Kevin Carroll on Playing Changed Man John Murphy

The actor discusses John Murphy’s journey from anger to faith.


HBO: How did the end of Season 2 change John, and where he is now three years later?

Kevin Carroll: By the end of Season 2, John has changed in many ways. There are cracks in his sense of security and control. It actually allows him to move into Season 3 with the ability to be open and consider a different sense of the world. The fact that he’s been living in that [mental] place for three years before you see him again [in Season 3] gives the audience room to imagine he’s had time to reconstruct — or he’s in the midst of reconstructing his beliefs. That has helped him become close with Laurie, which worked to shape John’s vision for moving forward. John is still searching as we go into Season 3. And the way the season is constructed, John services the story for other people.

HBO: He’s definitely quiet about his beliefs this season. Is he still grappling with his faith?

Kevin Carroll: It’s not always what you say; a lot of times it’s who you are. John has always allowed his son, Michael, to believe in what he needed to, but John has questioned faith all along. He’s never worn his faith on his sleeve; but now John’s participated in writing this book about a modern-day person he believes may be the closest thing he’s experienced to a tangible sense of someone who’s lived through miracles; who is a miracle. To be brave enough to consider spirituality; to consider there is something bigger than he is, and not lose the safety of who he is, or not lose control, is a huge journey for John to undergo.

HBO: At the beginning of the season, we see John working on the handprints and burning the money. What service does he believe he’s bringing to the Miracle community?

Kevin Carroll: When people try to communicate with people they have lost, it has the ability to release them from these emotional places they may have fallen victim to. With the understanding of having lost his own family, one of the ways John finds he can help people is allowing them to believe he’s communicated with people from their past, and genuinely give them the ability to move on. If you don’t charge people, they won’t believe it’s real. So he allows them to pay, but he doesn’t take the money.

HBO: Why hasn’t he been able to accept Evie’s passing?

Kevin Carroll: Part of this show, for me, is about the resilience of the human spirit. So many times in life you can be knocked down, but you don’t stay down. One of the things that has allowed John to get up every day and move on to the degree he has, is the unrelenting hope that he will reach his daughter again. This is still part of John’s process — this loss of a child and his refusal to let go.

HBO: Does he struggle with the fact that Laurie’s a “doubter”?

Kevin Carroll: In classic [co-creators] Damon [Lindelof] and Tom [Perrotta] fashion, there are going to be layers to what Laurie and John’srelationship is,who John is, and how much he reveals. So even in the closeness with Laurie, John’s kept part of himself closed off. It’s only through confronting Laurie about deeper-seated feelings that he’s forced to reveal that part of him.

We know the seven year anniversary [of the Great Departure] is coming up, and people have the overwhelming feeling that something may happen ‒ that we may or may not be in danger. It allows John to believe that the most important thing is to get Kevin back to Miracle, and if Laurie is a doubter, if she’s not in the same place John is spiritually, that still isn’t enough to separate them.

HBO: What has been the most rewarding thing about playing John Murphy?

Kevin Carroll: In terms of the character, to be able to play a father who loves his family and is not perfect has been a great challenge and journey. When you step aside and look at this for what it is, I got the chance to play a whole different person that was penned by an incredible writing team without a lot of boundaries. There was no judgement in any kind of way on the consideration of the character’s journey. The character allowed me to be fully loving, fully compassionate, and fully in the anger in the love.

One of the conversations I had early on with Damon was that love should be shown in this [the Murphy] family. We can go anywhere from there, but there’s got to be love. I think Damon echoed that notion in the scene John says he wants Evie to know she was loved. It’s so beautiful. I got chills when I read it. I couldn’t get over that, until one night that conversation with Damon came back to me. I was like, I’ll be damned that was the first thing we talked about. I was blown away.

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