12:36PM: The WonderCon TERRA NOVA panel kicks off with an incredibly exciting preview that perfectly sets the tone for what is already our most-anticipated series of the Fall. The year is 2149 AD, the place is Hope Plaza Chicago where a pilgrimage numbering over 1000 prepare to depart. Following a flash reminiscent of LOST that sees the our hero, Jim Shannon land back first in a lush green forrest, the Shannon family are welcomed to their new home. “Together we are at the dawn of a new civilization, welcome to Terra Nova folks, welcome home,” says Commander Taylor. Cut to shot after shot of beautiful teelines, happy families basking in the sun, waterfalls, bikini clad girls cliff-jumping, and romance. Of course, just when Mama Shannon tells Papa Shannon, “We did the right thing,” darkness falls, ominous newcomers are dragged into the woods, gunfire, dinosaurs, and awesomeness ensues. Evidently, “there is no paradise without sacrifice.” Da… da… duh!
12:40PM: Star Jason O’Mara arrives FlipCam in hands. Which is to say, he’s not just excited for his latest project, he’s really really excited. Also interesting, co-star Stephen Lang’s nickname is “Slang.”
12:41PM: Not setting the bar too high executive producer Brannon Braga characterizes the show’s premise as “unlike any other show that I’ve ever ben involved in.” As per Braga, TERRA NOVA takes place in the distant future and the distant past, intercutting between the two. Which is not only really cool from a storytelling standpoint, but incredibly ambitious to make. Hence the constant parade of delays… but more on that later.
12:43PM: “TERRA NOVA takes place in a dystopian future where earth has been destroyed by humanity, there is no plant life, animal life and terrible pollution,” explains Braga when asked about the premise of the show. “When a fracture in time inexplicably appears outside of a Chicago [insert techno mumbo-jumbo about a malfunctioning supercollider here], the people in this terrible time begin to wonder if it’s an escape hatch for humanity. Eventually they find a way to gradually pull the time fracture wider and wider and start sending people through. Commander Taylor [Stephen Lang] is the Neil Armstrong of the project and establishes our Plymouth Rock. Not the best place to resettle humanity mind you, lots of hostile thing but that’s where it all begins. Following the Shannon family’s journey into the past, a post-modern science fiction western.”
12:45PM: Fun Fact: Not only is passage to TERRA NOVA a one way trip with no turning back, it’s a highly coveted one. Those without “friends in high places” must enter a lottery for the chance to travel back in time and escape the horror that is their current predicament.
12:46PM: “Commander Taylor is the first one through the wormhole and I think of him as a little like Daniel Boone, he’s primarily a survivalist,” says Stephen Lang of his latest small screen alter ego. “Heavy on ingenuity and inventiveness, he’s somebody who knows how to cope and is not afraid of highly precarious situations.” Jokingly adding, “I have a welcome speech written into all of my contracts,” when asked about the inevitable comparisons to his somewhat similar militaristic character from Avatar.
12:47PM: “I only do shows that have time travel in the premise,” jokes an incredibly animated Jason O’Mara who recounts his much earlier days in San Francisco selling thirst and painting apartments prior to answering a question about his character. “When we first meet Jim Shannon, who is an ex-cop, he is escaping from jail in order to join his family who have already been handpicked to go through and join the colony,” explains O’Mara. “Essentially he embodies the second chance to start over. He’s estranged from his wife, one of his kids barely know him while the other kid is angry he hasn’t been around. He’s got a lot going on and when he arrives on Terra Nova he’s going to to have to somehow be reprimanded for coming through uninvited and figure out his relationship is with Commander Taylor and his family. He’s a fish out of water.”
12:49PM: Scoop! While O’Mara’s Shannon and Lang’s Taylor start off the series on the same page — with Taylor essentially making Shannon his deputy — the characters are put on a certain path that promise conflict. “In Shannon, Taylor recognized a very strain and potential leader which is both very welcome but at the same time threatening,” says Lang on the twosomes relationship onscreen. “I think it’s important to recognize that right away I recognize him as a very important figure and somebody — be it ally or threat — to be reckoned with.”
12:51PM: “Time travel is definitely the most commonly asked question about the show, which is ironic because it’s the smallest component of the show,” admits Braga. “Once the time travel happens, it’s a one way trip and they’re never going home. And while there are exciting mysterious things happening in the future which we will be intercutting to to some degree, we’re trying something different. I don’t want to give it away just yet, but there is a plan.”
12:55PM: “It was a pleasure shooting in Australia which has a long and storied history in terms of making film so the crews you get are just cherry,” says Lang. “The environment is very beautiful, as is our proximity to a number of different self-contained eco systems which lend themselves very beautifully to this sort of primitive world that we’re inhabiting. It’s also a long ways away, which while hard to be so far away from home, does contribute to the whole sense of what we’re doing which I think is very good.”
1:00PM: Addressing the show’s May preview being pushed back to Fall, Braga explains, “The bottom line is we weren’t confident we’d have the FX done well enough in time.” Added fellow EP and the pilot’s director Alex Graves, “We’re doing feathered dinosaurs, they’re not doing those in features!”
1:05PM: “I love the idea of rolling the dice in a big way, so when this script came to me it was very clear that the scope of the project was quite vast and the idea of shooting something like of this magnitude on a weekly basis, it was challenging, very challenging for all of us, everyone involved,” explains Lang when asked what attracted him to the show. “I just wanted to be part of that because life is short and you might as well try and be part of big things if you can.”
1:06PM: “Because of the example that Commander Taylor has set as the first person there [Note: Taylor has already been there for 7 years], Terra Nova has been designed to care for the planet,” said Graves when asked about how big a role will the environment play. “Everything is solar, everything is created with recycled materials shipped through the rare portal openings. In fact, even the weapons used agains the dinosaurs are sonic trying not to kill anything.” Added Braga, “We messed up the first time and this is about getting things right.”
1:08PM: Production is currently ramping up with plans to start filming the series in late May or early June. TERRA NOVA will premiere this Fall on FOX.