Wondercon 2014: Falling Skies season 4 interview

Laura and Chris chat to Doug Jones, Sarah Carter, Moon Bloodgood, and Seychelle Gabriel about Falling Skies season 4...

Falling Skies started its fourth season with an episode that turned everything on its head. Actors Sarah Carter, Doug Jones, Moon Bloodgood, and Seychelle Gabriel sat down with us at this year’s Wondercon to let us in on what else this season holds.

So what is going on with Maggie this season?

Sarah Carter: This season, things get very dramatic for Maggie mainly because, when the next season starts off, we are all separated and so there is a lot of time where Hal and Maggie are not together and a love triangle ensues–which I was so shocked by when I read [it]–and obviously I have mixed feelings [about it]. So I am looking forward and I am nervous, actually, what fans are going to think this season because I was so disturbed by a lot of it–which that can be really good, right? The drama is awesome, one of the very exciting things about next season, this love triangle. So I don’t really know how much to tell you about Hal and Maggie specifically, but there are sad moments and exciting moments, and it is deeply traumatic. 

Because not enough trauma has happened to Maggie, right? It is very interesting that Maggie is not only suffered at the hands of the aliens obviously, but also at the hands of other human beings, going through all of this. So what is her relationship to humans and the aliens and trying to assert some of her own power in a situation where she has been essentially powerless a lot of the time?

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Carter: Exactly! I think, more and more, Maggie’s arc has become more about love actually and the pain that comes with letting yourself fall in love and true heartbreak and the real complexity of the human heart. She’s got a pretty wild one, you know, and a strong one. She has a lot of integrity, and she is constantly the voice of truth–and they really use that in this season coming up. Tom has a lot more respect for Maggie as a leader and as a voice for both sides. I think she has been somebody who is never been quick to jump at one side or another. She is always willing to see that there is some truth in the darkness, and she is not afraid to go there. So the writers are using Maggie more as a leader in every way and not just as Hal’s girlfriend because we been separated for so long now. Hal is taking a leadership role in his group, which is awesome; his storyline is fantastic this year, and Maggie’s is too.

Doug, you have such a great expressive face. Is that why they want to keep slapping make-up on you for every TV show and movie?

Doug Jones: You know, I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and as my career has progressed, I kept thinking, “More rubber on my face? Am I really that butt ugly to you people? Is that what this is about?” But, no. I have been told by many creature effects artists that being the tall skinny guy with the small bone structure–I am very tall and not much weight to build on without getting bulky–and that is a big deal with creature effects people. My face is kind of small and I have small bone structure. That’s a great template to build on, so they tell me.

How do you get into the mind of Cochise? He is caught between two worlds and two loyalties? How did you get into that?

Jones: So the usual MO for the Volm is that I was born on a battleship and born into this war because the Espheni had [enslaved] our planet many centuries ago. So our people against their people has been going on all this time. We figured out the Espheni and what they do, and we upped our technology to meet them, and now we follow them around the universe liberating planets that they have done this to. And Earth was our next stop, as you saw in season three. And so the place where Cochise is caught in is that what we is go to a planet, scoot the indigenous creatures off to one side into a safe camp while we fight the Espheni and liberate the planet and get them back to normal.

But I encountered the humans though and the humans are different from anything I have encountered before because there’s this strength of spirit, there’s this camaraderie, and this caring about each other thing, and we’ve never come across this before.  We’ve never done it this way before. And this is why Cochise spent the whole third season getting to know and befriend humans, especially Tom Mason. So by the time the season was over and my father’s mothership landed and my dad Waschak-cha’ab is there–played by me, I might add. I did the whole Patty Duke thing, and can I tell you how hard that was?  I was schizophrenic for the whole week because I would play one side of the scene this way, then go through makeup change and costume and come back and play this [other] side of the scene. When I was talking to myself, those were long scenes that way and a lot of dialogue to memorize–you know, smart guy talk and I am not smart. (responding to Laura shaking her head) No, it was hard, Laura, it was hard!

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(Laughs) I believe you, just not the part about you’re not smart. I don’t believe that for a second.

