The 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 Jameson (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.
As Marla Jameson, single mother of sons Stephen and Luca (Jacob Kogan), actress Sarah Clarke is getting deeper into the action, especially after the big reveal about her character. During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, she talked about whether she knew about the reveal when she signed on, what her reaction was to her character’s duality, what makes this family identifiable, what fans can expect with what’s still to come, whether Jedikiah (Mark Pellegrino) knows what Marla is hiding, what it’s been like to work with Robbie Amell and Jacob Kogan, and whether she thinks keeping this secret was a good decision for Marla. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: When you signed on for this role, did you know that it would eventually be revealed that she is one of the Tomorrow People, or did that come as a surprise to you, like it did to the audience?
SARAH CLARKE: Anytime we sign up for any job, they try to give you a trajectory of where it could go. But the biggest question I had, when I first signed on, was what was going on with the dad. My character was so in the dark, in the pilot and in the beginning, that we kept trying to establish how much Marla really knows about what her husband went through and why he went into hiding, and there was debate about that. But it was never in my mind that she had powers until about eight or nine episodes in. I started to think, “She really does know a lot about this.” It was a denial. But I didn’t know that I actually had powers until they told me, and then it was a really interesting journey with Phil [Klemmer], the creator, as to what that was about. I really did like it, actually. It made sense, as far as how much Marla would have to maintain a sense of that world and this world, to keep herself safe.
What was your reaction when you learned about that duality?
CLARKE: When you start going into the realm of, “How do you play this?,” I was excited by the challenge, but I was also a little nervous about how that manifests in somebody. I just figured it was best to keep it simple. Simplicity is your friend. It’s all about focused attention, and harnessing the power. At first, I was liking the fact that I was grounded in the reality, but it did give me a lot more information to play with, and I was happy for that, too.
What did you think when you got to see what the finished product looked like, especially that first scene where she freezes all of the bullets?
CLARKE: It’s always a thrill to see you doing something that’s impossible. The freezing of the bullets was such a strange scene to shoot, and I was very happy with the way it turned out.
This show has found a good balance in storylines for both the younger characters and the adults. Was it important to you that, if you were going to do this series for what could be a few years, this character not just be forgotten in the background?
CLARKE: Yeah. Being a mother of two myself – and two small girls – I think that single parenting is very, very hard. I like that we showed that juggling, and how kids rise to the occasion to really help out in the family dynamic. I also like that the relationship with her eldest son is more like a partner. It’s not like he’s replacing the dad, but it’s someone that she can really talk to and come to, as an equal. He is becoming a grown up, right in front of her. I felt like those were all things that were really important to show, and I’m glad that they weren’t shying away from them. And then, going into the dynamic with the uncle, and even the other grown ups, it’s important for kids to see that context. Otherwise, I think it just becomes Superpower Land. We mix it up with the every day, mundane task of eating dinner and juggling these things. Kids carry around a lot of really intense thoughts and feelings, and it’s about learning to navigate that, in their early adulthood. Superpowers are something they’re never going to have to worry about, but it is a metaphor for finding out who they are and what they potentially could be in life.
What can you say about the journey to come for Marla and her sons?
CLARKE: I can’t say anything! First of all, I don’t know. And they really are trying to slowly fold out this story, so that you can see all the steps. They aren’t skipping any steps, which I really appreciate. There are so many unanswered questions, like why the father left, what was the dynamic in the marriage before he left, how much does Marla know, and how much do the kids now. And then, there’s the whole breakout complication that’s happening in their family. All of those things need to be addressed. Because they have been building so slowly, I think they’re going to show what happens with each of the individual parts. They’ll definitely explore the dynamic with her husband. Up until this point, Marla has been shutting Stephen down, any time he wants to talk about it. But now that her powers have been revealed, she’s going to reveal more.
CLARKE: I agree. There was some debate, for awhile, about whether Jedikiah knew that Marla had powers or not. It was confusing, a few episodes back, because we weren’t sure. But, I think we’ve decided that he doesn’t know. It’s a secret that Marla has been keeping, that maybe only Roger knows, to keep herself safe. Now, it’s going to have to come out, in some way. I don’t know. I haven’t read that yet. But, I think it has to.
How closer are you to shooting the season finale?
CLARKE: I’m going up on Thursday to start on Episode 119.
Have you had discussions about where things might ultimately wrap up for the season, or are you anxiously waiting for each script?
CLARKE: I’m anxiously getting the scripts and reading them. I did take a slight break because I had to do things in L.A., but I’m going back and am going to get back into it, and see where it’s all going. There’s definitely stuff happening that makes it so that more characters are starting to understand who each other are.
Will we learn whether she’s always known about what’s going on with her sons and just didn’t talk to them about it, so as not to reveal her own secret, or did she really not know if they would turn out to be Tomorrow People themselves?
CLARKE: Yes, we will definitely learn Marla’s struggle with Stephen’s breakout, and why she handled it the way she did. I think you’ll learn more about it in this episode coming up, but I don’t want to spoil that.
What’s it been like to working with Robbie Amell and Jacob Kogan? Did that family dynamic happen pretty instantly?
CLARKE: We got along, right from the beginning. They’re so lovely. Because I was up there without my daughters, it was very easy to transfer it, even though they’re big boys. I had two brothers growing up, so it did feel almost instantaneous, just the understanding of that dynamic of three. They’re so much fun. It was very easy.
Raising two teenagers on her own is hard enough, but these two also have special powers. Do you think the decision she made to keep who she is a secret was the best decision? Is there really any other way it could have played out?
CLARKE: That’s a really good question. I think it’s the only thing Marla felt capable of doing. She’s not perfect. She tried her best. Her own breakout was very painful, so this is the way she coped with her breakout. She felt like, as a mother, she should do this. It kept progressing and, before she knew it, it was like everybody says about the way your kids grow up, where they’re born, and then before you know it, they’re 15 and 17 and they’re leaving. It just kept going until this crisis created the confrontation to say, “Look, this is what’s going on,” and she had to reveal herself. She even said, “I should have told you sooner.” She should have seen that he’d be capable of knowing it. It’s almost like she’s been hiding from the reality that’s out there because she didn’t want to participate. When it gets too close to her home, then she has to do something about it.
The Tomorrow People airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.