Noah Wyle is a geek and definitely proud of it. The original McDreamy is producing and starring in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines, a sequel to his original hit, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. A wild, campy ride across the fields of Kenya, the Indiana Jones-esque action flick features Wyle as an unlikely hero — Flynn, a geeky librarian with over two dozen postgraduate degrees. The stellar cast also includes Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Gabrielle Anwar, Olympia Dukakis, and Erick Avari (Mohinder’s father on Heroes).
We spoke with Noah live via conference call.
After so many film adaptations of King Solomon’s Mines, how did you draw inspiration for your specific interpretation?
The fun part about my job is the detective work before the cameras even start to roll. I went back and reread [the original] book. That actually gave us quite a few insights that paid off in the film. I did many a Google search on just about everything I referenced in the movie.
You sound as though you're a library kind of guy in real life. Did that influence your take on your character?
Somebody told me a long time ago [that] the best way to play a smart character is to play him like an idiot. That alleviated some pressure right off the bat.
Have you received any response from the librarian community?
I got some really great emails from the Library Association of America. They were very pleased that we were making these films. We’re trying to rewrite the paradigm of what an action hero is supposed to be – it’s not necessarily might that makes right; sometimes it’s the biggest brain that can win in the end.
The library in the movie is full of mythical objects from the past — Excalibur, the Ark of the Covenant, and Pandora's box. Is there a particular object in history you would like to encounter in real life?
I wouldn’t mind a day in the library of Alexandria — of course, being well-versed in Latin, Greek, and Egyptian. I’m halfway through this really interesting book that sort of theorizes about what would have been in that library. While I don’t know of a specific relic in that library, they had already discovered the circulation of the blood, and already figured out that the earth revolves around the sun 2000 years before we figured it out again. It certainly makes you think: How much farther would we have been along if we hadn’t destroyed [that library]?
Why do you think the first film was so successful?
I think one of the reasons the first film was so successful is because it filled the void that exists on television for that kind of throwback, Saturday afternoon matinee popcorn flick, where the jokes are funny, and the chase scenes are harrowing, and the romance scenes are sexy. It’s something you can sit down and watch with your kids during the holiday season.
I understand that the film was actually shot in Africa — fun, or a pain in the ass?
Africa is a continent of extremes. You see extreme poverty, you see extreme opulence, you see extreme despair, you see extreme hope. Occasionally, it’s difficult to be shooting a comedy there in the midst of it. The crews were phenomenal, and couldn’t have been more excited or gracious about having us there. Even though there are certain logistical problems about moving a production to the middle of nowhere, we came off without a hitch. There was a cobra underneath the craft service area. Nobody got hurt. We all lived to tell the tale.
How were you received by the locals?
We had a really phenomenal two days while we were in Kenya, shooting in an actual Masai village. That was fantastic, getting time to spend with them, to trade with them, buy some of their wares, and learn a little bit about their culture. They're masterful negotiators. When I got back, I fired ICM and now am represented professionally by the Masai. I get all of my contracts from them.
Bob Newhart is such an iconic figure. What was it like working with him?
Getting to spend time at [Bob's] knee, learning from the master, is a memory I will take to my grave. He could not be a more generous person, or more talented onscreen. Basically, the only pitfall of working with him is that you st-st-a-a-rt to pick u-up his-his vocal pa-patterns.
And Jonathan Frakes, aka Commander Riker? What was it like working with him?
[Jonathan] was terrific. If you ask him to do any of his monologues from [Star Trek], he’ll do them at the drop of a hat. He’s got a great sense of humor, and a really firm grasp on the genre and the tone that we’re trying to set.
Last question: What are your favorite TV shows?
Whenever Deadwood is off the air, I can’t say — that was my favorite show over the last couple of years. I enjoyed that immensely. I like The Office. British predominantly, but I’m really pleased with the American version. I like Heroes — that’s a really good show. That’s about all that my four- and one-year-olds allow me to TiVo.