What to Watch

What To Watch With Project Blue Book Star Aidan Gillen

Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger dishes on his documentary obsession, government cover-ups, and whether we are alone in the universe.

by | January 17, 2020 | Comments

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.


(Photo by © Netflix)
One thing I decided I was going to watch, start-to-finish, in one go was a show called The Devil Next Door. It’s a documentary on Netflix about the man who was believed to be “Ivan the Terrible.” That was fascinating. Documentaries, mostly. You know, I watched that one, the other night, about the Bikram yoga guy. Wild Wild Country, which is another one about the cult in Oregon. Those documentaries, I watched straight start-to-finish. I just sat down and watched them in a day.


(Photo by © FX)
Do people have those, anymore? You know, the last series that I watched start to finish was Fargo, which in my opinion, is probably my favorite kind of TV entertainment show.


Kit Harington in the Game of Thrones series finale (Helen Sloan/HBO)
(Photo by © HBO)
I do watch stuff on Netflix but there is so much on there and they kind of keep throwing stuff at you that you get two episodes into something that you might really enjoy and suddenly they present you with something else, you know? I don’t have subscriptions to a lot of the big premium services, even though I’ve been in shows on them. A new series comes out on a certain channel, I’ll probably just take a subscription that’s a kind of an on-off subscription. So, if I want to watch season 8 of Game of Thrones, you know, I’ll turn to HBO Go or HBO NOW for a couple of months.


I don’t really know what’s coming to TV. I am going to watch season 4 of Fargo, though.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 17: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Aidan Gillen discusses his career and his new show "Project Blue Book" with "In Depth" with host Larry Flick at SiriusXM Studios on January 17, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by History)

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.

(Photo by History)

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?

Gillen: At first, it’s intimidating. The first day he came along, I was quite nervous about it. Because, you know, someone’s going to come along and you’re going to come out and start trying to capture the essence of this all, knowing that you’re not him. You don’t really look like him, you don’t really sound like him. Paul is very understanding because he has worked in the entertainment industry. He was also really encouraging. The first day I met Paul, he gave me one of Hynek’s original books, The UFO Experience. It was from the bookshelf in his house. It was Allen’s actual copy, and they inscribed it and gave me the family’s blessing. It’s really simple, but when somebody presents you with that and gives you the go-ahead, they understand that it’s always a tough task — half your own personality and half your interpretation, or as much of a realization of the character that you can get away with.

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.

(Photo by History)
Let’s not leave out the hat, though.
Gillen: Oh, I’ve got the hat! What is it? A fedora? A kind of a fedora? Whatever, I’ve got that. It came with a blue feather that we couldn’t use because it looked a bit too much to wear, as far as costuming goes. One thing I did go for to make Hynek stand out, to show a little bit of difference, I wore a turquoise ring. You know, the real Hynek did wear a turquoise ring for a period of time and his one was even bigger than the one I got. I tried that with the exact size and made me look like Liberace. I felt like that little blue ring was enough of a flourish to show that this guy’s got something more to him than just like an office drone. So when we put the blue feather in the hat, it looked like too much. This hat came straight from the hatmaker with a blue feather. And when I took the hat home with me, at the end, I put the blue feather back in, and I wore it on the plane. I’m wearing it quite a lot, actually. But you don’t want to walk around in your costume all the time. It’s kind of bad form.

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.

(Photo by History)

This brings me to the burning question: Do aliens exist?

Gillen: Does life exist? Yeah, I don’t think we’re alone in the universe. I don’t think that. I don’t think we’re the only life that has evolved. It seems to me a kind of ridiculous concept. In as vast a universe as we have, that’s like, this is the only planet in which life has evolved. I’d like to think that, you know? I’d like to think we’re not alone. In fact, I don’t think we’re alone. Will we ever meet? Who knows, but it’ll probably be quite difficult.

Project Blue Book season 2 premieres Tuesday, January 21, at 10 p.m. on History.

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