Like most parents, Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery have some thoughts about Jaeden Martell’s hair.
The trio play the seemingly idyllic Barber family in Apple TV+’s Defending Jacob, and before the show’s April 24 debut, they staged a makeshift family reunion on Zoom, with Dockery calling in from her home in London, Evans from Boston, and Martell from Los Angeles. As soon as the video feed flickered on, all three began waving and grinning at the sight of each other, like any long-distance kin who’ve been separated by quarantine. Evans immediately started peppering the 17-year-old Martell with playful questions about his newly bleached blond hair: “Is that for work, or is that for you?”
“Just for fun,” Martell replied. “Because why not?”
“It looks great!” Dockery gushed, as Martell pointed out Evans’ recent buzz cut. “It’s utilitarian,” Evans said with a shrug, running his hand over his head.
Even separated by several time zones, Evans, Dockery, and Martell have an easy chemistry that makes them particularly believable as a family unit. And at first, Defending Jacob’s Barber family seem to be every bit the close-knit, white-picket-fence suburbanites they present on the outside. Their sense of normalcy shatters, however, when a local boy is found stabbed on a nearby jogging path. The boy, Ben, was a classmate of 14-year-old Jacob (It alum Martell), and the youngest Barber is soon arrested on suspicions of murder. Suddenly, mom Laurie (Downton Abbey’s Dockery) and dad Andy (Evans, a.k.a. Captain America) find themselves rushing to defend their son, as they privately question how well they really know him — and each other.
Writer Mark Bomback and director Morten Tyldum adapted William Landay’s 2012 novel into eight episodes, following the Barbers as they hole up in their house, dodging accusations from law enforcement, inquiries from the media, and dirty looks from neighbors. As an added wrinkle, Andy is an assistant district attorney — specifically the assistant district attorney who was investigating Ben’s murder, up until his own son’s arrest.
Ahead of the show’s premiere on Apple TV+, Evans, Dockery, and Martell open up about deceit, trust, and family bonding.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is such a wild, twisty story. What was it that made each of you want to be a part of this?
MICHELLE DOCKERY: I was really compelled by the scripts that I read initially, which I think were the first three. I just thought it was an amazing story and quite different to most crime dramas, as it focuses more on the effects it has on the family. That certainly was an interest for me. And Mark is just such a brilliant writer. For me, it always starts with the material.
This show has a lot of the hallmarks of your traditional murder mystery thriller — red herrings, cliffhangers, hidden secrets. But it’s uniquely centered on this family relationship and the idea of trust. What was it about that theme of family that you guys wanted to explore?
DOCKERY: They differ in their journey so much, Andy and Laurie. So much of the struggle for her is the guilt that she carries: “Is this true? Is this my fault? Did I do something wrong?” And I think it really highlights what parents go through, the anxieties that come from being a parent, how you create this person.
This feels like a little bit of a departure for each of you. Did you get to try any new skills or explore any new territory?
DOCKERY: I mean, it’s always challenging playing Americans. I’m having to play them a lot at the moment. I had to work just that little bit harder because with an accent, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I learned with this one that it does take a bit more homework.
What do you think was your biggest challenge on this show overall?
DOCKERY: For me, it was how emotional the role was. There were moments where I would have to say to Morten, “How far should I go in the scene?” As we were piecing it together, I was always thinking to myself, “Am I crying in every scene?” [Laughs] It was important to strike a balance with Laurie [where] she wasn’t a complete wreck the whole time. That was a challenge, trying to find the moments where she really holds it together and the times where she was allowed to fall apart and be vulnerable.