MANILA, Philippines — Currently airing on AXN Beyond is “Falling Skies” that’s executive-produced by Steven Spielberg about the aftermath of an all-out alien invasion of Earth where survivors have come together in an attempt to fight back.
“Falling Skies” is top-billed by Emmy-and Golden Globe-nominee Noah Wyle (“E.R.”) who stars as Tom Mason, a Boston history professor whose wife was killed in the invasion and the second of his three sons was captured by aliens. Determined to rescue his son and safeguard his two other boys, Tom must put his extensive knowledge of military history and strategies to the test as the second-in-command of ‘2nd Massachusetts,’ a regiment of resistance fighters protecting a large group of civilian survivors.
In a short interview, Noah Wyle shares insights into his character as Tom Mason, and how the series is a new, challenging and exciting experience:
What was the hardest part of filming the show for you?
It was all fairly difficult. We were shooting all in locations. It was no studio work at all and most of it took place at night. So it was very long days and nights, mostly in inclement weather.
And it was probably the most physically taxing job I’ve ever done. There’s a lot of running and jumping and rolling and diving and things of that nature. So, yes, I came out the other end of it pretty well bruised and banged up but happy.
Between all the guns and the historic references you have to say because Tom was a professor before the invasion happened, how much did you really have to learn before shooting this show?
Well, I’m kind of a history buff to begin with. So it was no hardship to read American History books – that’s my nightstand reading anyway. I also enjoyed the detective aspect of my work more than just about any other. I like doing research whether it’s applicable or necessary.
It is fun for me to have an ongoing license to continue my education in just about any sphere that the job demands. And in terms of the guns, I’ve shot guns before in my life but nothing quite like this. So, yes, there were a few – about a week of gun handling and gun safety instructions and, running around sound stations in loose formations, that kind of thing.
I’ve done a little CGI stuff before. The Librarian movies have a bit of it. But this is leaps and bounds beyond anything I had done before. It presents all sorts of challenges, the biggest of which is really getting five or six people who are all in the same scene to be looking at the same thing that’s not there and reacting with a certain line of continuity.
You don’t want to be looking at something that’s terrifying and play terror only to find out that the other five guys standing next to you are being very stoic about it. So, you kind of get on the same page about what it all means, what the stakes are and how to present a united front.
You feel really, really silly when you’re doing it, reacting to something that’s not there. But after it gets all cut together and they actually put in the spaceships and the aliens, it all works pretty well.
Is Tom Mason going to get his hands dirty as the episodes wear on and have to, maybe, compromise his Harrison Ford-esque good style action hero?
I think Tom’s got a pretty strong will and ethical center. But I think at the start of the season, it’s very easy to second guess decisions that are being made at the top level by Will Patton’s character, Captain Weaver. Eventually, once he accepts the mantle of responsibility and leadership, he sees that that really entails making a lot of proverbial Sophie’s Choices.
And that ethical center does get rocked a bit. It really isn’t so much a question of him redefining himself as a bad man so much as it is letting the mask slip and showing the extent of his grief and loss and the toll that has taken on him. We get glimpses and windows of that periodically through the course of the season as he tries to keep it all together.
Science fiction fans are very particular but also very loyal. If they enjoy a show, they really enjoy it. What type of exposure did you have to science fiction prior to getting involved with this project? Were you a fan at all?
Yes. My experience has all been as an audience member. This is the first time I’ve delved into the genre. But I’ve very quickly learned with it – it is true that it’s a skeptical audience at first. The audience feels like it’s been wounded and disappointed by other shows that have either been cancelled prematurely or that have gone off the rails and not kept a line of continuity. But if you do win them over and pay them the respect that they deserve since they’re paying such close attention to detail, they become the most loyal following you could possibly hope for.
In what ways does Tom Mason differ from Dr. Carter of ‘ER’ and from your role in ‘The Librarian?’
Well, you know, Tom’s a cerebral guy like those guys were, he leads with his brain and his communication skills above all else. I think Tom’s a little tougher than both of them and he’s got a bit more of a blue collar mentality than either one of those two guys had. He’s not as funny, but similarly, he’s got a very strong moral and ethical center.
I think Tom is potentially more violent. And neither one of my two previous characters ever got to enjoy or embrace fatherhood. John Carter came close but it was a, sort of, a tragic event.
There are many shows about aliens who have invaded earth or conquered earth. What do you think makes this show different from those?
Our show uses the alien invasion in those action set pieces as a backdrop for what plays out as a pretty good character, family drama. It doesn’t really lead with it being an action show each week.
Did you know immediately that this was going to be a really good show? After reading it, did you go, wow, I like this? What attracted you to it?
Well, all you really ever have to go on is the quality of the pilot script and the creative elements involved. I thought Robert Rodat, who wrote Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot, wrote a really beautiful script.
So I knew that they would be wonderful collaborators. Also, the chance to work again for DreamWorks and Mr. Spielberg was good – knowing that the spaceships and the aliens were going to look fantastic, and that anytime Mr. Spielberg puts himself or involves himself in any capacity, the project only gets enriched by it.