The TNT drama series Falling Skies has returned for its third season, as the epic battle between humans and aliens continues. Seven months have passed since viewers last saw the survivors of the 2nd Mass, led by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), and now that they’ve teamed up with Volm and a band of rebel Skitters, the human race looks like it might just have some hope. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, the show also stars Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Connor Jessup, Maxim Knight, Sarah Carter, Colin Cunningham and Seychelle Gabriel, along with Doug Jones, Gloria Reuben and Robert Sean Leonard.
While at the show’s press day, showrunner/executive producer/writer Remi Aubuchon spoke to Collider at both a roundtable and a 1-on-1 interview about how challenging it is to top their previous seasons, what the new faces bring to Season 3, deciding how much mythology to reveal each season, what led them to hire Doug Jones to bring the alien Cochise to life instead of doing it through CG, whether the humans’ suspicions of the Volm are justified, how difficult it was to decide to step down as showrunner and pursue his dream of writing science fiction novels, and how he will definitely keep tuning in, as a viewer. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
REMI AUBUCHON: Well, it’s a challenge. We had a great foundation from the first season and we have a boss in Steven Spielberg, who is ever-demanding us to reach higher, and that helps. But also, we start out every season going, “Oh, my god, what do we do?” We had a general idea of what we were going to do, but then you really actually sit down and try to figure out the story and stuff. What can be frustrating sometimes is that you can only tell good stories, if you have strong characters. We have some really strong characters in our show, and that helps a lot.
What do the new faces add to Season 3?
AUBUCHON: It’s an amazing experience to work with Noah [Wyle], who’s amazing. He’s always up for a challenge, whether it’s physical or whether it’s emotional, and we put him through quite a journey this season. We certainly did that last season, too, but this season, it’s even more daunting, and he’s been really up to it. And bringing in some fresh faces, like Doug Jones who plays Cochise – and we actually don’t see his face, but we see him – and Robert Sean Leonard and Gloria Reuben, it’s really quite wonderful to see how they fit into the dynamics that we already established. And Stephen Collins, who I’ve known for awhile, is a terrific guy. He embodies the President, but he also brought something that, at the end of that encounter, makes you realize there’s this incredible mutual respect that both of those guys have for each other. Tom says, “I didn’t vote for you,” and yet they both realize the gravity of the situation, which is fun to play with. I thought Stephen did a wonderful job of finding his own character and who he was with that. Certainly, there’s the challenge for Tom to suddenly realize, “Oops, I’m not the President, am I?”
Were any of the storylines that you explore in Season 3, things that you had thought about early on, after you’d joined the show?
AUBUCHON: Well, we worked out the mythology and the basic general trajectory of the series, at the beginning of the second season, for sure. The challenge always is, “How much do you open up the world? How much do you expose of the mythology?” You don’t want to expose too little and have fans get nervous, and you don’t want to expose too much and have no story left. But, I will say that there are a couple big things in the third season that we actually even tried to have happen in the second season, but just couldn’t. One of them is the introduction of a new alien race, which almost didn’t even happen at the end of the second season. Now, we’ve got a chance to really explore that, which is fun.
AUBUCHON: Initially, we were trying to figure out a way to have a CG character. Steven [Spielberg] is the master of aliens. There’s thought that he actually has met aliens. But, his standards are exacting and what he really wanted was not to have people in blue make-up. What we, as writers, wanted was real interaction between the human actors and our alien. We wanted there to be intimate scenes where they’re touching or at least in close proximity with each other. While Noah [Wyle] is a master at acting with a tennis ball, which is what he had to do for the Espheni, we felt strongly that we needed a real actor there (for Cochise), who could interact with them, as a character on the set. We went through a lot of iterations. We were talking about motion capture and wearing the suit with the dots. I’ve been a fan of Doug Jones for a very long time, and certainly since Hellboy. I kept asking people, “Is that CG?,” and they said, “No, that’s actually an actor in a suit.” I said, “I don’t understand how that works. How does he make it come alive?” And then, I watched Doug work. The suit that we have for Cochise is just a piece of rubber, but when Doug puts it on, it comes alive. We are very lucky that we were able to get a master like Doug to portray that character. It saved our butts. We probably would have had Cochise on screen for about a third or maybe even a quarter of what we were actually able to have, because of the expense of doing motion capture and CG.
In the first few episodes, the 2nd Mass starts to get suspicious and question whether they should be so trusting of the Volm. Should they continue to be suspicious?
AUBUCHON: It’s always a tough call, when you’re collaborating with or have decided to ally yourself with an unknown entity. One thing that we realized, very early on, is that the Volm’s objective is not completely to save us. It’s to fight the Espheni. So, we’re always gonna wonder what’s going to happen after they’ve done that. Are they going to turn on us? Are they just gonna abandon us and say, “Good luck, guys”? I think that constant tension of wondering whether or not they’re really on our side and for our benefit is always going to be present there, in the third season.
How difficult was the decision for you to leave this show and hand over showrunner duties to someone else?
AUBUCHON: It was excruciating. I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve had this life-long dream of wanting to write science fiction novels. The unfortunate thing that I figured out is that, when you’re a showrunner, that’s all you can do. I just felt like, if I was going to do that, now was the time. I have a strong affection for the people I worked with and for the show itself. Maybe if I were 20 years younger, I wouldn’t care and I would just keep going, but I really feel I need to pursue this road. It was all with good thoughts.
AUBUCHON: I even actually told them, when I took the job at the beginning, that I didn’t know how long I would stay. I signed up for two years, and two years was good, but I’d always had this notion that, as I got to this point in my career, I really wanted to try to pursue the dream of writing novels, and I hope it’s not an elusive dream. So, I think that was understood. I wasn’t going around saying, “Well, do what you want the fourth season. I don’t care!” I love this show and I’m incredibly invested in it, but this was a very tough season. It’s a tough show to produce, anyways, but the challenges this season were huge. I got to the end of this season and I, along with pretty much everybody else, was just exhausted. I thought to myself, “I’m not sure if I’ve got another season left in me here, physically, to keep up with it.” It wasn’t an easy decision. I love everybody and I love the show.
Will you be tuning in as a viewer, to see what happens?
AUBUCHON: Oh, without question. Are you kidding? First of all, I recommended David Eick. We’ve been friends and collaborators for a long time. I think he’s the right guy to push the show forward and, at the same time, maintain the respect for the work that we’ve already done. I have really good feelings about the show and where it’s gonna go.
Falling Skies airs on Sunday nights on TNT.