In support of the much-anticipated return of the series, Falling Skies star Noah Wyle (‘Tom’) participated in a conference call to discuss what fans of the series can expect from his character and from the third season of the critically acclaimed series.
Why do you think Tom is so easily accepting of the new alien race? Do you think he’s just really desperate or he just wants to believe so bad? And, do you think that he’s right?
Noah Wyle: “Well he’s not a stupid man, and I know that he’s got the same questions and misgivings that everybody else does. But there’s a couple of things that he has great confidence about. The first is that on a gut level, he just sort of trusts this character of Cochise, the lead alien. There’s something about him and the rapport that they’ve developed over the last seven months that despite all signs of trepidation, he inherently trusts him.
The second, and really more compelling argument, is that it’s working and you can’t really argue with results. These guys show up. They have a technology that’s far superior to anything that we have. And through this alliance, our group has not only been able to defend its borders but expand them. And for the first time since the invasion begins we’re winning, and it’s pretty heavy stuff.
So, I think he has to project a sense of confidence and sort of a game face to everybody so that they don’t panic. But let’s say behind closed doors, he’s got the same fears that they potentially could be throwing off the yoke of one master for another, and that it’s something to keep your eye on.”
What are you most proud of about this new season?
Noah Wyle: “Well I’m happy to say that it’s an interesting thing. I’ve never experienced a show that got better, and better, and better. I’ve been on a couple that started off great and dipped, but this one I think for some reason the first year we didn’t know quite what we wanted to do. We had a really good idea and implementing it – we just sort of took a scatter-gun approach, and that was a really good learning experience for us. We learned what worked well and what didn’t work well.
Second season, I think we really built on that knowledge and momentum and delivered a pretty solid season and came out the other side realizing, ‘Okay, now that we’ve introduced these characters, and now that we’ve established this world, now we’re going to have some fun. Now we can start talking about the bigger themes that we thought this show would be about and we can really start to peel away the layers of these characters and get to what’s underneath.’
And as hard as it was to shoot this season…and it was the toughest one yet…I’m really gratified at the outcome.”
Can you talk about your relationship this season with Anne (played by Moon Bloodgood)? How does having the baby on the way unite you and how does that also affect your relationship with your other children on the show?
Noah Wyle: “Well, this was a tricky one to negotiate this year because Moon Bloodgood showed up pretty pregnant in real life, which meant that we only had her for a couple of episodes before she had to fly back to California and have her baby. So that meant that we had to shoot a lot of scenes out of context with her for future episodes that hadn’t really been written yet so we could pepper her into the season. It also meant that she wasn’t going to be able to be an action hero the way that we had sort of hoped to develop her character at the end of last season when she was running around with a blowtorch frying Crawlies and looking very much a bad-ass.
So, creatively, we had to make some adjustments. But I think it worked out very well because the notion of bringing a child into the world, while it seems inherently cruel, is a biological necessity if these people are going to continue. And, it seemed appropriate that these two characters had finally put to bed their grief of the lives that they’d lost and the spouses that they’d lost. And through this baby, really forged a commitment to each other.
And I think the other kids, to a certain extent, aren’t as clingy to their father as they used to be. They’ve been sort of chomping at the bit to exercise some autonomy and some independence away from him, and this is the season they finally get it – for better or worse. There’s enough of an age disparity that there doesn’t feel like there’s any real sibling rivalry. The baby is pretty much embraced by everybody until the baby starts to exhibit very odd behavior.”
Your son, Owen, suggested you in the first place to take this role in Falling Skies. Have you been watching the series with him? Is he now regretting that dad took the role?
Noah Wyle: “No. He’s not regretting it. In fact, he gave me a really beautiful gift halfway through last season when I was on the phone with him. I was lamenting that I really missed him and I’m sorry that work had to take me away for months at a time, and he responded by saying, ‘Dad, I’m really glad you’re doing this show. I’m really happy that you’re on this show.’
He loves to come and visit the set and he has no actual older brothers, but Drew Roy and Conner Jessup and Maxim Knight, who play my sons, sort of embraced him as a little brother. And he gets to hold my machine gun and he gets to pet my horse, and he gets to work the animatronic alien head and go back to school and brag. So he’s still very happy I’m doing this show.”
Has he seen any of the series?
Noah Wyle: “Yes. He’s seen a bit of it. He doesn’t watch it regularly. It’s on a little late for him and he’s just turned 10 now, and I think he’s ready – if he shows any real interest. It’s funny, he reads the scripts so he likes me to tell him the story almost like a bedtime story of what the show’s plot is, and he seems fairly satisfied with that more than having to watch it. So until he wants to watch it, I’m happy with him sticking with Phineas and Ferb.”
You were saying a few questions back that this has been the toughest season to shoot. What made it so challenging?
