TV Addict Interview: TERMINATOR’s Josh Friedman and Brian Austin Green Talk the Future

By Jenny Rarden [This Week on TV]

I recently had the chance (along with reporters from various other SciFi web sites) to speak with Josh Friedman (Creator & Executive Producer) and Brian Austin Green (Derek Reese) about TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. The freshman action drama has its 2-hour first season finale tonight on FOX starting at 8/7c.

Josh and Brian had some very interesting things to share with everyone, including a hint about present and future storylines and what effect the writers’ strike had on both as well as the future of the series. The first thing most fans want to know is whether or not there will there be a second season. I had assumed previously that this was an expensive show to make and that the cost would have a lot to do with the possible renewal of the series, but according to Josh, that assumption is not correct.

It’s not actually an expensive show to produce. I think we’re below the budget of many action shows that are on TV right now. In fact, our budget is much more in line with your basic drama that you would find on any network. So I don’t think that cost at this point plays much of a factor.

When asked how the medicore ratings will affect the chances, he was quick to point out that live ratings aren’t the only thing that is taken into consideration. He also explained how to make what he watches count as much possible.

I think that the show has done well for a new show and for a new drama. There are not many that do very well or haven’t been doing very well, certainly in the last strike era. And we do very well in certain demographics. We do very well in DVR. We do very well on downloads. I think for our type of show that is a big chunk. We were one of the top five shows being TiVo’d right now, which is how I watch the show because otherwise no one would know that I’m watching.

He then went on to explain what will happen with FOX in the upcoming weeks to help determine if there will be a season 2.

The ritual for first year shows is to come back into the network and tell them what season two is. Things are just a little weird this year because of having the strike so we have to readjust what our season two plans are. We’re going to go in and sit down with the network and we’ll do a post-game on season one and talk about season two. They’ll make the decision. FOX, they haven’t made a decision on any shows yet. So I fully expect to get in there with them pretty soon and hopefully have an answer pretty soon because we need to start writing.

I am really enjoying this show and I’m a huge spoiler fan so I had to try and get any details about the season finale that I could. Unfortunately for me (fortunately for you spoilerphobes!), neither Brian nor Josh would reveal anything other than a hint that Josh gave about there being “a lot of chickens and a lot of roosting.” [Note from Jenny: What the heck does THAT mean? LOL I've been trying without luck to figure out exactly what he meant. Something about chickens coming home to roost, but how that would tie in with the show, I have no idea! If you can guess, email me!] He then went on to say about himself,

I’m a fascist about spoilers. I’m the biggest pain in the ass to the marketing and promotion department, and I think they were very happy that I was on strike for 14 weeks. Since I’ve gotten back I get these little e-mails and they say, “Can we show this?’ And I say, “No.” If I had my way the commercials would be 30 seconds of black with the words “Sarah Connor” on them.

Brian spoke up with his thoughts on spoilers, saying,

You know, it’s funny, I was online last night going through some of the chats just to see what people were talking about, and this is one of those shows, unfortunately—I mean it’s unfortunate for me in the sense of whenever I do an interview that if you give any little bit of anything, people will talk enough about it that they’ll start to figure out what’s going on. So it’s a very fine line of what you can and can’t talk about. I actually did a talk show one night and the only clip we could get of me on the show, because I hadn’t premiered on it yet, was the teaser from the episode before, so it was like “Next week on the Sarah Connor Chronicles” and it showed my running and fighting, everything that everybody else had seen. We couldn’t get anymore footage than that. I knew at the end of it all that was Josh’s doing.

Sarah Connor

One of the things fans are wondering like crazy about in regards to Brian’s character is the room that Derek and the others were taken to in the future and whether or not that house was the same house that John and Sarah are living in now. Josh did spill one for sure detail about those questions:

That is not the house that they’re living in now, I will say that. I will actually give a definitive answer. And it is certainly my goal that we find out what happens down there. I originally planned on doing four episodes—if we had a 22-episode order of the first year, I had pitched doing four episodes that took place in the future out of those 22. Then when we had an order of 13, we were going to do two, and then I was still planning on doing a second future episode out of one of the four episodes that was not filmed because of the strike, was going to be a future episode where we probably would have explored that. But we didn’t get there. Hopefully next year.

Another thing that Josh had hoped to revisit and resolve in the first season was the high school door painting storyline. Who painted the doors? Will we ever find out? According to Josh:

I hope so. I don’t know if anybody can tell by the way that we put the show together but I really do try to plant things and pay them off and I really hate television shows that abandon ideas; whether it’s sort of carryover emotionally from episode to episode. That’s one of the reason the show is so serialized is I just feel compelled to constantly track these things through. That story line—that’s it, that story line is part of the story line that was certainly supposed to be resolved and I was going to continue with it and resolve it in the first season. I … don’t know. But I haven’t forgotten about it and there was a plan. There’s always a plan. Executing the plan is a whole different matter.

When the show first got picked up from the pilot, they were given a 13 episode order. But because of the writers’ strike, they did not get 4 of those episodes completed. According to Josh, that didn’t hurt nearly as much as it could have, due to where the storyline leaves off. When asked about how he knew that the point in the 2nd upcoming episode on Monday was the right point for the season finale, he was quite open about how it came about.

Well, you know it’s serendipitous. I wasn’t there. I was on strike and so this is the number of episodes that we had reached; we had only written up to this number and produced up to this number when I went out on strike. So it happens that a lot of stuff locks in and comes together during these last two episodes and frankly, that’s just dumb luck. If we would have gone one episode more or one episode less I think it would be probably less satisfying.

According to Brian and Josh both, the 10th episode, one that we won’t get to see because of the strike, was a really great episode. Unfortunately, it won’t make for a good season 2 premiere. Josh does have plans for that though.

