Meet Mike Vogel, the 33-year-old actor who plays Dale "Barbie" Barbara in CBS' "Under the Dome," the high-concept series based on Stephen King's hefty novel of the same name.
As we draw closer to the June 24 premiere, The Huffington Post will take you inside the epic CBS drama, introducing you to each of the show's major players through our series of on-set interviews. Whether you're a fan of the book or a newcomer to King's world, the series has plenty of surprises in store. For the uninitiated, "Under the Dome" centers around the fictional town of Chester's Mill, and explores what happens to its inhabitants after an impenetrable dome of unknown origin cuts them off from the rest of the world. Will they rise to the occasion or devolve into chaos as they try to find a way out?
Vogel is perhaps best known for his recent roles in ABC's "Pan Am" and A&E's "Bates Motel," but "Dome" is likely to provide the actor's true breakout role. Though Barbie is presented as the show's reluctant hero from the outset, he's hiding a number of secrets from the people of Chester's Mill, and once the dome comes down and traps the townsfolk in close quarters, those secrets won't stay buried for long.
Did you read the book to prepare for the role, or were you actively avoiding it to start with a clean slate?
I did the same thing with "The Help" -- I hate having a preconceived notion of what it's going to be and then playing to that thing, especially once I heard that it's certainly based on the book, but [with] a series, there's a lot of maneuvering that we have to do. So yeah, I didn't.
Give us a little background on your character, Barbie, and where we find him in the premiere?
Barbie is a great guy. I love him. He's a former Special Forces operator. He's gotten out of the military and since then, he's done a bunch of odd jobs, trying to find his spot and where he fits in.
He finds himself basically collecting debts for a bookie and nine times out of 10, it's a nonviolent ordeal. He's not a heavy that's going around thumping on people, breaking kneecaps, [saying,] "Pay up. Pay up." Normally, everyone's willing. But he finds himself in some situations where he has to defend himself, which is sort of the catalyst which brings him into this town and he happens to find himself here when this event happens.
So he finds himself stuck in a position of having had to defend himself after a rather nefarious deed and stuck in a small town where word travels fast and everyone knows everyone. There's a lot of stuff swirling in the first couple episodes, and what I like about the show is, judging by the opening of the show, someone might say, "Oh, Barbie, bad guy -- Big Jim [played by Dean Norris], good guy." But that's not at all the case. And I enjoy that it takes time for everything to unravel here and that everything that you see is not what you're getting.
The book is certainly more delineated in laying out whether Barbie is good or bad right from the outset, so it's great that the show is sketching in more shades of gray.
Yeah ... You certainly have to stick with it to start seeing the evolution of everything. It takes time. And because of Barbie's certain talents and skills, he certainly plays a role in the town of the protector and enforcing justice, but also because of that, he becomes a fall guy for some things.
Speaking of Barbie's relationships with people in the town, what can you say about his dynamic with Big Jim, since the promotional materials certainly seem to be setting them at odds from the start. Would you say that they're the primary antagonists for each other?
Absolutely. Both Type-A personalities, for sure, and there's a power struggle there. I have many friends in Special Forces and the amazing thing about these guys is how quickly they can read someone. So clearly, Barbie gets a little feeling about this guy that something's off. On one hand, he appears to be the leader of this town and we all stick together. Everyone's on the team here. But you come to find out that there's all kinds of dealings that this guy's involved with under the surface. So it becomes a bit of a power struggle between the two of them ... Big Jim basically has every resource at his disposal; Barbie's here with nothing but a backpack and trying to exist in the middle of chaos.
From the promos, it seems like Barbie would prefer to stay out of everything, but circumstances conspire against him?
Yeah. Essentially that's the thing -- he'd rather go sleep in the woods and just avoid everything until all this blows over, and be far more comfortable doing that. But I think his integrity and his desire and need to help others wins out at the end of the day.
Barbie seems to be a magnet for trouble, because he'll also encounter Big Jim's son, Junior [Alexander Koch] ...
That's the thing. It's kind of like someone like my brother -- my brother could walk down the street and everyone wants to fight him for some reason. I don’t get it. It's like, "Why? You're standing here right next to me and it's not an issue, but for some reason everybody looks at me and they want to throw a punch in my face." And I feel like that's the way it is with Barbie. He carries himself in that way. He's out of place in this town, so instantly becomes a scapegoat. He's easy to blame for a lot of things because no one knows him. But yeah, it seems that in every episode he's carrying somebody, fighting somebody, helping somebody. It's good for me -- it's fun. But it becomes a good blend of trying to not play too much the hero, because that just gets a little overbearing.
He also seems to have some chemistry with the town's reporter, Julia Shumway [Rachelle Lefevre] -- can you preview anything about their relationship?
Yeah, and a lot of this is still evolving for us. We're only on [episode] four and the fun thing is that a lot of the guys involved with this come from "Lost" and so they bring that "Lost" mystique with them. And so we find ourselves going, "what's happening in the next episode?" [And they say] "It's coming, don't worry -- there's kind of this thing with this thing with a guy with a thing." And we're like, "Great. Fantastic. That helps!" So with Julia ... again, he finds himself stuck in this town. Clearly, she is an insanely intelligent, quick-witted woman and he's certainly attracted to her. We find out in the first episode that she had a husband that Barbie happened to run into, and an event took place ... and he's stuck in a position of having to lie to her ... And over several episodes, she comes to find out the truth and we'll see how their relationship evolves from that point. It's going to take some dancing, that's for sure.
"Under the Dome" premieres Monday, June 24 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS. Come back to HuffPost TV every morning for a new interview with a member of the cast.
"Under the Dome" set interviews:
Dean Norris as James "Big Jim" Rennie