Ahead of the 12 Monkeys Season 3 Binge-a-thon, Syfy held a press call with series leads Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull.
The TV time-travel veterans discussed everything from Cassie and Cole’s complex relationship, to the intricate nature of the show, the influence of social media and Syfy’s decision to release the entire third season over one weekend.
Having already been fortunate enough to screen the entire season, I can tell you fans are in for one helluva trip. Think you know where the story is headed? Well, I can almost guarantee that you’re completely off the mark. The twists, turns and attention to detail never fail to impress me. I hope that sci-fi fans make time for this special event. Let’s show Syfy we appreciate the love and support they’ve shown 12 Monkeys, despite less than stellar “live” ratings. Don’t sit this one out guys, spoilers will be everywhere. Tune in LIVE!!!
Now, enjoy this latest Q&A with Aaron and Amanda to get their input on 12 Monkeys Season 3.
QUESTION: How long have you guys known who the Witness is?
Aaron Stanford: Amanda, want to take that one?
Amanda Schull: Sure. I can’t speak for Aaron, but I believe I knew who the Witness was going to be mid-season 2. Terry [Matalas]’ 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. 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 is so special. And so I had that luxury to know that I was going to lead up to that.
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.
QUESTION: What is Cassie and Cole’s complicated relationship like in the new season?
Aaron Stanford: That’s a good question. I’d say with Cassie, what complicates it and what really hinders her, is that she can’t come to terms with how head over heels in love she is.
Amanda Schull: I knew, I knew you were going there. (Laughter).
Aaron Stanford: She’s just hopelessly in love (crosstalk).
Amanda Schull: If we were in the same room, I’d be able to smack you.
Aaron Stanford: In a pool of adoration.
Amanda Schull: Oh God. So many barfs.
Aaron Stanford: All right, so back to the real question. You know, there has been, a lot of turmoil in their relationship, a lot of difficulty with them actually finding their way to each other and then circumstances splitting them apart again. And in season 3 you do see more of that happening. The one thing that brings them together is the shared discovery and secret that their child is in fact the Witness and is responsible for the destruction of the world. And they have to carry that burden together and for a time it unites them and then I think eventually in the season the weight of it sort of splits them apart again.
Amanda Schull: Yes, it’s – their strange and unusual relationship but also their deep love for each other plays into effect in every single decision they make. They’re united with this purpose to be able to stop the end of the world, basically, but almost every single mission they go on there’s also this kernel of knowledge in the back of their heads that if they do stop the plague, if they do stop all of these things from happening, that could also mean that they will no longer have met and they no longer have ever even known each other. So it’s a very unique and complicated bond, and there’s a lot of push and pull, one person feeling one way having respect and understanding for that and maybe going along with it or maybe really feeling a different way at another time. But at the same – by the same token – there is just this unique bond they have for one another underneath all of the decisions that come into play.
QUESTION: Can you talk about some of the conflicts your characters will be facing in season 3? No spoilers of course.
Aaron Stanford: Yes, you know 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 semblance 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, 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. That one little fragment of hope and possibility, I think, fuels her.
QUESTION: Since the show is so intricate, how do you keep track of it all?
Aaron Stanford: The show is an incredibly intricate jigsaw and you have to have an understanding of each individual piece to put it together. In order to do the acting, in order to make choices, in order to decide where your character is at in their journey, where they’re at in the immediate sense on an emotional level. You have to remember where they’re at in their own cycle in order to have everything make sense ultimately. There’s a lot going on. What makes it a little bit easier for us is that, you know, we live this, for 14 to 16 hours a day while we’re shooting it. We’re immersed in it and we’re constantly thinking about it, reading it, discussing it. So it’s always there. I have found it the most difficult after the longer hiatuses where we’ve come back after months away and then you have to find your way back in and that’s tricky. You have to go back and rewatch the episodes, reread some of the scripts, and just get yourself back into that mindset. That has been the trickiest. Amanda?
Amanda Schull: Yes that’s true for me also. I am a pretty meticulous note taker so I take notes when I’m reading the script, when I’m doing scenes I jot things down. But Aaron is right, having a long hiatus was a little bit jarring, you know, snapping yourself out of the world because the world is quite immersive and that of the character. But at the same time every single department does such a great job creating the environment once we step into it that it’s easy for a sense memory to kind of come flooding back when we get back into the time facility or into the Emerson Hotel. And you remember the scenes that you did there and the moments you had there and the emotion you felt there. And so once we’re back in it, I think for me at least, I’m really in it. And I can remember all these things that I might not have felt from the comfort of my condo in Los Angeles. It’s all right there on the surface again.
