In the new alien invasion series Falling Skies, actor Drew Roy plays Hal Mason, the oldest son of Tom (Noah Wyle), who is the second in command of a regiment assigned to protect several hundred survivors. In the six months since the invasion, Hal has had to quickly grow into a man, fighting alongside his father, and proving that he is both brave and confident in the field. With his younger brother Ben (Connor Jessup) captured by the aliens and his littlest brother Matt (Maxim Knight) struggling to cope with the situation, he has come to appreciate how much his family truly means, and steps up to help in any way that he can.
At a press day for the TV drama, Collider sat down with Drew Roy for this exclusive interview, in which he talked about how excited he is to be part of a Steven Spielberg project, what he enjoys about getting to play such a grown-up teenager, how much he loves the physicality and stunt work, how creepy he thought the aliens were, and how they end Season 1 with two different directions they could go for Season 2. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
DREW ROY: Especially back then, I really was in no position to call the shots on what projects I get to work on. This one came to me through my agent, just like everything else. We even joked about the fact that it was a Steven Spielberg project. We were like, “Oh yeah, I might have a chance.” We were just joking. It was so cool to finally be auditioning for Spielberg. So, I went to the first round audition, and the second, and the third, and then the fourth. They tested me and they chemistry read me. The whole process went on for quite some time, and then towards the end, it was down to me and one other guy, and we were literally waiting for the word from Steven Spielberg ‘cause he had to watch the two audition tapes and give the okay. That, in and of itself, had me like, “Okay, even if I don’t get it, that’s just cool.” Fortunately, it went my way.
Are you normally a fan of this genre, or was this new to you?
ROY: To be completely honest, I just like whatever tells a good story. Put me in whatever setting, scenario, genre. If you’re telling a good story, it’s great and it’s fun to get caught up in. I feel like science fiction can get a bad rap sometimes because people make something just to throw an alien in it or just to make it weird, and it doesn’t really have a story. In my opinion, visual effects are great when it compliments a good story, and action is great when it compliments a good story, but just to have them for the sake of having them, it gets a little boring, especially if you’re talking a TV series. At least with a movie that’s an hour and a half to two hours, you see it and you’re impressed, and then you’re out. With a series, if it’s only that, week after week after week, there’s nothing there to bring you back. You have to get invested in the characters and care about them and want to follow them.
ROY: Normally, what you do see is that invasion. You see a little snippet of life before the invasion, the invasion happens, havoc is wreaked, and then by the end, there is some sort of resolve of how we’re going to take the aliens down. What’s cool about this show is that we drop you in six months after the invasion and you get to see how people are coming together to fight back, when we don’t know a whole lot of anything, other than the fact that they’re taking kids. We don’t really know how to efficiently kill them. It has some great themes with people who normally don’t see eye-to-eye coming together and having to work for a common goal. It’s just a great universal theme. So often, people will shoot down somebody else’s idea, just because you believe differently from me. Whereas, if people would listen to each other, things usually aren’t that different. You can find those middle grounds, if you’ll listen. That’s what life is all about. Not any one person is right about everything. I really enjoyed that side of this show, and that aspect of people coming together and going after a common goal.
Because this does start a ways into the scenario, did you work out a backstory for Hal, so that you knew where he was coming from?
ROY: Definitely, yes. When I first booked the job, it moved pretty quickly. Within two or three weeks, I was up in Canada, shooting the pilot. We had some rehearsals up there and I would think about things. It really wasn’t that hard, coming up with a backstory. It was pretty easy to use my own backstory, and then drop myself into this new setting and think about how I would react. I’m not military trained, and neither is Hal. He’s just a normal kid, who is now having to fight back and use a gun. We went through gun training and I wanted them to show me how a SWAT guy would carry a gun and use it, so that I could not do it that well. I wanted to be able to know what the perfect way was, and then do it like somebody who learned on his own.
And then, it was a year from when we shot the pilot until we went into production on the series last year. When we got the word that we were going to shoot the series, the research I did was mostly in POW survivors. I found that that was interesting. When you’re put in this situation where you’re in these horrible conditions and you’re very repressed and you have all these people with you, I was always surprised how, in account after account, people would still find the joy in life. They would play games and tell stories. Just because you’re in these horrible situations doesn’t mean you’re going to sit around and mope all the time. I wanted to make sure that, in this series, we didn’t get caught up in just being the Debbie Downer. It’s so much more fun to see somebody say, “I’m going to make this work. Life is going to go on, in the meantime, and I’m going to have fun.” Hal has a couple of different girls who have interest in him, throughout the series. He battles with the fact of, “Is there time for this? I’m a 17-year-old guy, and she’s cute.” Hal is a sports guy. He plays soccer in a couple of episodes. You have to make time to have fun.
