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Scott Speedman heads to prime time in 'Last Resort'
Posted 9/25/2012 6:11 PM ET

Scott Speedman's return to television was decided by one question: What would it take for two decorated Navy men to fire a nuke at their own country?

Not that relocating to Hawaii hurt. "When I first got here, I was put in Waikiki in some big monster hotel that's in a major tourist area," says Speedman, who moved from L.A. for the ABC drama Last Resort (premieres Thursday, 8 p.m. ET). Until "I found this great house up in the mountains. It rains three times a day. It's incredibly peaceful and very beautiful."

In the "big, sort of romantic epic," Speedman plays Sam Kendal, a Naval officer whose nuclear submarine, the USS Colorado, goes rogue after he and his captain, Marcus Chaplain (Andre Braugher) refuse suspicious orders from Washington to decimate Pakistan. Now perceived as traitors by the USA, the submarine's crewmembers take refuge on an exotic island to avoid being extinguished by their home country.

In building the Tom Clancy-style drama that finds the Colorado's nukes aimed against the world at large, "I started thinking more about how modern-day ballistic submarines can claim a nation's worth of power in itself," says co-creator Karl Gajdusek (Trespass).

The story, Speedman says by phone on a break from shooting, is "really about the relationship between these two men. That's really the driving force. You can have all the nuclear missiles and the political tension, but at the end of the day, if that doesn't work with me and Andre's character, we weren't going to have a show."

Last Resort marks a big, splashy return to television for Speedman, who has spent the past decade in films like The Vow,Barney's Version and Underworld since wrapping his breakout series, Felicity, in 2002.

"Some of the better scripts over the last couple of years I read were television scripts. So I was starting to tilt that way," he acknowledges, particularly toward smaller, character-driven cable shows. But after reading the Last Resort pilot, "I just liked the size of the scope. And for lack of a better word, (it was) a very ballsy show."

The ambitious series threads together a crisis in Pakistan, a power play in Washington, discord among the submarine's crewmembers and perils that await on the island where they've anchored. In the first episode, the cornered Colorado shoots off the first of 18 nuclear warheads.

"Marcus and Sam are really co-leads in many ways," says co-creator Shawn Ryan (The Shield). Against Marcus' resolute strength, Speedman plays the reluctant, intelligent hero still trying to get home to his wife (Jessy Schram). "You're looking for someone that men and women want to go on that ride with. Those kind of actors are very rare, and Scott is certainly one of the few."

Despite the tropical setting, Speedman assures this is no Lost. "There are no smoke monsters," he says with a laugh. "Nothing hiding in the trees. ... I was not interested in doing one of those monster shows at all."

Playing Sam is a hard turn from his last TV character, Felicity's mild-mannered NYU college student Ben. "I was very much like that guy," Speedman says, "a wandering kind of kid who didn't know who he was and was figuring it all out. This is more of an acting challenge. I'm still finding who the character is here. I would have only lasted about five days in the Navy, tucking your shirt in and wearing the right clothes and all that."

Now, "I've done a lot of running around, a lot of screaming, a lot of running from things. There's a lot of shooting," he says with a laugh. "It's been very fun."

The friendly, chatty actor, who dates actress Teresa Palmer but keeps pretty mum on his personal life, is still juggling film work; his indie Barefoot wrapped earlier this year. "I'm looking to push the boundary in any sort of leading-man way," he says. "In a lot of ways I just sort of feel like I'm just getting going now with my career. It's adding up to where I am. I feel really ready to go."

Posted 9/25/2012 6:11 PM ET
Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher, right) leads a rogue U.S. nuclear submarine on 'Last Resort.' XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) is Chaplin's right-hand man.
Mario Perez ABC
Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher, right) leads a rogue U.S. nuclear submarine on 'Last Resort.' XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) is Chaplin's right-hand man.
Scott Speedman has come a long way since his breakout role on 'Felicity.'
Bob D'Amico, ABC
Scott Speedman has come a long way since his breakout role on 'Felicity.'

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