The epic drama Falling Skies has returned to TNT, to continue its extraordinary story about life and survival in the wake of an alien invasion. As the second season opens, three months have passed since Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) went willingly with the aliens onto one of their ships, and now the survivors are forced to have a nomadic existence as they march toward Charleston, S.C., hoping to meet up with other remaining existence groups and begin rebuilding society. The show also stars Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Connor Jessup, Colin Cunningham and Sarah Carter.
At the show’s press day, co-stars Noah Wyle and Drew Roy (who plays Tom Mason’s oldest son, Hal) talked about where things pick up in Season 2, how grueling it can be to shoot this show, the evolution of the alien battles, the electronics that would be the hardest for them to give up in an alien invasion, the input that they get from executive producer Steven Spielberg, and the dedication of sci-fi fans. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: Where are things at, when Season 2 picks up?
NOAH WYLE: Well, walking onto the ship proves to be a really horrible decision, and one that Tom regrets, for most of the second season. He’s let off inexplicably far from where the 2nd Massachusetts is and has to make this pilgrimage to get back to the group. All the while, he’s wondering and plagued with questions like, why did they let him go? If he does find the group, is he going to be a security risk? Is he going to be liability? Is he changed, somehow? What’s he going to find, if he does find them? Will his kids still be alive? Will Anne (Moon Bloodgood) still be alive? Is there still a 2nd Massachusetts?
DREW ROY: You just have to keep moving forward. We’ve been dealing with tough situations for the past six months. You lose people, and you want to hold onto the hope that they’re still there. But, since three months have gone by and we haven’t seen or heard anything from Tom, you have to start putting it behind you and building yourself back up and taking care of the people that you still have and keeping those relationships going, and not letting all that stuff hold you down. When you’re out there, you’ve got to be on alert. You can’t be distracted by these other things.
Noah, will things be a bit like Homeland this season, where your character is a suspect for his time with the aliens?
WYLE: For the first couple of episodes, and then that dissipates a bit. Although, I haven’t really seen Homeland, so I can’t make a fair comparison. But, that’s the gist of the first couple episodes. They have to find that trust again.
Was the season finale your Close Encounters moment, when you got on the spaceship?
WYLE: That was it. That was a little homage to the dreams of my youth. Yeah, I was thinking about that moment, and how I was able to justify it by being teased with information about my kids, which is Tom Mason’s Achilles heel. I called Will Patton up and said, “How did you justify that moment? You let me get on that ship?” He said, “Man, I was playing some kind of alien hypnosis. They had me in a trance, or something. I don’t know.” It was harder for him to play.
How different is it to be playing the lead in this, as opposed to being part of the ensemble, like when you did E.R.? Do you prepare differently, especially with the physical aspect of this?
WYLE: E.R. was an atypical experience because I started off fairly low on that call sheet, and then inherited the show, as other characters defected. It was different to come into a series, at the top of the call sheet, and it presented a challenge that I was curious to see how I would do under. It’s different. It’s sobering to feel like the old guard with a very young ensemble, after having been the young guy in a very old ensemble. In terms of the physical preparation, I unfortunately did very little. I don’t think I ever quite understood the physical demands that this show was going to have, so I made a pretense of doing a couple sit-ups and pushups, before we started.
ROY: Don’t let him fool you. He’s strong. I can’t count the number of times I’d go home, after shooting a scene with him, and wake up the next morning with bruises from where we’d scrapped around in a scene and he’d pinned me down.
WYLE: The show is physically demanding. We carry these really heavy machine guns around with us, all day long. It’s a bit of a workout, in itself. Because some of us were trying to adopt a post-apocalyptic diet and thin ourselves out a bit, we stayed away from the craft service table and ate less and worked more. So far so good. It’s worked out.
How grueling is the show to shoot, with the locations, and how does that affect the cast relationships? Has that made you even closer?
ROY: I think so. I am a big fan of the night shoots, as tough as they are, because they have almost a camping trip feel. People’s guards go down at night, and you end up sharing stories and really getting to know each other. Of course, when you’re shooting for months and months, there might be some tense times, but that’s also part of it.
