The new CW drama series The Tomorrow People follows a generation of humans born with paranormal abilities, who are the next evolutionary leap of mankind. Up until a year ago, Stephen (Robbie Amell) was a “normal” teenager, but then he learned that he is part of a genetically advanced race with the abilities of telekinesis, teleportation and telepathic communication, and that this race is being hunted down by a paramilitary group of scientists known as Ultra.
In Episode 6, “Sorry For Your Loss,” Stephen and Russell (Aaron Yoo) head out for a night of fun where they run into a potential new break-out, and Russell also learns that his dad has passed away, leaving him torn about whether or not he should go home. During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Aaron Yoo, whose passion and enthusiasm for the show and its genre are infectious, talked about why he wanted to be a part of The Tomorrow People, what he likes about his character, what he’s learned about Russell since he started playing him, where things are headed for the next few episodes, and just how much he enjoys doing the fight scenes. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
AARON YOO: It’s great news! I can’t even tell you! I want to walk down the street and just hug random people.
What was it about this show that really appealed to you and made you want to be a part of it?
YOO: Well, I grew up with comic books and there’s a certain kind of superhero story that I think is universal and that I love personally, and that’s the idea discovering powers and the metaphor that is to growing up and feeling different, and all those things that we all have to go through. When I first read this script, I felt like it captured all the best things that I always thought were great about The X-Men and Spider-Man and the Tim Drake Robin from Batman. It’s this idea of, “I feel different from everyone else, but I don’t know how to deal with it. Society isn’t helping me. The things that make me special, I may not be happy about. I have to learn to grow and love those things.” All those things you dislike about yourself when you’re 14 years old, like your hair or whatever, when you get older, you hold onto them so fiercely because they were such an integral part of how you had to define yourself to like who you are. That, as a story, attracted me to this script, from the beginning. It’s one of those that you read and you’re like, “I want this!” You call your agent and you’re like, “How do we make this happen?,” and they go, “You just have to go be really good.” And you’re like, “Oh, right. There’s that.”
What did you like about Russell, as a character?
YOO: What was great about Russell was talking to Greg [Berlanti] about it and finding out that he would not be a guy who just walks around chewing the furniture and tossing around one-liners, but that there are a lot of sides to him. All actors like to do things that are emotionally real and true. The joy of this show is that everything we do is a life-or-death situation, and all of our choices are consequences. Being able to experience that and feel that makes you everything that you’re in this business to do. My favorite show, besides The Tomorrow People, is Game of Thrones, and it’s because every single decision is literally a life-or-death decision. Back in the day, even with a show like The West Wing, you’re in the White House, so every single decision is the equivalent of a life-or-death decision. Our show is a completely different show from either of those other two, although we did just have our Red Wedding episode last week, but because we’re fighting for survival, all of our choices matter. We’re not like, “Oh, my god, what happens if I don’t go to so-and-so’s party? Will they hate me on next week’s episode?” We’re not one of those shows. It’s more like, “If we don’t go there, someone will die.” Well, now someone has died and we have to do something about it.
YOO: I think the coolest thing that I’ve learned is that Russell is not a troublemaker, in the sense that he causes trouble, but he gets into trouble and he gets everybody into trouble. He’s like that little brother that you’re always getting that phone call from, in the middle of the night. I never had that little brother, but I was that little brother. My sister definitely got some phone calls in the middle of the night going, “You need to come to the hospital,” from my buddies. I remember she was on the phone with a friend of mine once going, “Guys, this is not cool. It’s 2:30 in the morning. If this is a prank, I’m gonna kill all of you.” My friends were just like, “If this is a prank, you can come to the hospital and strangle him, but you need to come to the hospital.” Now that I think about it, Russell is that guy for the Tomorrow People.
Now that viewers are starting to get glimpses into all of the characters’ histories and backstories, what can you say to tease what’s to come for Russell and his journey?
YOO: There are two things that you started to see come to a head in last week’s episode, which is, do we stay living the meager existence that we have so far, or do we try to fight for more? We’ve discovered that that’s become one of the major themes of our show, as the episodes have gone along. Over the next few episodes, we’re all going to have to really come to terms with which side of that argument we’re on. People really do start to take sides on that, and it becomes a major problem. On top of that, Russell makes a couple of egregious errors. He is that little brother that brings the cops to your house, and he does that more than once. Russell makes a couple of very bad mistakes, and it causes the Tomorrow People to have to deal with some unforeseen huge issues. At one point, I turned to one of the writers and was like, “I am a liability.” It’s really, truly great drama. Between now and Christmas, you’re gonna see a whole new show. In some ways, this episode is a palette cleanser from last week’s episode. This episode is a deeply emotional, sad and moving story. I call it our Korean soap opera, and not just because of me. It’s the beginning of an emotional journey for all of our characters. What you start to realize is, between all of the special effects and the fight scenes, which continue to get better and better, and we definitely never hold back on those, that what our show is really about is the family that the Tomorrow People are, and how that family is being broken apart and revolutionized, and how we’re coping with the realities of really living versus fearing death. It’s a story about growing up and forming a family. And we blow things up!
YOO: One of the things that we all love is how invested everyone seems to be in the characters. If you saw our show from a distance, you’d be like, “Oh, it’s a bunch of superheroes.” You definitely get people saying, “Oh, that fight was sick!,” or “That special effect was dope!” But the vast majority of the people who watch the show are like, “Cara, don’t do that to Stephen! Don’t do that to John!” People care about the actual characters. We could have the powers or not have the powers, although it’s cool to have the powers. I think that’s what Phil [Klemmer] and Greg [Berlanti] and Julie [Plec] wanted, from the beginning, and I think that’s the surprising thing that people are finding with the show.
One of the show’s fans on Twitter wants to know that now that both Stephen and John have had their shirtless moments, will Russell get one, too?
YOO: I’m fighting it! I don’t give up my abs that easily!
Is it fun to get to do more physical work on the show, especially as the storylines get more intense?
YOO: Oh, I die to do the fight scenes! I had that big dock fight scene in Episode 103. And then, we had this big action sequence, which was one of my favorite days of filming, ever. We were ducking and they were firing hundreds of rounds of blank ammunition at us while someone else was shooting the wall behind us to make bullet dents in it, and other people were throwing fake glass at us. It’s all a combination of different effects. There’s noise, and there’s physical things flying and being blown up and exploding. I looked at Luke [Mitchell], at one point, and was like, “Now we know what it’s like to be shot at.” It was so crazy! I grew up doing martial arts, and I love martial arts movies and fight scenes. I’m pretty athletic, so I enjoy doing that stuff. We decided, early on, that Russell was going to be the most skilled fighter of the group, and my two stunt doubles are just sick fighters. There’s some aerial take downs coming up, and some crazy stuff that Russell gets to do. It’s pretty fun. I started training again. I hadn’t in about 15 years, so it’s been nice to get back into some martial arts training. Although, trying to get my flexibility back is probably the worst thing. It’s just torture.
Even though the finished product looks cool, do you always feel a bit awkward and goofy doing the scenes with the effects for the powers?
YOO: It’s interesting. We’ve talked about how we need to shoot an instructional video for everyone who comes onto our show, for how we shoot that. We’ve gotten to a point where we’re just like, “All right, this is what we have to do.” There’s a whole process to shooting teleports that’s so mechanical and weird. When people come onto the show for the first time, you see them go, “Wait, what?! People freeze, and then they do what?” And you’re like, “It’s okay. It will make sense. By day three, it will start to make sense to you.”
The Tomorrow People airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.