Jones: Well, you’re very kind, very kind! Anyway, so my dad landing, he comes from the old school way of “this is how we have always done it” and Cochise has had all this entire time with the humans to learn, “Oh, they are different.” So we have had these moments of “But Dad, these are different,” you know, and “No, Son, we’ve gone over this.” And so these are the moments I have had with myself. So you saw, at the end of that episode last season, I gave them their guns back, and we’re not going to put you in captivity, and go scurrying around the countryside, just get out of here. We’ve got a battle to fight and get out of our way.  It was a nice, kind thing and we had a lovely scene where we were all saying goodbye, and see you soon, my friend, and all that kind of stuff. And it turns out that my dad was in on that setting of them free thing because he does understand that they are different than usual, but he is just convinced that they are going to get killed: “They’re going to be killed, I’m sure of it!”

Season four opens up, and they are free and walking around the countryside, you know, out in the grass, kicking their shoes off and feeling the grass between their toes and just enjoying it until…[imitating a drama sting] DUN-DUN-DUH! it goes crazy. It just goes crazy. I read the script for episode one of season four, and I thought, “Oh my gosh!” I just didn’t even recognize the show. But it was so intriguing and page turning because what happens is that you will see everyone get separated from each other very quickly.  And the question remains:  “Where are the Volm? I thought they were here to fight the good fight and protect us. And now, all of a sudden, the Espheni have us in chokeholds in different corners of the world.” So the question that remains: “Where are the Volm and why have they abandoned us?”  I make an appearance in the first episode to explain was going on, and just let them know, “Tom, Tom,  we are still friends and everything is fine.” But the bottom line of the conversation is that the Volm have the battle with the Espheni going on all over the universe,  not just on the Earth. Earth is not the only battlefield so there are other pressing matters. The mothership has gone away and left a small core of us on Earth. So that means that this idea of separation also does affect me as a Volm because my mothership has left–my back-up has left–and I am left with only a few Volm soldiers, and that’s it. So we are in communications, sort of, with that really-far-away battle that’s going on, but I am on my own for a while.

It’s hard to believe we are already on the fourth season. Now that we have three years to look back on, how would you say your characters have grown and what is the greatest way that they have grown? And how does that compare to where they are going?

Moon Bloodgood: We started off as a show that was so underplayed and mild, very character-driven. And every year, the sci-fi/fantasy keeps kicking up a notch, and this year, I feel like we are at full throttle.

Seychelle Gabriel: Yeah.

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Bloodgood: Like I honestly don’t know where we can go from here—we have to become a new show. (to Seychelle Gabriel) Would you agree?

Gabriel: One hundred percent. We were talking about how different this season is from the other ones, especially how it begins. I think for Lourdes, though, the biggest thing is that she has just become a stronger woman. I mean, she’s been put through everything that you could possibly, tragically, say and she’s come out of it–in some ways, a little diluted–but she’s more herself for it.

Bloodgood: Her character is probably the one that gets stretched the farthest this year.

Gabriel: Well, yours is…

Bloodgood: I’m right there with you.

Gabriel: Yours has been stretched…I mean, we’re not in the hospital any more…

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Bloodgood: Let’s just say, they took everyone’s character and went “Let’s shuffle it, let’s kinda change everyone and put them in a new atmosphere, and see what happens,” which is fun, because you can kind of get stale as a character.

You torpedoed one of my questions by answering that first one, Dougie. I was going to ask you, I assumed you designed the Volm movement (the way they move) and I was going to ask you if you trained the actor who played your father, but… (everyone laughs). Anyway, I know you have a whole process for designing movement for a character. Could you talk about the process for Cochise?

Jones: When you are taking on the role of Cochise, you know, he has a lot of information, a lot of exposition comes from him. He is very smart; he spouts off a lot: here is what is happening, here is the technology you need, here is the technology they are using, here’s how I can help you, and now go out and fight. So what comes with that is a confidence and an intellect I do not possess, and so I had to throttle myself back. You know, when I am unsure myself like I am right now in this interview, I start flapping my hands (gesticulating wildly) around to get my point across. And so I found myself as Cochise, with all the smart dialogue, with my hands lifting up by my head to try to help me express it, right? And the only note of direction I got acting-wise the whole of season three and four was, “Put your hands down!” (everyone laughs). So, confident. I can just walk in, stand, and deliver, and that is good enough. And that is what I had to try to train myself on, [that] less is more with Cochise. He expresses with his head, he gives a polite cock of the head quite a bit, and that helps get the dialogue out of my mouth by the way. But otherwise, it is a very broad-shouldered posture, a strong stance because he is a warrior even though he is extremely well-worded and poetic.  It’s a great mix of intellect and brawn, even though I am a skinny guy. Thank goodness for shoulder pads, you know what I’m saying.

With all these new developments going on, have you been able to collaborate with the writers in what you want to do?

