Based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel, the CBS drama series Under the Dome tells the story of a small town that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent Dome. When Season 2 picks up on June 30th, it’s been two weeks since the Dome descended upon the sleepy town of Chester’s Mill, where the inhabitants are still struggling to survive with resources running low and strange things continuing to happen. As post-apocalyptic conditions intensify, the residents must work together to protect their uncertain future, never knowing whose allegiance they should and can trust.
During a recent panel for the show’s summer return, executive producer Neal Baer talked about what viewers can expect from Season 2, that Season 1 was the season of secrets while Season 2 is the season of transformation, more characters will be meeting their death, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be gone from the show, that they’ll be dealing with the practical aspects of limited supplies, the Dome’s new capabilities, new characters, how long they think they can expand this universe, that Stephen King wrote the first episode back and has shot a cameo, and tying in transmedia aspects to the show. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
NEAL BAER: We are really excited about Season 2. It is the season of transformation. Last season was the season of secrets being revealed. Our characters were trapped under this impenetrable Dome, where no one could get in and no one could get out. And because they were trapped in this hot house, their secrets started to come out. This is the season where we will find out what they are truly made of. One of our characters met a very untimely death, and so will another beloved character. That doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily see them again, because anything is possible under the Dome. But, we are very excited to continue our journey with these characters, and we have so many surprises in store, this season.
Are you going to deal with the practical aspects, this season, of how they are getting food, what happens when they run out of toilet paper, and things like that?
BAER: That’s a huge part of it, and it really puts Julia and Big Jim at huge odds, in Episodes 3 and 4.
What new capabilities does the Dome have?
BAER: It’s certainly magnetic. We just love the butterfly metaphor. This is a season that’s almost about impending ecological disaster. That magnetism has caused many things to happen. So, you will be seeing, in the early episodes, our characters, and particularly Big Jim, confronting the almost Biblical problems of pestilence and bloody rain. Our characters haven’t been the stewards that maybe they should be, protecting the land and protecting each other. They have a lot to learn this year, and I guess the Dome is teaching them. That’s what Julia keeps talking about. We have to understand the message that the Dome is trying to give us, and what it is trying to teach us.
Do you have a set of rules of what the Dome can or can’t do?
BAER: We’re really excited about Karla Crome’s character, Rebecca Pine, because she’s seeing the pestilence and the rain that is coming, and she has scientific explanations. But, Julia isn’t so sure about that. She think it is more Dome-related, and Rebecca thinks it is because of the way they have acted under the Dome that is causing the problems. So, we have this real tension between science and faith, and Big Jim is caught in the middle, which we think is really cool. We explore that, over all the episodes. The rules are actually the same as last season. We actually posted them on Twitter and on the CBS website. It is permeable to air and water. But in Episode 6, Big Jim has to deal with raging dust storms that may clog the Dome. We have all kinds of things that are happening because we may not have treated each other well enough to keep things going. The Dome, for the most part, is benevolent, but it wants certain things. Our characters have free will, but because they are human beings, that’s often not a good thing.
BAER: Well, I’m glad you brought up the book because Stephen King wrote the first episode, so he’s certifying that he is very much involved in this show. The book is there for those who want to read it, if they haven’t, at this point. But, we are way past the book. The book is really only about the first week under the Dome, and we are already two weeks in. This season, we will be going for two more weeks. We really go day-by-day under the Dome. If we lasted 15 years, that would really only be a year under the Dome. So, I think it’s certainly possible to keep going because we have so many stories to tell.
We have new characters, as well, who shake things up. We’ve got Eddie Cahill coming on as San Verdreaux, who is Big Jim’s brother-in-law. He has been a recluse for the 10 years since his sister died, and was an alcoholic. We have Karla Crome coming on as Rebecca Pine, who is a school teacher. We are really getting into the science versus faith elements this season. Rebecca represents scientific explanations for what’s going on, versus Rachelle’s character, Julia, who is really much more about faith. And Big Jim is in the middle, trying to figure it out. We have Grace Victoria Cox, who is the young woman that Julia pulls out of the water. She is a pivotal character whose connection will be revealed. And we have Sherry Stringfield, my dear friend who I worked with on ER. We have a reunion this season because Eric LaSalle will be directing Sherry in Episode 10. We are excited about that. So, Stephen writing the episode is really sending us off into a place that he feels really proud of and really loves. It’s his ideas of how to go beyond the book. It’s really special for us to have Stephen launch us this season.
What’s it like working with Stephen King?
BAER: It’s fantastic. He’s so supportive. He actually has a cameo, in the first episode. He has wonderment. He’s almost impish, in real life, and very fun to be with. He has great ideas. He has this wonderment quality, as well, that just is infectious. The writers love that he’s involved. He reads every script, as does Stephen Spielberg, and they talk to me about it. It’s really an ideal way to work. When you think of the name Stephen, you think of Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg. To have them on the show is just something beyond a dream.
Is there anything in the writing and marketing of the show that you do differently because it’s a summer show?
BAER: No, it’s always about the characters. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, the shows that do well are the ones that captivate. It has some big elements and popcorn elements, too. We have amazing special effects, and more this year than last year. We want to have it be a show that you can come to and really go on a wild ride, and yet still fall in love with the characters.
BAER: We are always story-driven, so we did create a new set. The radio station was burned down last year, so we have a new set, which is the high school where Rebecca Pine is. And we have some really, really interesting things happening in that school. What I love about Stephen King’s way of seeing the world is that it’s the ordinary that becomes extraordinary. So, when the household appliances come to life, the things that we trust become fearful, and I love that. I also love that the school, which is a place of learning, is a place that holds terrible things to come, that will involve both Big Jim and Julia.
We are doing some really interesting transmedia work this year, which we haven’t done before. For the first time, we are really embracing how can we use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We have a character, played by Max Ehrich, named Hunter, that we are introducing in Episode 3, but only digitally. There is a break in the Dome, where internet messages can get through. So, in Episode 3, Norrie and Joe start to get messages from this young man, and we will actually meet him in Episode 8. We think we might be one of the first shows to have a digital character who is really real. We really want to reach out to our young audience and embrace transmedia, so we will be talking a lot more about that. Maybe someone might possibly get out, and maybe someone might possibly get in this year, as well.
Under the Dome returns for Season 2 on CBS on June 30th.