If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
“You just don’t get over losing your wife, your kids or having your planet taken from you,” says FALLING SKIES executive producer and co-writer Mark Verheiden. “That’s always gonna be there no matter how many seasons the show goes.” No one in the Spielberg-stamped TNT series knows this more than Tom Mason and Anne Glass, citizens-turned-leaders at the forefront of their crucial (if not willing) anti-extraterrestrial resistance. Fango spoke with Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood on their roles in SKIES, each of which, in the wake of those losses, add to their hats of doctor, professor, neighbor - with that of improbable soldier.
If there’s one word in FALLING SKIES that begs to be held under the microscope, it’s resistance. Though that term carries its share of political connotations, the members of the SKIES’ own lack the classic anti-government rhetoric we’ve heard from revolutions past, of standing “for” or “by the people,” or against the oppression of opposing parties. Their nomination involves one requirement – that they are human. Their party is mankind.
Bloodgood, who had treaded similar waters once before in 2009’s TERMINATOR: SALVATION, failed to resist such an angle on SKIES’ genre fare herself - despite having sworn she’d never be “bah-k.” “I read [the pilot] and I didn’t know at first if I wanted to go down the science-fiction route again in my life. I was itching to do something else. Then [after] I read it, and I thought, ‘This is really good!’ This is actually not science-fiction, this is about a family and all the people that are surrounded by this family. How do they make it through and re-create any sense of normalcy in their life when they’ve got the aliens attacking them - and as farfetched as it sounds - what keeps a human being going. Those kind of philosophical questions have always attracted me to science-fiction projects. So I met Noah and Bob [Rodat] and I was into it. Noah loves all those kind of themes that we get to play upon. That’s what makes it interesting.”
Wyle is the first to agree: “One of the things that I found most appealing about the pilot script was where we can take a guy who has some expertise in one arena, and make him a fish out of water where his skill set seems totally superfluous to the matters at hand, but eventually have to take him to a place of proficiency and confidence, which affords a really juicy arc to play, “ he says. “So this guy - who really is an academic, and not a leader of men by any means - finds that, because of his familiarity with military strategy and tactics from the classroom and his ability to teach, he’s actually better served at leadership than the career militarist, [played by Will Patton], who’s used to leading trained men and not civilians.”
As civilians, being tossed into both sides of such dilemmas of violence when faced with SKIES’ hostile “Skitters” became the focal point for a number of their defining moments. “You’re a doctor - I play a pediatrician - so on one hand I’m maternal and I’m empathetic, as pediatricians have to be, it’s their job requirement. And then, yet, you’re a doctor, so you know that you have to be fair and not let your emotions get in the way, always be committed to science. But then, you’re a mother and you’ve lost your family, and you know that you’re dealing with someone like Will Patton’s character, Captain Weaver, [who’s] so singular-minded, so focused on military, that you think ‘Wait a minute, they’re all complaining to me, they’ve got my ear.’ I’m hearing that I’m not caring about the civilians. So we get to talk about what’s important. Because it’s really a war. This is war-time, supplies are down, it’s all primal again, we’re back in the jungle. And you’ve got the military and you’ve got the people. Do you sacrifice the people to then be able to fight the enemy, or do you realize that if you start sacrificing that, you miss the whole point?”
Once Tom takes his son aside and sends him to class while the rest of his peers are already cocking guns, it’s clear the duty he takes in crisis isn’t one he wants to pass on by any means. On the matter himself, though, Wyle admits uncertainty when posed with the Skitter scenario. “It’s a pretty good ethical argument,” he says. “If you play it out, what you’re saying is, ‘What’s the kind of choice? To keep my kids protected and give them some sort of childhood? Or is more advantageous to arm them and train them, and throw them out in the open?’ If they survive, their kids will have the childhood that they were robbed of. And the notion of putting child soldiers on the front line is a pretty terrifying concept. I don’t know where I’d weigh in on that one.”
Says Bloodgood of her portrayal of Anne, whose own resistance to brutality is constantly tested inside her research facility, staring down a Skitter prisoner of war partially responsible for her family’s untimely death: “I hope that I would show, like all people, we have complexities, and we struggle with things within ourselves. I don’t know a single person - and if I do, they’re angels - that don’t feel rage and violence deep inside them, and [the aliens] have stripped us all away of our comforts. We’re totally in a primal mode, where we’ve lost family members. I would probably be worse.”
