Falling Skies cast on alien invasion and what to expect in Season Four

FALLING SKIES

As thousands of visitors descended upon the MCM London Comic Con like a peace-seeking army of alien invaders, we were given the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Colin Cunningham (John Pope), Seychelle Gabriel (Lourdes), Connor Jessup (Ben Mason), Drew Roy (Hal Mason) and Luciana Carro (Crazy Lee) of the post-apocalyptic, sci-fi series Falling Skies.

Here’s what they had to say about working on the show during a roundtable interview.

Falling Skies Panel MCM London Comic Con May 2014 (2) (Sarah Tsang)Q: Falling Skies is set in the aftermath of an apocalyptic alien invasion. Out of each of you, who would survive, if it happened in reality?

CONNOR: Us or the characters? Because Pope would do all right…

SEYCHELLE: Us.

CONNOR: Colin would be around for a while. I would be the first to die.

SEYCHELLE: Well, I’m really good at hiding.

COLIN: I was thinking about this the other day, because I have always wanted to take one of those male weekend courses where you bang a drum and learn how to make fire. I dunno how to make fire man, and I really want to learn.

DREW: It’s an apocalypse! There’ll be fire everywhere! Haven’t you been on our set?

COLIN: Can you make fire?

DREW: No.

 

Q: So we’ve established that you’d all probably perish.

All: Yeah [giggles].

 

Q: Have the roles rubbed off on you? Do you feel more equipped to take someone down?

COLIN: Sure.

SEYCHELLE: I think I could put in an IV… maybe. I could do that and be part of the rescue team.

COLIN: Wow, that’s pretty cool.

 

Q: In Falling Skies, we know that you have made contact and some aliens are friendly, but again, if it happened in reality, would you approach and try to communicate, or would you run away?

COLIN: I think about that kind of thing a lot watching alien shows on TV. If you saw Bigfoot would you run away from it, or toward it?

CONNOR: From it, 100 percent.

COLIN: Yeah, but here’s the thing. You’d be thinking, is it Bigfoot? Or just some dude in a costume? There’s only one way to find out, run towards it.

CONNOR: Oh, I’d be happy never knowing.

DREW: I might sneak toward it, sneak around and look. I wouldn’t run.

CONNOR: You’d hide in a tree and wait?

DREW: I would tip-toe.

COLIN: What was the question again?

[Everyone laughs]

 

Q: Speaking of Bigfoot, do you believe in that kind of thing?

SEYCHELLE: Yes.

COLIN: I would normally roll my eyes, but I have heard some pretty articulate and smart dudes that do believe in Bigfoot.

DREW: I heard that he’s signing downstairs later on.

[Everyone laughs]

COLIN: Cool, I’ll ask him.

 

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of the show? Is it the sci-fi or is it the family, human element?

CONNOR: As humans, I would have to say the human element, because that’s the part we latch on to. When we are on set most of the sci-fi elements aren’t there, they are either coming later or they’re digital effects, which are hard to imagine. So you really have to attach yourself onto the other characters and the drama of the moment, otherwise some of our lines would sound ridiculous in any other context.

COLIN: If you don’t care about the characters, then who gives a damn what the lasers, the aliens or the spaceships are doing? It’s definitely about the family, the Tom Mason character, the patriarch and his sons. I see it very simply as a father trying to raise his sons in the middle of a war and how to retain your humanity when your ten-year-old has just been given a rifle and told to join the fight.

CONNOR: Originally the show was conceived not so much as a sci-fi show necessarily, but as a war show. Our creator Robert Rodat always saw it more along those lines: the aliens and the sci-fi elements were almost secondary.

DREW: They are the sprinkles on top, we got a good cupcake, and they are the sprinkles.

 

Q: Family has always been a big part of Steven Spielberg’s work. How involved is he in the show?

SEYCHELLE: He’s the man behind the curtain.

[the group welcome Luciana Carro, as she joins the table]

CONNOR: He is unbelievably busy, but I’m always surprised by the level of involvement, especially around concept stuff, such as the aliens and way things look.

SEYCHELLE: Fun fact: Lexi’s hair is directly from Spielberg.

CONNOR: It sounds bad, but sometimes, you almost forget that you work for him, and then a minute but significant note will come in from Steven.

COLIN: I wondered that too when I first came into the show, but without question, he has definitely got a finger on the project.

 

Falling Skies Panel MCM London Comic Con May 2014 (1) (Sarah Tsang)Q: What do you find most so exciting about Falling Skies, and your characters in particular?

COLIN: John Pope is hands down one of the best roles that I have ever had. For me as an actor and on a personal level, I get to do all the things that I love to do and that, essentially, is not to look like me. I know what I look like, and I’m not all that impressed with my face. From the beard and the tattoos to the wig and the whole nine yards, it’s just a great part to play. The bad guy that’s not necessarily bad has always been an iconic role.