WYLE: This is a show that would be no fun to shoot in Los Angeles, that’s for sure. The fact that we’re all on location, away from our comfort zones and family, goes a long way to fostering a sense of camaraderie. The more deplorable the conditions, the colder it is, the wetter it is and the longer the day, the more that it just solidifies the bond where we can all look back, after the fact and go, “Hey, remember that night?” Actors have to get to know each other very quickly and at an accelerated rate, to build up a certain trust and affinity for each other, anyway. That just gets amplified, in these types of situations.
How much do Tom’s political history lessons play into the second season?
WYLE: Less. It pops up, now and again, but we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t becoming a punchline, and that every time there was an engagement, he would just go, “Well, you know this reminds me of the Peloponnesian War.” But, because we established that he looks at situations for their historical precedent, in order to inform his decision-making, tactically and in the moment, we didn’t really have to go to that well too often, in the second season. It was pretty evident.
How does the evolution of Ben (Connor Jessup) fit into the new season?
WYLE: When we last left that young hero, he had been harnessed and the harness had been successfully removed, but it still had some residual effect. It seemed to be mutating him, in an odd fashion. And when we meet him this season, he’s been a completely redefined character. He’s got more physical prowess. He seems to have almost an ESP sense of where to find the aliens and how to dispatch them. He’s become a very effective alien fighter. And he’s got a lot of misgivings and awkwardness about how he relates to the other people in the group for whom, while he serves a very valuable purpose, also serves as a reminder that he’s not quite human and we don’t know where this evolution is going to lead us. That becomes one of the dominant themes of the second season. His character, in particular, becomes a dominant theme in the second season.
Have the alien battles gotten harder this season?
ROY: I always enjoy the battle sequences. It’s like going to the playground. But, as the characters, yes. We just don’t have as many people. We’re on the run. We don’t know our surroundings as well. These aliens are hunting us down now because we have pissed them off. They’re coming back with some vengeance.
WYLE: There’s no room for ambiguity anymore. I think when Tom gets off the spaceship, he realizes there’s no peace to be brokered, there’s no negotiation to be had and there’s no future for anybody until this threat’s been eradicated or lifted. So, nobody’s harboring any sense of hope any longer. It’s a fight to the last man, on the last stand.
If an invasion really happened, what electronics would be the hardest for you to give up?
WYLE: I would do quite well without gadgets.
ROY: I feel like the first answer would be computers, smart phone and all that. But, if that’s taken away from everyone, that eliminates the problem, so it’s no longer a problem. I feel like I would miss a car, and just being able to get around in a car. But, we still have cars on the show. So, I’m going to go with TV because of the ability to unite people and know what’s going on in different places. It’s what makes things move a lot faster. But, at the same time, it would be good to not know what’s going on everywhere else. When you turn on the TV, you hear bad stuff, all the time.
WYLE: Skype kept me in touch with my children in the five months that we were in Vancouver, Canada, and I can’t imagine having to do that without it.
What have you realized about your survival skills, from doing this show?
WYLE: How cowardly I really am.
What feedback do you get from Steven Spielberg, as an executive producer on the show?
WYLE: They’re not direct, but we receive his notes and he hears our suggestions. It works communally, that way. It’s still amazing to me, and incredibly gratifying, that he’s as involved in every level of production as he is, from shaping the scripts to casting to watching all of our dailies to making editorial suggestions on the episodes, and spending a lot of time in this place, doing the design board for the post-production. It gives you great confidence to know that your work is being given over to the most masterful storyteller of the 20th century. That he’s at the helm helps, in terms of selling the show, but creatively also gives you a good safety net to work under.
Have you met a different kind of fan from the sci-fi community than you have from your previous work?
WYLE: It’s not as different as you would think. Fans are fans. People that tune into watch work tap into different themes. There were a lot of different kinds of fans on E.R. Some really liked the medicine, and some really tuned in for the soap opera of the characters. I find the same is true with this show. Some watch it for the spaceships and aliens, and others hook into the family aspect of the show, or the, “What if?” scenario aspect of the show. They tend to be in costume, more often than the average E.R. fan, but aside from that, they seem pretty similar.
ROY: Mine are very different. They used to be 12 years old, and now they’re my age.
Falling Skies airs Sunday nights on TNT.