to bring your A-game, because this guy, he throws it all at you,” Wolk says. “Anytime you get to join a group of people you admire and respect, you want to keep those doors open.”
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