How cool is it that you’re essentially on every ‘Falling Skies’ poster with that alien symbiot on your back?
Connor Jessup: Yeah, I know. I lucked out on that one, I think.
There’s a cool story behind that photo. We were doing the photo-shoot for the show and all the photos that you see of the show kind of come from that day and they were planning to do these ones of me in the end with just me and my back and then they thought that they didn’t have enough time. Then they thought that they’d squeeze a few in, and so they really kind of rushed the setup and thought that they’d get some just in case, and apparently they liked it a lot because it’s everywhere.
Every time I think about ‘Falling Skies’ I think about that poster.
Connor Jessup: I live in Canada so I don’t get as much exposure to it, but I have friends in L.A. and New York and across the U.S. telling me that it’s everywhere.
This is the most anticipated show here in our editorial room.
Connor Jessup: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a few of the episodes myself and it’s really great. I’m very impressed by it.
Can you talk about how you got the part of Ben, the son of Noah Wyle’s character?
Connor Jessup: It came across my computer just like any other audition, but it was immediately different from any other audition, too, because when I got the audition it was under the title ‘Untitled Steven Spielberg Alien Invasion Pilot’. That’s the title that I was sent, and of course all those other words were kind of blurry and all I could focus on was Steven Spielberg.
It’s crazy because I have a lot of auditions up here, but nothing with something of that pedigree. So, it was instantly exciting, but also I think at the same time, because it was so big, we kind of assumed that it’s just one of those things that everyone in the world would be auditioning for. So, we kind of wrote it off, and then I happened to get it. I got the pilot and we shot that in 2009, and then they auditioned me again, six months later, for the bulk of the series because they wanted to make sure that they’d made the right decision. So I had to audition for the role twice which was stressful, to say the least, and then I got it again the second time. It was crazy. It’s wasn’t the most dramatic auditioning process, but definitely a life changing one.
Can you talk about Ben and his role in the overall story?
Connor Jessup: Ben’s a very interesting character in my opinion because he’s at the center of a lot of the mysteries in the show. For the first part of the show, at least, one of the main plots of the series is Noah Wyle’s character, Tom, and Drew Roy’s character, Hal, trying to rescue me. But that plays into one of the greatest mysteries in the show which is why the aliens are kidnapping teenagers in the first place and why are they putting these weird alien symbiotes on their back. That ties into the greater mystery of who are these aliens, what do they want, why they are which is the central mystery of the show. Ben and his character development, and again, I can’t say a lot, but Ben and his character development throughout the series really ties into those mysteries quite deeply. That’s the very exciting thing about playing that character, and I guess that I could say that the more you learn about Ben the more that you learn about the aliens.
Did you start production with everyone else on the set?
Connor Jessup: I came in about two weeks later because of the way that we shoot. I didn’t start too much later. I started a week or two later than everyone else because the first few episodes I’m not featured heavily, but the back nine are heavy for me, the back latter half.
What was it like working with Noah Wyle?
Connor Jessup: Awesome. Because he played my dad I got to spend a lot of time with him doing scenes. A lot of my scenes are with him, and he is really not only an incredible actor to work with, but also just an incredible guy because he’s so experienced. He’s done something like two hundred and fifty episodes of ‘ER’ or something crazy like that. He just brings this cool, calm confidence to every scene that he’s in. It shows onscreen and it shows in the other actor’s performances because it rubs off. It just makes it much easier to work and be confident.
For a relatively inexperienced actor like me, he’s kind of the dream coworker because of that, and also he’s just a really nice person, very compassionate and a very kind actor. He doesn’t try to steal the spotlight from anyone. He tries to give you a spotlight. He’s just a nice person. I had some fun chess games with him. We’re very similar. We’re both kind of heady. He’s a really smart guy and really interesting to talk to. The entire cast was, actually. We were lucky enough to have a really all around fantastic cast on this show. That’s one of the best parts of working on it.
For being a relatively inexperienced actor, as you said, you’ve already been a writer/producer and actor.
Connor Jessup: I’m a huge a film buff. That’s kind of my passion, as anyone that knows me will tell you. From a young age I tried to diversify myself, and I see myself in the future as a filmmaker. So, last year I executive produced a feature called ‘Amy George‘. It’s playing at a few films festivals. Right now it’s playing at the Brooklyn Film Festival. I have written and directed a few short films. I wrote a play. I love everything to do with this business and I want to do as much as I can and learn as much as I can, too. I’m young.
So, would filmmaker be your preferred path if you could just pick one?
Connor Jessup: Yes, I think it would. Acting is amazing. It’s really awesome. You learn a lot. You meet a lot of cool people. It’s a fun job. But there’s something about filmmaking, writing and directing, that’s rewarding on a completely different level because you follow it from preproduction to production to postproduction to release and there’s something more fulfilling in that full cycle. There’s something almost more creative, for me at least. I love acting and I think I’ll always try and do it, but filmmaking is where I see myself, at least now.
