After Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Cassie (Amanda Schull) attempted to stop the final paradox in the past, on the Syfy series 12 Monkeys, and Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) and Deacon (Todd Stashwick) tried to find and stop the Witness, a mysterious woman with apocalyptic visions of the future tells Cole that it’s not over and that he must do the unthinkable to save the world. After a terrific season of twists and turns, and heartbreaks and triumphs, it all comes to a head in the Season 2 finale, “Memory of Tomorrow,” in a way that will make you grateful for the already announced third season.
Collider recently spoke to show co-creator/showrunner Terry Matalas for an exclusive interview, and in the first (non-spoilery) part of that conversation, he talked about how much of Season 2 has been part of the plan, from the beginning, not wanting to spin their wheels with the story, how easy it is to keep all of the timelines straight, exploring Cassie and Cole’s relationship, how well this cast plays off of each other, and getting Madeleine Stowe (who was in the 12 Monkeys film the show was inspired by) on board for the finale. Be aware that there are some spoilers, if you are not caught up with the series.
Collider: How much of Season 2 did you know, when you set out on the journey of Season 1? Was any or all of it part of your bigger plan, from the beginning, or did it evolve out of where Season 1 took you?
TERRY MATALAS: A lot of it was thought about, like the Messengers, the Red Forest, and the house and the man in the house. All of those things, what that meant and who the Witness was were talked about back in Season 1. You give yourself room to play around and be like, “Well, maybe we don’t do this. Maybe it’s this or that.” You leave yourself some wiggle room. But for the most part, we ended up doing exactly what we set out to do, at the beginning of the season. We’re pretty proud of it, actually.
So many shows that set up a mythology that needs to evolve seem to spin their wheels because they don’t know how long they’ll be telling that mythology for, but this show doesn’t feel that way, at all. It feels like there’s always forward movement. Is that something that you have conversations about? Do you intentionally avoid spinning your wheels with this show?
MATALAS: Yes, that is super important. It’s happened before where there’s not an answer to things, and it’s really, really important to us to play the right game of sleight of hand. We wanted you to consider many suspects for the Witness, so that you’re having the fun of trying to figure it out, but then you’re still somewhat surprised by the answer. And it’s not so much a game of puzzles. Who the Witness is, is emotionally important to everybody. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It has incredible consequences for everybody involved.
In less capable hands, this complicated and complex story could have unraveled and fallen apart, but it seems like you tackle it effortlessly and with ease. Do you have tricks for keeping it all straight, especially as you explore more time periods?
MATALAS: We do have boards that show the arc of things, but as far as the time travel goes, I think it feels more complicated than it is. It’s pretty easy, at least for us, to keep track fo the time travel of it all, especially knowing where we’re going. It’s a lot of work, but we’re not up all night, thinking about the timeline. We’re up all night, thinking about the characters. That’s what makes people tune into this show.
They dynamic between Cassie and Cole is so interesting because they obviously need each other and very deeply care about and for each other, but their relationship has been oddly undefined. What’s it been like to explore that relationship and tell their story, but then also have it shift so dramatically and have to figure it out again?
MATALAS: We just tried to play it as real as we could. There’s the TV concept of them falling in love. He comes back and he falls in love with her, and she’s in love with him. But, it’s really complicated. Do you have time for that, when the fate of the world is constantly hanging over your head? Is there really time to smile at each other and make dinner? We wanted to tell this love story in a very realistic way, and tell it well. It’s not like they hook up, and then they’re embarrassed, and then they’re jealous. It needs to feel gritty and authentic. And I think, by the end of the season, we did it well. When they do finally give in to how they feel about each other, it’s because they have the thing they never had before, which is time. They don’t have anything else. They don’t have a mission. All they have is time to be with each other. That’s when they can find each other. We loved that concept. For these two characters, the irony is that the thing they need to be in love is time. So, it’s been satisfying to build the relationship that way.
This is such a ridiculously talented cast. Has anything particularly surprised you, or steered you in a different direction, after watching their dynamics together?
MATALAS: Yeah. When things are intense, they play off each other well. And when they’re having fun, they play off each other well. You do start to find their voice when you watch them. With everybody’s performances, you make adjustments. After everything was set up, we knew that we had the freedom to let these characters do what they do.
This season, we’ve gotten to see so many more layers to Jennifer Goines, beyond just the crazy. Was the plan always to delve so much deeper into that character?
MATALAS: Yeah, right from the beginning, we knew Jennifer Goines would be a regular in Season 2, so we cast it with that in mind. The fun of Jennifer is that there’s a different Jennifer, pretty much every time we go to her. Her trying to find herself is part of her arc, and Emily [Hampshire] can do it all. Emily is this amazing creative partner. We chart out where she’s going, and then we play. We leave room for her to do her thing, and for us to do our thing.
Deacon seems like one of those fun characters that you could do anything with and it would work.
MATALAS: Yeah, he’s great. I wanted to do something great with Deacon, and I was a little worried about him going off the rails about Cassie because he’s such a strong character. He’s a guy who can survive going up against apocalyptic marauders, six at a time, and then there was something sweet about how the one thing that could bring him down is his love for Cassie. Todd Stashwick brought a humanity to it.
It’s a fun little nod to the movie to have Madeleine Stowe make an appearance. How did you go about getting her for this, and did she need any convincing to do it?
MATALAS: We had spoken to Madeleine shortly after we shot the pilot. She wanted to see it, so she watched it and she was a huge supporter of what we did, particularly with Cassie and how different the character was from Kathryn Railly in the movie. She felt that, in some ways, Cassie was stronger and drove the story more, with her point of view. She was very kind to us. So, half-way through the season, Richard Suckle from Atlas, who’s also one of our producers, and I were just talking about how great it would be to have Madeleine. He works with Madeleine often, so he called her up and spoke to her, and then said, “Call her and pitch her what you want to do.” I was nervous because I’m a huge Madeleine fan, so I had prepared this whole speech. I called her and she could not have been warmer and more enthusiastic. At that point, we were very deep in the mythology, so I was worried about taking her through it. I thought she might say, “I don’t know what this gobbledygook is.” But she fully embraced it and understood the emotional consequences of what was going on, and she really jumped in. Her coming on the set was just a dream come true. It just felt right. She was absolutely a delight to work with.
12 Monkeys airs on Monday nights on Syfy.