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TCA 2014: 5 Reasons to Take A Peek at the CW’s Alien Drama Series STAR-CROSSED

In * By Tiffany Vogt, * Interviews, * TCA, * TV Addict, Star-Crossed on February 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm


There is much to appreciate in the new CW drama STAR-CROSSED.  First, it has aliens.  Second, they have very attractive aliens. Third, it has a lovely dash of romance running through the story.  Fourth, it is not just a romance, there is a huge storyline involving rebels on both the human and alien sides who stir up quite a bit of trouble. And fifth, the show remembers to have fun.

STAR-CROSSED features a lively cast of young adults that embody the very essence of the characters created for them.  They instinctively know that there is a time to laugh, to cry and to remember that there life-and-death stakes involved for these characters.

When the Atrians first crash on Earth, they were not warmly welcomed.  Instead, they were hunted down like invaders and tossed into an internment camp known as the Sector.  Only after 10 years of forced-incarceration do humans take the tentative steps to trying to integrate the Atrians into human society.  It is done with marked reluctance on both sides as each is fearful of the other.  The lack of understanding between the two species demands a level of compassion that few humans or Atrians seem to possess.

At this Winter’s Television Critic Association Press Tour, the producers and few of the stars of STAR-CROSSED provided some answers to what their show is about.

As introduced by Paul Hewitt, the CW’s head of publicity, STAR-CROSSED is described as an “intergalactic love story, where a boy meets girl after boy’s spaceship crashes on the planet’s surface and their budding relationship is tested amid the rising tensions between the human race and the alien species.”
Here are five reasons you should consider checking out STAR-CROSSED:

Sci-Fi vs. Romance

If the show were a straight science fiction series, it would only have aliens, guns and lots of anger and fear.  Yet in trying to balance their series, the producers and writers strove to weave together a story that has sci-fi elements while layered with beautiful themes of young love, families adjusting to loss, teens acclimating to high school, and unexpected friendships that arise across all cultures and species.  As executive producer Meredith Averill said, “There’s a healthy balance . . .  I think the pilot does lean a little bit heavier on the love story, but moving forward, the show very much becomes about how these kids struggle to try to find a way for everyone to just get along.  And a lot of that is part of the sci‑fi, the Trags and the Red Hawks, and cool mythology.  . . . it’s certainly not just a romance.”

Adding in his perspective on why they chose to tell the tale of seven teens in high school executive producer Andre Nemec explained, “We’ve been asked a dozen questions about what it’s like to be in high school.  It’s a hard, pressured time in life when you’re trying to find yourself and you’re trying to grow up.  You’re trying to have your first sets of romances and relationships.  But these kids in this school, they have this added pressure of this very real-world global event that’s happening.  These aliens have crash‑landed on Earth.  There’s another species that is amongst us that we’re integrating into society, and it’s not really just played for the, “Oh, should the human girl be with the alien boy?’ These kids in this high school are living with very adult themes and adult problems because this school is the cauldron where all of it is beginning to boil first and foremost.”

To give a bit more background on what challenges the teens will face outside of high school, executive producer Meredith Averill shared, “Roman is the son of the Atrian leader and he has this huge responsibility.  Like a foreign manifest-destiny thrust on him. But at the same time, he’s a high school boy, who’s in love with a girl and wondering how do you make all of that work?  So we’re not going to just tell a special story on racism.”

Adding her perspective, star Aimee Teegarden revealed, “I feel like throughout the season from episode to episode, there’s peaks and valleys where [the show’s] going through the relationships and integration, and then it will have a great episode that goes sort of into the mythology of the Atrians, and you get to know little pieces about their history and where they come from and how they split into different segregated groups or tribes.”

Without exploring the culture of the Atrians it is impossible to understand their fears and worries in how trying to emulate and fit in with the humans may cost them too much of their heritage and the essence of who they are.

Integration Issues 

Human beings are just not as warm and fuzzy as we like to think of ourselves.  We have turned our backs on and pushed away many other cultures and people from other geographic regions simply because they are different.  It is a deeply-rooted prejudice that we have never seem to have conquered – much to our detriment.   Thus, we are more inclined to push away, than welcome with open arms.

