'Boss' Star: Can The Nice Guy Win?


Jeff Hephner was slated to star on NBC's most-promising new fall show, The Playboy Club. But midway through shooting the pilot episode, he was replaced with Eddie Cibrian. Yet there are no hard feelings since he's now starring as Ben Zajac -- another politically driven character -- on Starz's red hot Boss, co-starring Kelsey Grammer. I caught up with Jeff to talk about his return to the Windy City, what he's looking forward to with Boss and how he looks back at his brief time in The Playboy Club.

ETonline: Your character, Ben Zajac, stands in stark contrast to Kelsey Grammer's Tom Kane when it comes to their approaches. Do you think a "you get more flies with honey" tactic can work?

Jeff Hephner: It makes you think, doesn't it? When you see the decisions and the choices Mayor Kane has to make for the greater good and you have to wonder if there’s another way. Can the nice guy win? Historically, there's a lot of proof that they can't because the crush of power is so strong. You just need to be stronger. When everyone is getting their chunks of power, you still have to be able to bring down the hammer -- it's up to the mayor to keep the lights on and now having been a part of this show, I sometimes wonder how it gets done.

ETonline: Ben's relationship with Kitty also has fans buzzing -- what's your take?

Jeff: I think it's fascinating to watch someone with an addiction, when that addiction is another person. I tread lightly using the term addiction, but I have to look at it like that because when you're doing something so dangerous, it has to be framed in the term of addiction. Both assume they can go about their business in a reasonable way and I won't give anything away, but you just know something that dangerous has potentially damaging consequences.

ETonline: What are you looking forward to in upcoming episodes with Ben?

Jeff: Watching him try to find his way in this new environment, which is completely controlled by people looking for power. Seeing him navigate that, while still believing in the greater good promises to be fascinating. In joining the show, I was most fascinated by how my character would traverse that environment.

ETonline: You were originally cast in The Playboy Club role that later went to Eddie Cibrian -- did the irony of starring on the only other Chicago-produced show about politics ever escape you?

Jeff: Not one drop [laughs]. When I rehash the story sometimes, it's so bizarre. It's much too long for this interview, but it's so bizarre how cyclical it became. The same crew on our show now, did The Playboy Club pilot that I shot. So I went to Chicago for 3 days before they fired me and in a matter of weeks I was on the only other show shooting in Chicago with the same crew. It was so bizarre. I simply got caught in the politics of our business.

ETonline: Obviously you wouldn't disparage them, but do you feel like fate intervened?

Jeff: You have to wonder, don't you? I don't want to be smug or gloat – but I learned an incredible lesson about this industry with that. I was collateral damage of a business decision, and I always remind myself of that, even if I didn't believe it in the beginning. I love this job and I’m thrilled to have found this opportunity. You gotta pull your boots back on and go about your day.

Boss airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Starz.