And you just ‘Bye, Bye Blackbird‘, is that correct? Can you talk about that?
Connor Jessup: Yeah. It’s a Canadian indie film called ‘Bye, Bye Blackbird‘. It’s a really awesome script with a first time director, first time writer who’s worked on the movie for four years. I got cast as the lead. I’m in every scene in the movie which is unlike anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never played a lead to that extent.
How was that?
Connor Jessup: It was pretty rigorous, but also awesome at the same time. I learned a lot. It was a very collaborative experience with our director and our DP and all the creative people onboard. It was great. I learned a lot about indie filmmaking and about filmmaking in general, I think. The kind of stuff that I learn on things like that and on every project that I’m involved with, you can’t really learn in film school I think. It’s the experience of it, the day to day working on the set and working with these people. It’s hard to learn outside of that environment. I feel so lucky to be able to do that everyday.
Can you compare and contrast working on a TV set with working on a film set?
Connor Jessup: It’s really interesting that I went from ‘Falling Skies‘ to ‘Bye, Bye Blackbird‘ because they’re so different. ‘Falling Skies‘ is big budget. It’s large. It was a long shoot because it’s a TV series. So we shot for four or five months, and it was pretty intense and it’s an action show. Whereas ‘Bye, Bye Blackbird‘ is a relatively short, twenty day shoot. It’s incredibly intensive, but it’s a drama, a character study. It’s incredibly small budgeted, and to go from both extremes was really interesting as an actor and a future filmmaker because they’re so different. ‘Falling Skies‘ is fun because there’s always something exciting happening on set. There’s always a car blowing up or flipping over or some CGI effect getting planned out. That’s something that I’ve never seen before. I’d never worked with visual FX or pyrotechnics. It was exhilarating and the people were amazing, too. But on ‘Bye, Bye Blackbird‘ it was really all about the character. There was no CGI. There was no pyrotechnics, no cars flipping over. But at the same time, because I was the lead I had to focus much more on character development and just the performance. I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other. They’re so different. It’s like working at an agency like UTA, a big multi-national agency, to a boutique agency. They both have their benefits. It can be interesting to go back to ‘Falling Skies‘ if we do get lucky enough to get a second season.
It would be a travesty if you didn’t.
Connor Jessup: And you said you saw some of the episodes. I haven’t seem them recently, but I saw them a months ago and I was impressed. I read a few preview review things from some online writers and everyone seems to be happy. I guess I have to cross my fingers and hope that it gets picked up.
If there were a real alien invasion, what tips would you have for people?
Connor Jessup: If we had a real alien invasion I would suggest hiding, and run, at least in the beginning, which is what the survivors did in ‘Falling Skies‘. All the characters you see are there because they hid and because they ran. We’ve seen enough ‘Independence Day’ type movies to know we stand a chance right off the bat. We have to retreat and get together and consolidate our forces and make sure that we fight in the most efficient way possible because one person can’t do a lot against this force. But one person as a part of a guerilla militia or as a part of a human resistance can, and I think that’s important.
I think the message of ‘Falling Skies‘ as opposed to some other post-apocalyptic shows which revolve an individual or a group of individuals, in ‘Falling Skies‘ humans band together in groups of hundreds which I think is a unique vision because it’s a more hopeful vision almost. It says that we can work together in this environment and that we can work to make our lives better, and that’s what ‘Falling Skies‘ is about. If there was a real alien invasion or a zombie invasion or any kind of apocalypse, it’s kind of like the ‘Lost‘ mantra, right? Live together. Die alone.
When you went into hiding what would be something that you’d take with you? A lot of people on the show couldn’t take everything when they were leaving.
Connor Jessup: Some of my books. I don’t think I could live without my books. I find it funny. There’s a scene in the pilot, as you know, where Noah’s character tries to decide between one of two books and I think it was ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea‘ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities‘ and I forget which one he picked, but I think it’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. That was a very understandable dilemma for me because I think I should probably pick something like matches or duct tape or food, but I think I’d have to pick my books because I don’t think that I could live without them.
If you could guest star on any show on television which one would it be?
Connor Jessup: I think I would have to pick ‘Game of Thrones‘ on HBO. I started watching that show a few weeks ago and that show is really, really awesome. My favorite TV show before that, and I know it’s a mini-series, was ‘The Wire‘, and I don’t know if I’d fit in that well on that show. But it was an amazing show. It’s run it’s course now though. I’m also a big fan of ‘Mad Men‘ and ‘The Walking Dead‘. I know that ‘The Walking Dead‘ is somewhat similar to ‘Falling Skies‘, thematically at least. It’s refreshing that there’s a lot of really good TV shows these days. There’s a lot to watch and a lot of exciting stuff on the plate.
(Top Photo Credit: Josh Madson)