LOS ANGELES (AP) — Noah Wyle is confronting an alien invasion, the death of his wife and the potential annihilation of the human species in "Falling Skies."
But he had to face a more personal issue in tackling the role of history professor Tom Mason in TNT's sci-fi series, returning 9-11 p.m. EDT Sunday for season two: Wyle, 41, has become an elder statesman, relatively speaking.
"I'm Anthony Edwards," said Wyle, referring to the "ER" co-star who's got eight years on him and boasted more credits when they started on the medical drama in 1994. "I'm the guy who's been around a little longer and has a little more set savvy."
It's a shift that came up faster than expected for Wyle, who looks younger than his years despite the beard he added for gravitas on "Falling Skies."
"When I showed up on set and realized I was going to play a father to Drew Roy, who's 26, my first instinct was, 'You gotta be kidding me.' Then I thought, 'Why is nobody else having a problem with this?'"
With his own children just 9 and 6 years old, Wyle protests, "I'm a young dad."
His TV expertise is much appreciated, said Remi Aubuchon, the show's executive producer.
"Noah is a terrific example for the rest of the cast and us. He's always on set prepared and he stays on the set. And this is a revelation for me, he reads scripts early and his notes are always well thought-out and smart."
Intelligence is a hallmark of Wyle's characters since "ER," the actor acknowledges: "I tend to play smart guys, which I like. Brains over brawn."
But Professor Tom is far from deskbound. There's plenty of opportunity for him to show off his action skills as Tom and other Earthlings fight multi-legged aliens, un-fondly nicknamed "skitters" by their human prey, and their murderous robots.
Wyle views Tom as a new form of hero who synthesizes the military code embodied by tough soldier Weaver (Will Patton) with a knowledge of history, creating what a colleague termed a "warrior statesmen."
His skills are put to the test as the new season unfolds. After voluntarily leaving Earth to meet the aliens on their spaceship turf, he's viewed with suspicion by members of Massachusetts' "2nd Mass" civilian resistance group.