Inside ‘Under the Dome’ with Dean Norris and Rachelle Lefevre

Dean Norris and Rachelle Lefevre Under the Dome Interview
Alexander Koch and Dean Norris in ‘Under the Dome’ (Photo by Brownie Harris/CBSВ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Executive producer/showrunner Neal Baer promises season two of CBS’ hit summer series Under the Dome starring Dean Norris, Rachelle Lefevre, and Mike Vogel will be a season of transformation. “Last year, as you know, it was the season of secrets being revealed. Our characters were trapped under this impenetrable dome where no one could get in and no one could get out. And because they were trapped in this hot house, their secrets started to come out,” explained Baer. “This is the year where we will find out what they are truly made of.”

Author Stephen King actually wrote the script for episode one of season two, and King isn’t one to spare characters just because his readers (or in this case, the show’s viewers) are attached to them. Episode one saw the death of a major character [no spoilers in case you haven’t watched the episode], and because the structure of the book is far different from the series, no one is safe and even the ultimate ending of the series could be vastly different from that of King’s novel.

“We are way past the book because the book is really only about the first week under the dome and we are already two weeks in,” offered Baer when asked how many seasons the show could last. “This season will be going for two more weeks. We really go day-by-day Under the Dome, so I guess if we lasted 15 years that would really only be a year under the dome. I think that’s certainly possible to keep going because we have so many stories to tell.”

Under the Dome airs on CBS on Mondays at 10pm ET/PT.

Dean Norris and Rachelle Lefevre Under the Dome Interview

Is your character going to lighten up this year? Your character has been very nasty, even to your own son.

Dean Norris: “Well, he deserves it…

Are there any plans for your character to start liking people?

Dean Norris: “Well, actually, I think so. I think part of the transformation, the kind of theme we are talking about this year includes some redemption for Big Jim. I think that it’s actually in the first episode he has kind of a come to God or come to Dome moment where he believes that maybe his purpose in life shouldn’t be to be so nasty. And that’s kind of a story arc that continues throughout the season; whether he has a higher purpose, a greater purpose other than just killing people and being mean to his son. So I think we explore that and I think that’s one of the themes of the season, exactly what you touch on right there.”

Is there a set of rules as to what the Dome can and can not do?

Dean Norris: “The Dome is a harsh master. I think we are discovering what the Dome can and can’t do. I think that’s part of the season arc. I think we are all struggling to find out what it means, what its powers are, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad, whose side it’s on. So all of those are questions that we attempt to answer and that we struggle with throughout the season, basically getting to know that exact thing, what is it about, what could it do?”

Rachelle Lefevre: “I think it’s like a two-part approach. Neal and the writers have their set of boundaries and what they decide in terms of, you know, what the Dome will be capable of, what it will do and what it won’t do, like you said. And then I feel like I look at us and our cast as kind of the keepers of the characters. So they will write – obviously – for us but then I do feel like we have a voice in being able to contribute who these characters are in the sense of how much they will believe, what will they credit the Dome with having done. Some characters will go, ‘That was the Dome that did that.’ Some characters will refuse to believe that, some characters will look for other explanations. So I think you have sort of two rules working in tandem which is, one, what is the Dome actually doing which only the Dome kind of knows for sure.”

Dean Norris: “I know. The Domes don’t.”

Rachelle Lefevre and Dean Norris in Under the Dome
Grace Victoria Cox as Melanie and Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway (Photo by Brownie Harris/CBSВ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

Rachelle Lefevre: “And you. You, the chosen one. And what we’ll attribute to it independently as characters.”

Can you talk briefly about where your characters were emotionally as we left off from season one and their arcs going forward?

Rachelle Lefevre: “I feel like where we left Julia and where she picks up this season is really last season she had – and I think Neal has mentioned that my character sort of takes a’faith’ look at things this season, and I think that’s because last season she discovered for herself what she was willing to sacrifice for what she sees as the larger purpose or the greater good. So the Julia that you see at the end of the season obviously makes the choice to be extremely altruistic and basically utilitarian and goes and sacrifices one for the good of many. And that’s the choice she makes, to let Barbie go to the gallows to keep the egg safe and what she thinks will keep Chester’s Mill and the world safe.

You meet her at the beginning of this season in a new place because once you realize you are willing to make those choices and once you see what you are willing to sacrifice, I think that changes you. So she has a different approach this season. And although she isn’t looking to be a leader, necessarily, and certainly isn’t creating power the way Big Jim is, she definitely, I think, finds a confidence and an emotional strength to be able to go forward and see if maybe I have something to offer this town in terms of maybe I really am prepared to make the hard choices. Somebody has to encourage us to make the hard choices and I don’t think it’s going to be you.”

Dean Norris: “I think he’s already made the hard choice. I think Big Jim is kind of what I referred to earlier. He thinks that he knows what’s best for the town and he thinks he’s inspired by the Dome to do what he does. And what happens in the first episode is that he comes to an awakening and he reevaluates his position and his kind of personal trajectory and decides that maybe a different kind of Big Jim is required to survive under The Dome. I think that’s something that he explores. Whether that turns out to be truthful or not, that’s what we’ll find out as the season goes on but it’s certainly where he goes to. He decides, hey, maybe we need a different approach to this and maybe that’s successful, maybe it’s not. And depending on that, we will see whether he continues that way or whether he goes back to his old ways.”

What is it like working with Stephen King?

Dean Norris: “The first episode is so Stephen King-ian and part of it is that almost in the midst of the kind of most horrifying and tragic elements there are these little lines that are almost kind of humorous, you know? It was so cool to see that because it’s in his books and it was so cool to kind of see it in the script. It is a really big deal to be on a show that is not just based on something he created but that he stayed with us and stayed an influence.

My favorite thing is for anyone who is a fan or even just familiar with his work that obviously whatever horrific elements he has, the purpose is always some larger question, some larger examining of who we are and how we behave and what we are capable of. Those larger questions, I think, are really important in terms of keeping the show relevant, keeping the show exciting for viewers, leaving them something to think about and talk about until the next week. I think that having him still on board with us and having him be a contributing voice reminds us not to get too caught up and to disappear into just these characters and just this story, but to always make sure that we are also providing commentary on human nature and commentary on maybe environmental resource questions.

There is always some kind of larger theme, which I say all the time as a nerd. I there are moments where Big Jim maybe sees ghosts or they may be ghosts or they may be whatever they are. And while it’s a kind of a terrifying or horrifying situation, it’s also funny to see Big Jim have to squirm with these kind of ghosts of Christmas past and the future and have to deal with them. It’s such a Stephen King-ian thing and it’s all present there in the first episode that he wrote.”

Rachelle Lefevre: “I’m just going to add as well because obviously we are such fans of just really like the idea that there is this overarching theme that people can grab onto with each episode and kind of talk about what we are examining each week.”

Is this season going to deal with the practical aspects of how they are getting food, what happens when they run out of toilet paper, and things like that?

Dean Norris: “The things that Big Jim is trying to deal with is is there enough food for everybody, is there enough water for everybody. What resources are left for us to survive under The Dome? That’s definitely one of the themes that we deal with and Big Jim, in particular, is looking to try to answer or come up with a solution for. So, yeah, that’s a big part of what we deal with this season.”

By Fred Topel

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