The resistance has begun. In the new TNT/DreamWorks Television drama Falling Skies, an alien invasion has all but wiped out the Earth’s population, leaving behind small pockets of survivors that must band together against their common enemy. The brainchild of Steven Spielberg and starring Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood, the series is currently shooting in Toronto for a 2011 debut.
Although viewers won’t get to see Falling Skies for many months, DreamWorks Television heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, as well as writer/producer Mark Verheiden offered an early preview of things to come…
Is the show unrelentingly bleak or are there going to be moments of humor and joy?
Mark Verheiden: It’s a show that has its tough moments but it’s also about hope and humanity and about how this group comes together. I think there is something really hopeful about a group of people that have been thrust together by fate, who don’t know each other. And instead of going at each other’s throats, what they’ve done is form a militia and decided they’re going to fight back. And we’re going to survive, but we’re also going to figure out how to fight back. So I think there are moments of humor, but the key word we’re talking about is hope.
Justin Falvey: And resilience. People that you may not expect may be rising surprisingly to the occasion. That’s what keeps them going.
Darryl Frank: I think that’s one of the things that [writer/producer] Graham Yost really brought to it and all the writers that are working on it. With shows like Band of Brothers or The Pacific, even when there’s war there’s humor behind it. You have to have that; otherwise it’s going to be too bleak. So he brought a lot of that to the banter of the show and [co-creator] Bob Rodat brought a lot of that as well.
Would you compare this world to say, Vichy, France where people are in a constant state of siege?
Mark: We spend a lot of time in the writer’s room talking about the French resistance and also great movies like The Great Escape and Saving Private Ryan. So yes, it’s about people facing overwhelming odds and how they find great heroism inside themselves but hold on to their families and the things that are important.
I think the key note of the show is not about losing what made you human. It’s about what you’re fighting for, so a lot of it is about holding on to family ties and the social things that make us human while at the same time fighting a very grave enemy.
Have you started to map out some of your long-term plans for the series?
Justin: Even though we’re six months in, it’s still very much the beginning, but I think Mark should speak to this.
Mark: I think if the question is, ‘Do we have a long-term idea of where we’re going with it?’ the answer is yes. To be very general, first they have to figure out how they can deal with these aliens, because they are unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. And in the context of the series, when they attacked, they took out all the technology, all communications and electronics, so we’re really at a loss. They’ve killed all the military, so we’re in a big hole when we start. The first thing is to hold on to what you’ve got but also figure out if there’s a way to get back at these things.
Justin: The ultimate aim is really the survival of mankind.
Is there a built-in problem with a show like this where the audience starts to care for your characters but at the same time, you have to kill off some of them to create a feeling of jeopardy?
Darryl: Dramatically, we really like that. There’s something fun about it and the best television is unexpected television. We don’t want to let the audience down, but at the same time we want it to be real, so that’s what is great about a show like this.
Mark: And without giving anything away, I don’t think we want to say that everybody is safe. That’s not how we’re approaching it.
Justin: It’s emotionally compelling. Every day, these people wake up and walk out the door and anything can happen. They’re taking their lives in their hands. Maybe you’re going out and trying to protect 200-300 people that you’re responsible for, but at the same time, you’ve got two kids that are waiting for you to come home.
Do the aliens have an agenda?
Mark: Yes. I worked on Battlestar Galactica where there was a question about the plan and things like that. These aliens have a plan and it’s a slowly unfolding plan, so don’t expect an answer in the pilot, but we can be sure that there is meaning behind what they’re doing. What they’re doing is very strange, but they definitely have a plan. Bob Rodat has some very interesting ideas about where we’re going.
Justin: As does Steven. But I think part of the fun of the series is that we don’t know what those plans are and to watch our characters as they evolve as they’re trying to dig up intel to find out what the motivations of the aliens are. How do we defeat them? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they communicate? These are things that we will learn throughout the series.
Darryl: And our characters are asking the questions that all of us would be asking. There’s a scene in the pilot about why are they here, what is that structure and everybody has a different point of view about it and they’re all kind of valid, because they don’t have all the information.
What sets Falling Skies apart from other projects it might be compared to?
Mark: What drew me to it after having worked on Battlestar Galactica and shows like that is the real heart and humanity at the core of it. These are real people who are stuck trying to fight a very real enemy and trying to figure it out even as we do. Most alien invasion shows start with the invasion and deal with it from there. I think that we’re at least six months out from the invasion, so people have sort of settled into it a little bit.
Darryl: And it’s citizen soldiers. The military infrastructure was the first thing wiped out, so Washington D.C. is gone, the international capitals are gone. We’re literally dealing with doctors, lawyers, students, moms, dads; any of us are now responsible for fighting for their families and for mankind.