FALLING SKIES Interview: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy and Co-Exec. Producer Mark Verheiden


You probably already know this, but TNT’s new series, FALLING SKIES, is the show to watch this summer. The series follows a group of survivors six months after an alien invasion, who are trying to fight back.

Some of the series stars including Noah Wyle (ER, The Librarian) who plays Tom Mason, Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation) who plays Anne Glass, Drew Roy (Secretariat) who plays Hal Mason, and co-executive producer Mark Verheiden recently took some time to answer questions about the show, and of course Daemon’s TV was there to bring you all the dirt. You can also see more photos from the event here.

Falling Skies premieres tonight, Sunday June 19 at 9pm on TNT, don’t miss it.

[To Drew Roy] From ‘Hannah Montana’ to this. That’s a big contrast. Were you always attracted to science fiction or action? What made you want to do this?

Drew Roy: Definitely to action and science fiction was just a bonus on top of that. What drew me to the project was that they wanted to hire me. [laughs] It was a bonus that it was an amazing project. Going from ‘Hannah Montana’ to this was quite a jump. I wouldn’t change anything. I had a great time on ‘Hannah Montana’ and the whole Disney thing, but definitely nice to have moved on, especially to something like this.

[To Noah Wyle] How fun is it to go into a show that has interpersonal relationship and the family aspect instead of it just being a genre show?

Noah Wyle: That was pretty key for me wanting to be involved with it. But as I’ve said to a couple of people today. We had the security and knowledge of knowing that the spaceships and aliens were going to be well taken care of given Mr. Spielberg’s involvement. So it became our responsibility to make sure that the level of continuity among the cast, whether that’s in terms of establishing a certain level of threat or tension or menace was consistent and that beat by beat, moment to moment, character to character we were playing the scenarios out as close to and as a realistic way as possible.

Since you’ve done ten episodes of the show what’s your number one tip on kicking alien butt?

Moon Bloodgood: Wow. I guess any sharp object that’s really close to the face, anything that can paralyze them. I guess you just have to be in close contact and have enough balls to do it, to execute it.

Noah Wyle: I got a really fun .50 machine gun myself.

Drew Roy: I’d say the more the merrier. You don’t want to go in one on one.

Moon Bloodgood: I did and I took them down. I don’t know about these boys. I’m just saying, I had this little knife. I just didn’t have a gun. More hand to hand.

Noah Wyle: Yeah. I did have a gun.

Drew Roy: I didn’t have a gun.

[To Moon Bloodgood] Did you any research into the doctor stuff or just ask Noah [Wyle] for info?

Moon Bloodgood: Every time I did an interview he gave me so many tips. Someone asked me that today, and it was great because he kind of gave me the tricks that make movie making what it is, but still being believable as a doctor. But I’m a pediatrician. So I’m not like a surgeon. But he was helping me with CPR and giving me a tip about, like, it’s a real guy there and I don’t want to press on his chest too hard, and so how to use my hands in a way that was believable, but then use my knee to move the table and give it that full effect which was really effective. He’s smiling, but he was on me and I was like, ‘Yes, sir.’ Like how to wear my stethoscope. I asked him all kinds of questions, like, ‘I want to be believable. Show me the way.’ He’s the veteran.

Noah Wyle: A good student.

[To Mark Verheiden] The personal side and the action side, how do you balance all that out in each episode to please everybody?

Mark Verheiden: Well, that’s the trick of figuring out the show, balancing that. I have this theory about working on genre – I’ve done a lot of science fiction – which is if the emotional side works then the science fiction comes with it. I think we sat down with every episode and tried to figure out the emotional story of our characters. Obviously, so much was keyed up in the pilot. Noah’s character is looking out for his three sons. Anne Glass has lost her family. Drew is a kid who’s trying to figure out how to grow up in a world where he dropped his bicycle and now has a gun. So we had this great world that we could play in and the balance was making sure that we supported the emotional stories. I don’t think the show is a show without those stories. It’s just stuff.

Did you feel that Steven Spielberg felt the time was right for this show to happen, the message of this show? What was the idea behind the show?