So when forced to integrate that always leads to some strife, and it is no different in STAR-CROSSED.  The Atrians may look a lot like humans, but they are still from another planet and that provokes fear of the unknown.  So STAR-CROSSED will look to explore how asking the Atrians to integrate after 10 years of captivity will stir up some natural integration issues. Executive producer Meredith Averill said that for STAR-CROSSED, “Obviously there’s the parallel to the civil rights movement, to integration . . . and certainly when we were talking about what the Sector would look like, we talked about internment camps and those sorts of things.  So we have our radical groups on either side:  the Atrians, and they have the Trags; and the humans, [and they have] anti‑Atrians, a kind of KKK‑esque group known as the Red Hawks that sort of represent those radical views and they really inform a lot of the story.  So it’s certainly a big part of the show.”

Executive producer Adele Lim added, “What we feel is interesting about the Atrians, it is not just a sense of being ‘the other.’  It’s a sense of pride in their own culture, in their own ways that they don’t want to lose being thrust into a whole different world.”  She explained, “A big part of it, for the aliens, was that they be relatable to us.  And similarly to the struggles of a lot of minority groups.  It’s not that the differences are so huge.  It’s that they are small and how small the differences are, it’s enough to sort of drive a wedge between you and society at large.”

Unfortunately for the Atrians, they have birth-marks that look like tattoos on their faces that mark them immediately as something different.  It is impossible to hide when your own face declares that you are a different species.  But what is intriguing about STAR-CROSSED is how the more one is exposed to the Atrians, the less the markings are noticeable.   In fact, it enhances their natural beauty and quickly it becomes impossible to envision them without them.

“District 9” Comparisons

There is always a temptation to compare television shows with prior show or films and it can be hard to shake them once someone has an image in their mind.  One of the more vivid alien films that explored forced captivity and internment was the feature film “District 9.”  So hoping to dispel some of the comparisons, executive producer Meredith Averill clarified, “In District 9, with the aliens being the Prawns, you sort of understood right away why there was that fear.  And with our characters, them looking so much like humans, it helps so much more with the ‘why can’t they all just get along, why can’t they find peace if they do have so much in common’ types of questions.”

Similarly, executive producer Adele Lim revealed, “It was important for [the Atrians] to be relatable, that we had the touchstone of how they felt and how they looked, and that they’re much more like us than different.  So that they’re more similar than different would be the point.”

It is so easy to justify fear of the unknown when an alien species looks so foreign from anything we know.  But the issue STAR-CROSSED wanted to explore was what if the aliens looked a lot like humans.  How could we justified our fears then?

Envisioning the Future

One aspect that is wonderfully showcased in STAR-CROSSED is how they envisioned life on Earth in the future.  They foresaw that people would drive smaller cars because of concerns over gas-shortages and how each person’s green “footprint” was impacting the world around them.  They also foresaw that technology would have evolved in the 10 years, such as holographic images would be more widely used.  Looking through a prism of time and to foresee the future is a curious thing.  Executive producer Andre Nemec explained, “[The time-jump] also allowed us to play a little bit more with the idea that:  this could actually be real.  So if you put it today, you sort of look out your window and you know that aliens haven’t crashed into Earth today, but ten years from now, maybe this is our reality.  So it was one of the key reasons we wanted to push it a little bit into the future as this could exist.  This might happen.  This might be in our near future.”

Adding to that, executive producer Josh Appelbaum said, “There was a lot of discussion about not making it a dystopian view of the future.  Even though this ship has crashed and this camp has been set up – and that’s sort of a dark reality — we wanted the future to seem bright in some ways with technology and innovation.  It was making people’s lives better and bringing people together in certain ways.”

From his own perspective, star Matt Lanter added, “It’s really a nice dynamic that we have.  Just aesthetically, we have the high school where things are pretty. . . . someone had talked about the cool futuristic gadgets, and we’ve got the holograms and the clear glow‑in‑the‑dark phones and things like that.  But then we have the contrasting Sector, which we know as a slum and that is built with shipping containers that are rusted-out and old technology.  . . .To kind of what Josh was saying about it’s not too far in the future that we can do that, and we successfully do it by connecting today’s society with an iPhone and we see how that might now look 30 years from now.  As for Atrians, they don’t have access to the futuristic tech and things like that. . .   The stuff that we have now [in 2014] as a society is actually old tech for the Atrian Sector.  So I guess I’m just saying that to say that it all interconnects.  It is a really cool kind of juxtaposition as far as the look and feel of the two different places.”

