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Noah Wiley & Moon Bloodgood Talk Surviving “Falling Skies”

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By Erika Blake editor/writer

This Sunday, Steven Speilberg’s new sci-fi alien invasion epic “Falling Skies” kicks off with it’s 2 hour premiere on TNT (9PM ET/PT) – regular timeslot (10PM ET/PT). Noah Wiley and Moon Bloodgood took time out of their busy promotion for the series and talked about their characters, being on the series, and sci-fi with the press. Here are the highlights of the conference call with them.

Question: Falling Skies picks up right in the thick of the madness. Talk about that aspect of the show where we go, like I said, right to the meat of the story instead of having a season or two of build-up?

Noah Wiley: Yes, it’s sort of a typical story telling in the sense that we don’t start with everyday life going on business as usual and then suddenly everybody’s eyes turn to the heavens and say, what’s that coming in towards our planet.

We do, we pick up six months into what has been a devastating alien invasion and meet our characters already in a pretty high state of disarray which is kind of exciting storytelling because it allows you the opportunity to fill in the back story through episodic storytelling and also opens up the possibility of being able to track back in time down the road if it seems (dramatically) appropriate.

Question: Aliens parking over cities has been kind of a common theme recently with shows like District 9, Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles and of course V. In your opinion what do you think separates this series from the other recent alien invasion franchises?

Moon Bloodgood: Well I think ultimately if you’re, you know, if you’re going to like a show – I mean we’re all kind of, you know, dealing with the same subject matter, I think what’s going to be different is certainly out approach sort of the science fiction aspect of it it’s going to be a little – it’s going to vary but if you like the story, the human story behind it and like – you want to follow the characters and that’s what’s going to bring you to it.

And we’re much more drama and more of a human element than like a District 9 which I think is primarily more about – though a great story, one of my favorite science fiction films, there’s definitely more of a science fiction element than I think we have. I think we’re sort watch – of having the marriage of a good family story with the science fiction element.

Question: You’ve also been a part of, you know, post apocalyptic shows before with Terminator and, you know, you’re starting to carve a little niche in this genre, I mean, what’s the draw for you?

Moon Bloodgood: I think I’ve been drawn to science fiction because I’m a fan of science fiction. And I think when you like something you just – I like to think you’re generally better at it and when you’re auditioning for something maybe that sort of resonates. But I – because I love it, I tend to want to do those kind of protects. And then you start to do them and that kind of becomes your thing which is not a bad thing because it’s still a genre I deeply appreciate.

Question: How involved is Steven Spielberg in the production of this show?

Noah Wyle: He’s pretty damn involved. His fingerprints are all over it. He was instrumental in helping craft the original pilot script and certainly in casting the pilot.

And he came out and was on set when we were shooting the pilot and he made lots of editorial decisions and even drew some storyboards for the reshoots on the pilot and then helped craft the overreaching story (arks) for the season, watched all the daily’s and made lots of editorial suggestions all along the way in bringing those shows to their final cut.

So I would say he’s instrumentally involved.

Question:  The first few episodes of the pilotfeels very much like a feature film. I wanted to know if you could kind of reflect on that for us?

Noah Wyle: Yes, sure. Well, it wasn’t intended to be sandwiched together. The pilot was a standalone hour and it’s being married to the first episode which we shot as a first episode for the season to build it into a two-hour block.

So it was never scripted to feel like a movie but I think anytime Mr. Spielberg’s name is above the marquee you can’t help but to make a cinema comparison. And it’s got a lot of rich production value. The budget on the pilot was pretty extensive. So we had a lot of bang for our buck and that wasn’t necessarily the case in every episode so I think getting a sense of what the series is going to be like comes probably more accurately from the second half, second hour, than the first.

But, yes, it’s got a very cinematic feel to it.

Question: What do you like most about your character Anne Glass?

Moon Bloodgood: I really enjoy the fact that, you know, she’s a doctor — she was a pediatrician — and that I think that she’s very admirable, that she doesn’t often talk about herself, extremely selfless, always calm and rational, always, you know, being fair and with reason. And I think I admired her because I feel sometimes I’m not always that way and she was always selfless and always very maternal towards everyone.

Question: In Falling Skies you play quite a different character although I do see some of you in the role; how much of you is in the role in Falling Skies?

Moon Bloodgood: Well I try to be, you know, a good actress and not bring myself into it but I believe all actors bring an essence of themselves, you just can’t squash that, you can’t eliminate it, it’s part of you.