I can’t tell you what episode ten is, but episode ten was a fantastic episode ten and an absolutely horrible season premiere for a season two. It is heartbreaking for me. I just wish I’d gotten—I really, really wanted to do episode ten, it was like one of my favorite ideas and I can’t do it. I really can’t do it because it would’ve been a terrible season premiere. So you know— Yes it’s going to take some re-jiggering but I think there are ideas and beats from those episodes that we had planned and hadn’t filmed that will definitely be making their way in. It’s nice to—I’ve got a little perspective on the show and when we were working on episodes 10, 11, 12, 13, we had yet to air episode one. So it’s nice to actually now have seen the show and sort of educate yourself on your own show on what works and what doesn’t work. It’s like you have a second chance with a look at it.

Derek Reese

One of the major questions people have is about the time travel aspect of the show. Even Josh seemed a bit overwhelmed just talking about it. He explained,

I try not to abuse the time travel too much. I think we think about it all the time. I’ve been in the writer’s room and there will be points, it happens at least once a day where all of a sudden we just go quiet and everyone stares at each other because we completely tilted like a pinball machine because we can’t wrap our brain around what we’re trying to do. I think that I have a pretty specific idea as to what I believe the rules of our universe are and I try not to violate them. I think that chaos theory abounds and that’s always my argument, a specific geek argument, why doesn’t Skynet just send—well they can’t send a nuclear bomb back. I think even Skynet probably at this point understands that the causality is so complicated that it’s unclear as to what any one thing might do. So I think to do something en masse is a very—they might end up destroying themselves, when they need the humans as much as the humans need them to kind of—well, they need the humans more right now, until later, once they’re created, then who knows.

Brian was quick to jump in with his thoughts on the issue and assure him that he didn’t think Josh had abused the time travel element.

You’ve had the opportunities. We had the conversation too, of the possibility of bringing Kyle Reese onto the show instead of Derek. But then within that was the whole concept of, okay well then at what point are people actually dead and at what point do we have to realize that a character is gone. It’s a weird, confusing line. I don’t know how specific you can really get with any of it because at the end of the day it’s something that’s completely nonexistent at this point. So who knows how one thing can overlap into another and how one decision can affect another? It will probably be an argument we’ll be having until the end of time.

Josh has no specific plans to shooting any scenes at locations from the Terminator films in season 2 and if you are curious, according to Brian, the future war battlefield scenes from the earlier episode were shot in downtown Los Angeles at a concrete recycling factory. Brian also talked more about those scenes and the cool clothing and gear they all had on.

It was the coolest thing ever. The blaster alone, the fact that I was the only one with a green scope on it was pretty cool. But there were a bunch of specific little things all through the costumes that—just little details that you really didn’t pick up, but everybody had Terminator Kills on their sleeve, these little badges. And they were just little Terminator heads but everybody had one for every kill. Some guys had one and I think I had seven, which was pretty cool.

In my interview with Summer Glau, who plays Cameron, she talked about the fact that she plays a character who is absolutely deadpan with no outward emotion. When asked about playing opposite an actress that is having to do that, Brian said,

It’s fantastic for this job. Summer is so good at completely staying in those moments and I think that oddity is what sort of creates the tension and excitement in the scenes. You do scenes all day long with people that react and when you have somebody that just sits there and blankly stares at you they almost end up becoming these staring competitions. And Summer and I will sort of laugh by the end of them if we haven’t made it all the way through, just because it’s an interesting relationship between the two of us. They’ve both known each other for a long time and there’s a lot of tension within it.

Brian came into the show several episodes after everyone else. When asked what the biggest challenge was coming into the role, he said it was the fact that he had been hired the night before he started work.

I really knew very little of the character except for the first script that I had in my hand, which is the first episode that everybody saw of my character. So the big challenge for me as an actor was the next day on set whenever I’d see Josh, just asking him as many things as I could. Just trying to get as many answers to questions as I could, because picking up a script and not knowing what happened before, and it’s like, okay, what the hell is a Turk and what—there’s so much involved in every script. The scripts are so detailed. And I really had no reference.

That’s been the hardest thing for me as an actor is trying to make sure that I have enough back-story to really understand what Derek is doing and what his thought process is. Development wise he went from living in the future where he was fighting every day to survive to now being in a world with a blue sky and grass, and fighting for a different reason. It’s at times just a huge rollercoaster for him. He still really has no grasp of it. I mean, he’s just coming out of nearly dying. So he’s got a lot of growing to do I would say.

When asked whether Brian would be back for season 2, Josh wouldn’t give any direct answer, just saying he has been happy with Brian’s work.

All I’ll say is that I think Brian is doing an awesome job and I think he’s brought more to the series than I even imagined that he would. So I’m really happy.

Brian began to joke that it was simply because he was strong and could lift things and move furniture and how that will be his job in season 2.

That should be episode one of season two, I’m just in the house with an apron on lifting furniture and just cleaning underneath things because I’m strong enough to do it. That would be awesome.

Finally, when asked if next season (assuming there is one!) will be a half season as well or if it will be a full 22 or 24 episode season, Josh said that is all up to FOX, saying he is definitely planning for 22.

Last year I had 22 planned and we switched it to 13 and we did nine. So I’m always—when I sit down and plan a season out, until someone tells me otherwise, I plan for 22, and if it’s not going to be 22 I make adjustments. But I always plan for 22. I’ve had ideas for probably the first three or four years. I’ve got arcs for them. Sometimes it just a matter of moving things up or moving things back or seeing where it goes.

Both of them were funny, relaxed and seemed like they really just loved their job and the show. So thanks again guys for taking the time to chat with us! Don’t forget to catch the 2-hour season finale this Monday on FOX starting at 8/7c!

(*All images are courtesy of FOX*)