Noah Wyle: “Well, there were a lot of variables. It was a particularly wet winter up there and we had a lot of practical location shoots. We integrated horses into the plot line. We had a lot of disparate storylines going all at once. You know, we came back with huge gamble creatively in initiating three or four gigantic storylines, all of which had an element of science fiction to them. And in a lot of ways, I felt that we were maybe taking too big of a risk, so it required a lot of diligence and attention to detail to make sure that we were playing these things out and that they were going to pop at the right times during the course of the season.
So, it just was a lot more work for all of us. You know, you put in your 12-1/2 to 13 hours on the set, then you’d come home and you’d look at the next day’s work, and then I’d be on the phone with the writers in LA talking about other things, since I wear a producer hat on this as well. I was more exhausted at the end of this season than I had been. But in a weird way, I’m told there’s an analogy to childbirth to be made where this kind of nice amnesia settles in after the pain and what you have to show for it makes it all seem worth. You kind of forget about how miserable it was until you try it again.”
A lot of fans are wondering if there area going to be consequences not just beyond what’s going on with Hal, but for Tom’s character because of the eye worm? Is there still something going on from you having had the eye worm inside you?
Noah Wyle: “No. There is something up with Tom, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the eye worm, and we don’t really know what that is. The eye worm manifests itself differently in Hal than it did in Tom. With Tom, it was more of a tracking device to keep the alien Red Eye and the rebel faction of the Skidders in close proximity to the Second Massachusetts. This eye worm is serving a totally different purpose, and basically creating a schizophrenic personality within Hal where he’s no longer conscious of his actions at various intervals. And that’s a really sort of terrifying prospect to have in essence a mole within our ranks. And, that’s a huge part of the season.”
This season we’re introduced to the new character of Marina, and we see that once Tom leaves at one point, she’s not exactly going by what he would want. What can you say about that new dynamic?
Noah Wyle: “Well, a couple of things. First of all, it was really gratifying to work with Gloria Reuben again. She and I played doctors on ER together for many years and I think the world of her. She’s an interesting character because at first blush she just sort of seemed like Tom’s Gal Friday who’s going to assist him in his learning curve in accepting the responsibilities of President. But then we come to realize that she’s fairly ambitious in her own right and she’s got an agenda of her own and doesn’t necessarily always agree with Tom’s decision making. So it’s just a way of creating conflict within Tom’s learning curve of power and helping plot that out.
It’s a significant part of the season. It’s not the dominant aspect of the storytelling, but she has a great character, as does bringing on Robert Sean Leonard. It’s sort of an attempt – even though we’re floating a lot of the characters right now – to bring in new people who are actors of a very high caliber. And through their characters, help reveal to a larger degree who the people that are already in place are and to peel back the layers of their character’s onion, so to speak.”
Tom gets elected to a political position this season. Could you talk a little bit about the adjustment that he has to make to be an elected leader with authority rather than just a smart guy who helps lead the resistance?
Noah Wyle: “That was a big leap. I mean, we left the character last year saying, ‘You know what? I don’t want the responsibility. I want to keep my family and the Second Massachusetts alive. In fact, I don’t really think there’s anything for us in Charleston anymore. I think we should leave.’ And he and Weaver were on the way out the door when those pods with the new aliens show up. And then the next time we see him, he’s the President of the United States. So what happened in that seven month interval? You know, we sort of had to fill in the blanks.
The way that I justified the change of heart was through this alliance. This alliance is a game-changer potentially. They bring in this technology that could actually be really effective in fighting the other bad aliens. He doesn’t really feel that he’s the President of the United States so much as just like the Mayor of a very small town, so his self-deprecating humor about his position in his sort of internal misgivings about accepting it keep him – and to help plot out the course of his leadership arc, it’s like wearing a suit that doesn’t fit very well in the beginning. And then gradually as the season unfolds, it fits him better, and better, and better. But right now, he’s sort of playing at being the President as opposed to feeling or being President.”
Can you talk about the horses introduced this season? Did you get to keep your own horse throughout the whole season?
Noah Wyle: “Yes, I stay with the same horse all season. He’s a beautiful horse. His breed is called a Tennessee Walker, which if you’re not familiar with it is a breed of horse that was sort of created in the South of the United States on plantations and they have a very distinctive gait. It’s not really a trot and it’s not really a gallop. It’s a very smooth sort of fast walk and you can cover a lot of ground very quickly, but you don’t have to post. So it’s an ideal movie horse because you look very strong in the saddle and you’re actually moving at a pretty good clip through the frame. And he was beautiful. I had a Tennessee Walker at one time, and it’s a particular horse that I have a lot of affection for. And we had a ball. There was no mishaps, and we shot in some pretty difficult locations on some pretty rocky terrain in the middle of rain storms and everybody did great. Everybody did wonderful.
