‘Ordinary Joe’ Star James Wolk Breaks Down the Difference Between Each Joe
TownNews.com Content Exchange

Asking “What if?” can be a torturous game to play in real life. But there’s no danger in living vicariously through Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk), the heart of NBC’s compelling new drama Ordinary Joe.

Each episode tracks the three lives he could be living today, depending on how he chose to celebrate his college graduation 10 years earlier. As we learned in the September 20 premiere — spoiler alert if you haven’t watched yet — if he opted for dinner with his family, he’d end up following in the footsteps of his uncle and late father and join the NYPD. If he hit the beach with his best friend with benefits, Jenny (Elizabeth Lail), she’d have told him she was pregnant, they’d have gotten married and he’d now be a nurse. And if he’d asked out Amy (Natalie Martinez), a classmate he’d just met that day, the music major would’ve been inspired to follow his dream of becoming the next Billy Joel and married her instead.

Ordinary Joe Season 1 James Wolk

(Credit: Sandy Morris/NBC)

“At 21, I had so many directions I wanted to go in and I felt the weight of the world,” says Wolk. “[Reading the script], a part of me went, ‘Oh my God, that’s me!’ And then quickly I realized I’m not that special — we all think about ‘What if?’”

Episodes revolve around what producers call a “unifying event.” In the opener, for instance, each Joe attended his college reunion; in the September 27 hour, it’s the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and of Joe losing his dad. “That became a defining moment and core wound for Joe,” executive producer Russel Friend says. “[Each Joe] has different ways they handle the grief and that day.” Here, we get to know them better.

'Ordinary Joe' Creators on the Show's '3-Dimensional Love Triangle' & What's NextSee Also

'Ordinary Joe' Creators on the Show's '3-Dimensional Love Triangle' & What's Next

Plus, they detail the true 'driving force' of the new NBC series starring James Wolk... and it's not romance.

Nurse Joe

Ordinary Joe Nurse Elizabeth Lail James Wolk

(Credit: Parrish Lewis/NBC)

The Road He’s On

Calm in a crisis — he saved the life of New York congressman Bobby Diaz (Adam Rodriguez) in the premiere — this Joe also uses his skills at home to care for his son, Christopher (John Gluck), who has spinal muscular atrophy. “Learning to be a special-needs parent, especially someone in Joe and Jenny’s positions, when they’re so young — it forces you to throw everything else into the back seat,” says executive producer Garrett Lerner, who based Joe’s “best friendship” with the 9-year-old on his relationship with his son, who also has spinal muscular atrophy.

Matters of the Heart

After a trial separation, paralegal Jenny served Joe divorce papers in the premiere. Amy, who’s happily married to Joe’s buddy Eric (Charlie Barnett) in this timeline, is rooting for them to work it out. There is hope: At the class reunion, Joe confessed why he’d grown so distant — he felt guilty admitting how unhappy he was working night shifts, which allowed him to better support Christopher but never see Jenny. Now he wants to win her back. In the October 4 episode, centered on Jenny’s birthday, Joe enlists Christopher to help bake her a special cake. “We’ll get to learn more about Jenny’s backstory,” teases Friend.

Behind the Scenes

Scene-stealer Gluck, 13, was cast through a national search in the muscular dystrophy community. He’d never acted before sending in a taped audition. Says Lerner, “We were like, ‘Who’s this star hiding in Virginia?!’”

Cop Joe

(Credit: Sandy Morris/NBC)

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by making a contribution.

The Road He’s On

As one of New York’s Finest, Joe trusted his instincts and stopped an assassination attempt on Congressman Diaz. He earned a Distinguished Service Award but prefers to leave the term “hero” for his father, Christopher, and the other first responders who died on 9/11. Wolk thinks of this Joe as being stuck in a snow globe, like “he froze his childhood in time after his father’s death,” the actor says. “He still lives at home and basically has not changed much since he was a kid.”

Matters of the Heart

Single Joe reconnected with Amy, who works for the congressman’s campaign, and also remembered him from their graduation day meet-cute. “Life is about timing and so many different factors,” says Lerner. “Now we’re getting to see Amy and Joe get that second chance. What happens when the one that got away comes back?” Also in the picture is Jenny, whom Joe saw at the reunion for the first time in 10 years. The assistant district attorney nervously introduced him to her son, Lucas (also played by Gluck). Will Joe piece together that Lucas is his child? “It’s played out over the course of Season 1,” hints Friend.

Behind the Scenes

Friend is a New Yorker who knew three people who died at the World Trade Center and hopes to honor their memories. He also grew up in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where “pretty much everyone is required to be a Billy Joel fan from birth.” Joe will continue to perform covers at the cop bar.

Musician Joe

(Credit: Parrish Lewis/NBC)

The Road He’s On

The rock star has the fame to sell out arenas, the money to own at least six cars, and an amazing spouse, Amy, to come home to. But what he wants most is to be a father, and Amy has had trouble carrying a pregnancy to term. “We found it interesting to play with this character who seemingly does have everything, but then humanize him by watching him define himself over what he cannot have,” says Lerner.

Matters of the Heart

After suffering another miscarriage in the premiere, Amy had the opportunity to replace Congressman Diaz on the ballot and took it — which made Joe worry that she’ll want to stop trying for a baby. At the reunion, Joe ran into Jenny, a partner at a law firm. He shared the couple’s fertility issues, and Jenny tearfully told him about her pregnancy 10 years ago. She made the decision to have the child and gave him up for adoption. Shocked to learn that he is a dad, Joe vowed to find and meet his son. “He feels a big void,” Wolk says, “and we are going to investigate that as the season goes on.” Will he tell Amy about the search?

Behind the Scenes

The pilot was filmed in Chicago, which doubled for New York. Joe’s jaw-dropper of a loft was a large event space originally scouted for the reunion, but director Adam Davidson thought, “This is a rock star’s house!” Now that production has moved to Atlanta for the series, the loft has been re-created on soundstages and given, Lerner promises, “an incredible view.”

Ordinary Joe, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

This article originally ran on tvinsider.com.

Tags

TownNews.com Content Exchange