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Henry Thomas on 'Betrayal': T.J. 'Takes an Active Stand in Changing His Life'

Caroline Kepnes
Yahoo TV
December 6, 2013

Henry Thomas on 'Betrayal': T.J. 'Takes an Active Stand in Changing His Life'

Caroline Kepnes
Yahoo TV
December 6, 2013
Henry Thomas as T.J. in "Betrayal"
Henry Thomas as T.J. in "Betrayal"

In the beginning, "Betrayal" looked like it would be about two beautiful people having a torrid affair. There is that, but this sophisticated series is also a criminal family drama. And one of the most fascinating members of the Karsten family is T.J. (Henry Thomas), the once prodigal son whose brain damage limits his abilities to live up to the expectations of his father (James Cromwell). T.J.'s dad, Thatcher, is formidable, to say the least. Here's an exclusive clip from Sunday's episode when he refuses to call 911 while his son suffers from a seizure:

Henry Thomas (yes, the kid from "E.T." all grown up) brings nuance to the character, which is especially important given all that T.J. has endured this season. To wit, T.J. was charged with murdering his uncle, bailed out of prison by his domineering father, and tried to move on with a job in a body shop and was dragged out of there against his will. We saved the worst for last: T.J. discovered his girlfriend dead and went on a boozy bender with his teenage nephew.

We spoke to Thomas about all things "Betrayal," ratings included. The "Legends of the Fall" star has been acting since he was a child, and he's very reflective about the way the world has changed since "E.T." premiered. We couldn't help but wonder if Thomas would consider reuniting with America's favorite extraterrestrial for a sure-to-be-viral video. Thomas laughed. We'll take that as a yes, pending Steven Spielberg's approval, of course.

And now, it's time for "Betrayal."

T.J. is off his meds and it looks like he's in for some danger…

I'll tell you a little bit without giving away too much. His life kind of came crashing down around him when Brandy died, his love, and now he's struggling with the same thing he was struggling with before, which is how does he fit into his dad's world. And how can he be the son that his father always wanted? And suddenly that doesn't have that much importance to him anymore. He's in a really horrible state because of losing Brandy and having a suspicion that she was killed but not knowing how to go about finding out. He's kind of hopeless.

[Related: Speed Date With 'Betrayal' Star Hannah Ware

One of the worst moments for T.J. was at the body shop when his father came to get him. That was dark. Will we see more of that?

I know, it's hard because in a lot of ways T.J. has a lot more intelligence and ability than he gets credit for. I think the heartbreaking part, the fun thing to play as an actor ... trying to breathe life into the role, is to play that frustration of knowing that there's something wrong with you and you can't quite, you're at the controls but all the levers aren't working. For me, that's the fun part about T.J., the heartbreaking part, too.

It's probably way too soon after Brandy, but will T.J. find love again?

No, he's hung his heart up. But you never know. Right now he's in a bad place and that has to play out, but I think you'll see him come into his own, in a way. It's not the obvious thing but it's kind of, it's just right for him and it's just what he wanted.

Will coming into his own mean leaving his father?

Yeah, without revealing too much, he kind of makes a stand for himself, you know, after a few disasters. He takes an active stand in changing his life. That's his big payoff. T.J. is not gonna let anything get in the way of his life anymore.

In the last episode, we suddenly felt bad for Thatcher because of those flashback scenes.

That was cool, wasn't it? That was [James Cromwell's] son [in the flashbacks]. He did a really great job. And he's actually about two or three inches taller than his dad, who is already a very tall man.

How is it working with James Cromwell?

He's great. He knows the scene backwards and forwards. He's got it all worked out, and he's a pleasure to work with. He won't let you be bad in a scene with him. It's not much work.

Were you hesitant to take on this role, to play someone with brain damage?

I was a little intimidated by the role because I didn't want it to be a caricature. Although there are humorous situations involving T.J., you always kind of have to redress yourself and make sure that you are playing a person and not a caricature. That is the most important thing for me, the most important focus that I had going into this was trying to make him real and dynamic, and you know not just another version of "Rain Man" or something else that you've seen a thousand times. And we don't even have to go into the "Tropic Thunder" quote, but that was on my mind too.

The show has some really rabid fans that are dying for a second season. Do you have any words of encouragement for them?

That's wonderful. Well, a couple of weeks ago, some online source printed that the show was canceled. And that is absolutely not true. They are definitely going see all 13 episodes, and there is still no word [on Season 2]. We probably won't know anything until January through March. But, they haven't said no, so we still don't know. There's still hope, and if the ratings come up ... I think they're gonna look at their lineup for 2014 and if we have good numbers, we most likely will get a second season. But you know, the show was originally only planned as a limited series of 13, which I know is sort of the network hedging their bet and I don't really work in that world, so the ratings game is still a little bit of a mystery to me. But I hope that if the numbers build, we'll get a second season.

[Related: 2014 Renewal Scorecard: What's Coming Back? What's Getting Cancelled? What's on the Bubble?

If that does happen, would you want to see Jack and Sarah stay together?

I also look at it from T.J.'s perspective, and Jack and Sarah have made such a mess that has ruined the whole family and I think that while T.J. loves Jack, I don't think he's ever going to forgive him. He got that from his father. And you know, there's a lot of history. Jack was involved in T.J.'s accident. And with this show, everybody kind of thought it was a one-trick pony, about an affair between Jack and Sarah, but it's sort of not about the affair.

It's a family show, that scene with Drew and his son. Ouch.

Drew Stafford initially seemed sort of programmed, political like he was phoning it in as a father, and now he's become vulnerable. That's great acting [from Chris Johnson]. I geek out on stuff like that.

It's been almost 20 years since "Legends of the Fall."

It blows my mind a little, just because I keep getting older! (Laughs) I'm used to getting asked about stuff that I filmed when I was a little kid. I turned 22 while I was making that movie.

Does the studio have any plans for a 20th anniversary?

Oh, I haven't heard anything, but you never know. (Laughs) If they can make some money, I'm sure I'll hear from them!

"Betrayal" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC.