For Season 2 of the Fox drama series Touch, the dramatic action shifts from New York to Los Angeles, where single father Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gifted son, Jake (David Mazouz), are on the run. Their priority is to help distraught mother Lucy Robbins (Maria Bello) find her missing and equally gifted daughter, Amelia (Saxon Sharbino), who may just be the key to understanding Jake’s abilities.
During this recent interview, show creator Tim Kring and executive producer Carol Barbee talked about what went into reinventing the series for the second season, strengthening the serialized element of the story, utilizing Kiefer Sutherland’s ability to do action, how the production design has changed with the change in setting, the biggest challenges in making the show, Jake’s increasing ability to communicate, the supernatural aspect of the show, and the best part about bringing these characters to life. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
TIM KRING: We start the season off very much where we left off, at the end of Season 1. So, if you watched the season finale, we will pick directly up from that and continue the story that we were telling, at the end of the season. If you were a loyal viewer of the show, you will notice that the show starts off in a standalone nature, where every episode had a beginning, middle and end, and things were tied up. By the end of the season, we had introduced a more serialized engine to the show, and we ended the season with Kiefer Sutherland’s character taking his son on the run, and coming all the way to California in search of this mysterious girl, named Amelia. We introduced the idea of this mystery girl early in Season 1 and, by the end of the season, we were in Los Angeles on the journey to finding her. And that connects us up with Maria Bello’s character, who is Amelia’s mother. That’s where we pick up the season. In many ways, everything changes from the first season to the second season, in that we took the entire storyline from New York City to Los Angeles, and all the characters that were in that world are starting fresh in the second season.
So, is the show going to remain heavily serialized?
CAROL BARBEE: It’s a combination. I’d say that this year, there are three main stories that are all serialized, in their own way, and they’re all barreling towards one another, so that there comes a point where they all intersect. That’s where the major thrust of the action is. We have a character who is one of the special people, like Jake, but he’s bent on tracking them down and doing harm to them. So, we’re watching that happen and seeing who he is able to get to and who he’s not, and obviously he’s coming for Jake. He’s fantastic. He gives such a drive to this season. And we have another character who is played by Lukas Haas, named Calvin Norburg. He is a genius who has been doing the work and trying, on an analog level, to achieve the kinds of results with numbers and patterns that Jake is able to do naturally. We also have him on Jake’s trail. Those three stories barrel towards one another. And there are still those connections that happen around the world. Some of them are much darker this year, but it’s much more of a page-turner. It is serialized. Every episode does feed in to the next.
KRING: I think what happened towards the end of last season, by introducing this nefarious villain in this corporation Aster Corp, and by raising the threat to Jake and to people like Jake, it really dictated that was the direction we were going to go in, in the second season. Once the stakes had been raised, it was very hard to back off of that, and it dictated a much more serialized storytelling that we’re doing in this season.
Were the changes in the show planned, or was it in reaction to something?
KRING: Well, we did start as a stand-alone show because, frankly, we wanted to make sure that we got viewers when new viewers were sampling it, at the beginning of the season. We wanted to make sure that people weren’t thrown off of the show because they didn’t know what was going on. But, we started introducing the idea of serialization, really early on. In the very first episode after the pilot, we introduced that there was a mysterious person in this room in the board-and-care facility, and we slowly started to leak out who that was. By Episode 6, when Danny Glover’s character was killed, we knew that he died in a way that was mysterious, and it was attached to this corporation Aster Corp that he seemed very afraid of. I think it was a very subtle burn that was a slow fuse, building to the last three or so episodes. By then, the show had morphed into much more of a serialized show. Picking up where that left off, we picked that up in a full blown way. It was designed, but a bit subtle for the audience.
Coming off of 24, did you guys feel any added pressure to put Kiefer Sutherland in more action-packed situations?
KRING: Well, I don’t know that it’s pressure. I think it’s an advantage to have somebody who has that in his wheelhouse. This character was always designed to be an every man who was put in extraordinary circumstances and forced to become much more of an action guy. In other words, Jack Bauer’s backstory was much less of an ordinary guy. He was built to be that guy. This guy was not built to be that guy. He was a reporter and a family man, but he’s thrown into these extraordinary circumstances. It’s really just using some of the skill sets that come along with somebody like Kiefer.
How has the production design changed this season?
KRING: Well, the show is going to look a little different just because we are shooting it for Los Angeles. In the first season, we actually shot everything in Los Angeles, no matter where we were – Africa, Japan or wherever. We were actually within 30 miles of our offices, and that became something that was actually very difficult to do because we’re in sunny Southern California, but we could never say that we were in sunny California. By moving the storyline to Los Angeles, it made it much easier for us, production wise, to actually point the camera in any direction and say that we were here, as opposed to some other part of the world. But, the production design on this show has always been very challenging, in a really good way, because we depict so many different places and we work with this incredibly talented team. One of the things that we try to do is move as quickly as possible, so we designed the shooting style that allowed us to use a lot of natural light and a lot of natural locations. In other words, if we have a scene that’s set in a bicycle store, then we go to a bicycle store and shoot there, rather than making one ourselves and having to pay for all that. That’s the style that we adopted, and we took that to new levels this year, by really designing a shooting style that allowed us to move very quickly.
How are the stories about different people connecting to each other, around the world, not going to get lost, now that you’re downplaying that a bit, in Season 2?
BARBEE: While the season starts off with Martin on a mission, and there’s danger involved, last year, it wasn’t dangerous. He was being sent on these missions by his son that helped people find each other and helped things happen, but it wasn’t necessarily dangerous. By the end of last season, it was dangerous and he had to go on the run. We got that ball rolling downhill. He’s on the run now, and it’s dangerous. People are after them. But then, those connections do start to happen again, so that part of the series does not get lost. It definitely comes back into it. Also, those stories are barreling towards each other, even with the danger. There will be those touches that happen, around the world. I think that the audience will be satisfied because they’ll actually have both.
KRING: The truth is that there will be less of that idea of disconnected people who somehow connect up. at the very end of the episode. Because of the high stakes that are driving the main story, it’s very hard to jump off of that train and onto a story that doesn’t have a lot of stakes to it. Once we start down that hill, people are going to be pretty hooked on the idea of finding Amelia, what it all means and who is behind all of it. My feeling has always been that, while there are still parts of that this season, we can always come back to that. Once the danger is lifted, then we see glimpses of how we’re going to come back to those kinds of stories.
What were some of the biggest challenges in making the show, this season?
KRING: Because we cram a lot of story into one episode, it’s always challenging to make a show. Every show has its own challenges, but this year was much less challenging, by moving the setting to L.A. One of the challenges are the kids in the show. Both David and Saxon Sharbino, who plays Amelia, are both under 16 years old and, because of that, we’re limited by how much time we can actually film with them. And they have to be in school for a certain number of hours, during the filming. Whenever you have children playing a major role, you always have the challenge of dealing with that. But we try to put as much production value on the screen as possible, so there are always location issues. Los Angeles is difficult, location wise, because people have gotten used to the fees that are paid to park trucks, and all of that kind of stuff. You see a lot of production leaving Los Angeles because it’s expensive to film here. We have the same challenges that everybody else does.
How do you think fans will react to the more serious storylines this year?
BARBEE: I think the audience is going to be thrilled. It’s a real page turner. It’s a thrill ride this year. And you’re watching Kiefer Sutherland, who people love to watch on a mission. He’s got a great storyline. I think people are going to really hook in and enjoy it and take the ride.
KRING: I can’t really stress enough that the loyal viewers of last season will find this very seamless because there has been such a natural progression of this story, especially towards the end of last season. All of those things were rewarded. Viewers were rewarded for their loyal viewing. All those hidden Easter eggs start to show up about Aster Corp and the 36 chosen ones, and all of that mythology gets flushed out, in a really big way, in the second season. You’re very much rewarded for having been there, from the very beginning.
How true to life is it that, all of a sudden, Jake can now communicate? How is that going to play out, and does that raise Martin’s expectations that his son is finally coming back to him?
KRING: Early on, we’re preserving the idea that he doesn’t speak. Nobody sees that in the first part of this season, so if and when that happens, it’s not right now. But, there certainly is a new form of communication. The last minute of the season finale of last season really points to so much. Not only are you introduced to this brand new, very big character (with Maria Bello’s character), but Jake actually takes his father’s hand for the first time and touches him, so the idea of touch actually becomes this very big move forward in their relationship. In the second season, we’re going to play with that idea of their ability to communicate with each other a lot, so people who felt frustrated that there was little communication are going to feel a lot less frustrated by the ways in which Jake communicates with his father without speaking. That’s really going to increase this season.
BARBEE: We’re also playing with an evolution in Jake, and in people like Jake, so it’s rooted in the mythology of the show, as to what’s happening and how quickly or slowly it’s happening. But, they’re raising something in each other and we’ll see that develop, as we go along.
KRING: Part of it actually gets heightened a little bit this year. I don’t know that I would call it sci-fi, as much as mystical or supernatural. But, it gets heightened a little bit this year, when we dig into the mythology of who Jake is, why he is the way he is and why are there others out there. Amelia comes into the show, fairly early on in the season, and is someone who possesses the same sort of abilities that Jake has. So, we do dig a little deeper into it this year, and we don’t shy away from it.
