Asked what it’s like playing opposite himself in Starz’s upcoming sci-fi espionage series Counterpart, J.K. Simmons joked that he’s “my favorite actor to work with.” But he acknowledged that it presents certain technical challenges to him and anyone else who “had the misfortune” to be in the scenes.
Another actor stood in for Simmons’ other self during shooting then got “erased” to add in his other performance, which Simmons called a “learning curve as indeed life itself is.”
In the espionage series about a mysterious world hidden beneath the surface of our existence, Simmons plays Howard Silk, a lowly cog in the Berlin-based bureaucratic United Nations spy agency. He discovers that his organization safeguards a crossing into a parallel dimension and is thrust into a shadow world in which the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world. Premiering on January 21, the show explores themes of identity, fate and lost love, posing the eternal question, “What if our lives could have been different” the network describes.
Actress Olivia Williams has more questions than that, like whether playing someone who has empathy and feelings of attachment for her other self constitutes narcissism and whether detachment suggests self loathing – great questions for a therapist, she noted.
TV critics asked Counterpart creator/EP Justin Marks about similarities between this series and Fringe, Fox’s 2008-13 sci-fi FBI series from J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Marks said he had not seen that show – the standard answer to this often-asked question in the TV industry. His is a more traditional British spy genre series with sci-fi “sprinkled over the top,” he added.
He knew from the outset that Counterpart would be set in Europe, explaining that he wanted a “bit of a Cold War allegory” – not the kind of thing that played particularly well in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco but perfect for Berlin.
The setting and international cast also help the show stand out to American audiences, while speaking to European viewers, he said.