Transitioning out of the Disney Channel and Hannah Montana, was part of the attraction to this role the fact that this is a character that is a young guy, but he’s in this very adult situation where he’s had to grow up a lot quicker?
ROY: Oh yeah, that was definitely one of my favorite parts of playing this character, and it was cool to find those moments where you could show that he was a 17-year-old kid, and find those moments where he’s growing up. That was great! As far as what drew me to it, it was the fact they would hire me. I’m in no position to pick and choose. I was just very fortunate that it was such a cool project and that the people involved were so great, creative and talented.
Do you enjoy the physicality of this role? Did picking up a gun and using it come easy for you, or did you have to work at that?
ROY: Yeah, it came easy for me. I’ve always been pretty athletic. I can pick things up pretty quickly. But, being able to put on that wardrobe was very helpful. I had a canteen around my waist, a gun on my chest, a revolver and would carry an automatic rifle. Just putting all that on, it was like getting into my armor. I could really get into my character that way. I’d have to go through make-up every morning, where they would put dirt on my fingers and on my face. That definitely helps you sink into the role. As far as the dirt on my fingers, it’s not easy to get off, so I wouldn’t clean it off every night ‘cause I knew they were going to do it again the next day. So, I’d go out to nice restaurants and they’d see these nasty fingers, but who cares? It was fun, though. I would always get a kick out of going home and hopping in the shower, and watching the dirt run down the drain. It was like this mud slick.
What did you think, the first time you saw what the aliens would actually look like?
ROY: I would say that one of my only phobias is spiders, and these things have a spider-like quality to them. They’re like a spider-crab with a little lizard. They were creepy. I was most interested in seeing them, just to see how they moved because I can picture whatever I want to picture when they put in a CGI creature, but I found it very useful to know how it moved, how quickly it could move and what kind of gait it had, as it moved around. That was my biggest thing. But, I was quite pleased with them. They changed very subtlety, over the course of the two years. Now, they’re nasty looking little dudes.
ROY: Yes. I was surprised by how he grows into a man and how he looks up to his father. He doesn’t let on that he admires his father as much as he does, but he really does. At one point, Hal has to step into the shoes of Tom (Noah Wyle) and take care of the kids for a little while and be their protector, and that was really interesting. Playing Hal, I would just look up to dad, and go off on my own little tangents and make things happen. But then, when I was in his position, I had to weigh the options of choices. It was surprising to see what that felt like, to then have the tables turned.
What was it like to work with Noah Wyle, and the two actors who play your younger brothers (Connor Jessup and Maxim Knight)? Did you do stuff to get to know each other and bond, prior to filming?
ROY: Yeah. Noah is such a nice guy. I really learned a lot from him. There wasn’t a whole lot of time between auditioning and shooting the pilot, but there was a whole year before we went to shoot the series, so we’d go out and go to dinner and meet up. Also, when you’re on a set, there are a lot of hours and we shot a lot of nights. During nighttime shooting, you get to chatting and really knowing somebody, and guards come down. The kids were great as well. Connor Jessup, who plays Ben, is a really smart guy. We’d play chess and just goof around. And, Maxim would run around and do his thing. He’s a really smart kid, as well. He’s always reading. We hit it off when we were shooting the pilot. He was reading the Percy Jackson series of books, and I had just auditioned for the Percy Jackson movie. I knew nothing about Percy Jackson, other than what was in the audition, but I threw out a couple little facts I knew and he was like, “Woah, this guy knows Percy Jackson.” So, from then on, it was easy.
Do you have any favorite episodes or moments that are significant for your character, that you’re looking forward to people getting to see?
ROY: Yes. The first major moment that I really enjoyed playing is in the third episode, where Karen (Jessy Schram) and I come face-to-face with the aliens, and we have to fight them and some horrible things happen. It’s a huge loss for my character. That was a good moment to get to play. And then, in the fifth episode, we get to go into the hospital and interact with the harnessed kids amongst the aliens. That’s a pretty Hal intensive episode, so I like that one. And then, when they’re at the Sanctuary and I have to step into my father’s shoes and rise to the occasion, that was another pretty big episode for Hal. It was just fun to get to rise to the challenge and make those episodes work.
With there already being talk of a Season 2, have you given any thought to where you’d like to see your character go?
ROY: You know, we have such great writers that I just have full faith that they’ll make it interesting. I never got a script where I was like, “What are we doing here? I don’t like that!” I think they could probably come up with something better than I could come up with. The way that the series ends, we have two very different roads we could go down and I’m curious to find out which one it will be, myself.