The CBS drama series Extant is a mystery thriller about female astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry, also one of the show’s executive producers), who discovers she has unwittingly put the human race on a path to destruction. When she meets JD Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a cop of the future who stumbles upon a case that only she may have the answers to, she quickly realizes that they may be the only hope for survival of the human race.
During a panel at the CBS Summer Junket, to discuss the network’s summer programming, actors Halle Berry and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, along with show creator Mickey Fisher and co-showrunners Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro, talked about the story arc they’re exploring with Season 2, why this season is a reboot, upping the levels of action and heat, why the character of JD Richter was named after the actor now playing him, telling a self-contained story for each season, with ideas to build on for future seasons, and just how collaborative the creative team is with the actors. From the panel, we’ve compiled a list of 13 things to know about the new season of Extant.
In Season 2 of Extant, humanity is still very much in peril. When the season picks up, Molly is in a recovery center, where she is questioning her mental stability, as is the audience. She’s a woman with nothing left to lose, and she becomes aware of this string of mysterious deaths that might be tied to what happened to her in space. We learn that she has unwittingly put the human race on a path to destruction. This show has robots, aliens and humans, all in a desperate fight for survival, and the question is, at any given moment, does the rise of one mean the extinction of the other?
- This season, the cast includes Halle Berry, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and David Morrissey, along with recurring/guest actors Kiersey Clemons, Necar Zadegan, Melina Kanakaredes, Lou Gossett and Hilarie Burton.
Another change this season is that they’re upping the levels of action and heat. Said co-showrunner/executive producer Liz Kruger, “The show is action-packed this year. It’s got a mystery that runs through all 13 episodes, and that mystery drives the story. Halle, of course, is at the center of it, and when she crosses paths with JD Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a cop of the future, on a crime scene, the very unlikely duo finds themselves locked together to solve the mystery that’s at the center of the show. There’s action, there’s romance, there’s heat, and there’s sex.”
- While EP Mickey Fisher created the show, Kruger and EP Craig Shapiro are sharing showrunner duties, this season. When asked why they decided to join this particular show, Shapiro said, “The timing was right. We were coming off of something else, and we learned this was happening. My passion, maybe going back to my childhood, has always been science fiction, and I’ve never really had a chance to work on a science fiction show, or anything that had sci-fi elements to it. When this came up, it just sounded like something we could really dig into and tell amazing stories. Halle was already on the show, and it’s an amazing opportunity to work with her and to tell these kinds of stories.”
Academy Award-winning film actress Halle Berry said that she never hesitated about taking on a TV role. “Not in this day and age. Maybe 10 years ago, I would have had cause to pause. But the best things, in my opinion, are on television, and I’m lucky to be on television. In a show of this quality, with these showrunners and these actors, I feel really lucky that I get to work in this medium. More people probably see this show than maybe have seen all of my movies. I don’t know. As artists, we want to share what we do with the world, and this is a really good medium to do that in because the best things are on TV now, in my humble opinion.”
- Even with a season under her belt, Berry revealed that launching a TV series was harder than she ever could have imagined. Thinking back to last season, she said, “It is a whole lot of work. I had never worked so hard in my life. And I was nursing. My baby was three months old, so I was doing drive-by nursings, every two hours. I was in over my head, with the amount of scenes we shoot in a day and the things I had to memorize. So this season, without having the baby nursing, I strengthened that muscle and it is indelibly better than last season. It was an awakening. I thought, ‘I’m going to go into TV, so that I can be at home with my family.’ But I didn’t see my family, and I’d never worked harder, in my life. So, hats off to everybody who does television because it’s a grind.”
- JD Richter was intentionally named after Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in the hopes that they could entice him to be on the show, in a “if you build it, he will come” way. In talking about why the project appealed to him, Morgan said, “I knew about it, from last season, because I talked a little bit with Amblin about being on the show, but my schedule is so crazy, it just didn’t pan out. This season, Craig and Liz called and said they had this character, who was written for me, and here I am. I hadn’t seen any of the episodes from last season, but they didn’t really want me to watch them because this season is such a reboot. Obviously, I was a huge fan of Halle’s, and the opportunity to go to work with her, every day, was so exciting. It has been nothing but fantastic. We’re having a really good time. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi and Spielberg, so this is a new little jaunt for me into this world. It’s been a lot of fun.”
- Molly’s feelings about Ethan and whether she could truly love a robot child have changed, this season. Berry said, “Molly did struggle, last season. She wanted a child of her own. I think she wanted that right of passage, to birth a child and have that experience that is largely in our nature as women. So, accepting a robot as that didn’t seem like something Molly could do. She questioned whether she would have a human experience with that robot. And the turning point for Molly was in the final episode, last season, where Ethan had the ability to sacrifice himself for her. He essentially blew himself up to save her life, and I think Molly viewed that as quite human, and she started to see Ethan differently. Does he take the place of a real child? Well, that’s something that our show is going to explore throughout however many seasons we’re lucky enough to go. The burning question is, can a robot have humanity, can they love, and can they have a human exchange?”
Molly’s husband, played by Goran Visnjic, will return. He is back in a limited capacity, but he does play a part in the storytelling. Viewers will learn what happens to him in the first episode back.
- Because they never know whether or not the show will be back for another season, Fisher said that they prefer to tell a self-contained story for each season, with ideas to build on, if they get another season. “I’ve been a fan of these kinds of shows, where they leave you hanging, and then they’re cancelled and you wonder what happened. Just from a fan standpoint, I want to make sure that, if somebody stayed with us for 13 hours, we gave them a satisfying ending, and also left something to build on for the next season. There is the core relationship of Molly and Ethan, and the continuing questions of, do you have to be human to have humanity, and can you love something that isn’t human and can it love it back?”
- The EPs have all made sure that you can easily watch Season 2 without having seen Season 1. Fisher said, “What we wanted to do, when Liz and Craig came aboard, was to reboot and build on Season 1, but do so in a way that anyone could come into this, brand new. If you didn’t watch Season 1, you could drop in and, within a minute, you could be watching Season 2 and go on the roller-coaster ride with it.”
One of the highlights of the experience for Berry, who is also an executive producer on the show, is just how collaborative the creative team is with the actors. “I’m really lucky that Mickey, Liz, Craig and our producers over at Amblin have invited me and my producing partner, Elaine Thomas, to the party. I think you can feel that we’ve had some input into the story and, as an artist, that makes me really happy. It’s okay to just act and be an actor. I love that, too. That’s what I’ve done for 25 years. But I’m learning that it’s nice to have some input into what you’re doing. I’m just lucky that I have people that take me seriously. If I had any fear of television, it was that the showrunners are god and you have to do exactly what they say, but I don’t find that, at all. They’re very collaborative with all of us. When you invite the people that you’re expecting to perform and interpret your material to the party, they get more excited about it and want to do better and work harder. It’s smart.”
- When asked whether she believes in alien life forms, Berry said, “Before this show, when I was a little girl and looked up at the sky, I thought, ‘My gosh, there has to be something else out there.’ I do believe there’s something else out there. I’m not so egotistical to think that we’re the only ones in this vast universe. And this show makes you think about it, on a daily basis. I hope that I live long enough to find that answer. I don’t know if I will, but maybe my kids will, or their kids will.”
Extant returns for Season 2 on CBS on July 1st.