Phone press conference with Aaron Stamford and Amanda Schull before the start of season three of 12 Monkeys On SyFy
So first of all, I absolutely love the season, it was really great. Well now I can’t wait for season 4 but that’s going to be a while. So I’m trying to think of the best way to word this, because obviously you guys can’t, you know, mention specifics when you talk about it. But I feel like a lot of this season is about choices and sacrifices and, you know, what they choose to put first.And in past seasons, the most important thing to Cole was saving the world and this season he puts Cassie first and obviously what happens with Ramse. But yet he’s willing – well for a while – to kill his own son. And then Cassie obviously struggles with it. At first she’s willing to commit suicide and kill the baby, yet after she can’t bring herself to go with Cole. So can you kind of just talk about those changes and how they struggle with that and how they deal with the choices they make?
Aaron Stanford: So I’m trying to think of how to deal with that as a larger question. I mean, it’s sort of easier to talk about in the individual circumstances. In the show you see this theme of circles and cycles coming up over and over and over again. And one of the things that you continuously see are all the characters being put in this position where they have to make a choice between the greater good or the good of somebody that they hold dear, someone they love, a family member, you know, a wife or a husband. And in the case of Cole you’re right, he starts off the entire series essentially on a suicide mission, a mission of self-sacrifice. He doesn’t really value his life and he’s all too willing to sacrifice it to save humanity and to give himself a clean slate. And then this season, it does get complicated because suddenly there is this revelation that the architect of the apocalypse is in fact his son. So suddenly it becomes very, very personal. And at first he is able to distance himself from that and sort of divorce himself from that reality and that causes a divide between he and Cassie because she sees it very differently and I’ll let Amanda talk about that in a minute. But Cole is very willing to go through with this and in fact, essentially sacrifice his own son until he gets put in a situation where he comes face to face with him, and it changes his entire perspective on things. And Cassie, I don’t know if Amanda wants to talk about this but, I think the discovery that our child is the witness is different for her having carried the child to term and having had an actual relationship with him.
Amanda Schull: I mean, Aaron can answer all my questions for me. That sounds like a very appropriate and thoughtful response. I’m going to go with whatever he says. I would have said the same thing— that Cassie carried the baby and because of that, she has a much different relationship and bond with it. I think she says “for me he’s real” at one point when she’s speaking about him to Cole because for Cole it isn’t real, it’s just a concept that the child exists. And then, also, she has this strong belief that the reason he has been basically programmed to do what he will do, whether it’s cyclical or fate or destiny or whatever it is, that it’s nurture, it’s not nature. He wasn’t born that way. And she really strongly believes that she can change things if she’s able to save his soul.
So I’ll ask non-plotty things for the benefit of folks who have not seen any of the episodes. So you guys get to go to some new decades and some new places in season 4, so was there a favorite year or place that y’all got to visit personally and as your characters?
Aaron Stanford: Because we’re doing my favorite time period right now in season 4 but I guess mum’s the word on that. I don’t know, I’m trying to think what my favorite would be. They’re all a ton of fun.
Amanda Schull: I can say that my favorite time period for Aaron Stanford was the 80s and those
His Marty McFly moment?
Aaron Stanford: My Marty McFly outfit was a pretty big hit on set. So the 80s was pretty fun.
Amanda you got to rock some pretty neat outfits at different points so did you have a favorite year or decade?
Amanda Schull: Yes, you know, we’ve gotten to go back to the 50s a couple of times and it’s really fun and elegant and I sort of channel a little bit of Breakfast at Tiffany’s type thing which is always – well I guess that was the 60s. But it’s always nice for Cassie to get to clean up from the apocalypse and the time facility. A favorite was in episode 8 when we went to Victorian London. I think that was pretty special for the two of them to get dressed up and walk down the cobblestoned streets. And Aaron had a wonderful bespoke suit and I had a beautiful dress designed and built by Joyce Schure, our wonderful costume designer. And that was special to get to clean up and really get to go back as far as they have ever gone back and play the part for a whole episode.
Aaron Stanford: Yes that was a lot of fun. And also, just as a side note, I want to say that what is very
strange about Amanda is that she seems to fit in any time period except our own. She’s an anachronism but if you dress her up in the 50s it just somehow looks right, Victorian London looks right, the 80s looks right but just right now she doesn’t belong. It’s very strange. (Laughter)
Amanda Schull: Awkward (Laughter)
So we get the press release for seasons 3 and 4 and, you know, as a fan of the show obviously I’m thrilled to hear about the fourth season. But then I see that season 3 is going to be presented in this sort of binge format and I wasn’t quite sure what to think of that at first. But I guess, you know, nowadays a lot of the best shows, a lot of the Netflix and Hulu stuff is presented in that kind of a format. And obviously 12 Monkeys is a binge-worthy show. So in that regard, do you guys think that this approach is a good thing or what do you think about it?
Aaron Stanford: I think it’s a good thing because that’s the way I like to watch TV. You know, I think as you said – this show definitely, definitely lends itself to binge watching. Every single episode ends with a huge cliffhanger and you can’t wait to find out what happens next. And there’s so much going on that if you’re able to marry, string some of these episodes together, honestly it’s much easier to follow what’s happening, you know, if you can consume multiple episodes in one sitting. So I think it very much works for this show in particular. And I just think it’s the future. It’s clear that’s how people want to watch, that’s what it’s all moving towards, and I think this is just a step in that direction.
