Numbers Game: Interview with Touch's Lukas Haas

By , Contributor

Lukas Haas as Calvin Norburg in Touch

On the Fox TV show Touch it is all about the numbers as seen through the eyes and in the mind of 11-year-old Jake Bohm. Mute and diagnosed as emotionally disturbed, he is drawn to numbers and patterns relating to numbers. His father, widower Martin Bohm, is surprised when he discovers that his son's fascination is, in fact, a gift that allows him to see into the future.

Needless to say, certain parties take an interest in Jake and his unique ability, including the shadowy Aster Corps, forcing the boy and his father to go on the run. Season two of Touch introduces Calvin Norburg, a genius employed by Aster Corps who is working on a groundbreaking discovery and also hiding a secret or two of his own. Longtime stage and screen actor Lukas Haas was pleased to take on the challenge of playing Calvin, who he likens to a real world individual.

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"Calvin is kind of a Mark Zuckerberg-ish type of guy," notes Haas. "My character created these algorithms that made Aster Corps a lot of money, but hes recently become rather disillusioned with the company. Calvin doesn't believe in what it stands for and wants out.

"If you've been watching the show, you know that Aster Corps is after Martin's [Kiefer Sutherland] son Jake [David Mazouz]. They want him for his abilities, and when Martin learns that Calvin has grown cynical about the company, he decides that he wants to team up with him and try to bring down Aster Corps.

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"That's pretty much the gist of my character, and the challenges in playing someone like Calvin is that he's a very complex person and you're not able to put a finger on where he stands. It's never totally clear if he's a good or bad guy, but his motivations are pure. Calvin is quite an interesting human being and I've never played anyone like him before, so the character caught my attention right away.

"The thing with Touch is that it's so well made. It looks as well as feels like a movie, and everyone running it and working on it are top notch. The writing is wonderful, too, and I've always loved Kiefer Sutherland. I've been a fan of his since [the feature films] Stand by Me and The Lost Boys back in the day. He's done so many amazing films and, of course, 24, so this was one of those opportunities that was really hard for me to pass up."

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The second season of Touch unfolds in Los Angeles, where Martin and Jake are helping a mother, Lucy Robbins (Maria Bello), search for her missing little girl Amelia (Saxon Sharbino), who, like Jake, has attracted the unwanted attention of Aster Corps. Calvin Norburg makes his debut in the season opener, "Event Horizon," and it is revealed to viewers that he knows more about Amelia than he is letting on. Even with his years of experience in front of the camera, Haas still felt some jitters starting out on the show.

"It was kind of daunting, to be honest with you," recalls the actor. "On my first day of work I had this huge speech that I had to give. There were a ton of lines and I had to stand up at a podium in front of all these people. I'd never played this character before and I hadn't met most of the people around me yet. So I was a bit nervous, but I got through it okay and it ended up actually being pretty cool. Again, because everyone on this show is amazing and the writing is great, it made the entire experience that much easier and enjoyable for me."

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In the next episode, "Closer," Calvin severs ties with Aster Corps, which provides Martin with a way to make contact with him. As Touch's second season continues to unfold, more facets of the character will be revealed, while his alliance with Martin evolves in unexpected ways.

"Calvin is extremely complex and he changes throughout the season," says Haas. "Having been introduced to him in the first episode, by the third episode he seems like a totally different character, and then again by maybe episode seven or eight, youre not sure where he stands. Calvin has many different colors to him and they come out in various times throughout the show. It's a very dynamic and interesting role, and one I thoroughly enjoyed playing."

Coincidentally, Haas had the opportunity to work opposite Kiefer Sutherland once before on the long-running, high-adrenaline TV series 24. That experience was much more rushed, he recalls. "I was only in a couple of episodes and the work was fast-paced as well as pretty neat, but it was also the opposite of what I've been speaking about with Touch. My character on 24 was very cut and dry and one-note. I was more or less coming in to play this guy as written, which, again, was fun, but it wasn't as nearly as much fun as doing Touch."

One of three sons, Haas was born in West Hollywood, California to Emily Tracy, a writer, and Berthold Haas, an artist and German immigrant. Given his parents' creative tendencies, it is no surprise that the actor had his sites set on a career in the arts from a young age.

"I was in the audience for the taping of a TV show when I was four or five years old," says Haas. "I saw how much fun the actors looked like they were having, and from that moment on I wanted to be just like them. So I asked my parents if I could become an actor, and they said no. I could do it when I was older if I wanted, but at the time I was too young, which was true.

"When I got to kindergarten, I went out of my way to participate in school plays and other types of shows. One day out of the blue, a casting director came to my school and asked the teachers who was the best actor in all the school plays. They pointed to me and said, 'Well, that child right over there.' When they called my mom and dad and asked if I could audition, they said, 'Okay, we'll let him audition.' My parents figured nothing would come of it and that I'd try it and hate it. So I auditioned and got a part in [the 1983 feature film] Testament. From that movie, I got Witness not too long afterwards, which really helped shaped the direction of my career. So it [the acting] just kind of happened on its own."

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What sticks out most in the actor's mind about working on his first two films? "Well, with Testament I remember thinking that it was meant to be," he muses. "It felt right to me at the time and that it was where I was supposed to be. I was only five years old, so I don't recall many specifics, but I got a lot of attention and was basically playing the ultimate make-believe. It was quite a magical time and I loved it.

"Witness was another truly amazing experience. The director, Peter Weir, was incredible, the writing was terrific, it was a great role; everything about it was fantastic and you got a sense of that just being on set. I think everyone knew that there was something special about Witness while we were making it, and I felt that, too."

Lady in White, The Wizard of Loneliness, Music Box, Rambling Rose, Mars Attacks!, Breakfast of Champions, Inception and Red Riding Hood are among the other films in the actor's 30-year career. On the small screen, he has appeared in a variety of made-for-TV movies, including his Emmy-nominated work in The Ryan White Story. Haas has also guest starred on such series as Trapper John, M.D., The Twilight Zone, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Entourage and Criminal Minds.

Away from the celluloid world, the actor is also an accomplished musician/composer. In addition to releasing a solo EP in 2008, he has composed portions of several movie soundtracks as well as plays drums and piano for a band called The Rogues.

"I became interested in music around the same time as acting," says Haas. "I was a big Beatles fan when I was six or seven years old. My dad bought me each of their albums as they came out and I listened to them in sequential order.

"I began playing drums when I was eight, then I got a keyboard, and after that I started playing a guitar. Music is just something that has always been in my life. I havent really done it professionally all that much, but I love it and think it goes hand-in-hand with acting in a lot of ways. They're both creative and there's intonation along with pitch and melody to acting just like there is in music. So to me they're kind of two sides of the same coin."

There are few aspects of an acting career that remain constant, but one thing an actor can always count on is that the work changes all the time. That's something Haas finds especially rewarding about his job, along with the people he gets to collaborate with.

"I've worked with some brilliant, creative people, and that's been an incredible part of being an actor," he enthuses. "I've also traveled quite a bit. I went to Japan when I was nine years old, after which I lived in Spain for a while, and then all over the world ever since I was a young kid. I just feel really blessed. I'm extremely lucky to be an actor and to be in the position that I'm in and to have done all the things Ive gotten to do so far in my life."

Please note, all Touch photos courtesy/copyright of FOX TV.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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