I came on as a guest star expecting to shoot one or two days, and I’ve been doing this ride now for almost five years. We’ve completed four seasons. There is not a happier actor on the planet, I often think to myself that I have the best part on the best show on television right now, and I would not trade it for anything.

SEYCHELLE: My favourite part about the show would have to be the intelligence of the aliens. My favourite storyline was when Red Eye came in and started organising the Skitters. I thought that was just the coolest thing! And then when Cochise came in…I think that it’s incredibly intriguing that they can turn against their leaders and that even Cochise turns against his cultures and traditions.

Character-wise, Lourdes has had a lot of transformations throughout the seasons: she’s been faithful, she’s been professional, she’s even been evil, and it’s been pretty cool to come at each season with a new spirit.

CONNOR: Especially since season two the show has been challenging. Most people who know me will tell you that I am remarkably ungraceful as a person. In season one I was a civilian back at base camp. I’d have conversations with people in rooms, and I was very comfortable with that. Then from season two onwards with the spikes and the fact that we are all soldiers at war now, they have turned me into a type of action hero. Suddenly I was jumping out of windows with a gun, stabbing Skitters in the mouth, and this just snowballed and escalated, and suddenly I was jumping off cliffs instead of from windows and it just kept getting bigger. It’s been a continuous challenge, but it’s also the only thing like this I have ever done, and may be the only thing like this I ever do, and that certainly keeps it exciting. As an actor it helps immensely because you watch these action movies, and you think, “Oh I could do that, it’s not that bad,” but then you realise how unbelievably hard it is, not only to do what you have to do and not die, but to also stay in character, or deliver a line.

DREW: …and all that under a time constraint, because I was going to say the physical side of things as well as the action. I didn’t know how to ride a dirt bike, but my second time on a dirt bike, and I’m cruising through a bunch of extras. I didn’t know how to ride a horse, and the third time I was on a horse I’m galloping around a group of extras.

CONNOR: Our job is to do things that other people would pay to do. We get to go on crazy rigs, ride horses, and dirt bikes. We get to do the craziest stuff as part of our job.

DREW: Our sets are just unbelievable! Anyone who works in the business with me that visits our sets is just blown away. We get to walk on and all of a sudden, we’re in a whole different world. We’re used to being in a small audition room, with white walls, where you have to imagine everything. So to have that world put in front of you is a pretty special experience. We have Doug Jones who plays Cochise, who actually looks like an alien, and that’s not to mention, on a personal level, getting to work with actors who have been in the business as long as Noah, Will and Moon. The things you picked up from them, just from a trade point of view, has been an incredible journey! Having to be in front of the camera as often as we are really helps you learn more about what you are trying to do.

LUCIANA: For me, the most amazing thing was the transformation when I went in and what they did with me. I think I was in hair and make-up longer than anybody.

COLIN: It took them that long to make her ugly.

LUCIANA: They bleached out my eyebrows; they gave me freckles and blood capillaries.

CONNOR: Your teeth.

DREW: That was my favourite part, they were disgusting.

LUCIANA: That was my idea. They kind of did it a little, and I said, “Well if you’re going to do it, you may as well go all out and make them rotten.” What was so funny is that you’re usually conscious of the camera, and what makes you look good, and I could just go all-out ugly and make the ugliest faces. It was so freeing as an actor, and I love playing those character roles! Just being a warrior, and like Drew said, learning to ride a bike, and learning how to shoot guns. It was an amazing experience! Sometimes I would forget that I looked like that and my teeth looked so rotten, and I would be chatting with people at lunch, laughing and smiling and they would all turn away.

DREW: We have a lot of crew parties, and Luciana would turn, and nobody would recognise her.

LUCIANA: I went to the first Christmas party that we had, and I had only been on the show for about two months or so, and most people had only really seen me as Crazy Lee. So I show up, and nobody is talking to me, I thought, “Oh my God, nobody likes me.” I went to the bar and was like, “Hey guys” and they were like, “Oh, hey,” thinking I’m a fan or something. Then when I finally got back in my car because I was going to leave early, thinking that everybody on the show hates me… as I was leaving, the DP said, “Luciana? Crazy Lee?” and I said,”Yeah”. “Oh my God,” he said. “Nobody knew you were here!”

 

Q: We have a lot of films and TV shows that deal with alien invasion. What do you think it is about Falling Skies that sets it apart from all the rest?

DREW: I think it just boils down to the chemistry and who we are as a cast. I think we all were incredibly lucky, from the pilot. Noah played our father, and took on a really fatherly role with us, and we all just get along so well. We’re here in London, and we all go out together. We all went out yesterday, and will again tonight. We’ve all gotten together and get along really well. So I’d say that’s an aspect of it, and I think that we change our writing staff so often makes it interesting too. It’s hard to guess where [the show] is going to go, which I suppose can be difficult because you want the control of knowing where your character is going, but I think it’s better when it’s left up to a whole new group of people to come in and put their stamp on it, whilst still paying respects to where we have been. I really enjoy it when we get a new writing staff.

