Aliens and UFOs sound like science fiction — but that’s the subject of History’s surprisingly grounded new scripted drama “Project Blue Book.”
The series, premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m., is essentially a more realistic “The X-Files”-type period piece. It stars Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger on “Game of Thrones”) and Michael Malarkey (“The Vampire Diaries”) as unlikely partners investigating UFOs for the US Air Force in the 1950s and ’60s. (It was a government initiative that really existed.)
“My character is based loosely on Captain Edward J Ruppelt, who was the first and pretty much most recognizable directors of Project Blue Book,” says Malarkey, 35. “He’s kind of a conglomeration of several characters. We called him Captain Michael Quinn.”
Military man Quinn is the more serious-minded partner, while Gillen’s professor character, Josef Allen Hynek, is the Mulder to Quinn’s Scully.
To nail their dynamic, the two bonded offscreen during the Vancouver shoot.
“We drank a couple Guinnesses,” says Malarkey. “I’m a recording and touring artist. [Aiden] has a real interest in music as well. Nick Cave is one of my favorites and also one of his.
“So our initial bond was definitely on the music front.”
‘The further you go into these things, the more they start to sound actually plausible!’
To prepare for the role, Malarkey dove into researching the real-life Project Blue Book, which ran from 1952-1970. Naturally, this led to some wild findings.
“There were 12,000 or so cases with Blue Book. Up to about 600 of them were unexplained, and they were from reputable sources,” he says. “A lot of the theories were surprising to me and also made me think. There’s theories that we’re actually all aliens — that aliens came to earth and mated with apes and we are the results of that. The thing is, the further you go into these things, the more they start to sound actually plausible!”
And Malarkey didn’t just stop at reading crazy alien theories. Since his onscreen character flies planes, he decided he should do that in real life. His family is based in Ohio near the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which is coincidentally where the real-life Project Blue Book was situated.
“I actually took it upon myself, after a couple weeks shooting, to go back home in Ohio,” says Malarkey. “I decided, ‘I’m going to fly a plane.’ It’s been a while since I’ve been scared to do something, at least like that. I think it helped with creating the character. I was flying side by side with an air force dude, and he was like ‘let me know if you want me to take over.’ I didn’t want to take off or land the plane — I just wanted to fly in the air.”
“Project Blue Book” Series Premiere Tuesday at 10 p.m. on History