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DeKay Is Challenged By Role In 'Carnivale'
by William LaRue, The Post-Standard - Syracuse, New York (January 9, 2005)

The Le Moyne College graduate returns for a second season of the HBO series.

HBO's supernatural drama, "Carnivale," ended last season with actor Tim DeKay racing into a burning building to save two women.

Things heat up even more in the show's 12-episode second season, which premieres at 9 p.m. today. As DeKay notes, new scripts inject a faster pace and clearer direction to this one-hour weekly series about a Midwest traveling carnival in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

He's also pleased with the development of his character, Clayton "Jonesy" Jones, head of the carnival workers. DeKay found himself last season in some racy scenes as part of an odd love triangle involving Jonesy and two women.

"Well, not to give anything away, the next relationship Jonesy gets into, I hope, will be as surprising to the audience as it was to me when I got the call from the producers," says DeKay, 41, a Tompkins County native and a 1985 graduate of Le Moyne College.

The first season of "Carnivale" was awash in graphic scenes of murder, arson, sexual exhibitionism, psychic abilities, romance and spiritual healing in a battle of good versus evil during the Great Depression.

This season, the battle goes epic as it becomes clear the entire world is at stake as it sits on the verge of World War II and the nuclear age.

At the center of these story lines are two characters - Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), a teen fugitive with powers to heal, and Brother Justin (Clancy Brown), a charismatic evangelist with dark motives and menacing powers of his own.

After "Carnivale" struggled in the Nielsen ratings last season, HBO and the producers decided the show needed to have more action and to explain more clearly why Ben and Justin have emerged as earthly representatives of God and Satan, DeKay says.

"I think the audience won't feel so much in the dark as to some of the questions they might have had from last season. Nobody will be led down a path that puts them into nowhere. They'll get answers," he says, speaking by telephone recently from his home in Los Angeles.

Although he's not one of the two lead characters, Jonesy is a meaty challenge for DeKay in his first full-time role on a television series.

Jonesy is a former professional baseball player whose right knee was shattered years ago. But like so many things on "Carnivale," exactly why he got hurt wasn't made clear to viewers.

A quick flashback scene showed Jonesy being struck by a group of men off the field. Only HBO publicity materials explained it was a mob attack in retaliation for Jonesy refusing to lose a game deliberately.

Last season, Jonesy emerged as a soft-spoken and hardworking employee in love with young tarot-card reader Sofie (Clea Duvall), although events got in the way of them pursuing a romantic relationship.

As he struggled with a drinking problem and loneliness, Jonesy got caught in an affair with carnival stripper Rita Sue (Cynthia Ettinger), who also happens to be married.

"I would say that he's a good guy, but he's human," DeKay says of Jonesy. "He is the one person who does not have super powers who is trying to do the right thing. And I think that balances well with the rest of the show."

Because of the show's large cast, with 17 major roles last season, DeKay and most of his fellow actors disappeared from the screen for long stretches.

DeKay says he knows the show's writers feel bad about that. Some have even shown him scenes with Jonesy that were cut because there wasn't enough time.

"They've all got great ideas, but you can't fit them all into 60 minutes. Our job (as actors) is to deliver what they have written, so we can inspire them to write more," he says.