Interview: Aaron Stanford of Syfy’s “12 Monkeys”

If you enjoyed Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi classic 12 Monkeys, you’ll have fun with the new Syfy series adaptation, premiering Jan. 16. Like its source material, the series is about a time traveler, Cole (Aaron Stanford), who journeys from the year 2043 to the present day (with a few other stops here and there) to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will nearly eliminate the human race, leaving the people in Cole’s era desperately trying to survive in a bleak landscape. In our time, Cole befriends Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), whom the future generation has learned played a role in trying to stop the outbreak, though she is unaware of it at this point.


12 Monkeys touches on a number of popular sci-fi tropes, from time travel to a deadly disease outbreak to a post-apocalyptic society, and it does so effectively and enjoyably. That is also one reason why Stanford was drawn to his role.

“I’m a big sci-fi geek,” Stanford says. “I love that kind of stuff and one of the reasons I was so excited to get into this project is because it’s a whole bunch of different sci-fi genres rolled up into one. So it’s like, wow, I get to travel through time and I get to wander the wastes of the apocalypse with an AK-47? It covers a lot of bases. So yeah, that’s a very exciting element of it.”

It was also exciting for Stanford to be part of a story that has such a memorable pedigree; he recalls seeing the original Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt-starrer when it first came out, and has “seen it several times since then. … I was not afraid to let the movie influence what we were doing here. It’s the source material, it’s the inspiration, so, you know, I certainly want that to be part of my preparation for the role.”

Of course, the nature of the two mediums, film and television, ensure that the series will be different enough from the film to both draw in and entertain anew fans of the original.

“One of the great things about television,” says Stanford, “is you do have time to tell a much larger story. You could tell a novel-size story as opposed to a short story so it will be different in that we have been given the opportunity to further explore a lot of the things that were touched upon in the original plot. We were able to go further into the characters’ past histories and explore all sorts of new, interesting, different avenues.”

12 Monkeys premieres Jan. 16 at 9pm ET on Syfy.


Photo by: Alicia Gbur/Syfy