Jesse Luken is used to playing headstrong characters, from his baseball player who sticks up for Jackie Robinson in “42” to the right-hand man to a crime boss on FX’s “Justified.” And his latest role on the CW’s “Star-Crossed” has him putting his foot down again as Eric, the seemingly ignorant and prejudiced bully actively against the integration of aliens into his high school.
On being part of “Star-Crossed.”
“It’s really fun to create and be a part of the creation of a world. From Season 1, you get to see the world develop and grow in front of your eyes, and the world itself is maybe my favorite part—it’s got a cool sci-fi feel about it. We’ve been dealing with prejudice and discrimination for thousands of years, so to put that in this setting is exciting.”
On seeing the bigger picture.
“I was lucky enough to do some traveling and living abroad, and that’s very helpful in terms of seeing the way other parts of the world operate. I really love getting the pulse of a region of people—stories that bring you right into a certain area of the country or the world—and you get a better glimpse of the way those people operate on a daily basis. I think the Coen brothers are the best at that.”
On drawing from experience.
“It’s easy for me to connect with headstrong characters, which probably says something about me. I have four brothers and played sports my whole life. When you have to puff your chest out and act like a big shot, that’s something I’m used to. I love characters who are passionate one way or another, characters who feel strong about their ideals.”
On connecting with his character.
“There was one story angle that I thought really helped me relate to Eric. In the beginning he’s just presented as a bully, and then they present why he feels that way: Eric’s the star of the swim team. He’s from a really poor family and wouldn’t be able to afford to go to college, but he’s on a swim scholarship. And then they allow the Atrians to join the swim team, and the Atrians can breathe underwater and are much faster swimmers than humans. Eric starts to feel his scholarship is going to be taken away. Relating to the character, not only did these Atrians make him poor [after their presence led to the shutdown of his family’s business], but they’re keeping him poor.”