From show creator Simon Barry, the sci-fi drama series Continuum has been one of the biggest television surprises, with consistently compelling characters, a complex mythology and a story that always keeps its viewers guessing. The show follows a group of fanatical terrorists, known as Liber8, who escaped their planned execution in 2077 by traveling back in time to 2012, inadvertently taking City Protective Services officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) with them. Trapped in the past, Kiera infiltrates the local police department and, with the help of Detective Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster) and teenage tech genius Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen), tries to track down the terrorists before they change the course of history.
Not wanting to wait until 2014 for answers to some of the big questions and reveals at the end of Season 2, and with nearly all of the friendships and alliances left in question, I spoke to showrunner/executive producer/writer Simon Barry to see what he would be willing to share. During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Barry talked about what they were looking to achieve with Season 2, that Season 3 will explore sacrifice as a theme, just how damaged alliances are now, what Julian’s (Richard Harmon) role will be and how Carlos will figure into it, delving deeper into the time travel aspect of the show, the Freelancer mythology, adding new characters, and having a good idea of how they’d like the series to end, when that day comes. Check out what he said after the jump, and be aware that there are spoilers.
Collider: Where did the idea for this show originally come from?
SIMON BARRY: It started with an approach to the structure of the show, more than any specific characterization. For me, the idea of blending genres and trying to do a little twist on the time travel genre with something that was grounded, so that it could be produced. Going into the sales mode, you position everything to be as least scary as possible. When you’re selling shows, and I’ve sold quite a few ideas, I know some of the pitfalls that get in the way of people moving forward with your ideas. So, I wanted to include things that I wanted to do, which is more of the sci-fi and time travel stuff, but package it in a way that is a little bit more appetizing for a network that was looking for something familiar but different.
And so, structurally, the original idea of time travel terrorists is where it first started, and that they would be pursued by one cop who actually went through with them and was forced to deal with the local law enforcement when she arrived, or he arrived, at the time. It set up a very, very simple, easily understandable TV show structure that had a progressed of storytelling arcs built into it, with discovery and fish-out-of-water elements. Once that was fairly squared away, in my mind, then I started building the initial characterizations for the pilot, which were some of the prototype characters. I built Kiera’s backstory, and who she was and where she was coming from. And then, in the writers’ room, in Season 1, we started building on that and adding new characters and expanding the universe.
When you’re dealing with such a complex mythology on the show, how much has been planned out, from the beginning, and how much do you figure it out, along the way?
BARRY: It’s both. In the first season, we had an over-abundance of ideas. We had more ideas than we could possibly put into the episodes, so a lot of things were pushed into Season 2, and some things are actually going to be pushed into Season 3. The reason for that is because there’s a limited amount of story time that you can introduce all of these different ideas. But in our first season, we had a very productive writers’ room environment, just for breaking ideas and building on them. The only thing written when we started the writers’ room was the pilot script, so everyone was working off of the pilot script that I’d written. We had a very productive several weeks of just spit-balling what could happen in the show, and a lot of those ideas remain in the show and have been held onto. And then, as you write, new ideas pop up and things change on the set. Scenes get cut and have to be replaced with other ideas. Sometimes just through the organic process of making a show, you add new things and take away things. It’s very much a planned, but unplanned process. The big things in the show were certainly planned, early on. Some of the smaller little things are either happy accidents or sometimes they’re just discoveries along the way that we wanted to expand because either the idea just improved with age or an actor presented way more opportunities than we had imagined on the page, so we had an obligation to expand that.
Is there one particular character that you found changing the most, after you cast the role?
BARRY: I think they all changed, in their own way. Once the cast is put together, it becomes tangible in a way that it never is and you start to play to the strengths of the actors themselves. Certainly in the initial stages, with characters like Kellog and Garza, I might not have been able to predict how deep we’d go and how many surprises we could have mined from them. Also, the performances are so good that they’re characters the writers love to write for. But, I would say that it applies to almost everybody. You start with prototypes, in a way, and you have characters who have a direction, but when you only have a pilot to work off of, there’s a lot of room for building. We had a bible, going into the session, but we were all collaborating on the bible, so it wasn’t a road map that the writers were necessarily following. We were all contributing to it, as we broke the season, in the first season, so it became more of a record of our ideas and less of a guideline. It very much took on its own life, in many ways, and a lot of the characters took on their own lives, as a result of that.
Had you always known when Kiera would reveal the truth to Carlos, or had you even known for sure that that would actually happen?
BARRY: In the original draft of Episode 10 of Season 1, I had originally written that Carlos saw Kiera go invisible. On the day, we decided to hold off and make it more about what Gardiner witnessed. We’d discussed, early on, the appropriate time to do it, when it would have the most impact. I think the reason we didn’t do it, at the end of Season 1, was that we realized that we were juggling too many balls in the air to come back to Season 2, and we really were not servicing that reveal in the way that I thought was best for the show. So, I was really glad that we chose to not do it then. I was really happy with the way it turned out in Season 2.
