Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, the CBS hit summer 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. Since the inhabitants of the sleepy town of Chester’s Mill have been forced to adapt to daily threats, in order to survive their isolation, the Dome continues to reveal more of its ultimate agenda for them.
During a panel at the CBS Summer Junket, to discuss the network’s summer programming, actor Dean Norris and new cast member Marg Helgenberger, along with showrunner Neal Baer and executive producer Tim Schlattmann, talked about getting definite answers about why the Dome has come down, that Season 3 is a reboot that even new viewers can jump into, what first happened 25 years ago that set all of these events in motion, how Big Jim (Norris) has changed, what Christine Price (Helgenberger) has been doing in Chester’s Mill until now, how much of what they’re exploring was always part of the plan, and just how involved Stephen King is, at this point. From the panel, we’ve compiled a list of 15 things you should know about the upcoming season of Under the Dome.
Under the Dome helped create a shift in the importance of summer programming when it was the biggest success in the summer, in two decades. Said EP Neal Baer, “I think that a lot of shows now, on any network in the summer, owe some sort of debt to Under the Dome being on three years ago. I don’t think anybody would deny that.
- Unlike the first two seasons, where viewers had to get acclimated, Season 3 will tell you why the Dome has come down and what it’s about.
- Because Season 3 is something of a reboot, even if you’ve never watched an episode of Under the Dome, you could come into this two-hour season premiere and you’ll be caught up. It’s a great jumping in point because you’re getting right to the answers.
- Actress Marg Helgenberger has signed on for this season and is enjoying this new role because, “It’s somewhat freeing and liberating playing a role where anything goes. It’s a brave new world.” Adds Baer, “She’s our character who really helps us understand why the Dome came down. Through Marg’s character, you will understand what happened two seasons ago.”
- Along with the answers that they’ll be providing this season, Baer promises that they’ll also be asking new questions. “Of course, we’re asking new questions. One of the reasons we brought [EP Tim Schlattmann] on was because we really wanted to refresh things. We had taken the viewers through all kinds of calamities, and I didn’t know what was left. We had butterflies and caterpillars eating crops, and acid rain, and all kinds of things dealing with the parable of climate change. But now, it’s really character-oriented and how they’re going to get out of this place with new calamities brought on by Marg’s character. That is part of the fun of it. And we promise you that we will answer why the Dome is there.”
Helgenberger’s character is an anthropologist named Christine Price. She’s driven to make the community of Chester’s Mill work in a better way. She sees a way to bring things together, so that people have a better way of living and a better way of relating to one another. And she doesn’t really like taking no for an answer.
- Baer said, “One of the big mysteries we’re going to solve is, in our timeline, a meteor with an egg inside of it was discovered in 1988 by four high school students, so why was there 25 years to pass before the dome came down? And what was in play, 25 years ago, that actually set all of that in motion that would send Christine to Chester’s Mill, to be there the day the Dome came down? That’s one of the biggies that we’re going to address. You’re going to start to see how these pieces of the puzzle actually form a puzzle that may be a little bit different than what you thought it was going to be.”
- Helgenberger said that she likes the opportunity sci-fi provides you with, in just breaking the rules and exploring the possibility of life outside of earth, and she finds all of that stuff pretty fascinating.
When talking about what viewers can expect from Big Jim this season, actor Dean Norris said, “He’s a complex character, so he goes through nice phases and tougher phases. But there’s definitely a change in the character of Big Jim, this year. You’ll have to watch to see. Having lost his wife does a little something to him. And he gets a little friend this year, who is a dog. You’ll see a little bit of the heart of Big Jim come out, in relation to that.”
- About Big Jim being an unpredictable character, Schlattmann said, “Someone who is wired the way Big Jim is, and who’s done the things that he’s done, has to see the world in a very peculiar way to rationalize and justify the things that he’s done. One of the fun challenges this season is getting to show that point of view and that perspective, so that you understand his character in a different light than you perhaps have in Seasons 1 and 2. And he’s also very funny. That’s just a joy to write. He still is Big Jim, more so than ever. He shoots someone that you’re shocked he would shoot.”
- After the events of last season, Big Jim and Junior’s relationship is severely strained. Norris said, “He shot Big Jim, at the end of the last season, and Big Jim didn’t take very kindly to that. But Junior is still his son, and he still has fatherly feelings for him. There’s always been a tension in the show, with Big Jim’s love for his son versus the fact that his son has some issues.”
According to Schlattmann, “You’re going to find out that Marg’s character has been in Chester’s Mill this whole time. Why haven’t you seen her? And she has a cohort, played by Kylie Bunbury, whose character’s name is Eva. They are new residents of Chester’s Mill, and yet they’ve been there the whole time. That really is the story engine for this entire season, as far as how that’s even possible.”
- The relationship between Christine and Big Jim sure sounds like an interesting one. Said Helgenberger, “Dean and I just finished an episode where we were in a giant birdcage together. There’s a lot of discussion about philosophical ideas, as well as basic day-to-day things having to do with Chester’s Mill. It was a lot of fun. I hope we get to do it again.”
- When asked about whether this season’s direction was always in the five-year plan, or if this is just where they’ve ended up, along the way, Baer said, “It’s a mix. We’ve always knew that there was a reason for the Dome, but when we started to meet in December, we started to really talk about how we could take the next approach because we liked what we did in the first two seasons, with the Millers learning how to deal with each other and the circumstances, and now we had to go further. We had set up the egg, so we had to take what we had created. It’s a weird thing. It was almost subconsciously done. You don’t know why you’re setting things up, but you look at where you’ve been and it fits perfectly for where you’re going. We took everything that we had and made something that incorporated all of the things that we’d done before.”
Stephen King is much less involved this season, but the show is still honoring his source material. Baer said, “In Season 2, we invited Stephen to write the first episode, as a way to launch it for year two and to show the fans of his work that he was very involved. This season, much less so because Stephen has got movies and a number of series. It just is literally not possible, but we have his blessing. And there’s a creepier factor in this season, which is really paying homage to Stephen.” And Schlattmann added, “It is no accident that Marg’s character’s first name is Christine. There are a lot of little things like that, that honor the source material. And it’s going to feel much darker and much scarier this season.”
Under the Dome returns to CBS for Season 3 on June 25th.