In this role I play a doctor and I’m so level headed and I’m not the athlete and I’m not the vixen or the girl that’s the tomboy I’m just, I’m someone who’s there to – who’s not only maternal but who’s going to medically heal people and is against violence.

So I felt it was very different for me whether or not – yes I guess I bring myself into everything — I try not to — and give it a little bit more life. But there’s always a part that you’re not bringing it to the writing, it’s how you’re written and that has nothing to do with you.

Question: What would be the most difficult part of doing the series?

Moon Bloodgood: Sometimes the subject matter is heavy and there’s lot of depth and weight and you have to think about – you have to take yourself to that place of, you know, you’re supposed to be hungry and scared and you’ve lost your family and sometimes you want levity. And I can find the subject matter to be – to weigh on me at times when I was working and all I wanted to do was just, you know, I’d go home and just put some comedy on and have a beer because I just needed some sort of change.

But I think no matter how much I can resist it, I gravitate towards these kinds of subject matters and I like the drama and that’s where I feel the most comfortable and probably that’s why that’s what I do the most.

Question: What the show it’s clocking in at ten episodes for the first season. Do you think that the show has like enough time to spread its wings in season one?

Noah Wyle: I think – well, I had lunch with Michael Wright who’s Head of TNT and we discussed if this came to a second season whether he would be interested in picking it up for more episodes. And his philosophy, which I tend to agree with is, that if you’re writing for ten episodes you can really write to a focused point and make sure that all of your T’s have been crossed and your eyes have been dotted.

And if you’re trying to slug it out through 15, 17 or on a network 22 to 24 you run the risk of dissipating the potency of your story telling and falling back on sort of (heck nine) clichés. And he really didn’t want to do that. He really is very proud and pleased with the show and wants – should the second season come to pass it to have the same kind of punch that the first season did which I think you really only get from shooting a truncated season of 10, 12 maximum.

Question: One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed from watching the first three episodes, is I really enjoy the family dynamic that’s on it. I was wondering if you could talk to us a bit about how you approach trying, how you guys approached keeping your family together in this broken world?

Noah Wyle: Well, dramatically I think that was probably the theme that was most interesting to me. I haven’t had a lot of experience working in the science fiction genre so that had a certain appeal.

But I went into this with the confidence of knowing that the spaceships and the aliens were going to be just fine with Mr. Spielberg designing them. And so my responsibilities really fell to making sure the human aspects of the show were as compelling as they could be.

And I found that dual conflict that we set up in the pilot to be really provocative of a guy just trying to keep his family intact and alive being given the larger responsibility of having to care for 300 (veritable) strangers and the conflict between the two; very interesting.

But that’s really, I think, what’s at the core of the show is once the reset button on humanities been pushed and these characters, should they survive, are going to become the next founding fathers for the next civilization. What are the best aspects of the previous civilization that you would want to retain and what are the more superfluous or (ascerteric) ones that you wouldn’t mind dropping?

And certainly the notion of family and the quality of human relationships comes to the floor and that’s what I think we pretty successfully explored through the first half of the season.

Question: Let me ask, something that really – the dynamic that really touched me was the difference between Tom and Weaver played by Will Patton. You know, Weaver’s a character who, especially in most of these post-apocalyptic movies you see the, I would say, something like Battle: Los Angeles, I mean, you see the military persona is the one who steps up to the plate and becomes the default leader. But with Tom he really has no practical experience for military application. But his knowledge as a professor, you know, you see it coming out in all of these different situations. I mean, what do you think distinguishes Tom as a leader as opposed to what all of these other projects have that they automatically show the militaristic personalities step to the foreground to take charge?

Noah Wyle: That’s an interesting question. I would say that when you traditionally have a character whose career military like Captain Weaver is their strong suit is leading men who have been trained and focused for the battle and mission enhanced. Whereas in this particular scenario most of our military has been eradicated already and it’s a civilian militia that is being trained.

It’s exactly Tom Mason’s back-story as having been a teacher that puts him in a little bit better (sted) to teach mostly kids how to arm themselves and defend themselves than it is for Weaver to fall back on the military paradigm.

And it’s sort of – it’s looking at the realm of academia and saying that’s a little dry for what we need right now and looking at the role of military and saying that’s a little dogmatic for what we need right now and trying to find a synthesis between the two that I think makes my character a leader of a different strength.

Question: Tom does seem like somebody who has his act together but, and I’m only three episodes in, I’m trying to figure out, are we going to see in the first season Tom’s breaking point?