They did not want to just set their story in the future, they wanted to show us what the future could conceivably look like, and it is quite beautiful.  If we could only jump ahead 10 years now and see for ourselves!

Destiny Calling

What is a young adult to do when they find out that destiny is calling them in two different directions?  Does one follow their heart and explore the joys of a first love? Or do they face up to the reality that they may have to set aside love to answer a call to duty and to lead their people?  As viewers will find out right away, there is a lot of responsibility falling on the young Atrian leader’s shoulders.  Star Matt Lanter, who plays Roman, explained, “Roman is a very complicated character with a lot of depth.  He’s a leader who is being thrust into that position.  I actually always think that’s an interesting thing to play, and I think it’s an interesting thing to watch when you have someone who is maybe not ready to be a leader – who doesn’t maybe even believe that they’re a leader themselves — but they’re put in that position, and that creates a lot of really cool moments.”

Then through the eyes of the humans, co-star Aimee Teegarden, shared, “Emery and the Atrians, you see them both entering high school for the first time and it’s through both of their eyes.  You see how differently people perceive them.  Whereas, right now, going into high school, being the awkward kid, you’re treated a certain way, you know, getting called names and whatnot.  But all of a sudden, all that pressure is off, and it’s all on the Atrians.  That, I think, is a really interesting dynamic.  I think everyone can relate to feeling awkward and weird and alien.”

To see how both Emery and Roman struggle with their respective destinies and the lure of love along the way, be sure to tune in for the premiere of STAR-CROSSED on Monday, February 17th at 8:00 p.m. on the CW.  Destiny is calling.  How will they answer?

You can read more about STAR-CROSSED here: “STAR-CROSSED: Introducing An Alien Tale of Forbidden Romance, Forced Integration, and How Its Story Differs from ROSWELL”

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TCA 2014: 5 Reasons to Check Out the Mini-Series FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND

In * By Tiffany Vogt, * TCA, * TV Addict on January 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm
"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond"

“Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond”

At the Television Critic’s Association Winter Press Tour, BBC America previewed its new miniseries, FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND, which showcased massive war explosions in the background of some gorgeously filmed and very sexy scenes.  As described by BBC America’s General Manager Perry Simon, FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND is “a stunningly produce miniseries that tells the story of Bond creator Ian Fleming, who own life was the inspiration for 007.”

Frustrated Hero

Ian Fleming may have only lived grand spy adventures in his own mind and in putting them on paper for the character James Bond, but he certainly drew from his own wartime efforts to help create his iconic fictional hero.  Executive producer Douglas Rae said, “To anyone who knows the background to Ian [Fleming], he was such an enigmatic, chameleon kind of character.  But, for me, the fascination was doing a film about the man who desperately wanted to be somebody else, his alter ego, this heroic kind of all-action hero.”  Director Mat Whitecross added, “What’s fascinating about Bond . . . he’s a very dark, kind of depressive, quite twisted character . . . he’s actually reactive most of the time. He’s not always an action man.  A lot of stuff happens to him or happens around him – and the villain really wins.”  He compared Bond’s adventures that to Fleming’s own adventures, “which are like Bond’s, but then he constantly kind of doesn’t come up to scratch – on his own terms, he fails.”

As the miniseries shows, Fleming tried time and time again to make his own contribution to the covert spy efforts to turn the tide in World War II.  Whether his account of his contribution is to be fully believed or not, it makes for a fascinating story about what likely inspired him to write the James Bond stories.

Rich Cinematography

The opening scene feels very Bond-esque with an underwater chase and a spear-gun.  But it sets the tone perfectly in introducing the vivid life of Ian Fleming, as he perhaps saw himself as the hero of his own story, which inspired him to write the daring tales of 007.  Whether it is from the depths of the blue Mediterranean sea or to the snow-capped mountains of Europe or the dazzling London ballrooms, every image and scene is maximized to display its inherent beauty.  Co-star Lara Pulver even remarked, “We also had an extraordinary cinematographer, Ed Wild, who has just done such a beautiful job of making it so cinematic and beautiful.”  It is a feast for the eyes and you will not be able to look away.