Carter: Yeah, totally. This season was interesting because David Eick came on [as the new showrunner] with incredible new ideas and far out ideas and ideas that shook all of the characters upside down and backwards. We were pretty uncomfortable for the first three episodes, for sure, because all the relationships we had grown so accustomed to–our group dynamic–being split up all of a sudden, you realize how much you don’t even think about all of these relationships that are effortless, right? The whole Second Mass is standing together, where Maggie always gravitates to the back, and even as background performers, we have experiences we share and they create memories. And when we’re improvising in the background, we are actually having conversations that help us to really get grounded in the show. So the first three episodes of this next season, we’re all kind of going, “What!?!” And I have to say, the world that Maggie is put in is the most outrageous, it is the most sci-fi the show has ever gone. And Scarlett Byrne is phenomenal in the next season, and she is just so fun. And [for me] to be put in a world where everything really is out of the post-apocalyptic thing, and more into the relationship with the aliens and really trying to figure out what is going on–Maggie is navigating this alternate universe. 

What did you originally ask me? (laughs)

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Just the process between you and the writers, and can you drop hints about where you want the characters to go…

Carter: David Eick threw us for a loop. He was very open to all of our questions and concerns and ideas, but ultimately, he was very set in his ways and [how] he wanted to execute his vision–which I have a lot of respect for because his vision is rad. (pauses) It was just a hard piece of cheese to swallow. So I was personally affected, and there were a lot of tears involved, if you guys want to know the truth. There was one episode in particular where I felt so concerned for Maggie, concerned for her arc, and concerned for “Is this going to be okay with the fans?” and “Is this okay for me?”  And my heart was breaking. But ultimately, I think it ended up being genius move because there’s a lot going on for Maggie now.

You said that Maggie is taking more of a leadership role this season. Now, they’ve been promising new weapons and technology from the aliens, you know as a last-stand thing. Is Maggie in more mortal danger than ever before? 

Carter: I don’t know that I would say she’s in more danger than ever before because, you know, she’s always been in danger and on the frontline. So she’s still on the front lines, for sure, but in a way, actually, no,  I would say she is safer. In a way she’s safer…and I will just leave it at that.

Seychelle, at the end of last season, Alexis did something very special for you: she removed the parasite. Will you two have a connection because of that?

Gabriel: Absolutely. I am very protective for her because of that. As we said, we are, the Second Mass, are all separated and [Anne] is separated from Lexi, so I take on it this motherly role. As she grows, we become equals, and it becomes really interesting in that way: are we friends? who is protecting whom? There is definitely a strong bond.

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Bloodgood: Everybody is trying to figure out where Lexi’s allegiance is, except for Mom because Mom is always going to protect her innocence. So that actually puts me at odds with a lot of people, including Tom, because he made a good point: “I don’t really know this daughter of mine and you’ve had more experience with her than me.” He never really got to know her or bond with her. She is really a big character in this year and she entangles all of us, and puts everyone at odds. She is really our focal point this year. She is our big star.

Both of your characters have experienced a very personal violation at the hands of the aliens. How do you think that impacts the character’s relationship to what is going on? Everyone else has experienced this in a very general way, but your characters have been invaded bodily in different ways.

Bloodgood: That’s a really good question.

Gabriel: Yeah. I think it just further inspires Lourdes is to try harder and overcome everything with her spirituality–this year, she goes back to that a lot–and when we start this season, there’s doubt with Anne about “Is Lourdes okay? Is she okay to be around my daughter” and I think that is a part of the reason why Lourdes changes so much and tries to really really exude this feeling of, “I want to be peaceful and an enlightened state this year, but slightly crazy, a little bit weird.

Bloodgood: For me, this has been the most fulfilling season, I think because of the parallel between me having my own child and then going into this season and having all these scenes about my past and my daughter. There is one episode that Jonathan Frakes directed that was amazing, where I get to really delve back into my past and you as the audience get to see–they won’t call a flashback–that you get to see where I was and where I am now with Lexi because “Is she my daughter? is she not my daughter?” There is so much going on with me, and I do feel physically violated, emotionally violated, and there are some scenes where I go to town and you just see the full-blooded rage. And I think it’s good for Anne because she was always someone to step back. So you and I, our characters go full force this year, we went for it, and hopefully we didn’t miss the mark.

Moon Bloodgood, Doug Jones, Sarah Carter, Seychelle Gabriel, thank you very much!

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Read more about Falling Skies on Den Of Geek, here.

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