Noah Wyle: He comes damn close to it. He comes very, very close to it. Yes, I would say episode, yes, in the four or five range that’s where he starts to wear a little thin.

Although, you know, there was an adage that we used to say a lot on my other show where you really didn’t have time to feel sorry for yourself during the course of the day because you had another patient to treat or two or three.

So you really had to earn whatever private moments you allowed yourself to reveal, whatever inner life was going on.

And the same holds true for this show is that there’s such a constant and eminent threat underneath each and every scene that these characters who probably if they had a week off would develop all sorts of the hallmarks of PTSD and go through all sorts of debilitating briefs don’t have the luxury of doing so because there’s just too many other things that need to be done.

So I would say that the big breakdown is still coming but we definitely show glimpses of it.

Question: Could you a little bit go more in depth about how it was getting to go work with Noah Wiley, and of course I know obviously there’s, you know, young children involved with the show as well.

Moon Bloodgood: Yes there are young children that I have some scenes with. But listen Noah’s a veteran, I play a doctor, trust me he gave me lots of pointers and I was so happy to, you know, to receive his advice. He’s been around, he knows the industry and he is just such a diligent professional.

I learned a lot; I learned a lot from him and Will Patton. I think you learn something from everyone that you work with but he gave a different perspective and I thought he was really good at being our leader and – in the show and also off, you know, like, you know, as a friend and a colleague.

Question: I was wondering what inspiration did you draw from, if any coming into this? Anne a very tragic character even though she hasn’t fully started to cope with her loss, you know, she’s like – you know, she throws herself into her work and her blossoming relationship with Tom, but how did you come about figuring out how to portray her and how not to, you know, to hold some back for later on in the season?

Moon Bloodgood: Good question. I sometimes think it’s probably not good to use your own life circumstances because that can kind of get tiring, but I did. I kind of dove – not dove into it but I conjured up or — what’s the word I’m looking for — I looked into myself and my own pain and tried to use that as a cathartic thing when I was doing the role.

And then I just also try to use my imagination of what it felt like to live in a world where suddenly I lost my family and to lose a child which I – you know, must be the most horrendous thing to ever go through is to lose a child. So I tried to use myself and my imagination.

And the journey’s interesting because there’s a couple times when I breakdown; I breakdown emotionally about my family, and there’s another time when I am fighting to, you know, keep the alien alive with another doctor and I’m very stoic in that fight, and there’s a time when I’m more romantically involved with Noah.

But what’s – what was the most compelling part is when I had to actually pick up a gun at one point because I get hurt, I get attacked and I suddenly need to defend myself against other humans and that’s a position that Anne Glass never thought she would be in. And for her that’s when the world – the first biggest pain was her husband and her child and the next was just loosing that innocence against violence.

Question: Going back to the question of family for a moment, it seems like there’s a good setup for some brother related themes that are going throughout various different stories with Captain Weaver and the Band of Brothers mentality that he has with the soldiers versus the civilians.

You’ve got the Mason brothers and the question of what they’ll do for each other in this situation. And it almost seems like Mason and Pope might have the beginnings of something setup for that discussion there in the theater.

Is this something that’s been discussed and planned that – or is it just coming out in the performances as just a natural outgrowth of the story?

Noah Wyle: I think kind of both and not to give to non-specific an answer, you know, relationships especially when you’re starting up a new show, it’s a lot like testing spaghetti. You kind of throw a bunch of stuff on the wall and see what sticks.

And certain relationships have greater resonance than others and certain themes become more pronounced than others and oftentimes they’re not the ones that you expect to pop.

Certainly when we started I – it was pretty black and white that I was coming from the humanist angle and Will Patton was coming from the militarist angle and that we were going to butt heads continually.

And then as we got into the playing of it, Will brings such an interesting complexity to his character and a lot of humanity to what could easily be perceived as a two-dimensional character that it became a lot more interesting to kind of explore the areas of commonality between these two characters as opposed to the areas of conflict and to see how under different circumstances these men actually might like each other but are forced into opposite camps because of their dueling ideologies.

And the same holds true with characters like Pope where you know it’s this notion of who your allegiance is to. Obviously when you have an external threat from another planet suddenly the divisions between black, white, rich, poor, old and young get erased immediately against common enemy. But if you take that enemy off the table for a moment and are allowed to take a little bit of breathing room, what are the lessons we’ve learned? Or do we revert back to our own kind of pettiness and clannishness?

And so these are all themes that are worthy of exploring as we go on.

