Zap2it: How is playing the role of small-town politician “Big Jim” Rennie on “Under the Dome,” based on a Stephen King novel, different from playing DEA agent Hank Schrader on AMC’s “Breaking Bad”?
Dean Norris: It’s been great. Coming off of “Breaking Bad,” where I was doing a lot of internal, angsty, emotional stuff toward the end of the series, but this character’s a manipulator. On some level, he’s psychopathic. He’s a liar. It’s so much to get to play.
Zap2it: How was Big Jim described to you?
Dean Norris: This is what Stephen King told me, “He’s Dick Cheney.” And I said, “I was thinking more Alexander Haig; when Reagan got shot, he said, ‘I’m in charge.’ ” The idea is, he’s a man who takes charge. King meant that he was the power behind the scenes, the guy who was manipulating things. He was not the guy out front so much.
The idea is that he’s a guy who runs the gamut of all this. In the show, he’s reading the biography of Winston Churchill. The dome is an opportunity for Big Jim to step in and save the day, be the leader that he always thought he was, in his own mind.
I imagine him saying the Winston Churchill speeches to himself in the mirror.
Zap2it: He also has a disturbed son, Junior (Alexander Koch). What’s that relationship?
Dean Norris: You’re not going to think there’s a lot of love there, but it’s because Big Jim doesn’t really know how to do that, with his son.