When paranormal series Project Blue Book first premiered in January 2019, it brought many comparisons to The X-Files. And while the procedural, alien-hunting, “I Want To Believe” aspect runs through the show’s DNA, there is one stark difference between the adventures of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and the History Channel series: Project Blue Book is inspired by real people and actual government cases.
Season 1 ended with an otherworldly cliffhanger that presented two hard-to-explain, seemingly extraterrestrial details that’ll surely inform the show’s new episodes: Dr. J Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen) and Captain Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey) testify before Congress after unexplained lights are witnessed flying over the National Mall, which is a direct reference to 1952’s highly publicized Washington D.C. UFO Incident; and the reveal of an alien obelisk in Antarctica in the episode’s final moments. With famous cases like Roswell and Area 51 on the docket for season 2 — which will premiere on Tuesday, January 21 at 10 p.m. — it seems like Project Blue Book‘s scope is about to expand.
Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Aidan Gillen to discuss his character’s trajectory in the new season and to check in on what he himself is watching. While the Game of Thrones actor admits he stays quite busy when he’s at home in Ireland, he is still able to dig into some small screen entertainment when gets a minute or two to himself.
I don’t really know what’s coming to TV. I am going to watch season 4 of Fargo, though.
Aaron Pruner for Rotten Tomatoes: Season 1 of Project Blue Book ended with Hynek and Quinn facing the first very real possibility of a UFO interaction in the skies over Washington D.C. How does this moment shape the events that transpire in the new season?
Aidan Gillen: The reality is that that UFO flying over D.C. was so widely witnessed and reported, and they did send jets up there to chase these objects, to try to find them. But that incident, it really happened, you know? It’s one of the more widely reported incidents that is currently in the public, still. The people Hynek and Quinn are working for — the higher-ups, if you like — Air Force General Harding (Neal McDonough) and Valentine (Michael J. Harney), they now have a pact. They see that the way forward is to kind of hide the truth, to an extent; to not say what they really think and work from the inside. It’s always good to have those resources. The resources they have are kind of limitless. And at least speaking for Hynek, he has that appetite for investigation and for getting to the bottom of a phenomenon that’s becoming more and more intriguing. More unsolvable cases come his way, reported by credible witnesses.
Their teamwork led to a hashtag #Hynekquinn. So that’s something.
Gillen: Yeah, these guys now have a bond that’s made stronger, I guess, by hiding facts, almost. I think Allen Hynek always had a healthy skepticism. I think he was always skeptical and always hopeful that there might be something out there. That’s the way it remains to the end. He never really found the empirical evidence that he was looking for, but he never stopped looking. There was definitely some satisfaction for Hynek that he did become a kind of counterculture icon. Without him, there was no Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I get in trouble for talking about too much. I always end up talking about Close Encounters, and not enough about Project Blue Book. But, there’s a definite link and it’s also something that we address at some point during this coming season.
Well speaking of Dr. Hynek, his son Paul is a consultant on the show. What was your experience like working with him to understand the character you’re playing?
Part of getting into character is getting to wear some pretty cool wardrobe. Have you been able to take any items from the set home with you?
Gillen: I wore a pair of shades that I really liked in episode 1 of season 2 of Blue Book. They’re like a kind of Cary Grant–style shade. I convinced the props department — because it’s the props, not the wardrobe department, who look after things like shades, watches, and rings — [and] they very kindly let me keep those Cary Grant shades. I’ll keep them good. I think we’ve got a second set but, you know, I’ll wear them, I’ll break them in and then I’ll bring them back from that season. And then there was a scene where we flashed forward to the ’70s, and I had some quite nice reading glasses and they gave me those as well. So it’s all about glasses for me, man.
Can you tease some of the cases you guys cover in season 2?
Gillen: I think aside from Roswell and Area 51, there are a few others that may be a little familiar. There’s the Maury Island case, and there are the Men in Black, which were real. I don’t think it’s like we can only continue with this. If we give people cases that they’re familiar with, it’s just the way it fell this year. But you know, honestly, there’s like 400 or 500 really good stories there to exploit, if we wanted.
This brings me to the burning question: Do aliens exist?
Project Blue Book season 2 premieres Tuesday, January 21, at 10 p.m. on History.