Humanity’s clash with some out-of-this-world enemies continues this Sunday at 9/8c, when TNTs Falling Skies launches its third season. With the action picking up seven months later, we learn that Tom Mason (played by Noah Wyle) now carries a loftier title than “Professor”; the ETs that met in the finale appear to be more friend than foe; and the creepy cliffhanger involving Hal has had surprising repercussions. (Oh, and Anne is in for a mother of a surprise!) Showrunner Remi Aubuchon previews the series’ return.
TVLINE | If Season 1 was about introducing us to the 2nd Mass and Season 2 was about them meeting and aligning with others, what would you say the theme is for Season 3?
A lot of Season 3 is about taking action, and the theme that we’re actually playing with is “What price victory?” In other words, how much are you willing to sacrifice? And since we follow Tom Mason, it’s really his dilemma. Here he is now, “the President of the New United States,” whatever that means. He has decided to align himself with aliens [the Volm] who seem to have the technology and know-how to beat back [the Espheni]. But at the same time, his family is in a number of crises that he’s not really paying attention to. And his own moral compass is sorely tested also, because just out of revenge or whatever, he wants that final victory and seems to be using any way to get it.
TVLINE | The season opens with a sizable time jump, seven months. What do you gain with that?
First of all, I think you can tell the story of getting to know new aliens, of Tom deciding to stay and become president, Anne getting more and more pregnant and learning how to run alien devices, but thought it would be more exciting to jump right into the middle of it and let the audience catch up. I also thought it would be a way to really get right to the moment of the big crisis that Tom’s facing.
TVLINE | What does making Tom president change for the character? Because he’s still going into battle, no matter what other people say.
As a professor you talk a lot about other presidents, you seem to be able to put history into some sort of context and linear order. So I think there is something interesting about an academic suddenly deciding to do the real job. Tom is an interesting leader character in the sense that I think we identify with him as an Everyman in some respects — I mean, he’s a smart guy, he’s a courageous guy, but for the most part he’s not Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s not an action hero that kills everything in its path and thinks about it later. So to see him making crucial decisions is very interesting, and certainly Noah does a wonderful job of showing his struggle to find the right path.
TVLINE | Was it in realizing this idea of Tom as president that you developed Gloria Reuben’s character, Marina? You decided, “We need a chief of staff type?”?
There were a couple of reasons for bringing in Gloria’s character. The first is that we wanted someone who had not only experience in government but also had a history with Charleston and the infrastructure of how Manchester (played by Terry O’Quinn) created that group of people in the first place. The other thing is that we wanted someone Tom could bounce off of and admit his concerns and doubts to; I don’t think Anne is necessarily that character. Now, more happens with Gloria’s character than just that, but that was our initial “in.”
TVLINE | Speaking of Anne, I think we can reveal that her pregnancy does not come without “complications.” When will you really drop the boom on that storyline?
Fairly quickly, actually. You see hints of [the complication], and the question mark at the beginning is, “Is it in Anne’s mind, or is it really happening?” Either one of those makes it something you should be concerned about. That will actually pay off throughout the entire season, but we will definitively know what’s going on by midseason, for sure.
TVLINE | One of the premiere’s “What the heck?” moments is the fact that Hal is paralyzed. Talk about that twist. Will there be flashbacks to how it happened?
We actually don’t do flashbacks on Falling Skies; it’s kind of one of [executive producer] Steven [Spielberg]’s rules. But we do allow the audience to catch up to what has happened. We know from the second season that Karen did something to Hal, and one of our last moments in the last episode is watching this thing crawl out into his ear. But what we don’t know is the consequences. What I’ve always loved about Hal as a character is that he’s quick to anger, quick to action and quick to love. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s decisive. He’ll step in front of a bullet for someone. He’s just a pretty good guy, and I loved the idea that he is suddenly faced with this horrible secret that he has inside.
TVLINE | What about Maggie’s respective journey?
Maggie is someone who has said she’s never been able to stay in a relationship more than a few months. But she’s done that with Hal, she cares about Hal. What her journey is, as Sarah [Sanguine Carter] put really well in one of our panels, is that she finally understands the value of love and what it means. And she’s going to be sorely tested throughout the season on that because not only is Hal going to be going through a lot but she’s going to be going through a lot with Hal.
TVLINE | She’ll probably have some difficult decisions to make at some point.
Very difficult decisions, and while it hurts her to love so much, she feels confident and more mature enough to be able to deal with a big love like that. Sarah does a really wonderful job this season.
TVLINE | You’ve got no less than Doug Jones (Hellboy, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) playing “Cochise,” the Volm emissary. What was it that you needed from this character?
You have Skitters, who are weird and ugly, and Overlords who are imposing. But we wanted a character that was going to be interactive with our cast, someone who was going to be a real force throughout the season. I don’t think there’s anybody like Doug who can make a rubber suit come alive the way he can. What he does with that part of it, in my opinion, is magic. But he’s also a terrific actor, and he found in Cochise not just an alien but a thinking, feeling being who finds himself with a species that he’s never encountered before, and that starts to change him as a character. We were incredibly lucky to get Doug; I didn’t think we had a shot in hell.
TVLINE | Pope and his “berserkers” are always on the fringe there, grumbling and such. What new notes will they get to play this season?
Pope is a really interesting guy because he talks a big game, but the truth is that he needs the people of Charleston, he needs the 2nd Mass — and in a weird way they need him too. So this season will present a more mature Pope at the foreground. He’ll still have his grumblings and his bravado speeches about how everything is “going to hell in a hand basket,” but at the end of the day he is going to be very critical in many, many aspects of what will be happening in Season 3. He will learn things from Tom Mason — and vice versa — that he really never thought was possible, and wishes it probably wouldn’t have happened.
TVLINE | Before we go, is there any one “game-changing” episode you want to flag? Like, is there one that really tips the season at some point?
I hope we have a number of game-changers, but I would honestly say that Episode 8 is one to pay attention to. Everything kind of flips around in that one!