For viewers of Showtime’s “The Affair” who couldn’t quite root for philandering leads Noah and Alison, there’s good news. The somewhat more sympathetic ex-spouses of the cheating duo, Helen and Cole, will have much bigger roles to play in Season 2.
The show, from executive producer Sarah Treem, tells its story from each main character’s point of view, and when it returns with new episodes on Sunday, we’ll see things from Helen and Cole’s perspective for the first time.
“The Affair” often tells the same sequence of events twice in one episode, from a different person’s perspective each time, with each person sometimes seemingly remembering things very differently, and it’s a device that’s caused some frustration for viewers.
“If you think it took you out of the narrative experience of the show, if you think it was too broad of a difference and it made you aware of the device, then yeah, that was a mistake, I think that’s a really valid criticism,” he told TheWrap.
It’s a lesson learned as “The Affair” heads into Season 2, said Jackson, who also talked about getting to know more about his character Cole this season, and offers up a recommendation or two for potential viewers before starting the show.
TheWrap: What do you want people to know before watching Season 2?
Joshua Jackson: Well, for the people who’ve been watching, we’ve slightly changed the device of the story. And the people who aren’t watching, be prepared. Be sure your relationship is in a good place before you start watching it with your better half.
On a show called “The Affair,” where Season 1 seemed to have resolved that titular affair, why is now the right time to add in more of Helen and Cole, the ex-spouses they left behind?
Well, the title has two meanings, it’s not just the extramarital affair, it’s also the affair of the murder and the mystery and the crime. The extramarital affair was exposed at the end of the first season, but the other thing that’s going on is this mystery that’s driving the plot through the first and second seasons. And the fallout from the extramarital affair also carries forward. It’s not like they decided they’re not going to be with their spouses anymore and the story’s just over.
What have you learned about Cole now that you get to play things from his point of view, that you didn’t know before?
I certainly was able to do – or least hoping to do – was broaden up the idea of who Cole was. Once you got inside his perspective and his interior life, you get a sense of what makes him tick, really, frankly, what his insecurities are. That really doesn’t come across very much in the first season. I think, I hope, over the course of this season, you’ll see a broader idea of who that guy is.
Will we get to see him interact more with Noah and Helen or will he mostly still be involved with Alison?
He’s actually mostly on his own this year.
There still seems to be some frustration over the issue of “objective truth” on this show. Why do you think people are so hung up on the idea of finding out what really happened and is the show planning on addressing that?
The criticisms that we were getting last year that I think is valid, is what people were actually trying to articulate that they didn’t believe that people could remember the same events so differently. I disagree with that, I think people can have radically different memories, and I’ve had that experience. But if you think it took you out of the narrative experience of the show, if you think it was too broad of a difference and it made you aware of the device, then yeah, that was a mistake. I think that’s a really valid criticism. And frankly, I think Sarah’s aware that we made some missteps with that last year. So the individual experience, the subjectivity of memory is still very a central part of the show, but I think she learned a lesson from just how far audiences are willing to go before that suspension of disbelief was broken. Which is obviously not what we’re trying to do.
So will we ever see two characters on the show confront each other about the different ways they remember the same thing, just to sort of address that?
That actually got brought up in smaller ways at the end of the last season, where people would laughingly, jokingly – and I do this in my own life quite a bit, you sort of laugh off the differences you think someone is misremembering. And of course there’s no way to go back and judge who’s right and who’s wrong in most instances. I don’t know if there will be a sort of direct confrontation about it, there certainly hasn’t been so far. It’s possible, if the show goes on.
As an actor, do you have to believe in one version of events in order to play it, especially when it’s a segment from Cole’s perspective?
Sure. I think all of us believe our narrative is the right one, unless our character is falling into madness. For each of the characters, they believe their version of the story. And frankly, I’m not even totally aware that there is another version of the story. You have to remind yourself that other people have had a separate set of experiences. So for each of the characters, their narrative is the narrative.
So when you’re playing Cole in someone else’s segment, do you concede to that actor and allow them to have the right of way in how you should play him?
Yeah. We have the benefit of having a cast that really enjoys each other’s company and playing with each other. I was just talking to Ruth last night, there’s a specific scene that is from Cole’s perspective, that places her character into a position that she wouldn’t really organically go to. But because it’s from Cole’s perspective, we both thought that at the end of the day, she just has to play this outside version of herself. It’s specific only to that scene and only to that moment in Cole’s memory.
“The Affair” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.