“I try to be a nice person,” she continues, “but if that was me, screw the doctor, I don’t think I could hold it together. I don’t know.”
“The doctor” is challenged several times by a knowing nod to the actress’ sci-fi franchise past, with Margaret (Sarah Carter) nicknaming Anne the Terminator as she learns to fire a gun in a backwoods excursion. “Oh God, when they wrote that I was like ‘Are you guys serious?’,” she laughs. “We’re at the table read, and I don’t even look up. I’m like, ‘Really you guys?’ Flattered, obviously flattered, but like, are we being a little cheesy? [Laughs] It’s just something cute, a wink to the audience, any [fans of] TERMINATOR. But I don’t think it took the weight out of it. At one point I look at the gun and I learn how to shoot it, and I feel all these conflicting feelings about violence. Suddenly I get hurt and I realize the dangers of other humans, not just aliens. I start learning how to shoot a gun, and I’m like ‘Oh my God, I’m changing. This world has changed and I’m changing with it - and not for the better.’ [In later scenes] you’ll see me look at the gun and it’s just like, ‘What am I doing? Where did that come from?’”
Forget to blink twice, and Tom Mason’s juggling of the shards of Wyle’s prior characters (a humanitarian doctor on ER, a level-headed professor amidst apocalyptic settings in DONNIE DARKO) would seem also to amount to something of a culmination of a long line of commonality in previous roles. “You know, I’d love to say there’s some sort of grand design to build a body of work that actually resembled something, but I think it’s got more to do with the fact that I’m cast in certain roles more than others,” the actor says, ever the self-deprecate.
Stepping outside of the introspection required of Tom and Anne, the physical presence of SKIES’ creatures called for as much action, reaction and consideration from Wyle and Bloodgood as the show’s many thematic underpinnings. “It’s so interesting, like, how do you prepare for a scene with an alien?,” says Bloodgood. “There were moments when I thought ‘Oh my God, do I look ridiculous? Is this whole scene ridiculous?,’ and moments when I was really into it. I remember the director saying, ‘Look at the eyes of the Skitter. They look kind of sympathetic.’ And I was like, ‘Bingo! Totally, let me take a moment with that and think about that when I’m doing the scene.’”
“[When we did the pilot], the appearance and design, we were looking at mostly tennis balls and sticks and pieces of tape, and the camera for eye-lines,” adds Wyle on his relationship to the show’s Skitter and Mech invaders. “About halfway through the shoot we saw the first renderings of what they might look like, and by the end of the pilot shoot we saw the first digital rendering, like a 10 second loop of a thing crawling up a wall. It wasn’t really until I saw the finished cut of the pilot that I saw what they looked like in their final form.”
Moving to the next phase, the two’s mind’s-eye emoting and rapport with CG soon went the more traditional route, with the ever-classic puppeteers and men in costumes providing the jump-off point for some of the show’s more chaotic action sequences. “When we went to series, we actually built a suit and they had a puppeteer inside of it. The puppeteer’s on the ground underneath the camera frame, operating its various appendages. So after that, there are all sorts of difficulties. You didn’t need to use your imagination, but boy, the time… It was slow going,” Wyle laughs.
“I had the puppeteers around him, and they were moving his legs, his face was moving, he was moving, he was making noises,” adds Bloodgood. “Could you go, ‘I can see his real legs are underneath?’ [Laughs] Like, can I clearly see [his] shoes when I look down? Yeah. Do I need to ignore that? Sure. I can’t keep myself in the middle of it. It’s part of it, and it becomes not that big of a deal, you get used to it and kind of figure it out.”
Despite the tedium, both remain trusting in the digital rendering process to further pull FALLING SKIES’ internal struggles to the physical surface. “It becomes a game of inches,” says Wyle. “You get all that footage together, which takes hours and hours and hours, and it’s really boring - and then you cut it together and it looks dynamic.”
“When you’re doing TV, you’re learning with the writers through a script you’re getting, thinking about the aliens, and then you have your own interpretation of it. There’s something I find out later about the aliens that’s a big surprise, and I read it and thought ‘Oh my God, I had no idea that was coming,’” adds Bloodgood. “I think we’re all from the beginning just walking in the dark, and trying to figure out what the aliens are, what our relationship to the aliens are. It was much more real for me.”
FALLING SKIES premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on TNT.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment