Falling Skies – Doug Jones and Remi Aubuchon Interview

Noah Wyle stars in 'Falling Skies'
Noah Wyle stars in 'Falling Skies' - Photo by James Dittiger/TNT
Falling Skies executive producer/writer Remi Aubuchon joined Doug Jones – a master at making creatures seem real in films and on television – to talk about the third season of TNT’s sci-fi series. The upcoming season finds Tom Mason (played by Noah Wyle) elevated to a higher political position and working with rebel aliens to secure the safety of his group and fight the invading forces. Jones brings to life Cochise, a leader of the rebels and a key player in season three of Falling Skies.
 
In support of the show’s premiere on Sunday, June 9, 2013 at 9pm, Aubuchon and Jones took part in a conference call to discuss all things Falling Skies.
 
Doug, you’ve done so many different creatures, how does this one compare in getting into it physically?
 
Doug Jones: “Well this one is – first of all, it’s much quicker to get into the makeup. It was only a couple of hours as opposed to the five hours I’m used to for film roles, so there’s that. Also, I did have to do the usual physical training because I had a lot of extra weight to carry around with me with the muscles built in, because Cochise is much more muscular than I am, so there’s that. But also, he stands and talks a lot. He’s very smart and very astute and very informative, so it was a memorization issue for me too with paragraphs of dialogue that were being rewritten up to the day we filmed.
 
It was a challenge, and yet one that I really welcomed because I just absolutely love this character.”
 
With Cochise being the new alien race, the Volm, how much back story are we going to get not only on your specific character, but on the entire race and the trust issues that are being brought up?
 
Doug Jones: “[…]That question remains as the season opens with, you know, why are they here? Why are these Volm characters here? Are they friends or foes? I come off friendly and I would like to think that I stay that way, but I think if you look at me and my character through the perspective of Will Patton’s Colonel Weaver or Colin Cunningham’s John Pope, those characters are the ones that are kind of the naysayers that are not quite on board with me yet.
 
Now, Noah Wyle’s Tom Mason, he’s the one who befriends me and he’s the one I’m most interested in because he’s the leader of his people, I’m the leader of mine, and we have a lot of responsibility to share together. So I think if you look at me through the perspective of all the characters on the show, you’ll get a better idea of where I’m headed.”
 
Was anything about this role that wasn’t originally scripted for you that you’ve added to it?
 
Doug Jones: “Well with Remi listening in here too, I’m going to give him some credit here – more credit than I ever deserve. He created – and all the writers created – a very lovely full, rich character with Cochise. And I think once Remi got to know my personality and saw a little glint of humor in who I am as well, he kind of added some comedic timing for me here and there. He’s not a comedic character, but he has moments where he’s trying to fit in. He’s trying to get the human’s ways and there are some moments that’ll make you chuckle. That was a bit of a surprise I think for all of us.”
 
Remi, how much do you relate to the characters of this sci-fi series?
 
Remi Aubuchon: “Well, you always hope as a writer that you bring yourself to every script that you write. I personally have identified with most of the characters that are in Falling Skies. I identify with aspects of them including Cochise, and I think we’ve all known what it’s like to be in a situation that you’re not completely…well, that you’re a foreigner in or in many ways, you know, you certainly don’t feel in step culturally with it. And I tried to bring some of that to Cochise, which Doug wonderfully took and ran with.
 
Someone asked me the other day, ‘What motivated you to find a character like Cochise?’ And I said, ‘Well, my experience that I’ve spent in Mexico for a couple of years where I had to fit in and work with people and had language barriers, and yet found myself falling in love with you know the Mexican people and the culture itself.’ And I think there’s a little bit of Cochise in that as well.”
 
Remi, you recently announced that this would be your last season as show runner. Can you tell us what your favorite storyline or episode was in season 3?
 
Remi Aubuchon: “Right. Well, the whole thrust of season 3 has been Tom Mason’s struggle to find himself as a leader, which he is – was not born to, not particularly comfortable with – and he’s trying to balance that with the needs of his family. And knowing that instinctively he feels he’s doing the right stuff even against the odds of it not appearing on the surface of being the correct path to take, specifically with his relationship with Cochise and also the decisions that he makes as President of the New United States. That, really, I found compelling and fascinating, and full of rich colors to write for.
 
I have to be honest… You know, I enjoy writing for Falling Skies and my leaving has absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s really about wanting to pursue a dream that I’ve had for a long, long time, and feeling like now is the time to do it. So the relationships between the characters in Falling Skies have just been a dream come true for any writer, but especially me because I’ve really gotten to explore some pretty complex thematic ideas in the Falling Skies. And I think specifically in this third season where we’ve really gone much deeper into the characters’ complex relationships.”
 
Were this season’s main storylines always in the pipeline or did some come up between 2 and 3?
 
