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As intelligence analyst Will Travers in AMC’s new show “Rubicon,” James Badge Dale specializes in keeping his lips sealed. He spends his days poring over geopolitical reports, looking for patterns and clues in the seemingly most random snippets of information and his discoveries remain locked up the second he leaves work. Add to this his ongoing stoicism about his wife and child’s death in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and you can imagine how much fun he is at a party. Not much of a talker, Will.
Though not exactly a chatterbox — he’s too soft-spoken and introspective to fit that label — Dale proves open and engaging on everything from his upbringing in Los Angeles to his professional struggles in his mid-20s (but not his tattoos: “I’d rather not talk about them,” he says). So open in fact that, at one point, the actor frets that he should put a lid on it.
“Are we talking way too much? Are we going way too in depth?” he asks toward the end of the interview, between drags on a series of Camel Lights. “I feel like I’m giving away the secrets, giving away a book.”
At 32 and considering his year thus far, it’s safe to assume Dale will be able to collect plenty of material for his next outpouring. In March he played one of the three protagonists in Steven Spielberg’s critically lauded HBO miniseries “The Pacific” and, starting Aug. 1, he will be headlining “Rubicon,” opposite Miranda Richardson and Dallas Roberts.
Set in New York, the show focuses on Dale’s Travers, a brilliant but closed-off federal intelligence analyst. When his boss dies under suspicious circumstances, he finds himself embroiled in a global conspiracy that pushes him out of his hermetic existence.
“I think this guy has an IQ that’s double mine. He’s very good at things that I’m not good at. And there’s this fear of, ‘My god, I’m not going to be able to pull this off.’ People are going to find me out and be like, ‘That guy’s not insanely brilliant at patterns and math,’” says Dale, who read countless books on emergence theory and government intelligence in preparation for the role.
The actor was able to tap into more personal material when it came to understanding Will’s emotional damage from the loss of his wife and child and his resulting social isolation.
“He’s a man who hasn’t grieved,” says the actor, who was familiar with such a state having lost his mother to cancer when he was 15. It wasn’t until Dale saw a production of “Wit” with Judith Light (playing a woman dying of cancer) that he himself was able to properly mourn his mother’s passing. “I was a wild teenager. I was angry, [in] a lot of pain, didn’t navigate it well. And that’s what fascinated me about Will. Here’s a guy who’s at this place that I was as a teenager. He’s withdrawn from the world and hides in his work. What I love about this show is that here’s someone who’s being forced back into the world, to deal with people and to face things.”