If the only information you had about Falling Skies was the cast list, you might be surprised to find out who is playing the doctor and who is the gun-wielding freedom fighter. Noah Wyle? Gotta be the doctor, right? He logged a decade or so on ER, plus he’s generally not seen as an action hero. Moon Bloodgood? Well, she’s often played “tough chick” roles in movies like Terminator Salvation that match her ridiculously badass name.
But the makers of Falling Skies, TNT’s epic new alien-invasion saga that debuts Sunday, went a different way, casting Wyle as Tom Mason, a history professor thrust into the role of rebellion leader, and Bloodgood as Anne Glass, a pediatrician whose husband was killed in the initial attack. We’re inclined to trust the makers, since they include Robert Rodat, who melded humanity and grandiose war settings so well in Saving Private Ryan, and Steven Spielberg, who we would concede knows a thing or two about aliens.
Bloodgood chatted with me about what, if anything, makes Falling Skies different from the vast amount of alien stories permeating movies and TV these days, and why she’s thrilled to leave the butt-kicking to somebody else:
How do you think Falling Skies stands out from any alien-invasion story that’s come before?
If we are going to be successful, it’s because you like our stories. Either you like them or you don’t, and I can never predict what people are going to like — everything from Noah and his dynamic with his kids, or [costar] Will Patton or me, or any of the actors, you’re either going to like our stories and believe it or you’re not.
I don’t think that we’re doing something that’s innovative. I think we’re just doing a story that’s like, “Hey, if you want to see some people try to survive an alien attack,” and maybe we have a way of showing aliens that makes you feel something different, or makes you feel connected. But, you know, when you have a show like Mad Men, it’s a novelty, and I say that in a positive way. It’s new, it’s innovative. I think Falling Skies is more just [a case where] you want to go on a journey with these people.
Normally, playing a doctor requires a lot of research and mastering a lot of technical dialogue. Was that the case here, or did the alien-invasion angle override that?
In some ways it made it … I mean, it was challenging because you’re working with Noah Wyle and you know he knows his stuff, so you definitely want to be on your game. My character is a pediatrician, so one of the things I used to my advantage is that Anne Glass wouldn’t know how to perform a lot of these surgeries, so I use [my own] ignorance to medical stuff to my advantage. Anne would know about being a pediatrician, but this is not a world she’s used to, so she would look uncertain and kind of unsure of herself, and she’s in new territory.
Your relationship with Noah’s character seems inevitably headed toward romance, but how is that angle worked into such a survivalist story?
We didn’t want it to be too much about romance. Our romantic relationship is barely touched. That’s something we wanted to be a secondary thing, and later on down the road when the primary things are taken care of — food, shelter and him finding his son … Noah was weary of it disrespecting our past loves. I’m still married, he’s still married and them dying doesn’t change that. I don’t think we wanted to jump into a romantic thing. I personally thought we could have used a little bit more romance, but I don’t think we missed the mark.
You’ve worked on Terminator, so you can attest as to the production quality of this show versus a feature film. How do they compare?
The reason I wanted to do this show versus a regular TV show is it is very cinematic. There is a difference between TV and movies, and as an actor you know the difference. There’s a different pacing; you shoot more in TV, you get a longer time with film to shoot things. TV is on a much tighter schedule, so sometimes with TV you feel you don’t get a chance to flesh out a scene the same way, but then sometimes you have to be quicker on your feet.
There’s a give and take and pros and cons. This show in particular is very cinematic. It’s only 10 episodes, you don’t feel like you’re watching a 22-episode show that’s going to go on forever. You feel like it’s a miniseries. It looks and feels much more like a movie because it’s got this kind of gray tone to it. The actual frames of the scenes you see are a little wider and not such a traditional TV setup.
Was there a lot of green-screen work for the CGI?
There is, but I tend not to experience that so much as Noah and some of the other characters, because they’re dealing more with the aliens. But one of the aliens in particular was a special-effects guy in a suit. That was [because] Steven Spielberg wanted him to look more three-dimensional vs. the green screen, and wanting him to feel more human. When you look at the alien as a real person, it kind of looks sympathetic. I liked working with an actual … I don’t want to call it a puppet, but it’s easier as an actor to react to that instead of just a flat screen with nothing there.
Most of the time you’re saving lives, but does your character get a chance to dish out some punishment as well?
I did get to actually do some action stuff. I do fight an alien, I do learn how to shoot a gun, but generally speaking I’m not supposed to be the athletic warrior type. I’m the doctor. It’s all cerebral, I’m there to bring forth reason and rationale.
Was that part of the appeal, not to necessarily have to live up to that tough-chick image all the time?
It was definitely a conscious choice. I definitely didn’t want to do that. I was kind of a little bored, and I wanted to do something different, not just action-hero stuff. I wanted to do something where I could be a little more human, and Sarah Carter, one of the actresses on the show, she gets to do a lot of that stuff. They get to do that, and I’m the doctor. It was challenging, because it’s a lot of technical jargon, which is not my forte. I hope I don’t look a fool doing it.
You don’t get that itch when you see the other actresses doing the stunt work to join in?
Depends on the day. There are days when I’m like, “Ooh, yeah, I love shooting a gun,” and I don’t think I’m bad at it. Then there are other times I was like, “Oh, I’m glad I do not have to be walking around with a rifle and wearing tight clothes and having to be the tough girl.” I don’t miss always having to say the tough-girl lines. It’s nice to be able to be softer. That I liked.
You’ve been living with this show for awhile, so it must be nice to be getting it on the air finally, eh?
It’s been two years. I’m like, “When is Falling Skies coming out?” I can only live in the alien world for so long. I have a whole other life. I don’t need to obsessively work. People just keep asking me and it’s just like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s coming out. I think it’s coming out.”
Does Spielberg’s involvement make you feel like you’re part of something special?
I don’t know that you’ll believe me, but I’m not someone who really thinks about it. I don’t know what it is about me, it’s not that I’m so humble, I don’t believe there are any assurances. It’s just that I’ve been in the entertainment industry for so long, since I was 18, and I’m 35 now. I was so sure about something once and you just don’t know. You really don’t know. I mean, do I think it’s good? Yes. Do I hope it’s successful? Absolutely, of course.
But you just don’t know what’s going to hit. You don’t know if people are going to like it. It’s sometimes kind of random. It’s very much like going to Vegas and gambling, it has no rhyme and reason sometime. I hope it would do well. I would be very proud if it did. Absolutely.
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