When TNT debuts its spooky sci-fi series FALLING SKIES on June 19th, it sets up a long-arcing story of how — after virtually the entire population of Earth has been killed off by an invading alien species — the remaining survivors are on the run, hiding, and fighting for their very existence. With their numbers too few to really strike back, retreat is the only real option left — they must hide and survive, so that they may just live to fight another day.
The prominent theme of FALLING SKIES is the importance of family in its tale of relentless pursuit by a more sophisticated and ruthless species. The aliens have not come just to kill and destroy — they are intent on occupying Earth. This is their home now. We are just the previous tenants that need to be eradicated. But there is one caveat — they want our children. They enslave the children and use them as mindless slave labor; forcing them to wear an insect-like device on their spine that allows the aliens to control them. It not just a battle to hide and survive, the survivors must protect the children.
As the 10-episode series opens with a 2-hour premiere, it lays the foundation introducing the core characters and illustrating how far our seemingly advanced society has fallen. One EMP blast and we are back in the “dark ages.” No electronics, no communication, no transportation, no supplies. With food, water, clothing and weaponry scarce, there is not much for the survivors to live on. They are unable to fight back and must continually relocate or be killed. This is not a war that humans can fight. We are few and without resources. We are the prey on our own planet; and the aliens — known as the Skitters and their robotic warriors, the Mechs — never stop. Whether by game or strategic plan, they are hunting us and know they can afford to sit and wait; for starvation over the 8 months since their attack began has become a daily reality.
FALLING SKIES rests on the shoulders of Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) who joins the last remnants of the military — a small militia of resistance known as the 2nd Mass. As a loving father, Tom will do anything to protect his surviving family: three sons — one of which was captured by the Skitters. While Tom struggles to diligently protect the defenseless civilians under his care, he also wants to search for his missing son. However, as in any war, the fate of many cannot be jeopardized by the need to save one person. Having been a history professor, Tom knows all too well this harsh lesson and yet yearns to find a way to save his son — as well as the other children taken from their families.
Aiding in the care of the civilians, Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), a pediatrician who lost her own family, is the voice of the people reminding the few militia soldiers that our humanity cannot be sacrificed simply to fight back. Our goal must be to retain our values and morals and to set a good example for the children, or we have lost exactly what we are fighting for — the hope of the future of us all.
The other key player is Tom’s eldest son, Hal (Drew Roy), a teenager on the cusp of adulthood who has been recruited as a scout for the militia. Being the point person as the civilians are constantly moving from place to place, Hal is the one on the frontlines risking himself as the Skitters and Mechs lurk in the darkness. Robbed of his final teenage years, Hal is impetuous yet eager to help as much as possible. With keen instincts and a brave heart, he is uncertain why his father holds him back and why they do not stand and fight. Youthfulness provides boundless energy, but not the wisdom of age in knowing that their enemy has them outnumbered and could wipe them out in an instant if discovered.
So life for the survivors in FALLING SKIES is one day at a time. Each episode focuses on a critical element they need to survive and how they are going to get it and not risk exposure — and the times they do tangle with the Skitters are not without losses. They are all vulnerable and death comes swiftly and frequently.
The tale of survival against insurmountable odds makes FALLING SKIES compelling and applaud-worthy. It is also a story that will not play out in two hours or even six hours, it is a story that unfolds piece-by-piece — unveiling each pivotal moment as they struggle to survive and learn about their enemy. And what they learn surprises them.
At a recent press conference, executive producer/writer Mark Verheiden along with cast members Noah Wylie, Moon Bloodgood and Drew Roy shared some vital insight into what is going on in the FALLING SKIES world.
(Warning: This portion of the article contains MINOR SPOILERS!)
As the season progresses it seems like the Skitters are not quite as exploitive as initially portrayed. Do you think that will affect each of your character’s motivations and perceptions of their enemy?
Noah, “I think one of the interesting things about the first season is the notion of: where is the actual threat coming from? At the outset, it’s an external threat — aliens versus human. Then very quickly in the first episode, it is human-to-human conflict. That we are not all on the same page collectively; and as the series unfolds and we are able to synthesize more and more strands of information that we gather about the aliens and their potential for abilities, we discover they are not exactly the threat that we thought they were and we may have read the situation completely wrong, initially.”
Will that be seen this season or will that be next season?
Mark, “This season.”
Do you think that will change your character’s perspective, as far as whether you think you’re fighting somebody or you might be aligning with them?
Noah, “It depends on the level of communication we are able to have — understanding and compassion and empathy are one thing — actual communication is completely different.”
