“A Tech-Less Fantasy” – Under the Dome Panel at MCM London Comic Con

Under the Dome Panel (Samantha Mathis, Colin Ford, Mackenzie Lintz)_MG_8019

Having premiered on UK television in August this year, CBS‘s new adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel, Under the Dome has already built up a sizeable fan base, judging from the huge audience that flocked to MCM Comic Con‘s Under the Dome panel. Featured on the panel were actors Samantha Mathis (Dr Alice Calvert), Colin Ford (Joe McAlister) and Mackenzie Lintz (Elinore “Norrie” Calvert-Hill), who responded to all the crowd’s burning questions.

The discussion kicked off with a question about what it had been like for the actors to play their various characters in the series. According to Mackenzie Lintz, the cast were given a lot of creative licence to shape their own characters. Although it is loosely based on a book, some of the show’s characters do not appear in the original story, and many of those that do have been changed significantly, giving actors a lot more freedom than they might be granted in other adaptations.

Under the Dome Panel (Mackenzie Lintz)_MG_8029With this degree of input in mind, a member of the audience asked the panel what they thought their characters would do if given the chance to escape the dome, on condition that they left everyone else inside. Lintz spoke first, explaining that Norrie might be more torn than some of the others because she hasn’t lived in Chester’s Mill (the town covered by the dome) for very long, and never really wanted to be there in the first place. That said, Lintz feels that Norrie’s attitude towards the town changes the longer she is there, particularly as a result of her relationship with Joe, whom she would find very hard to leave behind. Similarly, Samantha Mathis believed that, as a caring and compassionate character, Alice would not abandon her loved ones, especially her daughter Norrie. Colin Ford, on the other hand, saw Joe’s reaction more in terms of a sense of duty to the town as a whole, feeling that Joe would probably stay in order to continue studying the dome and trying to discover what it actually is.

A couple of questions were asked about how much the actors had researched the medical conditions that afflict their characters. In the show, Alice Calvert is diabetic, while Joe and Norrie experience seizures induced by the dome. Mathis said that she had looked into diabetes and how it affects its sufferers lives, and also spoke about the support provided by the show’s on-set medical technician, Kristen. Despite this, she went on, it was often difficult, and she had worried about being true to people’s real experiences of the illness. Mackenzie and Colin also relied a lot on the advice of the medical tech, as well as doing some of their own research. However, in their case, a little more imagination was involved, since what their characters go through are not epileptic seizures, but instead something entirely invented.

Changing the tone a little, the actors were asked about how they relax after a day’s work. Ford replied that there was a great “sense of community” amongst the cast and crew, most of whom had to relocate and were staying on the same complex together. As a result, they spend a lot of their downtime as well as work time in each others’ company, rendering it perhaps unsurprising that, according to Lintz, a lot of pranking takes place amongst them. As an example, Lintz recounted a story about a trick played on her the night before her school prom, when the rest of the cast had fooled her into believing that they had been asked to work on Saturday, which would have prevented her from attending the big event she had been planning for weeks! Fortunately, the truth was outed just in time for her to make the trip back home.

Under the Dome Panel (Colin Ford)_MG_8027The next question was about what had first made the panelists want to work on Under the Dome. The key selling factor for all three seemed to be the big names already attached to the project, particularly Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and Jack Bender. Lintz spoke a little about remembering her mother reading the book when she was younger, and asking her questions about the story, leaving her curious to explore it for herself when she grew up. Mathis also mentioned Stephen King adaptations that she’d worked on in the past, describing her admiration for his ability to create very real-seeming characters and to show people a mirror of themselves by placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations.

Impressed by the show’s special effects, one audience member wondered whether the actors ever have anything physical to touch when they come into contact with the dome. Ford replied that, though mime is often used, they do have a large screen to work with for some scenes, as well as a plexiglas replica of the mini-dome.

Asked what they would miss themselves if trapped under the dome in real life, Lintz instantly responded that she’d hate not being able to use her iPhone. On the other hand, though a big user of technology herself, Mathis felt that taking a break from it might not be such a bad thing, since digital media and internet communication are often taken to such excesses these days that they’ve become something of an imposition in our lives. She believes that a similar “tech-less fantasy” may have been one of the ideas that prompted King to write the story in the first place.

Perhaps angling for a spoiler, one audience member asked whether all would be explained in the upcoming season finale, or if we’d still be left with questions hanging over for another series. Carefully avoiding any firm answers, however, Lintz said simply that a lot happens in the finale, “but it’s better if you just watch it”.

Finally, the three were asked what they’re up to now that they’ve finished work on Season 1. For the most part, it seems they’ve been enjoying the break and the chance to catch up with friends and family, though Ford did mention having an eye out for film work, since it’s this, rather than TV, which is his first love.

Under the Dome is currently showing in the UK on Mondays at 10pm on Channel 5. Excitingly, just before the end of the talk, Lintz revealed that Under the Dome has officially been picked up for a second season, so fans of the show will have plenty more to look forward to next year!

Under the Dome Panel (Samantha Mathis, Colin Ford, Mackenzie Lintz)_MG_8023

Photographs by Kay Ibrahim

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