Dark Fantasies

As richly explored in the miniseries, Fleming’s long-standing love affair with Ann Charteris (portrayed by Lara Pulver), was steamy, shocking and violent at times.  Their relationship and attraction was quite explosive and it was the one drug neither could give up.  For the actors, it required a level of trust to film such scenes together.  As Lara Pulver explained, “There was an instant respect and instant trust of each having each other’s backs, which is so vital when you’re depicting two very volatile people  . . . where you want to display and explore their extremes. . . You want to feel them at their most vulnerable and exploit them at their most aggressive.”  Even director Mat Whitecross admitted, “[Fleming’s] relationship with women was by modern standards very problematic. I think he was quite misogynistic. They had a kind of S&M relationship, which was fascinating, because even now it’s quite shocking.  They were both very forward-thinking for the time.”  The raw chemistry of Dominic Cooper and Lara Pulver really enhances the feeling of undeniable attraction and how Fleming and Ann could never fight the magnetic pull in each other’s lives.

Modern Spy Craft

If Flemings’ own accounts are to be believed, he was instrumental in helping both the British and Americans come up with some of the most commonly used spy craft and techniques still used to this day.  Fleming may be remembered best for his fictional creation, James Bond, but in the real world, he should be remembered for taking his spy instincts and putting them on paper as the backbone of modern spy craft.  His rich imagination may have ultimately saved countless lives over the decades.  That is a true legacy worth remembering.

Enduring Legacy

Whether Fleming’s life lived up to the grand heroics of James Bond, it does not really matter as his stories have delighted decades upon decades of film-goers and fans around the world.  What exactly is the appeal of these tales?  Lara Pulver said, “There’s so much storytelling involved with being a spy because you’re constantly creating and living a kind of life, which means that there is no limit.  I guess what that creates is an audience who kind of know the truth, but are going along for the ride with this kind of anti-hero.”  Hero or anti-hero, fans simply love James Bond.   As long as there are stories to tell, fans will keep flocking to buy the books or buy movie tickets.

So while Ian Fleming may have thought his own life never quite measured up to the super spy he had created, star Dominic Cooper summed up the James Bond legacy with, “It’s an amazing franchise that keeps redefining itself so cleverly and brilliantly.  And I’m always amazed how its spread across generations who still love it as much.”

To see the miraculous and incredulous adventures that inspired a spy for all ages, be sure to tune in for the 4-hour mini-series FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND on Wednesday, January 29th at 9:00 p.m., which airs on 4 consecutive Wednesdays and concluding on February 19th, on BBC America.

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"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond"

“Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond”

"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond"

“Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond”

"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond"

“Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond”

"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond"

“Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond”

TCA 2014: 5 Things Learned about CBS’s Spy Drama INTELLIGENCE

In * By Tiffany Vogt, * TCA, * TV Addict, Intelligence on January 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm


At the recent Television Critic’s Association Winter Press Tour, CBS brought their creative team behind its new spy series INTELLIGENCE to talk about the secret to the show’s success.  The following are five fun tidbits gleamed about the show:

Strong Chemistry 

A television show about super spies would never be quite as intriguing without a few sizzling hot agents to keep things spicy on screen.  When asked about the strong chemistry between Riley and Gabriel in INTELLIGENCE, star Josh Holloway revealed, “It’s quite easy, actually.  She’s wonderful to work with.  Meghan’s been a pleasure and a joy to work with. We’re lucky to have found her, because it’s very physical, very long hours, and she’s a little warrior, so I have a lot of respect for that.”  He then added, “She beats me up, tackles me all the time,” to which Meghan merely laughed and said, “He hates it.”  Josh grimaced a bit and sheepishly admitted, “I hate that, but that’s cool.  That’s cool for now.  We’ll change that later.  It’s a lot of fun.  And like I said, it happens kind of naturally, and we both were thrown into this wild ride, and we’re doing the best we can.”  Meghan also explained, “I think, too, in the show we deal with such serious issues. There’s threats to the world that we’re having to deal with, that having our relationship light and funny and fun in our moments of crisis, I think, is a very human way to deal with stress and something that I think is really fun and a really great part of the show.”

