It's been almost 15 years since "The Sixth Sense" first introduced us to Haley Joel Osment and a full decade since his last starring film role in 2003's "Secondhand Lions." But the now 25-year-old actor has finally been lured back into the spotlight with "Alpha House," the flagship series of Amazon Studios, whose first three episodes premiere Nov. 15 (including the pilot, which has been available since April). Osment plays a young reporter assigned to Sen. Louis Laffer (Matt Malloy, of "Tanner '88") as the congressman tries to make over his image.
"For me, it's always the quality of the script," said Osment while meeting with the press at an event for the new show, of why he got back into acting. "This was a very funny script. I could see its potential going forward because we have John Goodman ("Roseanne"), Matt Malloy ("Hitch"), Clark Johnson ("The Wire"), and Mark Consuelos ("All My Children"). It's written by Garry Trudeau [of "Doonesbury" fame], who's such a genius. It was an exciting project to be a part of."
Though Osment has done mostly voice work since 2001's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," he hasn't stopped creating, but, he says, "it's getting very difficult to get those good independent scripts made these days. A lot of things I worked on in college, we just couldn't get them made." Thanks to new studios like Amazon entering the scene, though, "there's a lot more opportunities in that world now, and as an actor, that's really exciting."
Osment also stars in an IFC miniseries due out this year, but the emphasis on television rather than film is a coincidence. "This year, they just all sort of happened at the same time." But he's glad to be on the "ground floor" of the new venture and not just as an actor. "As somebody who likes to watch shows, too, I'm glad to have a lot of variety."
See Osment in "Alpha House":
The process felt very much like making a film, according to Osment. "We catch ourselves saying 'the movie' or 'the show' at turns because it felt like both of those things." Admits Yara Martinez, who plays major money player Adriana De Portago, "I referred to this as 'the movie' in the last interview."
"I'm really excited — I feel like it's beyond the wave of the future," said Consuelos, who plays Sen. Andy Guzman, a rising Republican star. "In a couple years, we won't even be talking about how people are watching their content." Johnson, who plays Sen. Robert Bettencourt, a congressman who begins the show under the cloud of an ethics investigation, agrees. "It's content — it's always about content." The format doesn't matter so much as quality, and "we put ourselves up against any show out there."
Goodman, who plays Sen. Gil John Biggs — he gets by on charm and his winning record as a retired UNC basketball coach — feels the same way. "It's exciting — trepidation was left the minute I saw the script. It's just good comedy."
"We push it to the edge of farce and bring it on back," said Johnson of the show's tone. "Garry, to paraphrase him, there're no jokes in the show. There's just too much out there that's funny, and the juxtaposition of ideas, things on the Hill, and these guys' personal lives is such a gold mine."
Malloy was also involved with "Tanner '88," HBO's first original program more than 20 years ago, which also happened to have been created by Trudeau, and it turns out not much has changed. In fact, it's a little easier. "Now, because the 24-hour news cycle is more intense, it's not as odd an idea to run real politicians up against fictitious ones."
Check out the official "Alpha House" trailer:
The first three episodes of "Alpha House" premiere Nov. 15 on Amazon.