Mark, “I mean, they have wiped out 80% of mankind. So there’s a bit of a grudge. It’s going to take awhile to get to the sympathetic level with these guys. But I think we do. As the series goes on, we learn that motivations are not necessarily what we originally thought. So in exploration of sort of the mindset of the Skitters, who seem completely alien when we first meet them — impossible to even deal with — that Noah’s character and the other characters figure things out by watching how they act and realize, ‘okay, there’s parts of this we can understand, that we can relate to – and so that opens up sort of avenues for the future.”
Moon, “And they’re not so one dimensional. Doesn’t it seem like humans want to find something to connect with the aliens? I feel like in our brain we need to look at something so foreign, that seems to have no conscience — no real belief in right or wrong — no empathy — and think: ‘Is there something I can relate to? Is there some sort of connection I can find?’ Even if it’s not there. Sometimes I think it’s wishful thinking and maybe we’re searching for that. Because you want to think: ‘why would you want to destroy my family? There must be a reason.’ But maybe there isn’t.”
Mark, “These are creatures who can create the sort of technology that enables them to create spaceships and fly wherever they came from to Earth and do what they did. I think you just expect that there’s a level of sophistication — a mental process there that once understood, will help us understand our next move. Whether that is to fight or however we go about it.”
Will we see more direct communication between aliens and the humans, or is it going to be strictly all combat?
Mark, “Yes, there will be some communication.”
Will any of the aliens have personalities or identities?
Mark, “Not at first. The Skitters are a swarm of creatures that have come [to inhabit Earth].” Though he remembered, “[Moon’s character, Anne] kind of had a relationship with one” (referring to one of the Skitters that they capture and Anne tries to communicate with). Moon said with surprise, “Me, oh yes, I guess I did.” Mark then humorously noted, “It doesn’t go well.” Moon then explained, “No, but there’s communication and I start to feel sadness [for it]. I start to feel those things that I know are probably not logical things, but for a doctor with the Hippocratic Oath, everything should be fair and not emotional — you should be logical in your ability to reason — and I start to feel like there is something in the eyes. Actually, I think the way [Mark] wrote it and the way the actual suit was constructed, that the eyes looked sympathetic. And I think that naturally the more you are acquainted with something and the more you are around it, the more you feel something for it. Whether it feels something toward [Anne], we sort of left it ambiguous, I think.”
Does anyone have a problem with the fact the show seems to use children as currency? Noah, “I like the idea of tackling — like science fiction does better than any other genre when it is used as metaphor — the idea of using children as human soldiers. The ethical dilemma of them being available to use on the frontlines and are expendable to a certain extent. Although it’s not a commodity in our world, but it’s really a difficult decision; especially when my character comes face-to-face with this question as a parent of these kids. Am I doing them a bigger service by shielding them from this and trying to allow them some semblance of a childhood, or is that the cruelest thing I can possibly do? Should I be training them from Day One in the hopes their children’s children will be able to enjoy their childhood that they got robbed of?”
It is not just the militarization of children and utilizing them as human shields, but the fact that in the later episodes they are used as currency — bargaining chips to save people’s lives. That was kind of disturbing. In fact, another viewer was like “I have kids, I can’t watch this anymore.” Did you have any strong feelings about that?
Moon, “Wow. That’s a strong reaction. I really liked that [particular] episode. I thought it was unique.”
Noah, “I personally — I mean, it’s horrible, especially if you’re a parent to even think that could come to pass — but, in terms of elemental drama, those kinds of Sophie’s Choices have to be made; and in dire circumstances, that may be what it comes to.”
Drew, “I like seeing the point of where humanity has gone to. It’s brought out the worst in people. It’s not so much the 2nd Mass that’s using them as currency; we’re going to help the children. [Another] character was using them.”
Mark, “[That’s] also an aberration. That’s something about those episodes. That character is clearly in the wrong and made an incredibly poor decision about how to deal with the aliens — and it obviously ends his life. So I think we wanted to do a story that showed a couple things: (1) that strictly on a plot level, the aliens are negotiable — there was a point of negotiation one could have with these alien creatures; (2) the other is to show how there’s lots of other decisions the different Massachusetts units can make in the way they fight back and that character made an incredibly bad choice; whereas the 2nd Mass has made a much more humanist choice in protecting the civilians and protecting their children.”
Do you think the strategy will change from just trying to fight the aliens to being more in a protective-mode to protect the one asset the aliens seem to want: the children?
Noah, “That’s a good point.”
Mark, “I think you need both elements ‘cause if you don’t find a way to resist the creatures, then all the protection in the world isn’t going to help you because clearly they have us out gunned and out-technologied. So protecting your children and protecting everyone — all the civilians — is incredibly important, but I think taking the fight to them is equally important because there is no resolution until you figure out a way to communicate with them or get them to stop and kick them off the planet.”