CONNOR: One way of differentiating us from other alien invasion shows is that from the get-go we had a slightly different concept. Most alien invasion shows focus on the invasion part, whereas we start six months after the event. The focus has always been different. I guess there are similar themes and tones, but the ramifications of that original decision have impacted on our show.

SEYCHELLE: This season is really interesting too, because we all get separated right at the beginning and have these very different storylines. One is reminiscent of the holocaust and reform schools, another is very reminiscent of the ghettos and people getting trapped in them and one is very free in this creepily happy way that’s magical and weird.

COLIN: There is a cultish quality surrounding it.

SEYCHELLE: There are all these drastically different environments this season, and they are all really cool.

CONNOR: It’s a weird season, because we are very used to getting up and going to lumber mills and abandoned factories, and things like that. There is a very grey colour scheme that we’re used to. This year, as Seychelle said, we get split up. Some of the groups are in environments like that, but some of us aren’t – we are in these colourful places and alternatively designed locations. It almost felt like a different show.

 

Q: Looking to the future, where would you like to see you characters go?

COLIN: I would like to see Pope perhaps become an even bigger problem for Mason and really give a significant measure of his power to become the bad guy. It’s always good to be the bad guy. I would also like to see Pope continue as he was. This season he was stripped of some of his power which was really interesting, so I’d like to see him rebuild.

SEYCHELLE: I want her to be happy. I want to see her fall into herself and really kind of show who she is.

CONNOR: This season a lot of us got to work with characters that we hadn’t really interacted with before. Most of us are used to relatively small circles. With me it’s always been my family members, but this year I got to expand outside that a little bit, so if I can get the chance to work with some of the other cast members that I haven’t really spent much time with in the show, that would be cool.

DREW: I’d love to see Hal hop onto one of the Beemers, then go off with the aliens in space and get a spin-off. [Everyone laughs] I’m kidding.

With what happens in the second half, this season is a very transformative year for Hal, so I’m really excited as to where it could go in the fifth season. It’s hard for me to talk about what direction that would be without giving things away. But I’m as excited now as I was at the end of the second season when Hal was going through the “evil Hal” side of things, because it was setting up something that was different from the way he usually is. I feel that, in a way, it’s a whole other side of Hal that we could possibly see in the next season. So I’m just going to hold my hands up and let the writers take it wherever they are going to take it.

LUCIANA: I would like to see Crazy Lee come back to life. I would have loved to have seen the vulnerable side to Crazy Lee and how she turned out to be the way she was.

 

Q: Can you give us any spoilers for the upcoming season?

DREW: We all die! [everyone laughs]

LUCIANA: I die again.

DREW: I am always shocked at the teasers that they release.

CONNOR: At the start of a season, before we go out on these press things, they always send us these long lists of things we can and can’t talk about, and it’s usually understandably rigid, but then we start seeing the trailers that come out and they have the most insane spoilers you have ever seen. They must not be sending the same list out to the marketing guys.

CONNOR: Well, Lexi comes back and we get to see some crazy stuff happening with her.

SEYCHELLE: She is sort of the sun that we rotate around.

CONNOR: Yeah, she is one of the core elements this season. Like in every other season, the scope of the show is getting larger. In season one we were the second mass, the rebellion, with around a hundred people on the east coast, and then every season its gotten progressively larger. Our knowledge of the mythology has increased, and this season is no different.

DREW: The one thing I really like about the upcoming season is that we have so far seen each other react with the two or three people that we usually interact with the most, over and over and over, but this season starts off with us separated into four groups. You get to see people paired with other people that you haven’t really seen interact before, and for me that was really fun to see. It wasn’t so much with my character, but for you guys….

COLIN: I think, overall, everyone has toughened up a lot. If anything, Pope maybe getting a little battle fatigue throughout the season. Originally it started off with civilians forced into a situation, but now I think everyone is pretty much a soldier or a warrior, so I think everyone has become a little more battle-hardened in this season.

 

Q: Falling Skies is very much sci-fi, but what does the term sci-fi mean to you?

COLIN: I think it’s one of the few genres, even though they are all limitless in a sense, that really represents the imagination more than any other, because it literally is anything. So for me, sci-fi is ultimately the last genre. It’s the genre of the mind. It’s also becoming very modern. I mean, today, we are living in a very sci-fi world.

CONNOR: I always associate science-fiction with intelligent story telling. I grew up reading Phillip Dick and Ray Bradbury, these very thoughtful, considerate and almost metaphorical stories. It’s a very rich medium for storytelling.

 

Q: Do you have a favourite sci-fi film?

SEYCHELLE: I love Alien.

CONNOR: I’m a Blade Runner guy.

LUCIANA: Oh, I love Blade Runner!

DREW: Jurassic Park.

CONNER: Do you think that’s sci-fi?

DREW: Do you see any dinosaurs running around?

CONNOR: Yeah, I suppose it is science-fiction.

 

Falling Skies, Season 4 premieres in the US in June, reaching Fox UK on 15th July.

 

Photos by Sarah Tsang

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