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Q&A: Jason O'Mara on Starring & Showering with Katherine Heigl

Jason O'Mara
Getty Images

You may know him as Jim Shannon, the patriarch of Fox's sci-fi adventure series "Terra Nova," or you may remember him from his 2001 television debut in the Emmy award-winning HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers."

But now Irish-born actor Jason O’Mara is blowing up the big screen as Joseph (Joe) Morelli in "One for the Money," opposite Katherine Heigl. It's the first film adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s best-selling novels chronicling the adventures of Stephanie Plum, a feisty Jersey girl who nabs felons like Morelli and solves crimes while working as a bail-bond recovery agent.

"Money" pits O’Mara and Heigl as star-crossed lovers who met when they were children, and whose adult relationship ended badly in a “he never called me again after we had sex” situation. Now Morelli is a fugitive cop being sought for murder, and Plum is out for the bounty on his head. O'Mara talked to us about showering with Heigl, what nakedness we can look forward to in a sequel, and how he feels about being compared to Mel Gibson.

You seem to have a thing for playing cops. What was it about this role that made you want to take it?
I was attracted by the money ... But seriously, I had started reading the books, but stopped at three, because I didn’t want to take it too far. The legacy of the books casts a large shadow, and there’s a lot of pressure, but I love this character. He’s a cop on the run, a cool character.

Also Check Out: Trailer Proves Katherine Heigl's Got "One for the Money"

What kind of homework did you do for this?
Some of the research I did involved running with the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force as they tracked down a fugitive responsible for two murders. I was wearing a bulletproof jacket. He was found hiding in a church basement in Brooklyn. The guy had a Facebook page, if you can believe that, showing him with gang signs. There's nothing like a little hands-on experience, which was invaluable. One thing that pervades the books is the funny side, the gallows humor, the joking in a dark way that I witnessed the cops engaging in after the arrest.

The handcuffs-in-the-shower scene is about to become infamous. What was it like to shoot it?
In the shower scene, it’s diabolical watching another actor [Heigl] suffer. We spent all day shooting it, and it wasn’t like a bathroom in a house. It was on a set, grubby and cold. But Morelli and Plum started to come alive in that scene because we started improvising and found something in the heat of the moment that ends up being there, and that’s exciting.

One for the Money
Lionsgate

Let’s dissect the Morelli/Plum love-hate relationship.
At first, they despise each other after all their bad blood in the past. She ran him over with a car! But they realize they need each other, and that their relationship is unresolved. They’re buddies, but there’s also the sexual element. It’s so much fun.

Speaking of the sexual element, you spend a lot of time in the film without a shirt. Is that tattoo on your chest real or movie magic?
No, it's movie makeup. In the books, Morelli has an eagle tattoo spanning his entire chest -- but I didn't want to shave mine, which would've been required to do that, so we went with the American Eagle tattoo on part of the chest. I think what it symbolized to the character was being a patriot.

One of the scenes shows you being a whiz in the kitchen, slicing and dicing vegetables and whipping up an omelet. How good of a cook are you in real life?
I don't like it at all. I can do the basic stuff and I do like to bake Irish soda bread. So it's not that I cannot cook, it's that I won't. My wife [actress Paige Turco] has taken that over and she's gotten better and better at it as time goes by.

In "Terra Nova" you play another cop, Jim Shannon. On the tough guy scale, how does Morelli compare to him?
They're both good cops, but Morelli is single and has no real allegiance to anyone or anything. Jim goes to any lengths for his family, even assaulting another police officer. Because he doesn’t have any family ties, Morelli doesn’t need to watch out for anyone but himself.

There's already talk about another Stephanie Plum movie. What do we have to look forward to?
In the next book, Morelli gets locked out of a car naked for 12 hours. And, um, he has a partial erection.

You did a lot of great television work before you made your feature debut in "Resident Evil: Extinction." Can you compare your experiences in TV and film?
Julie Ann Robinson is really a quality television director, and of course Katie [Heigl] and Daniel [Sunjata] have all the great TV experience, so I was with “my people” and was able to defer to them. In film, you have the luxury of doing a lot more takes and here, that resulted in some great improvs that deepened the relationship between characters.

We kind of hate to bring this up, but we've heard you compared to Mel Gibson, minus the drunk driving and racist rants. How you feel about that?
Mel Gibson was a hero of mine growing up, but I wouldn't allow the comparison.

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