Noah, “In one episode, using the kids is exactly the way that we identify a vulnerability and make use of that — a bit of subterfuge.”
Will you revisit the storyline regarding one of the young resistance fighters who was snatched by the Skitters because it seemed that once she was taken, she was presumed lost?
Moon mischievously said, “Yeah, especially her boyfriend!” To which Drew (who she was indicating), wisely kept his mouth shut. There would no spoilers from him!
Will the backend of the first season focus more on taking an offense opposed to just hiding?
Noah, “Well, in the first half we’re more on the run. We have to evacuate the city of Boston and split into smaller and smaller groups, which are being easily targeted — and so it’s a new game plan right off the bat — and we’re going to do something different than what we’ve done before. Now instead of trying to hold this position, we’re going to run and we’re going to hide and we’re going to scavenge and we’re going to try to survive in hopes that as we’re doing that we’re going to learn pieces of information — and when we get to a defensible place where we can take a breath and think for a second, we might be able to fuse this all into a strategy to figure out how to turn the tables — that comes in the second half.”
Will the 2nd Mass leave Massachusetts in the first season?
Noah, “No, but we T-up the idea that we can migrate and other groups can migrate towards us and we set up a movement front with pockets of other survivors.” Mark, “It does open up as they learn that other resistance groups do exist. ‘Cause at first they have no idea other than the Massachusetts group what is going on in San Francisco, Paris or wherever. So the world opens up in terms of that.”
To Moon, as your character Anne progressed through the episodes, she got stronger and stronger and more assertive. Towards the end of the season or perhaps in the 2nd season, will she become more involved with the military aspects or will she still prefer to focus on the medical side of things?
Moon, “I would love [that]. I guess she did get stronger. I would love to see the complexity of her kind of being — not just the medical part — but dealing with the military aspect. She’s sort of the voice of the civilians. But I think it would be nice if she had more of a voice — like being involved with what Tom’s doing and his journey, him being involved with being a leader and all that stuff. So, yeah, I would like to see more complexity in that way. And I don’t know. What else? She could probably go out on the missions more. I always thought it was a little strange that I was held back and yet these young kids were going out with guns. It was important that I was there at the epicenter, but I kind of think I would like to go with them and be a part of that — be just a little a bit more adventurous.”
To Noah, what drew you back to television?
Noah, “Really it was the quality of this particular script that attracted me back [to television] . . and it immediately rose to the top of the stack of my potential interests . . . and now it’s been a two year journey . . . We shot the pilot 2 years ago and it’s been since November since we shot the series and we’ve been waiting for it to air. . . It feels like the longest pregnancy ever!” He also humorously shared, “I’ll tell you honestly, the only meeting I had was with my 8 year old son. I had four scripts on the table and I said: ‘Do you want daddy to be a lawyer? Do you want to see him be a detective, or do you want to him be a doctor or do you want to see him be an alien fighter?’ and he looked at me like I was [insane].” Alien fighter is a no-brainer for an 8 year old!
If an apocalypse were upon us, what would you take?
Noah, “Duct tape, craftsman tools.”
Moon, “Water, food, flashlights, some kind of tool to protect yourself, clothes, medical stuff.” She further noted, ”Everything changes. Everything is upside down. What’s become essential is different.”
What was the significance of choosing to take the book “A Tale of Two Cities” over “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”?
Noah, “That was an interesting sequence, which initially was an improvised moment. I was supposed to go over and kick over a pile of books and maybe take one and that was going to be it. It was just sort of a contrast of everybody loading their munitions and the previous incarnation of his existence in this stack of discarded books, and then we shot it, I picked up two and I had this idea that I would take the one that was less heavy, and we never shot it close enough to know what the books were, and that was just the moment. And then when we cut the show, there was this great sort of back-scrambling — ‘What did he choose?’ And so we went back and we shot — I think we re-shot it twice. I think we did it once and then we scraped it — and I believe that upon speaking with the writers, it was Spielberg who chose the titles of the books himself.”
Did he not understand that you were portraying a father of three boys and that he might want an adventure tale?
Noah quoting Charles Dickens most famous line from “A Tale of Two Cities”, “‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times’,” which pretty much sums up what they are going through in FALLING SKIES!
Finally, how did it feel to hear that TNT may be ordering a 2nd season even before the 1st season has debuted?
Noah, “It’s very gratifying to everyone involved that TNT has given us such a vote of confidence.”
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to The TV Addict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower). Tiffany also writes as a columnist for NiceGirlsTV.
To find out more about the survivors and to see how the humans fare in surviving the genocide of their race, be sure to check out FALLING SKIES when it debuts on Sunday, June 19th with its 2-hour premiere on TNT.