BARRY: The audience didn’t see Season 1 until we’d completed shooting all of the episodes. There was a bit of uncertainly, from my position, being a first-time showrunner, with the show finding its footing and its fan base. So, we weren’t sure what to expect. We didn’t know which parts of the show would resonate the way we wanted, or which elements would really find their traction. In the first season, I think we were trying to spread ourselves out, in terms of what the show was. We were trying to be a few too many things, maybe. But once we got into Season 2, we really had great feedback. Because we had done well in the ratings on our home network in Canada – we were the #1 show – we felt like we could extenuate some of the things that were working the best and that we had gotten not just the network’s positive feedback on, but the fans’ feedback.
So, Season 2 was really our attempt to be the show that was not just trying out. We could own it. And I think because we started thinking long-term in a much more pragmatic way, we certainly decided to lay in much more mythology, and split the balance of procedural episodic storytelling and serialized mythological storytelling a bit more in the favor of the serialized. Incorporating those characters was great because, once those characters had been established, we could really mine those relationships in Season 2, which we couldn’t really do as well in Season 1. And we got so much good stuff out of the relationships of the characters that everyone knew that it felt like it was a very self-sustaining engine for storytelling, which is great. For Season 2, I think we were also trying to attach a theme of power and responsibility. That carried many of our storylines through. There were no easy choices. Once Kiera took her power and had to implement decisions, it was never going to be as cut and dry as she’d hoped.
By the end of Season 2, alliances have really shifted, and Kiera, Carlos and Alec are really pulled in very different directions. Can any of them truly be friends or allies again, especially when they’re all seeking or fighting control and power?
BARRY: Well, that’s a good question. It’s funny with friendships. Sometimes they are defined by the dynamic in the relationship, and sometimes they’re not. We always try to never think of anything on the show as working on one level. We’re always looking at the many layers, not just for defining things, but for the truth of things. It’s been our mandate to complicate things, and we like that. We feel that life is a very nuanced, complex experience, and our characters were always looking for that element of complexity and nuance. Whether it’s friendship, story, plot or morality, we never want to feel like we have a very clear-cut approach. That allows for characters to do things that are unexpected, which is great, but it also complicates relationships in a way that I feel is better for the show. The stakes of the show should never be so simple that it’s just, “Well, I’m your friend, so therefore this is going to happen.” Everything is in motion and people’s decision making is shifting with the stakes.
Where do you see Julian’s role in Season 3, and what is Carlos’ place in that now?
BARRY: I don’t want to talk too much about that. I actually do know what’s going to happen to Carlos and Julian, and they’re both going to have interesting lives in Season 3. But because of the way we finished Season 2, it would ultimately tip our hand, as to what we’ve chosen to do, at the beginning of Season 3, and I don’t want to spoil it. Julian’s role is going to evolve in a way that’s surprising, and I think Carlos is certainly going to show a different side of himself that will challenge everyone. They are both rich characters who should not be stagnant. I think we try to hold every character up to that standard and the objective not to change them for the sake of changing them, but to mine the little shades that we’ve revealed in the past, and see where those shades can go.
When you introduced Escher and Jason, did you know how they would ultimately connect to Alec?
BARRY: Yeah. When we introduced Jason, we had had a round of discussions about who Jason could be. That was when we were breaking and writing Season 1. I will say that we had intended to always connect Jason and Alec, but we did change our approach to that, in Season 2. What we did was, at the very beginning of Season 2 story breaking, we realized that we had to commit to a track with Jason and Escher that was specific and intractable. Because we hadn’t really seen Escher in Season 1, we left room for ourselves to basically make him whatever we wanted to make him in Season 2. But early on, we realized that playing Jason as being someone he wasn’t was a mistake. We were going to possibly have Jason be a little bit more complex and a little bit more duplicitous, and we thought that that was really against the grain of who we’d established. Also, the character that Ian Tracey had portrayed was so organically confused and fun, so we didn’t want to spoil that by adding a layer of intent. So, we very quickly landed on the eventual relationships that we settled on in Season 2, with Jason being Alec’s son and Escher being his father.
Up until the Season 2 finale, you’ve never really explored the possibility of any of these characters traveling to yet another time period, whether it be backward or forward in time. But, now that Alec has used the time travel device presumably to go back and save Emily, how will you handle that in Season 3?
BARRY: There’s this horrible two-sided blade with time travel. By not exploiting it, you can be safe and solid in your foundation. If you do use it, it can get really messy, really quickly. It is a time travel show, after all, and we’ve always wanted to explore more time travel on the show. So, we really planned ahead, that this would be our second use of time travel, after the original incident in Season 1. We felt very confident that the storytelling would support the way this would play out and how we would be able to portray what Alec has done. I think in the first episode of Season 3, there will be no more questions about how this works or how to tell stories using time travel. We have a fairly straightforward and fun approach to the reality of time travel that allows us to have our cake and eat it too.