’12 Monkeys’ Season 3: Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull Interview

12 Monkeys Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull

Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly and Aaron Stanford as James Cole in ’12 Monkeys’ season 3 (Photo by Dusan Martincek / Syfy)

Syfy’s set to make 12 Monkeys fans who prefer to binge-watch shows happy with the release of season three. The third season of the critically acclaimed science fiction series will premiere on May 19, 2017, with all 10 new episodes airing over three nights. Beginning on Friday, May 19th, Syfy will air all of 12 Monkeys season three from 8pm – 11pm over three consecutive nights. And in support of the series’ third season, 12 Monkeys stars Amanda Schull (‘Cassandra Railly’) and Aaron Stanford (‘James Cole’) participated in a conference call to discuss their characters and what fans can expect from season three.

The Season 3 Plot: “Season 3 will continue the journey of James Cole (Stanford), a man sent back in time to eradicate the source of a deadly plague, and his partner, brilliant virologist Dr. Cassandra Railly (Schull). While attempting to untangle an insidious conspiracy that’s been spun throughout centuries, the duo embark on a desperate search across time to find the man responsible for the apocalypse – a time traveler who calls himself the Witness. Killing the Witness will save the world, but the journey will come at tremendous personal stakes for the pair.”

Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull 12 Monkeys Interview:

What do you think about this season being released so that it can be binge-watched over one weekend?

Aaron Stanford: “I think it’s a good thing because that’s the way I like to watch TV. You know, I think this show definitely, definitely lends itself to binge watching. Every single episode ends with a huge cliffhanger and you can’t wait to find out what happens next. And there’s so much going on that if you’re able to marry, string some of these episodes together, honestly it’s much easier to follow what’s happening if you can consume multiple episodes in one sitting. So, I think it very much works for this show in particular. I just think it’s the future. It’s clear that’s how people want to watch, that’s what it’s all moving towards, and I think this is just a step in that direction.”

Amanda Schull: “Again, I just agree with Aaron, sadly. But beyond that, you don’t have to binge every single episode in that sitting. You can TiVo it, watch a couple, take a break, come back, watch a couple more before in the morning, and then watch a couple more at night. I too tend to watch a lot of my favorite programming more than one episode at a time. I think it’s a little bit antiquated that people sit through weekly episodes now.

It was exciting also for us because it had been a long time in the making. We had a very long hiatus between seasons two and three. And, it’s exciting for us to finally get it all out there – the result, the product of our hard work and anticipation – and to finally be able to share it with the people who care about it as much as we do.”

Can you talk about how Cassie and Cole deal with the choices they’ve made and how the characters have evolved?

Aaron Stanford: “It’s sort of easier to talk about in the individual circumstances. In the show you see this theme of circles and cycles coming up over and over and over again. One of the things that you continuously see are all the characters being put in this position where they have to make a choice between the greater good or the good of somebody that they hold dear, someone they love, a family member, a wife or a husband. In the case of Cole, he starts off the entire series essentially on a suicide mission, a mission of self-sacrifice. He doesn’t really value his life and he’s all too willing to sacrifice it to save humanity and to give himself a clean slate.”

Amanda Schull: “That sounds like a very appropriate and thoughtful response. (Laughing) I’m going to go with whatever he says.”

Do you have a favorite time period the characters have traveled to?

Amanda Schull: “I can say that my favorite time period for Aaron Stanford was the ‘80s and those jeans.”

Aaron Stanford: “My Marty McFly outfit was a pretty big hit on set, so the ‘80s was pretty fun.”

Amanda Schull: “We’ve gotten to go back to the ‘50s a couple of times and it’s really fun and elegant. I sort of channel a little bit of Breakfast at Tiffany’s-type thing which is always … well, I guess that was the ‘60s. But it’s always nice for Cassie to get to clean up from the apocalypse and the time facility.”

Aaron Stanford: “And also, just as a side note, I want to say that what is very strange about Amanda is that she seems to fit in any time period except our own. She’s an anachronism but if you dress her up in the ‘50s, it just somehow looks right. Victorian London looks right, the ‘80s looks right, but just right now she doesn’t belong. (Laughing) It’s very strange.”

How long have you known who the Witness is?

