Even when he's playing a deadly robot in Westworld, James Marsden comes out looking like the nice guy. But that's always been the way for the handsome American actor.
When James was a teenager, he left his Oklahoma home to try his luck in Los Angeles. Now 44, he's made a career of taking unusual characters and making us love them.
Fans adored James as the conceited prince in Enchanted, the third wheel in The Notebook, and as a laser-eyed mutant in the X-Men film series. Now, they love him in HBO's sci-fi western series Westworld.
In Westworld, James' robot host character, Teddy, has joined the rebellion against the hosts' masters.
While his character may be a robot, for James, Teddy acts in a very human way. He believes that, deep down, Teddy is just a man in love.
"He's a good guy," James tells TV WEEK. "This season, it's interesting who he becomes now that he's free of a narrative or coding. He's discovering the connection with Dolores [his android host girlfriend, played by Evan Rachel Wood] is still there."
James adds that, in many ways, his character's journey mimics a real marriage.
"After a period, you have to redefine it," he says. "People change, and you grow in different directions."
The star explains that life changes and sculpts individuals in different ways.
"It's about how you grow together through all of that," he says.
James finds Teddy's complexity interesting. It's what attracted him to many of his roles. The actor makes it clear that being a star doesn't mean as much to him as finding an interesting character to play.
"To me, the ultimate career isn't necessarily headlining every movie," he explains. "It's just looking forward to the opportunity to play different characters."
He adds that he finds it a joy to be able to jump from genre to genre. And for James, variety is indeed the key. He's flipped from drama to comedy to family films to action flicks.
In the beginning, it wasn't a career plan. He would take whatever jobs he could get. But things took shape when he realised he had the chance to switch genres.
"I like being someone who is sort of a Swiss Army knife," James explains. "I feel as though I can be like, 'You'll work in this, you'll work on that too.' To me, the ultimate career is still being able to act when you're in your 80s. You get to do it your whole life."
Westworld Season 2 currently airs Monday 11am and 8:30pm on Showcase on Foxtel.