James Wolk
Source: Getty Images

James Wolk, Breakout Star of 'Ordinary Joe,' "Can Definitely Carry a Tune"

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Sep. 27 2021, Published 11:53 a.m. ET

Do you ever regret not asking a person out or pursuing the career you were once passionate about? NBC's latest drama series, Ordinary Joe, examines the hypothetical questions preoccupying Syracuse University grad Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk).

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Ordinary Joe brings into contrast three different timelines that explore how Joe's life would have panned out had he made a radically different decision on graduation day. In one version of the story, Joe becomes a successful singer.

But does James, the actor, sing?

James Wolk
Source: Getty Images
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Does 'Ordinary Joe' star James Wolk sing?

Ordinary Joe brings viewers through three iterations of Joe's life story — all of which hinge on the way he chooses to spend his graduation day. The Joe who asks out resident cool girl Amy Kindelan (Natalie Martinez) becomes a musician. In another timeline, Joe is married to his best friend, Jenny (Elizabeth Lail). In the third, he works as a policeman.

But the universe in which Joe is a musician has audiences wondering: Did actor James Wolk shoulder the singing scenes by himself?

After graduating from the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre, and Dance in 2007, James went on to appear in TV shows like Lone Star, Shameless, and Mad Men. As James told Backstage, he can sing — but he doesn't consider himself a professional. As it turns out, James is a baritone, and a very humble one, at that.

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"When I first started, I auditioned for the Green Day musical on Broadway [American Idiot.]," James said to the outlet. "I'm so not a tenor; I'm a baritone. And I'm also not a professional singer. I’m singing on this show [Ordinary Joe] and it's amazing, but I'm working with a vocal coach."

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"I can definitely carry a tune, but I can carry a tune as a baritone, not a tenor," he added. "But at 22, you go, 'Oh, I can do anything.' So I'm literally screaming these high notes in this room with all these amazing Broadway folk. It was so clear when I was singing, they were like, 'This guy, get him out of here.'"

But the singing scenes in Ordinary Joe were just part of the challenges the actor faced. As James explained, shooting three timelines is extremely demanding on actors, and navigating the different versions of their characters made for interesting interactions between cast members.

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"We are all of us playing three versions of ourselves in this world where our decisions have drastically changed who we've become. I think the biggest challenge is, in one of the worlds, my wife is played by Elizabeth Lail, she plays Jenny," he said. "One day, we'll be standing around our son and it'll be his birthday and we're having a loving moment as husband and wife and as parents. And then, the next day, we'll be in a totally different world where we haven’t seen each other in 10 years."

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"She's just this woman I had a relationship with in college," James continued. "As an actor, the challenge is playing all of those beats and nuanced moments."

Catch new episodes of Ordinary Joe every Monday at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.

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