Mark Verheiden: I think the idea sprung out of the idea of almost like re-fighting the Revolutionary War, in a way. Tom Mason is a history professor who knows a lot about the Revolution. So there was a bunch of ragtag guys in 1776 who fought against an incredibly stronger force in the British and won. Now we have the same situation, considerably more dire, I think, and so our guys are getting together and forming a resistance and trying to find a way to fight back. At the same time they’re trying to hold onto the things that are human, along with their family and friends, the core things that make life worth living. It’s not about hanging on by your fingernails and trying to kill aliens. How do we hold on to what we were and how do we get that again?

You do have the ability to make the aliens sympathetic. Does that open up doors for you?

Mark Verheiden: Well, they’re not wholly sympathetic. You understand more about them as the show goes on, exploring the why, why they’ve come and what they’re trying to accomplish and why they’re taking our kids is a part of what we’ll explore. They obviously have reasons for what they’re doing. Whether that makes them wholly sympathetic, I’m not sure. They demolished eighty percent of mankind. Sympathetic is going to be a long way to go. Understanding though is something that we can do.

Moon Bloodgood: I did feel like the alien face was made more sympathetic. When I looked at his face it was kind of sad. Was that intentional?

Mark Verheiden: It didn’t stop you.

Moon Bloodgood: I still cut its throat out. You have to do what you have to do.

What do you hope that Mark [Verheiden] lets your characters do at least some time during the series?

Moon Bloodgood: A love making scene. Come on, Drew. He wants to take his shirt off.

Drew Roy: No. I was worried that was going to happen in season one. It never happened.

Moon Bloodgood: In season two, I heard. We want to see those abs. I need a peek.

Drew Roy: I’m sure there’s something.

Noah Wyle: My mother is an orthopedic nurse and she forbid all of us kids to ever get on a motorcycle. She called them donor-cycles. For most of my life I never got on one, and then suddenly we got this script and it said, ‘Tom gets on his motorcycle and goes peeling out through the thing.’ I thought, ‘Oh, my God, how am I going to do this?’ I went out and had a little lesson and I don’t come naturally to motorcycles. So I hope they write me some more because I’d like to get better at it.

Moon Bloodgood: I would like two things. I’d love to have more stuff with the women. I think I do so much male driven stuff. There were a couple of times when I scenes with, say, Seychelle [Gabriel] and Sarah [Carter] that something shifted in the scene. There was something more, not feminine, but more gentle. It was something that I hadn’t gotten to do. So for my own selfish reasons I’d love to do more stuff with the women and see where that goes, and then of course we all worship Will Patton. I would love to just take him down. No, I’m just kidding. I’d like to go to toe to toe with Noah’s character and Will Patton. Did you hear that, Mark?

And Mark [Verheiden] what ideas do you want to see?

Mark Verheiden: Well, let’s bring the show back. We’ve obviously talked about things. So we’ll see what happens.

Speaking of which, are they talking about giving a season two order?

Noah Wyle: I think that’s really a practical decision because it takes so long to do the preproduction and the postproduction on these shows that if we didn’t have a couple of scripts in the pipeline when they do give the pick up order, should they give the pick up order after these couple of episodes air, we’d be really behind the eight ball to get back to the same kind of airing schedule. So a couple already done make a difference.

Do you have an arc for five years, ten years?

Mark Verheiden: I think Bob Rodat has a lot of thoughts. He wrote the bible and in season one we looked at that a lot. The question of season two is more of a TNT question, I think, in terms of pick up, but maybe go back to the source and have discussions with him, too. But there’s certainly templates out there.

This show is big on the family angle. I sense that’ll be with the aliens, too. How did you guys bond when you first started the show?

Noah Wyle: Just drinking.

Moon Bloodgood: Just bonding through drink. But you spent a lot of time with the family, went to dinners –

Noah Wyle: Yeah, I spent a lot of time there. When this airs the pilot will be two years old. So, we did the pilot and then we had a year of waiting around to see if we were going to commit to making a show and we all saw each other intermittently during that period of time. Then shooting on location is always a bonding act to any kind of production, when you’re not around any of your own creature comforts or your own distractions. You spend a lot more time socializing with your fellow workers than you normally would if you were shooting at home.

So that got a family going?

Noah Wyle: It definitely becomes that, and shooting practical locations as opposed to studio work is even more so because you’re thrown into basically holding rooms or garages or wherever is out of the elements which were coming down all around us. Shooting in very cold conditions also has a bonding aspect to it.

