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EXCLUSIVE | 'Defending Jacob' star Pablo Schreiber says fans should 'expect the unexpected' in final episodes of crime drama

Ahead of the seventh episode of the stirring series, MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) caught up with Schreiber in an exclusive interview
UPDATED MAY 21, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

'Defending Jacob' currently has a staggering audience approval rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The crime drama is also on the list of most-watched content since April 24, it's debut date. There are still two episodes left of the gripping Apple TV+ show, and the ratings can only hit the stratosphere over the next two weeks.

But this doesn't come as a surprise to Pablo Schreiber.

"It's not a surprise, the 42-year-old says confidently.  And he's quick to credit the streaming network. "Apple TV has been doing a really superb job of bringing great content, and I think people are paying attention to what they're offering. And so it wasn't a surprise to me that it's on the list of most-watched."

Ahead of the seventh episode of the stirring series, MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) caught up with Schreiber in an exclusive interview and as we delve deeper into discussing 'Defending Jacob', there's a sense of pride that's hard to miss. 

The crime drama series starring some prominent names in the industry is a classic whodunnit based on William Landay's novel of the same name. Chris Evans is Andrew Barber, a Massachusetts assistant district attorney, living with his wife Laurie (Michelle Dockery) and 14-year-old son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell). Things take a bad turn for the family when Jacob is accused of a murder. 

"I was sent all eight scripts," he recounts. "And the experience I had reading them was pretty earth-shattering. Mark Bomback is the writer and he created such a beautiful piece of art. The episodes were in such great shape and so complete and compelling," he added. "The journey that I went on in reading them...I was just really taken away. The level of the people they had, obviously acting in it already was superb. And it just seemed like a no-brainer to get involved."

Schreiber as Neal Logiudice in 'Defending Jacob' (AppleTV+)

Schreiber plays Neal Logiudice, a prosecutor on the series. And it was the first time he played the part. "In preparing for the role, I read the novel, obviously, to get a sense of what the character's function in the novel was. I realized pretty quickly that the character in the novel was quite different from the character in the series. So I let the novel go as a piece of research, and focus instead on preparing the character that was written in the series," he explained. 

Meticulous preparation

"I just went ahead on getting up to speed as to what makes a good prosecutor? What's an effective prosecutor? What are the tactics that are used at their disposal? Obviously, I don't have enough time to learn how to go through law school, but get a real basic sense of how a prosecutor does their jobs, what is within the bounds—morally and legally in terms of tactic?

Character breakdown

It is easy to dub his character as an antagonist. While all the time, he is just doing his job, and an awfully thorough one at it. I've had this experience in my career of playing the antagonist and having the audience hate you. I played a couple of characters that you would describe as characters that the audience loves to hate," he opined. 

"I'm curious about what creates this...why we're looked at as antagonists or why we are disliked as a character. And I thought this was a really interesting examination or experiment because really, ultimately Neal is only the antagonist because he's the person prosecuting Jacob (Martell). He's the person who's in the way of Andy. His main mission is the conviction of Jacob, which would absolutely destroy him, and he was our protagonist."

Schreiber continued: And so through the lens of the protagonist, obviously the things that he does come off as bad, and they piss us off because they're making life difficult for Andy. But in reality, Neal is only behaving as an effective prosecutor.  He's doing his job in being a good prosecutor, and going as hard as he can for the conviction of the person who he believes is guilty of the crime."

Chris Evans and Pablo Schreiber in a still from 'Defending Jacob' (AppleTV+)

"As an audience, watching this happen is painful and it's frustrating. We dislike the character because he's getting in the way of our protagonist, but through the lens of Neal, he's not doing anything wrong. And ultimately in episode eight, when we realize why he's doing what he's doing in the Supreme court hearing that's been happening throughout the season, we should be left questioning why we hated him so much."

The Andy vs Neal confrontation

"It serves a very specific purpose," Schreiber remarked. "He's hitting Andy where he's the weakest, and he knows Andy has been questioning this idea of his father as a murderer and whether this will come up in the trial. He knows that this is a concern of Andy's. And so he brings it up in order to get a rise out of Andy, hoping that he will do exactly what he does.  And when he does, he ended up using this against him in court."

"Again, it's an example of having a good prosecutor doing his job. It doesn't win any style points. It doesn't make us like him anymore. But in the context of being a prosecutor and trying to convict the person who you firmly believe committed the crime. It's very consistent in doing your job well. 

Our conversation next was about what to look forward to as the penultimate episode draws closer. "Expect the unexpected," comes as a quick reply. "Don't get comfortable," he added. Schreiber watched the series in one go as opposed to the world who waits for an episode every week. "I knew what happened, but as I was watching it, I don't feel like I comfortably could have said whether or not, Jacob had actually committed the crime. And I don't think I could have said comfortably who did either," he said. 

Schreiber and Evans in a still from Defending Jacob (AppleTV+)

"I think as an audience, you probably aren't feeling comfortable about either of those things. And I don't think you should expect to feel comfortable in the last two episodes. I think you should expect to have your expectations completely upturned."

Schreiber was generous in his praise for his co-stars. "It was fantastic," he says when asked about working alongside Evans, Martell, and Dockery. "Most of my work was with Chris and I believe he's done really phenomenal work in this series," he praised. "He's such a comfortable and compelling presence in this, that he really fills the role of, of the gravitational center of this series."

"You want to follow him, you want to know what's going to happen to his character. And I was really proud of the work that he did and blown away by it." 

"Jaeden Martell does such a phenomenal job as Jacob in really doing very little, and letting our expectations of him constantly shift. He has such an open face that's open to so much interpretation. He can come off as completely innocent one moment, and terribly menacing the next without doing almost anything, which is such amazing quality," the actor felt. 

"A lot of my work was with Cherry Jones, who I respect so much as an actress. She's such a classic theater actress that I've watched since I had moved to New York and started doing theater. To to get to do those courtroom scenes with her was an incredible honor actually."

Schreiber will be seen in Showtime's 'Halo' next. Currently, the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has paused the filming of the first season.