Amanda Schull: Again I just agree with Aaron, sadly. But beyond that, you know, you don’t have to binge every single episode in that sitting. You can TiVo it, watch a couple, take a break, come back, watch a couple more before in the morning and then watch a couple more at night. You know, I too tend to watch a lot of my favorite programming more than one episode at a time. I think it’s a little bit antiquated that people sit through weekly
episodes now. And it was exciting also for us because it had been a long time in the making. We had a very long hiatus between seasons 2 and 3. And it’s exciting for us to finally get it all out there – the result, the product of our hard work and anticipation and to finally be able to share it with the people who care about it as much as we do.
I’m wondering for you two personally, how long have you guys known who the witness actually is and how was it in this season dealing with him both as a kid and as an adult?
Amanda Schull: I can’t speak for Aaron but I believe I knew who the witness was going to be in mid-season 2. Terry’s really great and we have this luxury with our show. Because of the mythology of the show, the storylines aren’t accidents and there is an end game in mind. And maybe some of the connective tissue leading up to the final result needed to be hashed out, but Terry (Metalas) knew how he wanted to end every season, and he has known from the beginning how he wants to end the show. And so because of that, Terry’s able to drop hints in storylines whether it’s individually or collectively to all of us about where our character needs to go which gives us a building idea of how to create the character and how to pace it. And so I knew that Cassie was going to get pregnant the end of season 2 and I knew that it was going to be the product of two time travelers out of time and that’s why this child can basically exist and that’s why he’s so special. And so I had that luxury to know that I was going to lead up to that. And then we did have this very unusual storyline given the interesting mythology of our show in time travel that we suddenly have a child who’s older than we are that we got to work with in season 3, James Callis, and that was a real treat. He’s a lot of fun on camera and off. And it was really interesting because he was familiar with the first two seasons and he came into the show with a lot of wonderful ideas and feelings about his character and how we would all relate together and he fit right in. It was quite a bit of fun.
Aaron Stanford: Yes, she basically covered it. You know, I found out around the same time she did. We don’t get that much advance notice. At the beginning of season 1 when we were shooting, none of us had any idea where this was going to go. I don’t know how much was already conceived in the minds of the writers but they sort of, you know, gave us pieces of information a bit at a time. So yes, it was around mid-season 2 where that idea was given to us of who the witness was actually going to be and the stakes of it, so we did have a decent amount of time to drop that in and think about it. And just like Amanda said, James Callis was perfectly cast for that role and the dynamic of meeting your child as an adult was really interesting. I thought of it like the position of meeting a child that you’ve given up for adoption and they find you later in life. And you have this connection, this bond. You share blood but you don’t really know each other and you have to find your way to some sort of relationship. So I thought that was pretty interesting.
Tony Tellado: Hello guys, great to talk to you. This is a totally binge-watching worthy season and I think it’s one of your best, if not the best, from what I’ve seen so far. I’m really enjoying it.
Amanda Schull: Well thank you.
Aaron Stanford: Thank you.
Tony Tellado: It seems like more than ever you are both going through a lot this season, and Aaron in your case, a lot more physical activity although certainly Amanda has had some too. Talk about dealing with the conflicts that you’re going to be dealing with in season 3. You know, no spoilers of course, but what has it been like for you as actors to deal with that?
Aaron Stanford: Yes, you know – the onus is on the writers to intensify things constantly. The stakes have to continually be raised. And when you start a series out where the fate of the world is in the balance it’s difficult to continue to build off of that but they have managed to do it. And in terms of my own character, it has been a roller coaster. You know, he has been all over the map. And in the beginning of season 3 he is in a very, very desperate place. He has lost the woman he loves, he has lost his family, he has lost the only resemblance of a real life he’s ever had and he’s a man on a mission. He’s desperate to find Cassie and things are not going as planned. And he seems to be the only guy in the room who doesn’t realize that the game has already been lost. So that’s where he begins season 3. And then, I don’t want to drop too many spoilers but, eventually, we come to this revelation where he realizes that the witness is in fact his son and that spins him off on a whole new trajectory and gives him a very, very difficult decision to make.
Amanda Schull: Well this season she starts in a pretty low place. I think over the course of her imprisonment, which is basically what it was…it starts out as a pretty cushy imprisonment, psychologically not so much, but they are giving her everything she needs and could possibly desire as far as material, food and comfort and whatever else because she is housing their savior. And other than that she is of absolutely no use to anyone in Titan which is terrifying because as soon as she no longer is pregnant she’s pretty sure that she’ll either be killed or abandoned. But beyond that, she has the product of a relationship that is only a dream, really. She doesn’t remember it tangibly because Cole had to make the decision to basically erase that timeline. So she remembers these little fragments of it and I think while she’s there with nothing other than her thoughts she probably has pieced together this whole life that she could have had which is even more devastating and she’s probably believing that she’ll never see Cole again. So she’s as low as we’ve ever seen her, which was upsetting and sad and frustrating and disappointing and challenging and exciting all at once to be able to play. But at the same time, Cassie’s got this tiny little kernel of hope which is why she makes a break for it at one point only to be very quickly stopped. But that one little fragment of hope and possibility, I think, fuels her. And then having the child and seeing his face for that split second is what fuels her even further throughout the season to be able to try to save his soul and in doing that, save the world.
Tony Tellado: Yes, I think both of you as actors have really stepped up the season. I mean, you’ve always had a high standard but this season, I think acting wise has been one of your best.
Amanda Schull: Oh thank you so much.
Aaron Stanford: Thank you very much.
Special Thanks To The SyFy Channel