The key to success to a great television show is creating a villain that you love to hate. In the case of FALLING SKIES, it has provided us with the aliens and John Pope. But the interesting thing about Pope is we are never really sure he is a villain. He may not always play nice or fair with his fellow survivors, but he is just as passionate in his hatred of the aliens. It’s kind of plays in to the old adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” To help illuminate how Pope really sees himself in the fight against the aliens and his relationship with the rest of mankind, in an exclusive interview star Colin Cunningham provided his insight into the murky and conflicted mind of John Pope.
You’re playing this fascinating character, Pope, who could go both directions. He kind of wants to be a villain, but somewhere in his heart he’s got a soft spot and he wants to help these people out. So what can you tell us about Pope for the second season?
COLIN: I think if anything Pope becomes a little bit more into his dark-side in season two. I think the first season, as you said, there’s little glimpses of his humanity — not that he doesn’t have it in season two — but everything becomes a bit more edgier in season two. But that said, I think everything is a little bit darker this year and that includes Mr. John Pope.
What would you say is your favorite part of playing Pope so far?
COLIN: I think his clarity. I know it sounds a little bit crazy, but he thinks incredibly clearly. Even though he has a checkered history, and he’s maybe not your atypical guy, as much as he is a bad guy, he speaks the truth. So I think he is unencumbered by emotion. He doesn’t have a family and all that kind of stuff with emotions to get in the way. As far as his thought-process, he is a very logical, very rational, very straight-up guy. He seems the world very, very simply and it’s either survive — or you don’t survive — and if you get caught-up in affairs of the heart and emotions and all that kind of stuff, it’s going to cloud your judgment. So he’s very, very clear.
One of the things I found interesting in this next season is Pope focuses really intently on Tom Mason when he comes back, yet he does not seem as finely attuned to Ben. Is there a reason for that?
COLIN: I think he is and he would be, but I think the writing is featuring more the worry or the intensity with the focus being put on Tom. But in episode 3, I think he even accuses Ben of killing someone. But for now, the writing is focusing on the return of Tom Mason. It’s like, “Oh my god, he’s back.” But in episode 3, he comes right out and accuses Ben of murdering a character. So there’s a little bit of suspicion of both, but for right now the focus is going naturally towards Tom Mason.
A lot of what I sensed from Pope is that he is frustrated with the other survivors not being more cautious about what they are welcoming back. Is he just frustrated with their inability to see how bad things could be, or is he just frustrated that they are not listening to him?
COLIN: I think if Pope was here to say it, he’d say, “They’ve wiped out 99% of humanity. Why is it that the last 1% still has its head up its butt?” ‘Cause it’s obvious that Tom is now a mortal threat. This guy has disappeared for three months after walking aboard an alien spacecraft and he comes back — and nobody’s asking any questions? Like the guy could be a homing-device. This guy is a walking GPS. He’s thinking, “Does anybody see what I see? This is absolutely insane. Stop handing out lollipops and balloons, and figure out what the hell is going on. Ask this dude some questions, ’cause right now he should be dead. We don’t know what they did to him. We don’t know if he’s bringing the aliens to the 2nd Mass.” And it’s only Pope that seems to ask these questions.
He again seems to be chafing under the subservient role when he’s used to being a leader. Will he find a way to work with these people, or is he going to go, “You’re out of your mind, I have to do it my way”?
COLIN: I think its in episode 3 when he says, “To hell with you guys, I’m out of here.” Episode 3 kind of answers that question in that he splits. He takes off. Now he does come back, but it’s reluctantly. It’s not by his own choice.
So he comes back kicking-and-screaming?
COLIN: [Laughs] He comes back unconscious actually. I think Pope is beginning to tire of the 2nd Mass and it will be interesting to see the reasons that he stays.
He is very intellectual, the way he looks at things and looks at people. Do you think he just wants to be isolated from people? He’s kind of a loner at heart, or is that his way of detaching?
COLIN: He is a bit of a loner, but at the same time, I think he can begin to tire of his isolation. People need people. I think he hates that truth, but even Pope needs people. He wants to be alone and on the outskirts of things, but I think from time to time, he still needs to come and connect ’cause he is an intellectual and he can only talk to so many trees or bad guys. It starts getting a bit old, so I think he’s always found a kindred spirit in Tom Mason even though they’re at odds. I think in a very strange way that they both understand each other.
The other thing he seems particularly drawn to besides the intellectual debates is he loves playing with guns and bombs. Does he have a preference for one?
COLIN: I think if he had his druthers he’d rather blow something up than pull a trigger. The more cooties you can kill the better. I think he’d love to blow more stuff up. [Laughs]
Is there ever a point where you said, “Hey, not enough explosions! This guy really wants to blow something up”?
COLIN: Well, he also likes to get nice close and personal. I think as long as there are dead aliens, John Pope would be a happy guy.
Then are they ever going to explain the mystery of Pope and Maggie? They obviously have a backstory. There’s a lot of friction there.
COLIN: I hope they do! Right now I’m really enjoying the fact that they haven’t really talked about it. They haven’t gone into any specifics, but I’m most certainly sure Pope and Maggie have some backstory. She may have been taken back in season 1, or explained her story as being taken, but she didn’t leave. She was free to go at any time. So there is definitely some backstory with Maggie and Pope. I’d like to see. If anything it would be a big threat for Hal.
Who besides Tom Mason do you think Pope really gravitates towards as kind of an ally or someone he really wants to work with?
COLIN: He most certainly respects Weaver. He absolutely respects Weaver to the end of the world. I think he really has an understanding and respect for the Captain. It may sound a little strange, but Dai. I think Dai is one of the most fierce warriors. John Pope would look upon Dai that way. Dai and Anthony are both incredible. They don’t say a whole lot, but they are incredibly fierce and brave characters in FALLING SKIES. But as to the Masons, I think he likes to keep his distance. I don’t think it would be Ben or Hal. He appreciates them from a distance. Pope’s an interesting guy.
Finally, what would be a teaser or clues that viewers should be watching particularly as they get into the new season?
COLIN: Season 2, boy, you are in for one hell of a ride! I really think the show is phenomenal. It really stepped it up a notch this year and I’m personally so looking forward to seeing it. It’s a darker show this year, an edgier show this year, and I really, really hope the audience enjoys it.