Question: can I ask you about the target audience for this is it going to be more for families you think or how edgy is it going to get? How violent do you think it’s going to get? Will it be more like Battlestar Galactica or more like…

Noah Wyle: It’s a really fine line to walk because you don’t – you know, I’ll use as an example the sort of budding love story between my character and Moon Bloodgood’s character. You know, we tee it up that there’s an initial interest between these two and it starts the clock ticking in the audiences mind about when this is going to get consummated.

And as we were shooting the episodes we were always conscious of the fact that we hadn’t really advanced this relationship at all. So we’d write scene’s where I would be on guard duty and she’d bring me a sandwich and we’d start talking about whatever and suddenly it would get a little romantic.

And as we rehearsed them or talked them through it seems like it immediately dissipated the tension and level of credibility for the world that we were trying to establish and that we hadn’t earned that moment yet.

And then it kind of stuck out like a sore thumb as an obvious (beat) in the television show so we cut it. And instead we would play it out probably more closer to the way it would realistically play out which is, yes, there’s an interest from opposite sides of the room but these are two very busy people who have to get back to work.

And, as the season progressed and we finally got into the final episode there was a moment that seemed truly earned, very kind of romantic and I think it became incredibly satisfying to have it (pace) out that way.

Question (cont…) how edgy it was going to be?

Noah Wyle: Oh yes, that was the parallel I was trying to draw which is…It’s a fine line to walk because you want to create a world where threat is very present but you don’t want it to be so bleak that it turns off viewers who are tuning in to watch more of a drama than a genre show.

But by the same token there’s a science fiction audience out there that I think the network would very much like to attract that is coming with the expectation that this is going to have a lot of epic battle sequences and be a fairly dark and violent show.

So it’s going back and forth between the two. It’s having moments of humanity and hope and humor punctuated by moments of terror and action and then how we move on from there and get back to the moments of humanity, hope and humor before the next attack comes.

But by the same token there’s a science fiction audience out there that I think the network would very much like to attract that is coming with the expectation that this is going to have a lot of epic battle sequences and be a fairly dark and violent show.

So it’s going back and forth between the two. It’s having moments of humanity and hope and humor punctuated by moments of terror and action and then how we move on from there and get back to the moments of humanity, hope and humor before the next attack comes.

I don’t think it’s going to get much more gratuitously violent than episodes we’ve already shot. I don’t think that that’s in the words but I don’t think we really want to paint the rosier picture of the world prematurely either.

Question: Your approach to Dr. glass, how is it different from your first other – other science fiction characters — because like you said you’re not the action character this time, you’re not the girl with the gun, you’re more of a nurturing type — and how is that playing into the tension that we’re starting to see in the first couple of episodes between Dr. Glass and Captain Weaver?

Moon Bloodgood: Oh yes, let me just tell you that scene that I got to do with Will in the beginning is one of my favorites; I just – I love working with Will Patton.

I loved being able to humbly be the voice of the civilians, because I’m not just a doctor but I’m their – they have my ears. I’m dealing with then, they’re the ones we’re fighting for and I have to remind, you know, Will Patton’s character of that — that this is what’s important, don’t lose sight of that in your need to protect your fighters, remember what the cause is and humanity is the most paramount thing.

And in playing a role as a pediatrician — which is what Anne Glass was — I was certainly a doctor who is capable but in over my head. So I prepared but I also wanted to seem like I was a little out of my element because then when I am (deharnessing) kids and, you know, performing surgeries and I’m just way out of my element.

Question: (“Falling Skies”) brings lot to the table, there’s a little something for everybody; you know, it’s not exactly a sci-fi film, it’s a drama, it’s a love story, it’s a family film, you know, it’s so many different things. What was some of the things that really, really attracted you to it?

Moon Bloodgood: That, you know — doing something that is not just one dimensional; it’s science fiction but it’s human tragedy, it’s different diverse characters interwoven together and trying it kind of find their humanity and live any kind of normalcy and readjust to the new world that’s changed completely from the world that they know.

So I think I want to do projects – I mean I was also drawn to playing a doctor and it’s something I’d never done, I’d played a nurse before but it has to be – you know, and I’d have to have a gun on my leg and be running around and doing stunts, though I love that to death.

I wanted to do something more cerebral and that I got to be a little softer and I thought that was a more fun place for me to be in this, you know, in this time in my life.

Falling Skies premiers Sunday June 19 at 9:00 PM Eastern on TNT. Check back at Multipleverses for our advanced review on the series.

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