‘Manifest’ – Josh Dallas Interview on Starring in a Series He Describes as ‘Lost’ Meets ‘This Is Us’

Josh Dallas is returning to series television after seven seasons of playing Prince Charming on Once Upon a Time with a starring role in NBC’s Manifest. The new dramatic series centers around the passengers and a crew of a plane that was assumed to have crashed five years ago. In a bizarre twist, the airplane lands and not a soul on board has aged a day in the five years the plane’s been missing. Plus, the passengers and crew have no idea there’s anything extraordinary about their flight. To those on board Montego Air Flight 828, only a few hours have passed between when they took off and when they landed.

NBC brought series stars Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh along with executive producer Jeff Rake to the 2018 San Diego Comic Con to introduce the new series. In addition to participating in a Q&A with Comic Con attendees, Dallas, Roxburgh, and Rake took part in roundtable interviews in which they provided the scoop on what viewers can expect when they tune in to check out Manifest.

Manifest is set to premiere on NBC on September 24, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT.

Josh Dallas Manifest Interview:

What attracted you to Manifest?

Josh Dallas: “I set out to find something that was a hook for me, that I felt emotionally invested in. When I read the pilot script for Manifest it was this plane goes missing five and a half years ago and all of a sudden it lands again but no time has passed for the people on the plane. Immediately I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how that worked, what happens to a family, what happens interrupted lives? What happens to a father with twins and a wife back at home?

Ben Stone has a son who’s dying of a terminal illness – cancer – and at the time they get on the plane there’s no cure for this cancer. When they land again, there is a cure for this cancer. It was also developed by another passenger who was on the plane. What does that mean? I think all the passengers that were on this plane are going to have interconnected lives, which is going to be really interesting in different ways that they’re not aware of. We’re going to discover that as we go along.

Ben is a mathematician. He’s a man of science. He has a scientific mind. He wants concrete answers. He wants solutions. He wants to find the truth about things. He’s going to set out on this obsessive path, this obsessive journey to figure out what happened to them on that plane, for good or bad.

It’s a show about hope. It’s a show about second chances. It’s about what do you do, what are the choices that you make when you get a second chance. There’s so much. It’s an emotionally rich landscape. It’s Lost meets This Is Us.”

Do you have any theories about what happened on the plane?

Josh Dallas: “I mean, I have many theories about what happened – none that I’m going to discuss right here at the table. (Laughing). And, I also don’t actually know what (series creator) Jeff Rake has in his mind. I don’t know what the actual mystery is and I don’t want to know. I want to discover it along with Ben. I’m going to be figuring it out along with the audience.”

So Ben’s approaching it from the scientific angle and doesn’t think it might be something like divine intervention?

Josh Dallas: “That’s where Ben’s going. He doesn’t think that that’s part of it. He doesn’t think God or any kind of spiritual connection has anything to do with it. He thinks there’s an earthly reality; there’s some kind of logical explanation to this thing. They just haven’t found the answer yet.”

How different is Ben Stone from Prince Charming?

Josh Dallas: “I think they do differ. They differ a lot. Ben’s a flawed man. I think he’s a great family man, like Prince Charming. I think he loves his family, but he becomes very obsessed. He can become very single-minded and have blinders on. He’ll be doing something for the good of the family or for the love of something, but he tends to get very focused and things get left behind. I think with that kind of mind you can become obsessive. The negative parts of that are you can be impulsive. You can be erratic. You can be insensitive sometimes. But, ultimately, he’s a guy that can be very self-aware and I think that softens his edges a little.

He’s a great character to play and I’m discovering him as we go along.”

Manifest Star Josh Dallas
‘Manifest’ star Josh Dallas at Comic Con (Photo by Todd Williamson / NBC)

Is it helpful for you as an actor to not know the answers?

Josh Dallas: “I think it depends on the project. For me, on this one project I thought it would be really helpful.”

How do the events affect the relationship between Ben and his sister?

Josh Dallas: “They are the best of friends, the best of enemies. They have a deep, deep love for each other and I do think that they do think differently. They approach things differently. I think Michaela (played by Melissa Roxburgh) after it lands and as we go forward trying to figure out what this mystery is that happens I think they’re going to approach it slightly differently.

Like I said, Ben is a man of science and he’s going to search for something concrete, something logical. And I think Michaela is going to lean toward other possibilities – it could be spiritual, it could be something else.

I think they’re going to be a great team. I think their differences are going to make them very strong as a duo.”

Did you do any prep to play a mathematician?

Josh Dallas: “I did long division every night. I did algebra and a bit of trig. (Laughing) No. But as far as research goes there’s great books written by a lot of scientists that I’ve been reading right now. One called Fact Versus Faith which is a great book. Ben’s kind of model is the great thing about science is it’s true whether or not you believe it. That’s the way he thinks. So, I’m reading a lot of books that talk about science versus theology.”

In this scenario, would you rather be one of the people on the plane or one of the people who gets their loved one back after five years?

Josh Dallas: “I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question because you lose and you win some in both situations. It’s a really tough, unbelievable situation. This is a high concept mystery wrapped in a very emotionally rich family drama. And it’s about these very ordinary people going through something extraordinary, and what do you do when you get a second chance? What do you do? What are the choices that you make? Will you do something difficult? These are all questions that they’re all going to have to answer.

Life has moved on for the people that were left behind. They were just at that point, five and a half years later, just starting to get their life back together in some kind of way and move on and all of a sudden it’s interrupted again. For the people on the plane, it was just a flight. There was some turbulence, but it was just a flight. They come back and life is completely different. It’s a world that they have no idea about and they’re strangers so they’re going to have to figure this out and rediscover who they are, who their families are, and how they move forward.”

More on Manifest:

Manifest Josh Dallas Season 1
Josh Dallas as Ben Stone and Jack Messina as Cal Stone in ‘Manifest’ season 1 episode 1 (Photo by Craig Blankenhorn / NBC / Warner Brothers)

– Article by Rebecca Murray. Additional reporting by Kevin Finnerty.