Amanda Schull: “I can’t speak for Aaron but I believe I knew who the Witness was going to be in mid-season two. Terry (Matalas) is really great and we have this luxury with our show because of the mythology of the show, the storylines aren’t accidents and there is an end game in mind. And maybe some of the connective tissue leading up to the final result needed to be hashed out, but Terry knew how he wanted to end every season, and he has known from the beginning how he wants to end the show. Because of that, Terry’s able to drop hints in storylines whether it’s individually or collectively to all of us about where our character needs to go which gives us a building idea of how to create the character and how to pace it.

I knew that Cassie was going to get pregnant the end of season two and I knew that it was going to be the product of two time travelers out of time and that’s why this child can basically exist and that’s why he’s so special. And so I had that luxury to know that I was going to lead up to that.”

Aaron Stanford: “She basically covered it. I found out around the same time she did. We don’t get that much advance notice. At the beginning of season one when we were shooting, none of us had any idea where this was going to go. I don’t know how much was already conceived in the minds of the writers but they sort of, you know, gave us pieces of information a bit at a time. It was around mid-season two where that idea was given to us of who the Witness was actually going to be and the stakes of it, so we did have a decent amount of time to drop that in and think about it.”

12 Monkeys season 3

Aaron Stanford as Jame Cole and Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly in ’12 Monkeys’ (Photo by Dusan Martincek / Syfy)

Can you discuss how you approach the conflicts your characters experience on the show?

Aaron Stanford: “The onus is on the writers to intensify things constantly. The stakes have to continually be raised. And when you start a series out where the fate of the world is in the balance it’s difficult to continue to build off of that but they have managed to do it. And in terms of my own character, it has been a roller coaster. He has been all over the map. In the beginning of season three, he is in a very, very desperate place. He has lost the woman he loves, he has lost his family, he has lost the only resemblance of a real life he’s ever had, and he’s a man on a mission. He’s desperate to find Cassie and things are not going as planned. He seems to be the only guy in the room who doesn’t realize that the game has already been lost. So, that’s where he begins season three.”

Amanda Schull: “Well, this season she starts in a pretty low place. […] She has the product of a relationship that is only a dream, really. She doesn’t remember it tangibly because Cole had to make the decision to basically erase that timeline. […] She’s as low as we’ve ever seen her, which was upsetting and sad and frustrating and disappointing and challenging and exciting all at once to be able to play.”

If you could teach your characters one life lesson, what would it be?

Aaron Stanford: “I would sit Cole down and tell him to come down off the cross. He’s very guilt prone, he’s very anxious to carry the entire weight of the world on his shoulders. You know, there’s a lot of self-loathing in that character and I think I’d sit him down and just tell him to give himself a little bit of a break.

He’s basically a good guy. He’s trying to save the world and there are a lot of frustrations, but basically he’s a good person who was put in very, very difficult circumstances and he has done the best he can. And, yes, I think I’d just tell him to give himself a little bit of a break.”

Amanda Schull: “I’d tell Cole that he needs to start making plans because he’s averse to making plans and it really irritates Cassie. Make a plan, babe.”

Aaron Stanford: “He’s spontaneous and that is a trait that should be valued in a committed relationship.”

Amanda Schull: “That is not spontaneity.”

Aaron Stanford: “He’s a good time.”

Amanda Schull: “It’s a good time that leads to like death and destruction every single time no plans are made.”

I think I would say for Cassie, I mean, it’s hard for me to be able to give her any one piece of advice because her world and her beliefs and her mission has vacillated, morphed and changed dramatically and considerably even from one episode to the next. So just when I think she ought to start looking out for just herself and her child, she does that. Just when I think that she ought to start to looking out a little bit more for humanity, she suddenly does that. I think that she is incredibly human that way where the objective and the alliance to the mission changes from one moment to the next depending on the circumstances and what’s at stake and who’s at stake.

If I were to give her one small bit of advice, I wish that she just had a second but the circumstances of our show don’t allow for it as often. I really just want her to be able to just sit and breathe for a minute or two. Just have a coffee or just take a nap under a tree – just have a second for herself. If I could give her any advice it would be, ‘Just take five, Cassie.’”

It’s such an intricate show with an ever-changing timeline. Do you try to keep up with all the details or do you just take it one episode at a time?

