Asking “What if?” can be a torturous game to play in real life. But there’s no danger in living vicariously through Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk), the heart of NBC’s compelling new drama Ordinary Joe. Each episode tracks the three lives he could be living today, depending on how he chose to celebrate his college graduation 10 years earlier. As we learned in the September 20 premiere—spoiler alert if you haven’t watched yet—if he opted for dinner with his family, he’d end up following in the footsteps of his uncle and late father and join the NYPD. If he hit the beach with his best friend with benefits, Jenny (Elizabeth Lail), she’d have told him she was pregnant, they’d have gotten married and he’d now be a nurse. And if he’d asked out Amy (Natalie Martinez), a classmate he’d just met that day, the music major would’ve been inspired to follow his dream of becoming the next Billy Joel and married her instead.
“At 21, I had so many directions I wanted to go in and I felt the weight of the world,” says Wolk. “[Reading the script], a part of me went, ‘Oh my God, that’s me!’ And then quickly I realized I’m not that special—we all think about ‘What if?’ ”
Episodes revolve around what producers call a “unifying event.” In the opener, for instance, each Joe attended his college reunion; in the September 27 hour, it’s the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and of Joe losing his dad. “That became a defining moment and core wound for Joe,” executive producer Russel Friend says. “[Each Joe] has different ways they handle the grief and that day.” Here, we get to know them better.
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