This fall NBC delivers a time-travel series that comes courtesy of a couple of powerhouse executive producers: Eric Kripke of SUPERNATURAL and REVOLUTION fame, and Shawn Ryan, best known for creating THE SHIELD.
This all-star team-up is about to give birth to TIMELESS, an epic, character-driven, sci-fi drama that sends characters hurtling through different periods in history and focuses on them dealing with the consequences of their actions while in those various eras.
The show’s imminent arrival happens when there’s a plethora of time-travel options airing year-round including 12 MONKEYS, OUTLANDER, DOCTOR WHO, DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, THE FLASH, and the newbies headed to the small screen this fall, the CW’s FREQUENCY and ABC’s TIME AFTER TIME.
TIMELESS will have to go above and beyond in order to stand out from the crowd. It’s clear after conversing with Kripke at the recent Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour that he feels his thriller has what it takes.
When we caught up with him, he talked about the two time-travel shows that influenced the creation of TIMELESS, gushed about the new cast carrying out his and his co-EP’s master plan, and discussed the pressures of adhering to the rules of the time-travel game.
Two late great series influenced Kripke’s love of time travel. “QUANTUM LEAP is one I say often,” says Kripke. “Because it was fun and it was really based on characters that have a lot of heart. The one I don’t bring up very much is VOYAGERS!, which was Jon-Erik Hexum and Meeno Peluce.”
VOYAGERS! aired for one season on NBC and debuted in 1982. “I loved that show when I was a kid,” he continues. “What I loved about VOYAGERS! was that they traveled through a different time period pretty much every episode. And they had a drive to really try to get some history into the show. Like they would be on the Titanic and then they would meet Thomas Edison and that always struck me.”
Expect TIMELESS to have all of that and more. “To be able to do sort of a modern, sophisticated, edgier version of that show, it sort of brings me great pleasure,” he explains. “Like the not so secret secret of SUPERNATURAL is it’s basically DUKES OF HAZZARD or KNIGHT RIDER, just kind of updated for modern audiences. And so, in my own way, this is QUANTUM LEAP and VOYAGER updated for modern audiences.”
There are plenty of opportunities for Kripke-Universe alums to guest star. Kripke has gone on record saying he’d love his SUPERNATURAL family to guest star including Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and JIm Beaver.
Another guest star resource is his previous NBC series, REVOLUTION. “For sure I would get Tracy [Spiridakos] and Billy [Burke] and Liz [Mitchell} on the show as quickly as I could.”
As far as the EP is concerned, TIMELESS will be the gift that keeps on giving. “The one thing I love about TIMELESS is there’s all these great opportunities for these amazing guest stars, these characters in history you don’t really know and we’re really working hard to give them really fleshed out interesting stories and characters.”
Kripke feels he’s struck gold with his cast of regulars. The TIMELESS cast is chock full of familiar faces. There’s RECTIFY and SUITS star Abigail Spencer, 90210’s Matt Lanter, BETTER OFF TED’s Malcolm Barrett and ER’s Dr. Luka Kovac a.k.a. Goran Visnjic.
Kripke knows the SUPERNATURAL cast he assembled is something special. He thinks this is a lightning-strikes-twice situation. “I’m really happy with these actors. Abigail Spencer is off-the-hook good. Like mind-blowingly deep and complicated. Matt Lanter and Malcolm Barrett are killing it and they’re so fun together.”
He says the chemistry with the trio is already evident. “They all give such nuanced and complicated performances. I was just talking to Shawn Ryan the other day about it. We shot this thing…we took over the entire backlot and built an entire 1865 street, which is insane.”
“We have all these crane shots and horses and 150 costumed extras,” he continues. “He said what did you think of the dailies? And I said, they’re great. They’re visuals. But, honestly, my favorite takes of that day were the close-ups of the three actors communicating with each other. They’re so charming and they’re so interesting together. Thank God.”
This world will have rules when it comes to time travel. Time travel on TV can be a tricky, tricky thing. If the rules don’t make sense, viewers get vocal. So the pressure is real. “We spend an incredible amount of time making sure that we’ve got our rules straight and that our universe is consistent and we spend as much time not telling those rules to the audience,” explains Kripke.
The aim is to limit the headaches that erupt when dealing with all things timey-wimey. “We want this to be a fun show. For instance, I’ll watch STAR WARS and they don’t spend much time explaining the rules in STAR WARS. There’s an opening crawl and that’s it. But there’s an incredible internal consistency and you just feel that you’re in a coherent universe. That’s really our goal here which is we want the show to be simple and fun.”
One rule: the TIMELESS characters won’t be able to travel within their own timelines. This means they can’t directly go back and fix their own mistakes or wrong turns. “Garcia Flynn…we’re playing Goran as probably about 40 or so early 40s, so about mid-’70s is about as late as we can travel on the show. Certainly for now.”
If this rule ever changes, it won’t happen without a lot of thought and debate. “Believe me, what’s happening under the surface of that is an incredible amount of discussion and conversation to make sure that we’re making a credible and valid world for the audience to get lost in.”
SUPERNATURAL fans will be rewarded for tuning into TIMELESS. According to Kripke, his new series will feature some Easter eggs that will appeal to the SPN Family including the use of fun aliases and, once again, utilizing January 24 as the birthdate of one of the characters. “There are actually a few SUPERNATURAL references all over the pilot. It’s like this little game I play with the fans.”
He also says to expect similarities that are more big picture in nature. “One of the biggest things I think SUPERNATURAL fans will respond to is, in many ways, the thematic is similar. Ultimately, TIMELESS is a show about whether there is fate or free will.”
“If you could go back and change history, should you? Or is there a flow to the way history is supposed to go. And so what universe do we live in? Do we live in an ordered one? Or do we live in a random and chaotic one where you could go back and change history and what difference does it make? So that’s an argument that the characters in our show have.”
“To me, the fun of making a time travel show is, yes, you get to travel to these amazing periods in history and you get to meet these amazing characters but you also get to have deeper, make deeper, philosophical points,” he goes on to explain. “And that’s certainly something that I loved to do in SUPERNATURAL and we’re certainly doing that in TIMELESS.”