QUESTION: You guys get to go to some new decades this season, was there a favorite?
Amanda Schull: I can say that my favorite time period for Aaron Stanford was the 80s and those jeans.
Aaron Stanford: My Marty McFly outfit was a pretty big hit on set. So the 80s was pretty fun.
Amanda Schull: 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)
QUESTION: What’s it like for you guys as actors to see the evolution of social media, the immediate feedback?
Aaron Stanford: Yes it’s been interesting. You know, on the one hand I think one of the things that has changed the most is that social media has made everything such a minefield. It’s like such a game to keep from anything being leaked, you know. Everyone is so paranoid about spoilers being released and you have to be careful with every single word you say or every single picture that you post because people are watching. And the particularly, you know, devoted fans are going through everything with a fine toothed comb to figure out every single little detail that they can. So that has been interesting, this sort of atmosphere of secrecy and intrigue that we have to, you know, keep all these things very close to the vest. And then in terms of immediate response, I do think it’s interesting, yes because, you know, coming from a background of theater you do have that immediate response. You know right away if things are going well or not. If it’s a comedy and people laugh, you know you’re doing the right thing. And if it’s drama, you can hear a pin drop, people are holding their breath, then you know you’re doing the right thing. But with film and television quite often there is no real way to know and you just hope that what you’re doing is going to land and that people are going to respond to it. So yes, it is nice every once in a while see a tweet where somebody had a very strong emotional reaction to a scene you were in, was affected by it, or thought it was hysterical or whatever it was. It is nice to have that little affirmation.
Amanda Schull: I agree with Aaron. Begrudgingly I just seem to agree with everything that he’s saying today. I think also to tag onto what he was saying about the immediacy of theater, I did a lot of stage performance in my former career and there’s a different sort of visceral response you get from having an audience and you just hope that you’re capturing that on film. You can’t be certain that that’s what you’re doing. And we’re in a little bit of a vacuum, also. We can’t change our performance or adapt it depending on whether we’ve hit the figurative mark or not within our audience, so there’s also that. We have the immediacy of people commenting on it – whether it’s positive or negative – but we don’t have the luxury of being able to adapt our own performance based on even what we see of ourselves, not necessarily what people comment on ourselves. So it’s sort of a combination of two worlds colliding when you consider social media and film and television now.
QUESTION: So, how do you feel about the binge format? Is it a good thing?
Aaron Stanford: I think it’s a good thing because that’s the way I like to watch TV. You know, 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.
QUESTION: There’s usually a lot of pressure on actors to keep spoilers to a minimum. Is it a relief knowing that Season 3 is being released all at once?
Aaron Stanford: I hadn’t thought about it in that respect. Yes, I think it will make things easier. You know, it just gets out there very quickly and then people can have their online discussions in peace. So yes, I think that will be nice. In general, I’m looking forward to seeing how the experiment works out and how people respond to it. I personally think they’re going to love it because that’s how I prefer to watch things and I think most of our fan base will probably prefer that as well. You know, everybody is into their own various streaming platforms now. I just think it’s a superior way to do it and yes, I think it’s the right move. It probably will take some pressure off of having to bottle up those spoilers for months at a time.
Amanda Schull: I feel as though I still need to keep some things bottled up for at least a few weeks afterwards because there are other countries that don’t air the binge the same weekend that we do in America. So I have been chastised online for mentioning things about an episode even a few days after an episode airs by people in another country who have been waiting until that weekend to see it and didn’t realize that such and such was going to happen or that, you know, so and so was going to make a guest appearance and they get disappointed in me saying something. So I have found the safest way to discuss our show, especially if I’m live tweeting it, is in a very abstract format which is how I’ll probably continue to tweet about our show for fear of ruining somebody’s experience. We work really hard on the show and I want everybody to appreciate all the work that we put into it.
12 Monkeys Season 3 premieres over 3 consecutive nights Friday, May 19 to Sunday, May 21 from 8-11/7-10c