Moon Bloodgood: And the late nights, the night shooting.

Noah Wyle: And then if you work long enough hours all week long you want to blow some steam off on the weekends. So we’d go out and kick our heels up together.

Moon Bloodgood: We watched him play amazing pool.

Noah Wyle: Yeah, that’s good fun, for people to watch me play pool.

Moon Bloodgood: It was. I’m not kidding you. I really did enjoy that. He’s a really great pool player. We found a couple of spots. There was one place with one pool table and that was it. We wanted to see how long he would last. I don’t think he ever lost. He didn’t. He’s really good.

[To Noah Wyle] In filming the scene where you killed the creature, did you actually see it while you were doing it or not until later?

Noah Wyle: In terms of the special FX I’d break it down, I’d say, into almost equal thirds. A third of it was green screen work where we were reacting to pieces of tape and tennis balls. A third of it was a puppeteer in a suit with other puppeteers working limbs just below the camera frame. Then another third was probably just an appendage or a limb that would come into frame –

Moon Bloodgood: A claw.

Have you seen the show that’s going to air and were you surprised with the finished creature?

Noah Wyle: The puppeteer in the suit, as talented a man as he is; it’s an incredibly labor intensive apparatus to work with. The legs require individual puppeteers to move them. There’s a guy in the suit that’s incredibly constricting which apparently deprives him of oxygen for periods of time. So he had to be given lots of breaks and cooled down. Those were very time consuming sequences. It’s a game of inches. You want this piece and you want this piece and this pieces. So it wasn’t until I watched the finished cut that I went, ‘Oh, my God, it looks like I’m really fighting that thing.’

What happened to the Karen character? Will we found out?

Noah Wyle: Yeah. She comes back.

[To Noah Wyle] Is this show like a little birthday present to you and is turning forty something that’s alien to you?

Noah Wyle: Yeah, it’s the gift that keeps on taking. The concept of turning forty doesn’t seem alien at all. I’m ready for it. I’m not thrown by it in the least bit.

[To Noah Wyle] Why did this show make you want to return to TV?

Noah Wyle: The truth is that my kids are starting to get a little annoying, a little demanding the older they get. They want to talk and they want to eat and do all this stuff.

[laughs]

Moon Bloodgood: How dare they?

Noah Wyle: I actively stayed away from doing another TV show, but I didn’t stay away from working. I have a theater company here in town that I redoubled my efforts in with. I took off and did some little parts in movies here and there, but I really wanted the bulk of my time to be spent being a presence in my kids’ lives. Then Michael Wright at TNT has been incredibly generous each year, showing me all the pilots he’s thinking about putting into production. I read this one and weighed the ten episode time commitment against what had been a twenty four episode time commitment and thought that this might actually be perfect. This would afford me a chance to go off and scratch an itch and still have a quality of life at the same time. So I jumped in.

Have you seen the difference in cable and also the fact that social media is such a big part of things now? Has that affected your job at all?

Noah Wyle: It certainly helps this job in a way. When we went to Comic Con to start talking about it, to debut it, we hadn’t even shot a frame of footage yet. Because of the viral campaign that had been spread around it teed up a level of anticipation that I don’t think any of us were prepared for. That’s an aspect to marketing that I’m really excited to see how it plays out and how it translates into viewership for us.

And working on a cable show as compared to network?

Noah Wyle: The paradigm has changed completely. I think weekly I laugh at some actors on a new show that used to make fun of me for being on TV. I see who’s off doing a film job and now slowly they all come back around. Everyone comes back around, but I think the reason is twofold. One is there’s a lot less variety in films being made. There’s a lot less film work for really credible actors. I think really credible actors are starting to recognize that there’s been incredible writing on television for a very long time, that they’ve been very snobbish about. So the talent pool is very rich to work in.

Making consistent money is very hard to do these days. The days of being able to do three episodic jobs a year and make your nut are over. So you have to start thinking, especially if you have a family, a lot more practically in terms of those things. And with the success of cable shows it’s a bit of an un-level playing field, but a lot of the things that hamstring network writers are taken off the table immediately. Not just in terms of language, but in terms of sophistication of subject matter and not having to write act breaks for commercials also makes a huge difference in terms of the flow of a piece. So there’s all sorts of reasons why it’s really exciting to be on cable right now.