BARBEE: And then, you will understand what the mythology of the numbers mean and what their power is, and that also feeds into the supernatural/sci-fi element.
What does Maria Bello’s character bring to the show and how does that affect the relationship between Martin and Jake?
BARBEE: We had a lot of fun with the Lucy character because she is a mother bear on a mission to find her daughter. That’s all she cares about. And she gets involved with Martin and Jake because they are also looking for her daughter, but along the way, where they agendas collide, she’s going to do her thing. All she cares about is finding her daughter, so she and Martin come into a lot of conflict, along the way. What we all really enjoyed writing was her relationship with Jake because Jake hasn’t had a mother, his entire life. His mother died when he was 9-months-old, so he now has this de facto mom in the house, and she’s not your regular mom. She’s got a great way with him. She’s not precious with him, and yet she’s very loving and accepting of him, and he really bonds to her. It brings a great element, and it gives Martin somebody to talk to and to share things with. She’s somebody who is three years ahead of Martin, on the trail of Aster Corp and these numbers, and everything else, so she knows things that Martin doesn’t know. It’s a great relationship with him, and it’s fun to see them build this little family together.
KRING: They’re part of the smallest private club in the world because they share these children with unique abilities. But, this idea that both of them have their own agendas for finding Amelia is going to come into conflict in the Sophie’s choice of it all. What do you do when your own child’s well-being is at stake? Which side do you choose? That’s where we’re moving with that storyline.
BARBEE: Absolutely! He’s great at it, and audiences enjoy watching him trying to save the world. It plays to his strengths, and it also is what was required for the story that we’ve started.
KRING: That really started, in earnest, in the last two hours of last season when he realized that somebody was after his son, and he went to these extraordinary lengths. In the season finale, he went and bought a gun from a pawn shop and went into the board-and-care facility where his son was, prepared to use this gun to take his son and flee across the country with him. It’s that everyman aspect of, what would you or I do, in that situation, that makes it interesting. When Martin first got that gun, he had to feel the weight of the gun in his hand because he’s not used to holding a gun. I think that one moment really said a lot. It told people, instantly, that this isn’t Jake Bauer. This is a much more dangerous situation because he’s a bit ill prepared. So, Kiefer’s able to tap into the action stuff that he played for so long on 24, but he’s able to do it through the lens of somebody who is not trained for that. That tension is the part that’s fun to watch in Martin Bohm.
With the second season of Touch, with the cast and the world expanding, is there anything that you’re doing to make sure you keep the original fans from the first season involved and engaged, unlike what happened with Heroes?
KRING: Because we have a much narrower world and a much narrower cast in Touch than we did in Heroes, it becomes easier to distill it down to just the two main characters that carry on from the first season. It’s just the father and son. So, in many ways, it wasn’t nearly as difficult to move. With Heroes, we were moving a cast of 10 or 11 people forward and, if those characters don’t change, then the audience gets very upset because nothing is happening, but if they do change, then the audience gets very upset because they’re changing too much. You’re in a strange bind, in those situations. This was much easier because there were only two characters, we knew who they were, we knew a lot about them, and their dynamic does not change, between them. It’s only the circumstances that they find themselves in that changes. I don’t think that was nearly as challenging.
BARBEE: That’s a good question.
KRING: Yeah, a really good question. The nature of making a show is very interesting, in that the actors and characters meet you half-way. It’s a very organic process. The things that you set out to do oftentimes change because you start to see the possibilities that the actors bring to things. That process is the most exciting part about making a series. You can’t really dictate your will on it very much because it ends up being what it wants to be. For instance, you’ll get two characters together and decide that they’re going to have a lot of chemistry, or that they’re going to hate one another. Then, you get those actors together on the set and you realize it doesn’t look like they hate one another, or they have no chemistry with one another, so you end up having to change all these ideas that you had for the story, midstream. It makes a show really exciting to watch when an audience can inherently feel that there’s an organic process to the show. that it wasn’t just all laid out in a bible, and that it actually has an energy to it. For me, that’s the most exciting part about making a show. It’s about watching it change and having to be nimble enough to change with it.
BARBEE: It’s been an amazing experience, making this show. One of the things that I love the most about writing this show is the variety of things you get to write about and the variety of stories you get to write. Last season, we had one main story with Martin and Jake, but there would be four or five short stories, taking place around the world. We would just drop into these people’s lives and pick up a little story that then would connect them to other people, around the world. As a writer, that is just such a gift to be able to do. This season, we were still able to do that, but we also got to follow some of those characters through the whole season, and they were all very diametrically opposed to each other, so you felt like you were really writing a wide spectrum. It’s a great show to be able to write.
Touch airs on Friday nights on Fox.