Aaron Stanford: “It’s not a choice, as nice as it would be, you can’t choose to just not understand what’s happening. The show is an incredibly intricate jigsaw and you have to have an understanding of each individual piece to put it together.”

In order to play the role?

Aaron Stanford: “Yes, in order to do the acting, in order to make choices, in order to decide where your character is at in their journey, where they’re at in the immediate sense on an emotional level. You have to remember where they’re at in their own cycle in order to have everything make sense ultimately.”

Is there a big board or some sort of chart that helps you keep track?

Aaron Stanford: “There’s a lot going on. What makes it a little bit easier for us is that, we live this for 14 to 16 hours a day while we’re shooting it. We’re immersed in it and we’re constantly thinking about it, reading it, discussing it. So it’s always there. I have found it the most difficult after the longer hiatuses where we’ve come back after months away and then you have to find your way back in and that’s tricky. You have to go back and rewatch the episodes, reread some of the scripts, and just get yourself back into that mindset.”

Amanda Schull: “Yes, that’s true for me also. I am a pretty meticulous note taker so I take notes when I’m reading the script, when I’m doing scenes I jot things down. But Aaron is right, having a long hiatus was a little bit jarring, you know, snapping yourself out of the world because the world is quite immersive and that of the character. But at the same time, every single department does such a great job creating the environment once we step into it that it’s easy for a sense memory to kind of come flooding back when we get back into the time facility or into the Emerson Hotel. You remember the scenes that you did there and the moments you had there and the emotion you felt there. Once we’re back in it, I think for me at least, I’m really in it and I can remember all these things that I might not have felt from the comfort of my condo in Los Angeles. It’s all right there on the surface again.”

How is Cole and Cassie’s complicated relationship playing into everything that’s going on in season three?

Aaron Stanford: “I’d say with Cassie what complicates it and what really hinders her is that she can’t come to terms with how head over heels in love she is.”

Amanda Schull: (Laughing) “I knew you were going there.”

Aaron Stanford: “She’s just hopelessly in love.”

Amanda Schull: “If we were in the same room, I’d be able to smack you.”

Aaron Stanford: “In a pool of adoration.”

Amanda Schull: “Oh god, so many barfs.”

Aaron Stanford: “Well, I can tell you that there is more complication in season 3. I guess that’s the only way it’s coming to me how to answer this question. You know, there has been a lot of turmoil in their relationship, a lot of difficulty with them actually finally finding their way to each other and then circumstances splitting them apart again. In season three you do see more of that happening.“

Amanda Schull: “Their strange and unusual relationship but also their deep love for each other plays into effect in every single decision they make. They’re united with this purpose to be able to stop the end of the world, basically, but almost every single mission they go on there’s also this kernel of knowledge in the back of their heads that if they do stop the plague, if they do stop all of these things from happening, that could also mean that they will no longer have met and they no longer have ever even known each other. It’s a very unique and complicated bond, and there’s a lot of push and pull, one person feeling one way having respect and understanding for that and maybe going along with it or maybe really feeling a different way at another time. But at the same – by the same token – there is just this unique bond they have for one another underneath all of the decisions that come into play.”

Do the writers talk to you about some of their inspirations for different characters?

Aaron Stanford: “These guys are big genre and sci-fi fans and most of the best sci-fi is actually based on ancient mythology. A film franchise like Star Wars is known as the Birth of Modern Mythology. All these rules for storytelling were laid out in the poetics and they sort of adhere to these same rules and that’s just what good storytelling is.”

Amanda Schull: “Aaron is right that the writers are very influenced by Greek mythology. If you even consider my character’s name, they changed it from the movie which was Kathryn Railly. They changed Kathryn to Cassandra of the Greek myth, and that was a particularly powerful storyline for Cassie in the first season knowing the fate of the world and knowing what was going to happen and nobody listened to her.

Cassie does have a lot of the strengths and weight, similar to Greek mythology, on her shoulders throughout the entire season. But I would go further to say that it’s the women in the show, the female roles that these men, these male writers, have created that allow the weight to shift from one character to the next. But in particular for these women, allowing them strength that is often reserved for male characters is of particular fascination to me, and flattery as well. It also just really works with the mythology of our personal show but of course is also very strong in Greek mythology as well.”


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