Jonny Coyne is Warden Edwin James in Alcatraz, and even though his character is dead in our time line, his presence and past actions permeate everything in the current mystery about the prison. He is the pivot point to why, and possibly how, prisoners are returning to our time to commit crimes and carry out some sinister plot. Coyne plays the Warden with charm, mixed immediately with lethal strength or is it sadistic brutality. It’s hard to put a clinical analysis on him as we like to do these days. We like scientific names for our villains, psycho this or that, which fits into a nice slot. It helps us take control of the situation. But it’s hard to put a behavioral profile on his actions, even as you try and remember this was over 50 years ago and set in an entirely different world mentality. But who is James working for? How long has this been going on? What did they hope to accomplish or did something go wrong? And what’s with all that gold?
Jonny Coyne reveals a few secrets, but still leaves us… hanging.
Most of the flashbacks are in 1960 and not 1963 when everyone disappears. Can you talk about what the significance is with the different years?
JONNY COYNE: We’re telling the story of the process that was being developed and introduced that leads to the disappearance of the ’63s. There is no point in just presenting the last couple of months, it is the ongoing process. Without giving too much away, spoiler alert, we do mention that someone had been watched since 1952, since the Korean War. It’s a process that these guys are going through and sometimes the flashbacks are from 1960 and sometimes they’re in 1963.
Is the Warden the evil mastermind of all of this or is he just a player?
COYNE: You’ll just have to watch episode 13 and you’ll find out. I mean, he’s certainly part of the big plan. He’s certainly involved in the big story line and I think in season 2, and we’re all crossing our finger for that…in Season 2 that they are going to make him a little bit more significant. Obviously we still have the issue that we have a villain of the week procedural to undertake, but I think the rest of the story will develop more and more.
Were you surprised when you opened a door and there was a bunch of gold behind it?
COYNE: I had kind of been told that it might be something like that in the previous week. But when I got it [the script], it was fantastic to get the gold there. I know it’s significant.
What is it like to play this kind of double crossing nefarious character?
COYNE: Completely the best job in the world to sort of have all of this nefarious approach to things and have people sort of constantly wondering where you are. Fantastically interesting for an actor. So the more good stuff they give me, the nice stuff they give me, I relish that, because it fucks with you even more. It’s great fun to play. Like all villains, if he is a villain that is, it’s by no means certain; all villains have a lighter shade so that’s the joy of playing it.
Alcatraz ends the season with a double dose of mystery this Monday, March 26th on FOX at 9:00PM.