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Alice & Jack’s Domhnall Gleeson Weighs In on Why Jack Tolerates This ‘Tempestuous’ Relationship

If anyone reading this is, as I am, out there on the dating apps and watching MASTERPIECE on PBS’ Alice & Jack (airing Sundays at 10/9c), you probably also are wondering why Domhnall Gleeson’s character keeps coming back for more.

In Episode 1 of the six-part series chronicling the ups and downs of a 15-year relationship (unspooling Sundays at 10/9c), Jack’s first date with Alice went… OK? When they first meet up at a bar, Alice (played by Academy Award nominee Andrea Riseborough) starts out by mocking Jack’s motivations as a biomedical researcher. They nonetheless hook up that night, immediately after which Alice nudges Jack to “get out” and go home. On his way out, Alice asks that Jack not call her, and when he attempts to “read the subtext” of that and message her instead, he is ghosted.

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Worse yet, the very next night Jack spots Alice exiting the same bar, with another man.

Yet Jack reaches out to Alice months later (via phone call, oh no!) to celebrate a breakthrough at work. They hook up again and even hit a museum the morning after, but a mini meltdown that Alice has (with an unhelpful docent) abruptly ends the excursion and tees up another, much longer break.

Domhnall Gleeson with Aisling Bea (as Lynn)
Domhnall Gleeson with Aisling Bea (as Lynn)

Alice, this time, is the one to attempt a reconnect — one-and-a-half years later. But she finds Jack now married, and with a newborn child. His life did not stand still, as she presumed. Alice reached out because her mother died, and she can’t imagine seeing her father at the funeral without Jack at her side.

Will married Jack find a way to be there for his barely-an-ex?

Said differently: Are there five episodes to come and 13 years of story left to tell?

TVLine asked Gleeson for his take on why Jack has felt so drawn to Alice ever since that first, so-so date. “That’s an important question,” the Irish actor conceded, before launching into his well-considered response.

“I don’t think Alice is in any way what he was expecting,” because — as noted above — “she’s almost confrontational at the date in some sort of way,” Gleeson said. “It’s flirtatious but also unapologetically forward.”

Even so, Jack “decided to go with it,” his portrayer explained, “because [Alice] is incredibly interesting and beautiful and all these other things.”

Once in her apartment, “When they kiss for the first time, more than anything, to me, there was a feeling of home there that he couldn’t explain. And he hasn’t had a home in a very long time,” Gleeson offered. “It was almost frightening how close they were, when it felt like he had been kept at a certain distance before that.”

Closeness and distance is, indeed, a recurring theme of Alice & Jack, as upcoming episodes will underscore.

With Alice, “Jack feels so at home, but obviously at various points during the series he’s worried that his house is on fire!” quipped Gleeson. “It’s a very, very tempestuous sort of a thing. But I think that feeling cannot be explained, and only felt.”

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