Can you talk about the character of your son, Ben, who disappeared and you found him and the element of the harness and what that does to a human’s personality?

Noah Wyle: Sure. That dominates a huge portion of the early part of the season. My middle son, Ben, has been kidnapped as have a lot of adolescents and pressed into a slave workforce. The way they’re pressed into this service is through this harness that’s a biological attachment that fuses to the kids’ spine and turns them into a walking zombie where they have sympathetic thoughts to the alien that’s in control of them. Retrieving these kids has been something that we’ve been trying to do. De-harnessing them is something that we’ve been unsuccessful at doing. So it’s not just a question of rescuing him, but it’s a question of de-harnessing him and then what are the long lasting effects of having worn the harness for as long as he has and what do we learn about the aliens through that process becomes really a pivotal turning point midway through the season.

By the end of the season what have you each learned about your characters?

Drew Roy: Hal goes from just being this kid in the beginning to growing into a man by the end of the series through these different battles and women, just going after his brother. So, having lost his brother and having this desire to get him back, going after that I think he learns a lot about himself and makes him grow up a lot quicker.

Noah Wyle: I’d say in the pilot episode my guy is very still an academic. He’s been living the life of an academic most of his adult life, and while he’s pretty well versed in military strategy and planning from a historical perspective I think he feels those are pretty soft skills to bring to the table in this moment of dire need. As the body of the episodes go on he realizes that that’s actually a good skill set to have because he’s bringing to it the contemplative nature of a teacher and a very extensive knowledge about military hierarchy and training and tactic. But he’s not really dogmatically adhered to either one. So he’s able to fuse the two and create a new leader which is the idea of a warrior statesman that we were trying to throw around.

Moon Bloodgood: I guess for me it was more interesting that I admired Anne Glass in different ways from myself, just the calm, the unrelenting support of Tom Mason, always keeping my cool and never letting my emotions play into anything, and even having a hard time delving into my past and that trauma. I kind of unravel at some point which was nice to do and then I string it all back together. It’s just always being level headed and very different from myself. Watching I thought, ‘God, I wonder what I’d be like in this situation? I don’t think I’d be as fair, as cool,’ but I definitely would like to believe that I’d be as maternal. My character is very much the woman who stands by her man. She’s still strong on her own. I think the greatest women are probably the ones who know when to say something and when not to say something.

Noah Wyle: When to give the man the illusion of power.

Moon Bloodgood: Yes, very good. Then always just seem supportive in the end. It was interesting watching her being written because I have to observe it as it’s happening and unfolding, not knowing where it’s going to go. Whereas when you do a movie you know what that character is going to do, and here you’re finding out things every week and going, ‘Okay, that’s the road I’m going down this week.’

Are we going to see specifics from history brought into the show?

Mark Verheiden: I think it’s allegorical more. I don’t think you need specifics or tactics pulled out of, but we do discuss that.

The character is aware of this war allegory going on, but are you looking at history and pulling from that, say, the Revolutionary as mentioned earlier?

Mark Verheiden: When we sat to work up the nine hour series we did think a lot about French resistance, movies like ‘Private Ryan’ and movies like ‘The Great Escape’. We were trying to get a sense of a resistance that’s up against incredible odds, the sort of things that they might do or not do, but in terms of actual callbacks to historical events we actually do that a little in the graphic novel which is interesting. They talk about Paul Revere’s ride and use that as a clue to get you to a church where they discuss tactics. But in the series I think it’s more of the allegory that they’re in Boston and this is where the revolution happened. So that colors, certainly early on, the thought process, but we don’t go into specifics.

If you had to pick your favorite alien sci-fi movie which one would it be?

Moon Bloodgood: ‘Alien’. Really, I just love it. I think it’s so brilliant and timeless. You won’t beat that, Noah.

Noah Wyle: I saw it when we were shooting the pilot, but I thought that ‘District 9’ was terrific.

Moon Bloodgood: We saw that all together.

Noah Wyle: Go ahead, beat that, Drew.

Drew Roy: Things aren’t so vicious in this one, but ‘E.T.’

[And the room went ‘awwww’]