Colin Cunningham, star of “Falling Skies”, talks John Pope & script

LA TIMES: HERO COMPLEX: In TNT’s “Falling Skies,” a post-alien-invasion drama whose premiere episode was a ratings hit — it scored 5.9 million viewers –  Colin Cunningham is the rogue and opportunist John Pope. Though he takes Noah Wyle’s Tom Mason hostage when they first meet, we come to find out that there’s a lot more to Pope. Despite his character’s nonchalance, Cunningham knows that Pope, like the show itself, has another side. Hero Complex’s Jevon Phillips caught up with the actor to talk “Falling Skies,” which is executive-produced by Steven Spielberg.

JP: What was your impression of the show when you first read the script?

CC:

I first read it and thought, “Whoa, this is dark.” Children are being abducted. Whatever adults they can find, they’re rounding them up and putting them into camps and nuking them…. It was really, really dark material, and when we showed up on the set, they were true to the script.  That was cool. You’d show up and they had locked down two miles of freeway. Buses would be flipped over and semi trucks on fire and there’s rubble everywhere and cars smashed into each other. There’s 300 extras, and 100 of them would be in military uniforms with weapons, and 200 would be civilians and there’s burning trash cans and you’re thinking, “Good God! This is not ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ ” This is unlike any TV show that any of us had ever worked on.

JP: It’s also brought home that it’s a pleasurable experience for him to kill the skitters [multi-legged aliens who initially attack Earth].  Have you gone into “that place” to figure out why it is so gratifying for him to kill them off?

CC:

How I ended up seeing it is that I believe that John Pope sincerely believes that there’s no way of coming back from this. Therefore, you literally have absolutely nothing to lose.  Every day will probably be the last day of your life. So in his own pessimistic way, he’s like, “What’s the …  point? You might as well laugh because we’re all dead anyway.” So I think there’s a certain dark philosophy that comes with this character. I also think that he’s come very close to dying so many times that he doesn’t fear it at all. He’s come so close to these things and still lived to fight another day that I think he looks forward to it. He toys with fate and goes as hard as he can.

JP: And he’s a chef …

CC:

Well, at first it surprised me. But then it made sense. Even though he’s shown in this particular lifestyle, he’s not a dumb guy — he’s extremely intelligent. He’s the kind of guy I can see riding his Harley to the local bar and getting in a fight, then going back to the library to read Herman Melville.  So at first I was like, “Oh my God. He’s a culinary-certified chef!?” But then I thought, “Well, of course he is.”

JP: How is the actual acting atmosphere on the show? Noah Wyle?

CC:

Noah Wyle is fantastic. He definitely sets the tone on the show in terms of being the professional that he is and the caliber of work that he does. As much as we all have a good time on the set, no one’s there throwing paper balls in the air. We all take it incredibly seriously.

The tough thing is that even though they’ve got all of this incredible production value and the scope of the show is massive, you’re still lucky sometimes to get two takes. It’s still television, and you’ve got to move, move, move, and that can be very difficult.  There’s not a lot of exploring.  All the work that you do for your character, you do it beforehand, at the lunch counter — you do it everywhere you can because you won’t have the luxury of time to do it on the set. That’s the thing with Noah. Because of his experience, he can tap into moments and emotions so fast. He’s so economical in what he does that it’s inspiring to watch someone of that caliber.

JP: So, now that we’ve seen the premiere, what excites you about what’s to come?

CC:

I was looking at things in the promos that I’ve never seen before. We’ve all been very grateful to be a part of this.  What are the odds of being able to put Steven Spielberg on your resume as an actor? It’s a holy grail, if not the Holy Grail. So, the cool thing for me now … after seeing the promos, I’ve gone from being grateful to being so pumped up and excited!

Read the entire interview: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2011/06/24/falling-skies-star-colin-cunningham-this-is-not-gilligans-island/

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