Remi Aubuchon: “Well, I think that television is always a dynamic collaboration, and while we had some very specific ideas even at the beginning of season 2 where we wanted to be in season 3, things change and the actors bring us stuff. As Doug mentioned just earlier, you know suddenly there’s something that you hadn’t anticipated in a character that an actor brings out that you go, ‘Oh, my gosh. I didn’t think about that, but that’s a great way to bring this about.’ So, I think we had the basic building blocks of the story for season 3 in hand – well, certainly between season 2 and season 3, but even at the end of season 2 we had sort of set out the goals we wanted to accomplish in season 3, and I think we pretty much got there. How we got there, that was a little bit more of a twisty-turney journey, but I think the results are pretty awesome.”
 
Will we still see that individual dynamic of the smaller group play out even though the universe is bigger this season?
 
Remi Aubuchon: “Yes. And, actually, I think this is a really good question because the challenge for us is then to not only expand our scope of the world as we know it on Earth, but also expand the bigger picture, the mythology, by bringing in the Volm, by deepening our understanding of the Espheni and the Overlord. The challenge of course is always how much and how fast do we expand that world out. But I think what’s fun about bringing new characters in with new perspectives, new experiences of how they faced the common trauma of the alien invasion, actually enhances and makes for better storytelling the more we expand out the human experience of it all.
 
We will meet a lot of people outside of the Second Mass. We were so very isolated in the second season and when we got to Charleston there was almost a huge collective deep breath from the Second Mass. You could almost feel it that suddenly they had other people to talk to and find out things. And, we had some very specific characters this season that help us to expand that world. Marina, played by Gloria Reuben, who is wonderful. And Marina has her own experience not only of the invasion, but she clearly seems to have a sense of politics. She was in the background in Charleston way before Tom and the Second Mass ever showed up.
 
And then we have a character we’ll introduce played by Robert Sean Leonard, Roger Kadar, who we learn has been the ‘mad scientist’ in the bowels of Charleston that’s been keeping the infrastructure alive all this time. And obviously also has such a very deep trauma in his experience with the invasion that he won’t even come to the surface to interact with other humans.
 
And, I think we start to see that we’ve been so focused on the experience of the Second Mass. But to suddenly see how other humans are dealing with everything I think makes for a very rich tapestry in this season.”
 
What made you decide to change up the show and go from them constantly on the move to settling down? What was behind that decision?
 
Remi Aubuchon: “Well, I think that change-up in television especially is always a good thing. And I would say that we really aren’t this season just sticking in one place. It’s true that we have like a headquarters, but we’re going to be moving around a lot this season. And I think there’s a practical side to it, which is that while it’s kind of exciting to do a show about a group of people constantly on the run, it’s also incredibly taxing production-wise. We shoot in Vancouver where the rain is – and the weather is really not our friend.
 
There are a couple of times in the second season where we had – one time, specifically – where we had to shut down production because we had 80 mile an hour winds going and no place to run and hide. It’s the first time I actually felt the real experience of what the Second Mass might be going through sitting in a tent completely traumatized. And so I think we wanted to make sure that we had a place that we could go from a practical point of view.
 
But the storytelling of this season needs a place like Charleston to be able to bounce off of other places that we go to in the season. So in many ways, I think it’s a positive change up and not just done because we like to have some warmth in our lives when we’re shooting. It was also really to basically be able to kind of energize the storytelling.”
 
This is one of a couple very popular post-apocalyptic shows right now. There’s a very strong appeal to audiences right now with this sort of story. Why do you think that is?
 
Remi Aubuchon: “You know, apocalyptic stories have been around since recorded history, or since we started writing things down about our traumatic experiences and what’s going on in our head. And I think every time you see that, you see an appeal when the world feels very complicated, very overwhelming. When it seems like there’s no solution on earth for a correction, suddenly an intervention from another source. In modern thinking it’s either, you know, a zombie invasion or it’s an alien invasion. Certainly in the Bible in the Old Testament in Daniel’s apocalypse it’s God, and also in the New Testament, and I think those are reflections of that particular civilization’s point-of-view.
 
I don’t think it is as a apocalyptic trauma as much as I think people are seeing the apocalyptic fantasy of it all. The idea that things go down to the basics, that we actually have a chance to have control over our lives. That’s my personal belief of why I think things are appealing, why it’s so appealing to audiences especially now.
 
But I think the other aspect of it is, is that the thing that scares us often is the thing that also energizes us. And, we like to believe that we all could be heroes if all of the sudden zombies showed up at our doorstep. Well, I would not personally be that hero, but I’d be running really fast. But, you like to think that you’d be the Tom Mason who you know grabs a gun and says, ‘By God, we’re not going to let people take over our homeland.’ I think that there’s a strong appeal to that.
 
It’s funny. I think as things get better, as the economy gets better, I think you start to see less interests in apocalyptic fantasies. I hope the economy gets better, but I hope there’ll still be appeal to our show because we’re a little bit more than just an apocalypse. We’re really about human beings and the human condition and how to deal with each other.”
 

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