The actor now commutes back-and-forth to Los Angeles to film his role as Dr. Jeremy Kates, one of nine people taken hostage for 52 hours during a botched bank robbery in ABC's tense relationship drama, The Nine (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET). PEOPLE.com caught up with the West Orange, N.J., native to chat about his high hopes for his new series, his love of his adopted hometown and his saccharine-sweet relationship with his wife – who has her own special nickname for him.
The hostage flashbacks in The Nine are reminiscent of another Wednesday ABC show, Lost...
The flashbacks and the mystery element is really a small part of this show. It's 5 percent of every new episode. It's really a relationship drama. I think the real driving force behind this show is watching these characters continue on with their lives (after the bank robbery) and seeing how these bits of information that you're learning week to week have impacted them as people.
Have you bonded with your cast mates in a similar way as the characters have?
There's a real respect for each other in terms of the work we're bringing to the table. This just doesn't happen every day where you get an amazingly talented ensemble that just clicks and just works. I have to say, that's one of the reasons why we're all so desperately wanting this thing to continue, because it's really the best show any of us have ever been a part of.
How do you think you would handle a hostage situation?
We all like to think we'd be a certain way, but what this show explores is the idea that who you are under that kind of duress can be very different than who you think you'd be. I'd like to think I'd be a stand-up guy and save the day, but who knows? Maybe I'd wet my pants and cry.
And playing the role of a cardiothorasic surgeon – How did you prepare?
I got to shadow a heart surgeon at UCLA before I started work on the show and it really helped me tap into what that mindset is all about. One of the scrub nurses came over to me while I was in the ER watching one of these open-heart surgeries and said, "You're doing better than the people from Grey's Anatomy. They all had to take off by now." I was proud of that.
You film in Hollywood, but what's your home base like in Park City?
We spent the last couple years there when I was working on Everwood. It's a great place and it's really relaxed, a real community where people deal with each other and so we've made some great friends. And that's really home for us now. I never thought I would have fallen for Utah, but we absolutely did.
What do you do to pass the time?
I have taken up fishing and camping and they're beating the city out of me (laughs). The demands on my time when I was shooting Everwood were really small, so I skied a ton and I'm kind of craving it this year. I can be from my kitchen table to a lift line in 10 minutes.
More on Your Favorite Stars
I like my downtime to not be about my work. The whistle never blows in L.A ... Everybody is always kind of at it. People go out at night and its still a function of who's there, what can you do. People don't seem to have a beer for a beer's sake. It gets old and tiring.
Your wife stays in Utah while you're filming. Is that difficult?
She went back to finish her degree in psychology. She finishes this semester, but she has to spend most of her time there. So far we (talk on the) phone multiple times a day, but I'm trying to get her on the video chat. It makes a difference – it's nice to be able to see a face. But I'm also on a plane back there every chance I get.
Do you send each other cheesy text messages?
Yup (laughs). It's gross.
Do people make fun of you for being too affectionate?
They can be pretty merciless. Already her girlfriends jokingly call me all her pet names for me. So I'll call and I'll hear them all in the background saying (in a high-pitched voice) "Hi, Sugarbear Wolf!" I don't know where that one came from.