How do you feel that this season really compares to the other seasons in terms of scare factor?
Noah Wyle: “Scare factor? Let me think that one through… I think it ranks pretty high. I think it ranks pretty high. I think there’s some moments in the pilot that were great. I think he had a couple of moments in the first season that were fairly terrifying. I think Season 2 was a lot better season comprehensively than Season 1. And I don’t know if it was appreciably scarier, but the storytelling is smarter and the reveals are better, and it’s more satisfying viewing.
But, there’s a couple episodes coming up latter half of the season that should be pretty terrifying.”
Could you talk a bit about Tom’s relationship with John Pope (played by Colin Cunningham)?
Noah Wyle: “Well the characters of Pope and Tom just don’t like each other, and with good reason. They’re very different men. And what Colin and I have tried to do is to really have that tension sort of simmer, and then come to a slow boil, and then boil, and then pop. And each time it pops, whether it was the third episode of Season 2 or the 5th episode of Season 3, these guys just go at it and there’s always somebody that interrupts it from coming to its final conclusion, which is one of them killing the other one.
It’s just great storytelling and really fun to play. To have a character that you keep around out of basic necessity but that you really have no affinity for. Colin’s a very smart actor. He’s a very clever actor, and you know when you work with him, he keeps you on your toes and makes you a good tennis player. We work very differently as actors, which also sort of helps that tension, because neither one of us is really aware of what the other one’s going to do, and it just tends to pop on camera as a result.”
Is Season 3 going to stick to the ten episode format of the previous two seasons? And if so, what do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of that?
Noah Wyle: “It will stick to the ten episode format, as will a probable fourth season. The advantages are better quality of life for me and an ability for the writers to be able to see the entire season and its arc at the outset, which you don’t always get. In fact, you never get when you’re shooting a 22-episode season.
When we did ER, a 22-episode season was carved up into thirds and you’d write in sort of seven episode blocks. But, that just meant that when you started the season, you had no idea where your characters were going to end up. We have the luxury of knowing where we’re going to finish and having a really good sense of the overall structure of the season. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t variables that come into play along the way. Characters become very engaging. There are some storylines that fall a little flat and you make adjustments. But when you sort of have a very clear road map of where you want it to go, it helps a lot.
It’s also a very physically demanding show, and I don’t know that we are capable of shooting anymore than ten. I think we could do 12. 14 would be a stretch. But as frustrating as it is for viewers, and believe me I get a lot of phone calls from my mother and other people saying, ‘What?! I can’t believe it’s already over. What? You know, I think it’s pretty much all we can handle.”
Do you have a favorite storyline or a scene from this season that you can tell us anything about?
Noah Wyle: “Yes. There’s an episode that’s coming up the latter half of the season, latter third part of the season. I’m not sure which number it’s going to air in because we shot it out of sequence. We shot it as the last episode of the season, but it won’t air as the last episode. It’s written by a guy named John Worth called ‘Strange Brew’ that I think is the best show we’ve done yet.”
Can you say anything about it or is it too much of a spoiler?
Noah Wyle: “It’s the first time that we really play with the concept of time within the body of an episode, and it’s just a very clever show. It’s a break with the traditional narrative form for us and it worked really, really well. I don’t know that it will go this particular well very often, but for one episode this season, it’s terrific.”
How much is Robert Sean Leonard going to be in season 3?
Noah Wyle: “Quite a bit. I think we got Bob for six out of ten. I’m trying to get him hired on as a regular ,if at all possible. I think he’s terrific. We go back a long ways, Bob and I do. We played together in a movie called Swing Kids back in the early ‘90s. And even though we never really kept in touch, I’ve always had a great deal of respect for him as an actor. And, we had an absolute ball working together.”
How does his character evolve and fit into the Second Mass?
Noah Wyle: “Well initially, we wanted a character that was sort of a subterranean dweller. Somebody who was incredibly smart. Well actually, the whole genesis of the idea came from at the beginning of Season 2 there was a character that was written for sort of an East Indian engineer that was going to be a potential love interest for the character of Lourdes. And then we ended up casting this really, really handsome African-American actor and changed the character to Jamil and he went from being an engineer to sort of an auto mechanic and it worked great. There were some really compelling storylines, especially his death. But we never quite filled the bill of what we were looking for, which was to have somebody with a lot of technical expertise who could be a bit of a MacGyver in a crisis. So that was where the idea for this new character came from. And rather than make him a fully functioning human being, we wanted him to be almost like a savant or somebody who was wounded to the extent that they were completely anti-social so that they had their own internal obstacle to get past in order to contribute to the group.
So the character’s backstory is he’s lost his family and as a result lives in the catacombs underneath the City of Charleston and is responsible for maintaining the generator system that gives us power. But we need him to do more than that, and so that’s the conflict there.”
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