The thought-provoking Syfy series 12 Monkeys follows the journey of James Cole (Aaron Stanford), a man from 2043 who was sent back in time to stop a malevolent organization, known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys, from destroying the world. He joined forces with Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) in the present day, in order to untangle an insidious conspiracy, but as events unfolded and moments were changed, Cole and Cassie made decisions that forever changed them, and they realized that things were bigger than either of them ever could have imagined.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Amanda Schull talked about how 12 Monkeys has evolved, having her character be in such a different place, what Cassie is driven by now, the relationship between Cassie and Cole, the new found respect between Cassie and Jones (Barbara Sukowa), her reaction to the Season 2 finale, and how disappointed fans will be without a Season 3. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: From what you were told about this show and this character when you originally signed on, how drastically different has it become? Did you have any idea that this would be the path it would be taking?
AMANDA SCHULL: I didn’t know this season was going to be everything that it’s turned out to be. I am really, really happy and delightfully excited about it. I knew last season was going to be an arc, of sorts. Terry [Matalas] was very specific in reminding me that I had a journey to make that would be gradual, over the course of 13 episodes, and that she was going to be thrust into the 2044 world, by the end of the season. So, I knew that. But as far as what was going to happen to her and how far she was going to go, emotionally and physically, I didn’t know that.
Have you found a way for yourself to keep track of where Cassie is, in the different timelines, or do you put yourself in the hands of whoever is responsible on set, for that day?
SCHULL: I try to keep track and try to keep as responsible for myself as I possibly can. We have wonderful people who help us, and Terry is a great resource. If he’s not there on set, and it’s rare that he wouldn’t be ‘cause he is almost always on set, he’s a phone call or a text away. I try to keep track of it as much as I possibly can. We get the scripts and I don’t necessarily know what’s going to come, so I need to be told whether she’s in an alliance that she doesn’t want, or what she’s going for, or what’s going to happen in a few episodes, so that I can do with that information what I need to. But I try to be as much in charge of my own character development as possible, so that I know what’s going on and I can keep track of it, right in my notes in my notebook, and I can figure out how to plot it. The show is very complicated, in that way, but it’s a lot of fun.
The first season of a show is typically about finding your footing and figuring out the character dynamics, but when things shift so much in the second season, does it feel like you have to figure things out, all over again?
SCHULL: I feel as though I became very comfortable with who Cassie was and being with her for the six months of last season, but we also shot the pilot seven or eight months prior to that, so I had her subconsciously percolating within me. And then, building from that point forward for Season 2, she’s still the same person, at her core. As people grow and evolve, we still are the experiences that we had in our childhood, but they shape us in different ways. So, she’s in a totally different world in 2044, but there is still this doctor and there is still this soul of this other person in there.
Cassie and Cole are so interesting together because they obviously need each other, and they very deeply care about and for each other, but their relationship is oddly undefined. What’s it been like to explore that relationship, but then have it shift so dramatically and have to figure it out again?
SCHULL: It’s funny because it’s beyond “It’s complicated” on Facebook, for relationship status. It’s so beyond complicated, on so many levels. It is a really interesting relationship to experience in scenes because there’s so much unspoken, that they both feel. Aaron [Stanford] and I are both aware of the unspoken comfort, and almost a desperate need and a physical need. Neither one of them would be where they are without the other person. Very realistically, Cassie most likely wouldn’t be alive, and Cole wouldn’t be continuing this mission, if it weren’t for Cassie. And yet, they wish that they didn’t have to be in these circumstances. Everything that brings these two people together is also what shouldn’t bring them together, in a sad way. This season, we work on that a little bit further and actually almost talk about it a little bit, whereas last season, we didn’t, at all. It’s really interesting to me because I never tried to play at an emotional scene with Aaron, or Cole, where I thought Cassie was in love with him. It was just a feeling and an experience. But then, when I started talking about the season with journalists, they said, “Well, Cassie and Cole are obviously in love.” I never tried to make anybody feel that, so it’s really interesting that people picked up on the energy between the two of them. It’s what they are, but it’s also what they fight against most.
Cole’s world view has broadened and his perspective is wider, while Cassie’s world view has narrowed and she has become a lot more focused. As they both want to and need to go about things differently, what would you say Cassie’s big drive is now?
SCHULL: I think her big purpose is even bigger than it was when she was living in 2016 because she understands the scope of things so much more and she understands the dire desperation of 2044. What it has done to her, out of necessity, is make it about kill or be killed. This world is a wasteland, and that’s what everyone has to look forward to, or not look forward to, if she doesn’t do something about it. I think she feels very much that she is the only person, or that there’s only a handful of people, who can do something about it. Her purpose is, and always was, as a doctor, to heal. This is just healing on a scale that’s much more epic than she could ever have imagined she needed to. Healing also means possibly having to take lives. That’s just the price of war.
Because of everything Cassie has seen and experienced now, can she and Cole ever get back on the same page?
SCHULL: Cassie and Cole will come to an understanding, which might not be the understanding that people want to see. You have to watch the whole season because I think a lot of the questions will be answered. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s really a good ride between the two of them.
We get to see a lot more development between Cassie and Jones, this season. How has that been to play, and how would you say their relationship has most evolved?
SCHULL: I think their relationship has evolved into that of colleagues who respect each other. Ultimately, Jones is the General, but Jones also appreciates Cassie’s intelligence and her new physical capabilities, as well as her cleverness and ability to adapt in the different time periods. She knows that Cassie is capable of falling through and will do what she needs to do. However, as things progress throughout the season, their beliefs and their desires do butt heads a little bit, and that will be played out in some pretty big ways.
As these characters have realized that there doesn’t seem to be any one clear solution, and that stopping one event just leads to it happening in a different time or place, or a different way, how difficult is it for them to stay driven and focused on completing a mission that seems like it may never have an end?
SCHULL: In Episode 2 of this season, we did drive back the start of the plague by a couple of years. It still happens, but we made a little bit of headway. So, we have to attack it from a different perspective. It is a little bit of a game of apocalyptic wack-a-mole, but gains are made. Also, the threat has morphed. The threat isn’t necessarily just the plague. It’s also this thing that we come to understand as the Red Forest, which you’ll understand more, as it’s explained in more detail, along with just what these messengers are after. They’re fighting a threat even greater than they thought they were combating, originally. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments where one or more of them throw up their hands. You may see a little bit of that, as well.
Without giving anything away, when you read the script for the Season 2 finale and you learned how everything would come together, what was your reaction?
SCHULL: Terry had told us his ideas for the last couple of episodes, fairly early on. Each season plays out like a film, where there’s an arc that we’re all working towards, so I had an idea of how it would be realized. And then, reading the script, it was beautiful and tragic. For some people, it will be a lot of what they would like to see, and for others, it will be a lot of what they don’t want to see. I don’t want to give a lot away because, when you watch it, it’s so much grander than what a script or what an explanation could possibly verbalize. It’s epic and immersive. It’s quite beautiful television.
Will the finale give a clear indication of where things could go in Season 3?
SCHULL: If the television gods are not in our favor and we don’t get a Season 3, I think people will be very disappointed.
12 Monkeys airs on Monday nights on Syfy.