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Michael Dorman hopes C.J. Box fans see books' spirit in 'Joe Pickett'

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Michael Dorman hopes C.J. Box fans see books' spirit in 'Joe Pickett'
Michael Dorman can now be seen in the TV series "Joe Pickett," based on C.J. Box's bestselling novels. Photo courtesy of Spectrum Originals

NEW YORK, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Actor Michael Dorman says he hopes his new Spectrum Originals drama, Joe Pickett, captures the spirit of what readers love about the C.J. Box mystery novels on which it is based.

Debuting Monday, Joe Pickett casts Patriot and For All Mankind alum Dorman as the titular Wyoming game warden -- a man trying to overcome a traumatic past, while butting heads with dangerous poachers and the local lawmen who want him to stay in his lane and out of their investigations.

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The Resident actress Julianna Guill plays lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom, Marybeth, and NYPD Blue icon Sharon Lawrence plays Marybeth's mother, Missy.

The show opens with Joe revoking the hunting license of a poacher, who later is found on the Pickett property, dead from an arrow wound; Marybeth discovering she is pregnant with her third child just as she is about to go back to work; and a penniless, partnerless Missy unhappily moving in with her daughter's family.

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John Erik Dowdle and his brother Drew wrote, produced and directed most of the first season.

"With books, everyone is going to have their own interpretation. For me, playing Joe Pickett was more about trying to capture the essence of him," Dorman told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"Then, the Dowdles put their own life experience into the scripts. We're trying to paint that picture that C.J. Box portrayed so well," Doman said.

Guill was excited by the idea of having a tremendous amount of source material from which to pull in crafting her depiction of Marybeth. Box has penned 21 Joe Pickett books since 2001.

"She's a person that people have been reading about and experiencing now for a long time, and I consider that a huge honor," the actress said of Marybeth.

"Being an avid reader myself, I understand how attached you get to someone and how, of course, when it comes out into the world in a different way [like a TV show,] it is going to be a different interpretation and that could be jarring," Guill said.

She added that she enjoyed learning as much as she could about Marybeth through Box's novels, and then experiencing her through the words of the Dowdles and talking with Dorman to see how their characters "exist in this world together."

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Dorman described Joe and Marybeth as admirable people, who work well together as a couple.

"I sort of see him as someone who is trying to take the past and make it a little brighter," Dorman said.

"He is an advocate for anyone who doesn't have a voice and, then, in him meeting Marybeth, it allows him to find his own truth. She accepts him with all of his flaws, and she is kind of one of the only people who truly knows him."

Guill said Marybeth appreciates Joe's vulnerability.

"She is on this new journey with a new child, and it was very unexpected, and so at this juncture of her life, she is trying to balance this determination to not forget a part of herself and not leave a part of herself behind, but instead to incorporate it into this chapter she didn't see coming."

Dorman admitted he isn't sure how people unfamiliar with the books will relate to characters living in such a rural setting in which houses are few and far between, and the pace of life is less hectic.

"I was drawn to that. I love the outdoors. I love the landscape. I think it's its own landscape in our show. I love being in it and I've loved watching what I've seen so far. I love these characters like I love the story," Dorman said.

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"The Dowdles have so much heart, and C.J. writes beautiful novels.I feel like we've captured that in this. I hope [viewers] see what I see."

Guill is confident viewers will connect to the family aspect of the show.

"There are human elements of this experience that are undoubtedly relatable, and the wide-open spaces of it all is a really nice breath of fresh air," she said.

Complicating matters for the Pickett family is Missy's arrival.

"Missy's standards are high, but she has fallen on hard times," Lawrence told UPI in a separate Zoom conference.

"She came from hardscrabble origins, and she chooses men who move her status up, but you can't count on that. She doesn't have a very sustainable skill," Lawrence added. "Now, she is very insecure. She is vulnerable. It was interesting for me to play a woman full of contradictions."

The actress defended Missy, noting she grew up in a time when few opportunities existed for independent, single women, but she never is afraid to say what other people are thinking and "changes the temperature of every room she enters."

"She is relying on the love and the investment that she made in her daughter, and she is disappointed that her daughter is going to throw all that away and rely on a man Missy believes is not worth investing in," Lawrence said. "Joe Pickett is just not high-powered enough."

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Further ratcheting up the tension is that Joe represents law and order, and Missy's current financial and living woes stem from her most recent beau's arrest.

"Joe represents what she just cannot stomach, which is the lack of genteel, finer things in life," Lawrence said.

"The house she is staying in with them is in the middle of nowhere. She is sleeping on a couch because the house isn't big enough for a guest room. She is somebody who medicates with wine, so she is sloppy when she doesn't want to be.

"I think he, for her, is a reminder that she isn't her best self. She wanted better for her daughter, even before she fell from her perch."

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