If you watch CBS’s Under the Dome, you know Alexander Koch as Junior, a handsome, insecure, semi-psychotic small-town boy with some serious parent issues. For an actor like Koch who is just starting out, it’s a pretty plum part—the series is, after all, based on a novel by Stephen King and produced by Steven Spielberg. Prior to getting cast as Junior Koch, who is originally from Michigan and attended DePaul University, appeared in a couple of shorts and one episode of the MTV series Underemployed.
The premise for Under the Dome is simple: one day, a giant, transparent dome drops down from the sky, slicing through houses, cows, and automobiles, to surround a small New England town, Chester’s Mill. The residents, and anyone who happened to be visiting Chester’s Mill, are trapped and no one knows why. Things get a little more complicated—and even more supernatural— from then on, and quite a few characters lose their lives. Fortunately, Junior and Angie, and the object of his unrequited affection played by Britt Robertson, both survive.
Next week, the show will return for its second season. We spoke with Koch over the phone.
HOMETOWN: Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS: I recently started collecting instruments. I just bought a violin and I have a keyboard at home. I like being surrounded by different things to mess about with. I like learning how to play them. I either pick them up and really, really start practicing or it’s too difficult, so I’ll put it on the back burner and learn it later. I bought a saw—a musical saw—you play it with a bow, and it’s really too difficult. I love music; I grew up around a lot of music and singing.
BAND MAN: Was I ever in a band? Maybe once when I was in sixth grade or something like that, but that was just, “Okay, we’ve got to write something” and then we’d never actually do it. I don’t have the brain structure for putting a band together; I would never be the one pushing for it.
ON MY PLAYLIST: I really like Shakey Graves; he plays really good guitar, he’s an amazing singer, and he plays kick drum and tambourine with his feet—he’s kind of bouncing his feet to the rhythm, but he’s playing it and pushing on the kick drum. I like him and I like Benjy Ferree, whose album came out a couple years ago but I just rediscovered him. Angel Olsen is this girl I kind of knew through friends in Chicago and I just saw her show in Chapel Hill—my buddy is playing drums for her. She worked with a friend of mine at a teashop and we would have random conversations and now she’s blowing up and it’s just really crazy to see. She’s like an alternative Patsy Cline.
IN HIGH SCHOOL: I wasn’t the most popular kid. I think on the night of prom, my high school girlfriend and I won cutest couple—we had been dating for, like, three years. But we didn’t get prom king and queen. I was just blending in; I wasn’t really a person that people would be like, “Oh yeah, I knew him.” I kept my head low most of the time.
UNDER THE DOME: THE AUDITIONS: I went in five or six times. There was one time I went in that was hands-down the best audition I’ve ever had in my life, which was such a rewarding thing. I called my whole family and I was like, “I don’t care if I get it, I feel so proud that I at least did that.” It was so cool because it was in Steven Spielberg’s main office area and the front looked like the front of Jurassic Park.
I think that the second-to-last one, I felt like, “God, how many times do I have to go in for this? This is so ridiculous.” I was beaten down by it and it was a weird room—the sound quality in the room felt weird—and I’m neurotic about things like that. I went into the room and you have all these big executives staring you in the face being like, “We’re either going to pick up this kid or just tell him to fuck off.” The second-to-last one, I didn’t feel as good as I did that one time. Then the two casting agents were like, “We’re going to have him come in just one more time and just work with us.” And I’m so happy they had me come in because they were really pushing for me—I owe so much to them. It was Sherry [Thomas] and Sharon [Bialy].
THE SOURCE MATERIAL: When I first went in [for my Under the Dome audition], I started reading the book, but it’s thicker than a dictionary, so it’s a whole process. I was auditioning for this part for two months, so over that time I read the whole thing. Angie dies pretty quickly, so for Britt [Robertson], after that point she was like, “I don’t really need to read the book anymore.” But I liked it because it was a great starting point to get the inner thoughts of the character. Junior lasts all throughout the book until maybe the last 80 pages, and then some bad things happen to him. He’s a really interesting character. [The book] was where I was starting with the groundwork of building what I thought Junior would be, focusing on the mother relationship that unfolds.
GETTING KILLED OFF: I never feel secure. I always do a quick read through of [the script]—the actor thing of “bullshit, bullshit… my line… bullshit, bullshit… where’s my line? Where’s my page?” I do a quick glance through before I do a read just to make sure I’m okay, because we lose two people in the Season Two premiere. You never feel secure, and it’s always tough. But, I feel like if I’m not serving the story anymore, I would happily go. If I’m not an important part of telling the story, I don’t really see a point in having my character around, so if I had that dilemma facing me, I’d be like, “At least give me a cool death and I’ll be happy.” How would I want to die? Probably Junior sacrifices himself for the greater good and hopefully redeems himself from the devious things he did last year. There’s a redemption quality to Junior, so I would want to keep that going and go out that way.
THE AUTHOR: Stephen makes an appearance in the Season Two premiere as a character, and then he also wrote the episode. You almost feel like you don’t want to talk about [your character] with him—I want to know more about who he is as a person rather than how he perceives the character. He was very, very strong on telling us that this is your show: “I’ll write and I’ll put my input in every once in a while.” He’s very much: “Take what I’ve created and make it into something new and something different.” Kind of like a cover song, if we’re going back to music.
He’s very, very funny. Aisha [Hinds], who plays Carolyn—Norrie’s mom—she asked him, “Oh are you going to the gym? Are you going to lift weights or anything?” and he [said], “Oh no, no. Homie don’t lift weights.” Last time I saw him, he was playing hangman with himself. People were like, “Is he writing his next novel?” “No, he’s playing hangman by himself.” He’s very enigmatic person.
THE SUPERNATURAL: I don’t want to say too much because I’ll come off sounding like a nut. I’m not into conspiracy theories and weird X-Files stuff but I don’t know, there’s got to be something out there besides just the basic realm of everything broken down to a scientific thing. In my life, I’ve experienced some weird things that I can’t explain. My friend grew up in a house that was haunted and if we stayed up late, we used to hear footsteps above us. He was in this really, really big house—it was a childhood friend—and it was a butler that got shot in the middle of a party by burglars or something. I don’t know if the story is true, but his brothers used to always tell me and it would freak me out and then I would hear the footsteps. Maybe it was all in my head, but I wouldn’t like to stay over there for the whole night. And we shoot in Wilmington, which is one of the most haunted cities in the South.
GETTING RECOGNIZED: I get recognized more in Wilmington. The people in L.A., they mind their own business. I’m always a little worried when I get on the plane. Last time, I was coming home from New York and I could just hear people talking about me: “Is that him, is that him? I’m going to take a picture of him. I can’t tell if it’s him or not.” As they were getting out of the plane, they were like “Are you on the show?” and I was like, “Yeah, and I know you guys were taking pictures of me.” They were like, “We’re really sorry, we know we did that, but can we get a picture with you?” They weren’t very sneaky about it—it was funny.
SEASON TWO OF UNDER THE DOME PREMIERES MONDAY, JUNE 30, ON CBS.