Cyber Sequences

Another eye-catching thing about the show is how Gabriel seems to effortlessly walk through cyber recreations of crime scenes, which one would imagine would be a tricky thing to film.  Josh Holloway said, for him, “It’s becoming easier.  The one thing, you do learn as you go.  This was a new thing to film, and so we were learning a bit as we went.  The pilot was a bit tedious because we talked a lot about it and tried to figure it out and layered things to create the effect.  So it was a different way for me, as an actor, to walk through things.  But now it’s pretty streamlined, and it’s not as tedious as you might think.  It’s hard on the extras that have to freeze.  I mean, they have to freeze for a while. . . [and] it’s difficult and tedious for those poor folks that can’t sit still and they have to freeze.”  Meghan laughed and said, “I drink too much coffee.”  Josh then explained, “It’s interesting, that part, to watch, and it’s a little spooky.  People can really freeze, and they look like wax figures, and you walk around them.  And I’m learning how to do it.  You have to flow through it as if I can’t avoid you because you’re not really there, so I have to flow through it in a way that I’m not really avoiding your arm or whatever is sticking out.  I would just walk through it in the reality, so there are certain blocking things you have to figure out.”

CHUCK Comparisons

While it has been a few years, there have been natural comparisons made between the former NBC drama CHUCK about an average guy who had a computer-program downloaded into his brain which turned him into a super-spy, and CBS’s new spy series INTELLIGENCE.  Addressing the question about the similarities of concept, executive producer Tripp Vinson admitted, “We’ve actually been asked that before, and I’m embarrassed to say, I’d heard of CHUCK and I’m sure Michael had also, but neither of us had seen it while we were developing this show, so I can’t really speak to that.  I can tell you ‑‑ obviously it wasn’t an influence for us because we hadn’t seen it.” Co-executive producer Michael Seitzman added, “ I personally have studiously avoided it now.  We’ve heard about it.  CHUCK has this amazing fan base that is enviable, and we keep hearing from them online.”  Josh Holloway then confessed, “I’ve seen CHUCK and I liked CHUCK. The difference is, though, Chuck could download things and do things.  I can’t do that.  I can only get information.”  So while Gabriel can see and extrapolate information, it does not enhance his physical abilities.

Gabriel’s Wife

Fans watching the show may have been very surprised to see that the mystery surrounding Gabriel’s wife was addressed so quickly. Executive producer Michael Seitzman said, “In the pilot, we introduce a bit of a mystery, which is Gabriel’s missing wife, Amelia.  We wrap that up to some degree in Episode 2.  We just decided to hit it right away, and, you know, with a big climactic tragic ending.”  He explained, “It’s a story that we really wanted to go to, and there were a number of things.  One thing was we liked the storyline and we liked the surprise of it, and we thought, you know, let’s surprise the audience early on.  How often do you get surprised?”  He then added, “There was another reason, too, which, quite honestly, there’s a practical reason, which is that we didn’t want Gabriel to be spending the whole season hunting for his wife, because then it just becomes about that and how could he focus on anything else, so it freed the character up for us in the writing.”  Though as one last big tease, he said, “But that’s also not to say that Amelia’s storyline is necessarily completely wrapped up.”  So just maybe Amelia did survive that nasty bomb explosion.  How would that even be possible?!

Upcoming Guest Stars

To help give the show some gravitas, INTELLIGENCE has tapped on a familiar face to flesh out the spy world a bit further.  Executive producer Michael Seitzman said, “We just cast Peter Coyote as Lillian’s father, as Marg Helgenberger’s [character’s] father, the great Peter Coyote who is really kind of magic and a lot of fun.”  Marg added, “Peter Coyote was hired to play my [character’s] father – and I don’t think I’ll be giving too much away by saying he’s a former CIA director – [they] have a very complicated relationship, as you can imagine.  He basically kind of trained [Lillian] to be in the position that [she’s] in.”  So look for that to add some father-daughter tension, and who knows what he is going to think of Gabriel!

INTELLIGENCE airs Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.

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Marg Helgenberger, Josh Holloway, Meghan Ory (photo credit: Jennifer Schadel)

Marg Helgenberger, Josh Holloway, Meghan Ory (photo credit: Jennifer Schadel)

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