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

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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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