After a carefree in-line skating contest down the staircases and through the corridors of the art repository, buddies Jay and Tyler (Matthew Bomer, Logan Marshall-Green) are baffled when their crony Will Traveler (Aaron Stanford) fails to meet them outside.
And they're considerably more stunned when the building they've just left explodes, with Will apparently still inside as smoke billows from the site.
Immediately suspected as co-conspirators, Jay and Tyler go on the lam, barely getting out of several tight scrapes while FBI agents -- portrayed by Steven Culp ("Desperate Housewives"), Anthony Ruivivar ("Third Watch") and Viola Davis ("Stone Cold") -- are on their heels. William Sadler ("Roswell") appears as Tyler's father, who may know more about the crime than he's saying.
Previously seen on "Tru Calling" as well as the daytime serials "All My Children" and "Guiding Light," the amiable Bomer says keeping in good physical condition has paid off, for all the running and jumping the new show requires of him.
"It's one thing to read it and have a general understanding of it," he muses, "and another to put it into practice and see how daunting it actually is."
The skating sequence gave Bomer an early indication. "Our fantastic director, David Nutter ('The X-Files'), brought us to New York early to work with some professionals. We had about a week and a half of training, and I was a royal mess the first time I strapped those suckers on. By the time we got to shooting, I could actually appear somewhat functional on them."
"Traveler" keeps viewers as much in the dark as it does the fugitives, which Bomer likes. "We use the flashback device a number of times during the course of the series," he says, "and I think it plays with time and structure in a very interesting way that is certainly less conventional."
While "Traveler" involves big themes mirroring uncertain times, Bomer appreciates the series putting them on a personal level.
"The thought 'How well do you know your friends?' is at the heart of this," he says. "At the end of the day, are you more loyal to a cause or to the people you love and care about? Certainly, the aspect of always looking over your shoulder is a very timely part of the show."
Some players on "24" and other complex shows don't want to know more than they need to do their own parts. Bomer is taking a similar approach to the "Traveler" scripts.
"I've chosen to know as little as possible," he says. "I wanted to have a natural reaction to the changes my character encounters, the realizations and discoveries as he's making them. It also makes it a lot more entertaining for me to be genuinely moved and surprised, and to just let that happen episode by episode."
While he hopes "Traveler" will be well-watched, especially after its post-"Grey's Anatomy" unveiling several Thursdays ago, Bomer came close to landing an even higher-profile role: the Man of Steel. He was a finalist for the title part in last year's movie "Superman Returns" while director Brett Ratner was attached to the project, which underwent numerous creative changes. When director Bryan Singer took over, Bomer lost out to Brandon Routh.
"'Superman Returns' is the most publicly known of those [situations], but it's not the only one," says the son of former Dallas Cowboy John Bomer. "What you come to realize as time goes on is that if it's supposed to happen, it does. If it doesn't, there's a reason. As an actor, you get to know what you're in charge of; for me, that's just doing the best work I can on the given day, and hopefully that's enough. A lot of the other stuff is completely out of your hands."
Admitting his "emotions have run the gamut" over the summer scheduling of "Traveler," Bomer concludes, "It's just a business. Sometimes, the way TV pans out can be frustratingly slow. In the end, I've just had to reach a very Zen place about it."
Regardless, the actor remains proud of what's there.
"Unlike a lot of serialized shows," he says, "this one raises questions and answers them. Every question brought up in the pilot is answered by the season finale, and more questions are brought up. There's a definite, planned mythology to the show -- and if you miss a week, it doesn't preclude you from enjoying a later episode.
"I'm just really happy for people to see all our hard work, whenever that is. You wouldn't want to rehearse a play for six months, then never have an audience for it."