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NBC’s new sci fi series Timeless is helmed by Executive Producers Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Blacklist) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural, The Blacklist).

A dangerous fugitive named Flynn (Goran Visnjic) steals a secret state-of-the-art time machine. He is intent of destroying America by changing the past. So the country puts together an unlikely team to go after him. The team consists of Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), an African American scientist, Wyatt (Matt Lanter) a soldier; and Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a history professor… They use the machine’s prototype to travel back to critical events in order to stop Flynn. These are the only people who can save the world from destruction!

Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke came to the TV Critics Association tour to talk about their fun action-adventure series.

Timeless - Erik Kripke, Matt Lanter, Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett and Shawn Ryan
Timeless – Executive Producer Erik Kripke, Matt Lanter, Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett and Executive Producer Shawn Ryan at the TCA press event on August 2nd 2016 ©2016 NBCUniversal, photo by Evans Vestal Ward

How are you going to balance continuing stories with the episodic nature of the series?

Shawn Ryan: I would say that it’s going to be about 80% story of the week and we’re going to go back to an iconic period of time. We’re going to send them on an epic adventure in Timeless. And then, yes, at the edges, at the beginning of episodes (and) the end of episodes, we’re going to have some ongoing stuff.

It’s important to Eric and me, and I know to NBC as well, that this not be the kind of show that falls down some serialized rabbit hole and loses itself and turns on itself. This show is much more, I think, like Back to the Future and Quantum Leap than it is like 12 Monkeys in that way.

Time travel is something that we use as a device to tell this pretty epic historical adventure show. And, yes, we’re going to have important personal things.

Lucy’s character undergoes a really serious, epic loss at the end of the pilot. We’re going to deal with that, but in ways that we’re going to attach at the beginning and end of episodes. Hopefully they aren’t going to get in the way of people dropping in to enjoy the episode when they watch.

Timeless 101 - Abigail Spencer and Matt Lanter
Timeless 101 “Pilot” – Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) and Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) ©2016 NBCUniversal Media, photo by Joe Lederer

Do you foresee future episodes that might actually take place entirely in the present timeline and not flash back in time?

Shawn: I think that’s possible, but that doesn’t happen in the first eight. I think we want to establish the basic parameters of the show. Then I think we’ll have fun trying to break the parameters in certain episodes.

We think one of the things that makes our show unique and different is that we are going back to the assassination of President Lincoln, to 1962 Las Vegas. We’re going to go to the Alamo; to go to Watergate; to Germany during World War II and we’re going to the space race the day we landed on the moon.

Those things essentially are the heart and core of our show. And I don’t want to do episodes yet that abandon them.

Can you elaborate about their going back to the Alamo? How will Lucy fit into that?

Shawn: They’re there for a few days before the attack is supposed to happen. And they’re going to meet Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie and some non-famous people there.

Timeless - Executive Producer Erik Kripke with Matt Lanter
Timeless – Executive Producer Erik Kripke with Matt Lanter at the TCA press event on August 2nd 2016 ©2016 NBCUniversal, photo by Evans Vestal Ward

Eric Kripke: Three or four days before the actual siege began there were women and children at the Alamo. What’s so fascinating about this show is we hired a historian to live in the room with us as we’re breaking episodes. Every day we’re blown away in the room by something about history that we didn’t know.

It’s interesting that Malcolm’s character goes back. Race relations are very different in 1937, the time of the Hindenburg. Is there going to be an episode where that isn’t going to be true for his character? Is every episode going to be an issue episode about race relations?

Eric:  We have to play it realistically. I think one of the things that’s great about this show is it’s a really visceral, grounded attack on history and we don’t sugarcoat it.

So the reality is he’s going to face all sorts of racism in the different periods that he’s at that will be specific to those particular periods.

There’s so much untold history from a minority perspective, from a female perspective. I think there’s a very intentional, conscious decision that of our three time travelers. One is African American and one is female. We’re really looking for a door in to not just tell the iconic history that everyone’s heard before, but to tell a really exciting and fresh history. [One] that isn’t dusty and isn’t a school lesson, but is violent and exciting and very current. Allowing us to frankly make commentary on issues that are really happening today.

Timeless 101 - Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Abigail Spencer
Timeless “Pilot” – Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) and Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) ©2016 NBCUniversal Media, photo by Joe Lederer

How far back in history are you going to go?

Shawn: I don’t think we’re going back to Greek mythology. Right now, the farthest we go back at the moment is the 1750s, so that’s pretty far back. That’s during the French-Indian War. So we’ll go pretty far back, but I don’t think want to end up in medieval castles yet. Talk to me in Season 3.

Eric: Yeah. My 6-year-old asks me literally daily, ‘When are you going to have dinosaurs?’ And I’m like, ‘You gotta wait.’

Eric Kripke Soundbyte

Eric Kripke was asked to talk about the look of the time machine, click here to listen to his answer.

Timeless – Time Machines Gallery

Click on an image for a larger view. Use arrow keys or swipe through the gallery.