The actor offers insight into the reactive—but well-intentioned—Murphy family patriarch.
What do you make of John's interest in Kevin? Is he looking for friendship, or to keep an eye on him?
More than anything, it starts out simply because of proximity. John is very protective of his neighborhood and wary of new people. I don't know that he's made a hard-and-fast decision about Kevin and where their relationship will go. He tells Kevin after their first meeting that he's looking forward to getting to know him better, and I don't think there's any reason not to take that at face value.
John later tells Kevin that there are "no miracles in Miracle." What motivates that belief?
People are coming to Miracle to get healed and seek refuge, but John's wife has lived there her whole life and her deafness hasn’t been "cured." So it's a way of managing expectations about the town. Just because there were no departures doesn't mean it's a perfect place without any flaws. John wants to maintain a sense of reality in the community.
With that in mind, what does he make of Virgil's being "reborn" after John shot him?
I think it's all a matter of perspective. Someone else might see it as a miracle, but John would just see it as a job incomplete. But at this point, nothing has concretely proved to John that the spiritual realm is at work in his town.
Why do you think John hasn't opened his birthday present from Evie?
One of the ideas on the show that I really love is how important it is as a father to share happiness and loving moments with a family. His motivation is really quite simple—he wants to share the joy of opening the gift with his daughter, and he's hopeful that he will be able to do that.
If John were to open the gift before they found Evie, would he feel like it was a betrayal? That he'd given up hope?
I think he could feel that way, sure, but I believe the stronger feeling is of wanting to share the moment with her when she's home again. Not being able to share that moment is not something John takes lightly.
You've thought a lot about the Murphys' relationships with each other.
I'm hugely appreciative of the family dynamic on the show. I love that you have a prominent family in this town headed by two service-oriented people. His wife is a doctor, and John—in making a rebound in his life—works at the volunteer fire department. Those are two noble professions that are centered on the good of the community. [Series co-creators] Damon [Lindelof] and Tom [Perrotta] have given us a noble nucleus to work from. From that all kinds of mayhem ensues, but these are well-intentioned people who are active in a community—they're not just some trouble-making family.
I am thrilled to get to play a patriarch of substance with such a community-minded family. John does add goodness to the world, in his own way—I'm not saying he's perfect, but he's got good intentions. If you look back at any of the events of the show, I don't think you'd find that John just wakes up and decides to beat somebody up. John's reactive to things—perhaps too reactive—but he is a very principled man.
Though it's taken a backseat as we've moved into the season, what do you think motivated John's obsession with the cricket?
Honestly, that's connected to something that I'd like to hold onto until later in the season. For me, there's an obvious connection, but I'm not sure if the audience has made it just yet. That question has come up many times, and I love that it's such a source of curiosity. The simple answer is, it's bugging me. But as you find in The Leftovers, everything has many layers.