'Counterpart' Star J.K. Simmons Hints the Howards Are 'Not All That Different'

Jim Halterman
Q&A Starz

You’re not seeing double. The Starz sci-fi series Counterpart features two Howard Silks (both played by Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons).

One is a mild-mannered office worker (known as Howard Alpha), while his "other" (Howard Prime, the version that exists in an alternate universe) is a no-nonsense operative for Berlin’s U.N. spy agency, Office of Interchange. But when "the crossing" — where people can pass between the two worlds — was closed at the end of Season 1, the Howards, who had switched places, were each stuck in the other's spot. Simmons clues us in on how he keeps it all straight.

'Counterpart' Season 2 Trailer: Two Worlds, Two Howards! (VIDEO)

'Counterpart' Season 2 Trailer: Two Worlds, Two Howards! (VIDEO)

Think things lighten up in season 2? Based on the first preview and new key art, that couldn't be further from the truth!

Last season you were just getting used to playing two Howards. Is it easier now?

J.K. Simmons: I continue to get more of a handle on the Howards, but then we find them either pretending to be the other or incorporating aspects of the other. It requires another level of subtlety.

Is there an upside to the Howards being stuck in the other’s world?

Absolutely. They end up making steps on the journey to discovering themselves, even if the self they’re discovering is a different self. Wow, that’s a confusing sentence!

Howard Prime is quite nurturing with Alpha’s wife, Emily (Olivia Williams), who is just out of a coma. Did he even know he had a softer side?

Much to his surprise and largely dismay, he begins to find parts of himself that are not all that different from the counterpart he doesn’t relate to or particularly respect.

There’s a new boss in Berlin, ruthless Naya Temple (Betty Gabriel). Is Howard Prime looking for an ally?

Self-preservation is a primary motivation, so it’s certainly good to have allies. Howard Prime may be a badass, but he’s ethical. He has a mission he’s continuing to pursue.

And how is Alpha doing in Prime’s world?

He’s still in custody and he’s not a happy camper!

Counterpart, Season Premiere 9/8c, Starz  

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This article also appeared in the Nov. 26 - Dec. 3 issue of TV Guide Magazine

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