Project Blue Book's Aidan Gillen, aka J. Allan Hynek, on the Season 1 Finale

[A previous version of this story was published at IGN]


At the end of the Season 1 finale of Project Blue Book, J. Allen Hynek is a man on his own. Following the Washington Flap -- a series of famously well-documented real-life UFO sightings in 1952 fictionalized on the show -- he is warned by mysterious allies they can no longer protect him. But as Hynek looks to the stars from his observatory, Aidan Gillen, who portrays the UFO researcher, is looking ahead to the second season of the History show.

Gillen didn’t know about the Season 2 renewal when the finale ended on that cliffhanger, which also showed Hynek – in a move worthy of the actor’s character Littlefinger from Game of Thrones -- apparently doublecrossing his partner Quinn (Michael Malarkey), only to reveal he was actually pulling the wool over the government’s collective eyes.

“The idea was to go beyond Season 1, so you don’t just want to end it,” Gillen told IGN in a recent interview, before adding, “It is quite audacious and brash to end on something that asks bigger questions, but why not take the risk?”

Set in July 1952, Gillen called “The Washington Merry-Go-Round” a sensational “movie-sized” episode, and indeed it aims for the sky with action sequences involving fighter jets, a possible invasion of the nation’s capital, a car bomb, a lot of Men in Black, and President Truman played by the excellent character actor Bob Gunton.

The so-called “Invasion of Washington” made headlines such as “Saucers Swarm Over Capital” (The Cedar Rapids Gazette); “ ‘Saucer’ Outran Jet, Pilot Says; Air Force Puts Lid on Inquiry” (The Washington Post); and “Jets Chase D.C. Sky Ghosts” (Daily News). And they really did attract the attention of the president. However, within the show, the events seem to likewise impact the fictional version of Hynek, even though he dismisses the UFO as temperature inversions.

“This is the first we see of him as a UFOlogist instead of some government stooge,” said Gillen, who said he thinks his character’s beliefs are shifting. “He’s seen some things that seem so fantastical and improbable, it may possibly be extraterrestrial, and I think we see that excitement on his face.”

Gillen said, moving forward, Hynek will remain a logical, methodical thinker who finds a reasonable explanation, but he has now witnessed “something so startling it just switches him on.”

But, based on the note of warning he receives in the episode’s final moments, there is an added threat to Hynek if he continues his mission to find answers. That’s where his Littlefinger maneuver comes in, and points the way to a character willing to lie when needed.

“The authorities are kind of onto him as a dangerous presence, or liability to them; we have to maintain that,” Gillen said. “He is smart enough to know he can only maintain his position in the organization by appearing to play the game, and that involves some deception.”

But Hynek is also an academic, and family man, which raises the question as to why he would put himself at risk by continuing to research, and play both sides.

Said Gillen, he’s an obsessive character. He added, there is dramatic license involved, “so he’s a little more fantastical, but it is based on the reality of Hynek’s obsession.”

While the actor said he doesn’t know where Season 2 will take Hynek, and Project Blue Book, because he has yet to see scripts, Gillen said his character is a changed man.

“What he has seen is going to trigger an obsession with finding out what that was. Are these visitations for real? Are these other civilizations visiting us? Or something else ... interdimensional intrusion, or stuff the real Hynek did, and looked at as well, like time travel."