Taking on the role of action hero is not for everyone. And while some ease gently into the role like William Katt’s Ralph Hinkley on “The Greatest American Hero,” others jump right in. Mark Valley falls into the latter category.
A graduate of the United States Military Academy, Valley has the chin of Dudley Do-Right and the on-screen presence of Tom Selleck perched behind the wheel of a Ferrari 308 GTS circa 1985.
He’s also ready to deliver the goods as Christopher Chance, the main character of Fox’s upcoming comic adaptation of the DC Comics property “Human Target.” Equals part Thomas Magnum (private investigator) and Atticus Kodiak (bodyguard), Chance’s go-to move is impersonating his clients in order to eliminate threats to their safety.
The Human Target first appeared in “Action Comics” #419 in December 1972 and was created by Len Wein, who also created Wolverine and Swamp Thing, and legendary Silver Age artist Carmine Infantino. Later, the feature appeared in Batman titles such as “The Brave and the Bold” and “Detective Comics.” More recently, Vertigo released a “Human Target” series by Peter Milligan and Cliff Chiang.
Valley is no stranger to genre television , having played Olivia Dunham’s partner and love interest on “Fringe” during its first season (the two have since married) and last summer, he was the instant benefactor of some internet hype as a possible candidate to play Steve Rogers in the big screen adaptation of “Captain America” for Marvel Studios.
Valley told CBR News that “Human Target” takes action heroism back to the golden age of bang ’em-up television, as it’s inspired by shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The A-Team.”
CBR News: “Human Target” is, of course, based on a comic book. Were you a comic book reader growing up in Ogdensburg, New York?
Mark Valley: No, I was too busy spending my money on baseball cards. I used to leaf through them and read them, but I never got much of a collection going.
I hadn’t even heard of the character, but when I got the job, I looked it up and it’s pretty fun stuff.
So you’ve sought out and read some “Human Target” comics since you landed the job on the FOX television series?
Yes, I bought as many as I could on eBay. And I read the Peter Milligan graphic novels, which are pretty easy to get. Those are pretty cool, but they seem to be a little more introverted and existential Christopher Chance as opposed to the comics that Len Wein wrote. He’s a guy who likes to mix things up a little more, just because he’s enjoys it.
Actually I read in your bio that you have a military background, so you’re well equipped to play an action hero.
One of my specialties was in the army was demolitions, so I get a kick out of explosions and things like that. We had a scene yesterday that supposedly took place at like a South American airfield, and there was the biggest live mushroom cloud that I’ve probably ever seen [laughs]. It was pretty cool.
The pilot and certainly the trailers that we’ve seen are adrenaline-filled, and it looks like there is going to be lots of action in “Human Target.” Do you get the opportunity to slow things down a bit for dramatic scenes or some lighter moments? Or maybe to explore Chance’s personality and motivation for taking on such dangerous assignments?
Well, the writers have told me that every episode kind of stands on its own. They’re all like self-contained action films, but there is also a mythology that runs along where we find out how these guys – Christopher Chance, Guerrero [Jackie Earle Haley] and Winston [Chi McBride] – get together, and what Chance’s past entails and how it affects who he is and what he does now.
So, there is an overriding story arc that plays itself out throughout the series.
Yeah and it’s done in really cool ways – it sort of reminds me of some of that J.J. Abrams stuff where a guy has a tattoo and I have to find out what that meant and a lot of things start to come together. So I’m pretty fascinated with how they did that.
The thing I like about it is that it’s not sort of dumped in your lap. It’s gradually revealed and, ultimately, it will be explained and very satisfying. But yeah, each episode is going to bring a little bit out from everybody’s past.
There is one episode where a scientist is trapped inside a building – the scientist is played by Kevin Weisman from “Alias” – and Chance has to break him out. The head of security had been a Legionnaire like Chance, and there’s an interesting way that you find that out.
“Human Target” has been compared to “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon,” but from what we’ve seen so far, there’s also some strong spy-fi elements, as well. Is that a fair assessment?
Absolutely, and that’s great because I love James Bond and “The Bourne Identity.” I’ve been reading those books since I was in high school and college.
I think we do a great job on this show of having that kind of action in just 42 minutes. And you get to know characters a little bit better than you would in a movie, much like some of the great TV shows that were on in the seventies and eighties like “Magnum P.I.” or “Rockford Files” or “The Six Million Dollar Man” or “A-Team.”
Are there any other aspects of “Human Target” that drew you in, or was it something specific that you saw in the character of Christopher Chance?
Well, the fact that Simon West directed the pilot and it was produced by McG was pretty big. And, I guess, I just like to be part of shows that really aspire to something that I haven’t done before, or where the challenge is also insurmountable. I mean, having McG and Simon involved, I knew it was going to have a production feature quality to it, which is very difficult to do in the amount of time you have on a television show. But to be honest with you, there’s a corresponding adrenaline rush that comes when you try to get an awful lot of work done in this short of a time. It’s not far off from the kind of excitement that Chance might be experiencing. Of course, it’s not life or death, I guess. Nonetheless, it’s exciting.
And another thing is Chi McBride. He’s a fantastic actor and a really great guy. And he’s really funny. And Jackie Earle Haley brings, well, Jackie Earle Haley to the show. That’s added a level to the show that crosses some ethical boundaries [laughs]. We’re really enjoying each other.
FOX has another big action hero in Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Are there any similarities between Agent Bauer and Chance? I guess there is inherently more humor on “Human Target…”
It’s apples and oranges, really. There will be some similarities, of course. But it’s much more of a different show. This one is much more of a throwback to a show that you really haven’t seen on the TV landscape in about 20 or 30 years. Something your parents can tell you about, or maybe your older brothers and sisters. That’s been lost on TV for a while, and we want to bring it back.
This isn’t the first time a “Human Target” TV show has been launched. Are you taking any cues from the original television Christopher Chance, Rick Springfield? Or do you at least have an album coming out?
No, unfortunately. Jessie’s Girl, did he ever meet her? These are the questions that I want answered. That show had a pretty interesting little device. My character, so far, hasn’t assumed any identities as far as actually having to impersonate anyone yet. But they went full on in that show. They had a whole facial reconstruction machine, which I’m hoping they might bring on to our set. It would give me a couple of days off if a guest star came on and played me for a couple of days.
Maybe they could bring Rick Springfield on?
â€¨Oh my God. That would be fantastic. Rick Springfield and Lee Majors and the whole gang.
Earlier, you mentioned J.J. Abrams. Genre fans would perhaps best recognize you as FBI Agent Scott from the first season of his hit show for FOX, “Fringe.” Was Agent Scott’s demise a result of you landing the job on “Human Target,” and secondly, might we see you again on “Fringe?”
I don’t know. You can never really predict what’s going to happen on “Fringe.” And, especially, what’s going to happen to John Scott. He could come back as a sea horse [laughs]. But hopefully, I’m going to be too busy with this show. I much prefer playing somebody who is actually alive.
One more role I wanted to ask you about was Captain America. You’ve been named on a number of sites and blogs as a fans’ choice to take on the coveted role. Any chance we’ll see you throwing Cap’s mighty shield?
Well, you can’t believe everything that you read on the Internet, but I’m really flattered that so many people voted for me and supported me. But I don’t know about the blue tights. I took a look at the costume and I don’t know if I’m too excited.
Human Target debuts this Sunday (January 17) on Fox, with a new episode scheduled for Wednesday, January 20, its regular timeslot.