Greg Berlanti Discusses The CW’s ‘The Tomorrow People’

Greg Berlanti The Tomorrow People Interview
The cast of 'The Tomorrow People' (Photo by Mathieu Young © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved)

By Fred Topel

The CW is venturing into the sci-fi genre with a new take on the British cult series, The Tomorrow People. Executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Arrow), Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries), and Phil Klemmer (Chuck), The Tomorrow People is about the next stage in human evolution and stars Robbie Amell (yes, he’s related to Arrow‘s Stephen Amell), Peyton List, Mark Pellegrino, Aaron You, and Luke Mitchell. The CW’s set an October 9, 2013 premiere date for the show which features characters who have powers including telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation.

The Plot: “They are the next evolutionary shift of mankind — a generation of humans born with paranormal abilities. They are the Tomorrow People. Stephen Jameson stands at the crossroads between the world we know and that of the Tomorrow People. Up until a year ago, he was a middle-of-the-road teenager — until he began hearing voices and teleporting in his sleep, issues far beyond the usual teenage angst. That’s when the Tomorrow People — John, Cara and Russell — a genetically advanced race with the abilities to teleport and communicate telepathically, found him. Hunted down by a paramilitary group of scientists known as Ultra — and their leader Jedikiah — who see the Tomorrow People as a very real existential threat from a rival species, the outcast group hides out in an abandoned subway station just beneath the surface of the human world. Trading in secrets, Jedikiah offers Stephen the chance for a normal life with his family and best friend, Astrid, if he will help in the struggle to isolate and eradicate the Tomorrow People. On the other hand, Cara, John and Russell offer Stephen a different type of family and a home where he truly belongs. Unwilling to turn his back on humanity or the world of the Tomorrow People, Stephen sets out on his own path — a journey that will take him into the shadowy past, where his father mysteriously disappeared, or into an unknown future … with the Tomorrow People.”

At the 2013 summer Television Critics Association panel for the show, executive producer Berlanti talked about the appeal of The Tomorrow People and what we can expect from this new sci-fi series.

Greg Berlanti The Tomorrow People Interview

How closely is this adapted from the British version? What are the differences?

Greg Berlanti: “You know, Julie and I have been talking about this show since we were in college so that’s over 20 years ago. We were both fans of the original series when we were kids. This was before it existed on VHS tapes or the internet. We got to college in the early ’90s and we both remembered loving the show as a kid. And it was on…it played in reruns on Nickelodeon early in the morning. It was sort of pre-binge watching, but I would still get up every morning and watch these episodes of the series, and it really spoke to me then as a young kid. And she remembered it too, so we would sort of swap stories about, ‘Didn’t they do this thing called jaunting?’ And there was this really creepy guy named Jedikiah and he’d, like, literally twirl his mustache.

We would like to be true to the spirit of the show, I think. And certainly we have character names and things like that, but our hope is that we kind of evolve and it’s its own thing.”

The special effects look very exciting, very fresh and very believable. Is it a big challenge on TV time and a TV budget to make special effects that hold up to what the movies are doing?

Greg Berlanti: “I’d say the unsung hero about all that stuff is Danny [Cannon]. The art of pilot directing is, I think, even more challenging than feature directing in that they have to create an entire world visually and an entire aesthetic and tell a story in a much shorter period of time, with a lot less money, and make a lot of creative decisions themselves. And so he was starting R&D on that the second he got the material. He’s directing our first two episodes. It’s an incredible feat. […] I think some of the work, especially now in that regard that’s happening in television is as exciting and it’s done for a lot less money and a lot less time.”

How arced is this versus how standalone?

Greg Berlanti: “We’ll be doing a couple different things that make it hopefully stand-aloney in that regard. One of the things we’ll be doing is we slowly dole out the histories and the breakout stories of the different individuals. So. we’ll be telling little mini-flashback stories that kind of tell a story about how they, kind of, ultimately joined The Tomorrow People.

That will be one element to it and the other is, obviously, you see at the end of the pilot that Stephen joins Ultra, and there’s sort of episodic elements to what they do, and other breakouts that are emerging and the continual journey between the two groups to claim these individuals in a way.”

Did you ever consider calling it anything else?

Greg Berlanti: “I never would have. I don’t know how everybody else feels, but it was a real special show to me as a kid so I wouldn’t have done that.”

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