FALLING SKIES debuted last summer to record breaking numbers as fans across the globe avidly tuned into see the mesmerizing aliens and to figure out how humans were going to reclaim their planet. During a recent press conference at Zoic Studios, executive producers Remi Aubuchon, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank provided some insight on how they approached the second season of the alien occupation series that has the whole world buzzing.
The first season finale was clearly a game-changer? What were you thinking ending it with Tom Mason walking onto the alien ship?
REMI: Well, I wasn’t involved then.
DARRYL: When we hired him, he was like, “Thanks a lot guys. Now I’ve got to write my way out this one!” ‘Cause he wasn’t involved in the first season. He was only involved in the 2nd season.
REMI: I only got involved when we started talking about possibly me coming and running the 2nd season. I was literally thrown in a room on a Saturday and I watched all of the episodes, and as I was watching I was going, “This is cool. This is cool.” Then it got to the end and I went, “Oh my god, what am I going to do?!” So someone else painted me into that corner. But the truth is that I love a challenge. It was really fun to figure out: why did he go there? I called up the writers of the first season and they all said, “I don’t know.” But the truth is we came up with an awesome way to move forward from that; and actually in many ways, that final sequence ended up informing much of the energy, thrust and engine of the second season.
DARRYL: We had ideas. I mean, we had ideas of where we would go — possible different directions — but we sort of left it up to Remi and the writers. We have some writers from the first season that stayed on and some new writers who sort of come up with what they wanted, and we’re really happy with where it ended up.
What’s the balance like? For example, in the first season there was a good balance between the sci-fi elements and the relationships and the more homosapien drama.
REMI: I think we follow basically the same balance. The one thing that I’ll say is that the stakes are upped on both sides of that equation. I think we have incorporated a lot more of what I’d call science fiction elements into the second season. But at the same time, I think the emotional stakes for our human drama has also risen a lot. People are more comfortable with each other. They were just thrown together literally in the first season. They were trying to figure out who they are and what their roles were. Those roles are a little more defined in the second season, and so the consequences in that with familiarity comes actually increased conflict a lot of the time; or certainly more interaction between characters. The one thing I’ll say is that most of the writers — we all come from genre backgrounds and we’re all basically science fiction geeks and we love that sort of stuff — but we always forced ourselves to have the center of the story be emotionally based from our characters. We surround them with a lot of fun science fiction elements, which I think makes it cool, but ultimately it’s about our own characters’ needs, wants and conflicts.
DARRYL: I’ll concede that the dual franchise was critical from the get-go. It was important for Steven [Spielberg] and certainly our partners at TNT — and it is something we never want to lose sight of. There’s certainly more mythology in the second season, and, as Remi said, as we’ve gotten to know these characters, it all of that moves along at a brisk pace — a really satisfying one at that, I think.
Is there more pressure on you after a successful season and the bar has been raised really high to try to keep the bar that high?
DARRYL: The first thing that Steven [Spielberg] said to us about Season 2 was: “We have to deliver on the promise of the first season.” I remember when we first brought Remi in, it was no real pressure. We’ve need we had the first 2 episodes since we were talking about doing a 2-hour premiere. But Steven’s like, “It’s got to be bigger and badder than the first season ’cause we’ve delivered at such a high level in the first season that if you don’t reach that in the second season, you’re going to let the audience down.” Steven was very clear that we need to take it up a notch – to amp it up. These were all the words he used; and I think we totally delivered.
JUSTIN: I’m already anxious about the third season! But the 2nd season is mostly attributable to [Remi]. It’s fantastic. I mean it really does deliver in a meaningful way. It’s going to be fun.
Can you talk about how you upped the ante in the second season?
REMI: I think that the first thing is that the 2nd Mass, which is the group that we’re following, have decided to take the fight to the enemy; and the enemy has responded to that by taking the fight back to us. I think that makes us more mobile and on the move. I think that as relationships have developed — specifically, I’m thinking of the relationship between Captain Weaver and Tom and then Tom and Pope, and other factions in the group — that those stakes have been raised also. It’s questions of: “Who’s direction do we follow? Where do we go? What are we going to do?” Those have also helped amp it up. I think largely what we are doing is we’re more mobile; we’re going to learn more about the aliens; and during the course, we’re going to have more interaction with the aliens — and that immediately amps things up. It is one thing to see them from a distance. It’s another thing to see them face-to-face and to have to deal with them. So a lot of that is involved.
DARRYL: It’s also: “What’s the motive of the aliens? What’s the mythology behind the harness and how that has repercussions on some of the folks that have had those put on them?” All of those things are answered in a really satisfying and interesting way.
Speaking of the harness, Ben seems to be at the forefront of this season. Can you talk about the evolution of his character?
DARRYL: It was interesting. Connor came back as an actor and had really blossomed physically. He was a boy who became a man over the course of our hiatus and it really worked well into that character and the changes he is undergoing, without giving much away.
REMI: We had a nut of an idea with what we wanted to do with Ben and, in early discussions with Greg Beeman who is our director/producer, he said, “You know, Connor is a really smart kid and even though he’s not as experienced an actor as others in the cast, I think he can handle this.” So we had several discussions with him. He goes through quite a journey this season and I think all of that has been set up in the first season — what ends up happening to him and the rest of the 2nd Mass, it has repercussions for everybody.
DARRYL: His character really breaks out. Every member of the Mason family is critical, but he really steps up in a meaningful way. Not only as a character on the page, but in the maturity of the actor, Connor, himself in a satisfying way.
Where is this season going? Last season it was about discovering that they could fight back. What’s this season really about?
REMI: I think this season is about finding a way for humans to establish a hold on their home. The reason that sounds more vague than I mean it to be is just because there’s so many twists and turns that I really don’t want to give away because it will be fun. But I think that a lot of what we are exploring in the 2nd season is: “How much do we want to survive?” Which I think is a relevant question. “How much do we really want to make this our place and our home? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to make sure that we prevail over some species that has decided, without asking permission, that they want what we have?” We’re not putting that on big billboards, but I think that is the underlying engine that is driving the motivations of our characters. I am fascinated by the human ability to survive the most horrible things and out of that comes usually amazing stuff.