ABC’s new series Time After Time is based on the 1979 novel and movie of the same name. It chronicles the adventures of a young HG Welles who, with the help of his time machine, travels to modern day New York City in pursuit of his friend Dr. John Stevenson, AKA Jack the Ripper.
Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, The Following, Scream) is the creator and Executive Producer of the series, which stars Freddie Stroma (Game of Thrones, UnREAL) as HG Wells, Josh Bowman (Revenge, 13 Hours) as Dr John Stevenson and Genesis Rodriguez (Entourage, Man on a Ledge) as Jane Walker, a museum curator who befriends Wells in Manhattan.
Stroma and Bowman, both British actors, came to the TV Critics tour to talk about their new drama, which premieres on March 5th 2017.
Freddie, what was your first HG Wells book?
Freddie: I actually hadn’t read any of them previously. Once I got on board with this, I read The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Invisible Man. I thoroughly enjoyed all three of them.
You’ve both traveled a lot. What experiences have you had that make you feel a little bit like HG Wells? Have you walked around New York or somewhere in America and thought, “This is really weird. This is so different from my world.”
Josh: I time traveled yesterday. I flew from New York in the morning, and I got here at lunchtime.
What’s strangely different about the US?
Josh: (Compared) to England? You can answer that yourself, what’s going on with the country.
Freddie: I’ve lived in America for six, seven years, so I can’t remember all the differences.
Josh: America is very commercial. There are car ads every five seconds. We’re selling, selling, buying, selling, consumer, consumer, consumer.
Freddie. One of the things I didn’t think about when I lived in England is just the sheer size of America. You kind of have to put it on a scale of Europe.
In England, people would say, ‘Did you know that 50% of Americans don’t even have a passport? They don’t even leave.’ If you ask how many English people have traveled, not many have either. So that’s a funny thing. Patriotism is strong throughout.
HG Welles is dazzled walking into Times Square, and that’s partly because it’s the future. But most of us in America, if we visited Times Square, would be just as dazzled because it’s such a different world. Does America seem like a different world to you?
Freddie: Yes and no. The world is so globalized now. It really is. We arrived in New York, and I looked at Times Square for the first time. I genuinely had that feeling, because you see it in movies, and it’s just incredible.
But we have Piccadilly Circus in London, and it’s a similar sort of thing. You’ve got the same flashing lights. The world is slowly kind of morphing together with globalization.
Josh, how do you balance the fact that John Stevenson seems very normal and charming externally with the fact that he has extremely violent compulsions?
Josh: Kevin wanted to make him a very charming person on the face of things, but deep down he does have these struggles. He has impulses that lead him to do very bad things.
That was something we talked about in the beginning, and I guess I don’t, on the face of it, look like someone who would potentially be locked up in prison.
We talked about him being a friendly, sociable, charming person. He has to be because he’s a friend of H.G. Wells, so when H.G. finds out that he’s a serial killer it’s a big shock to him.
I don’t condone violence in any way, shape, or form, but there is something that makes me want to at least try and understand a little bit of why these people do what they do.
Freddie, can you talk about working with Genesis? Her character is a strong woman who Wells seems taken by the stronger she gets.
Freddie: We’ve got two guys from Victorian England who are used to being spoken to in a certain way, and how they speak to women.
I think that he’s just thoroughly impressed by Jane, the fact that she’s got a few decades of feminism behind her. And I think he likes that. I think he was very much into equality and feminism and human rights.
It’s a hugely attractive quality to HG Wells, that and the fact that she is the first person in the modern world to show kindness, which is a hint at maybe the utopia that he was hoping to see in the future.
You mentioned you’ve read three Wells novels so far. Do you get the feeling that Wells was a likable guy in real life? Did you want to play him likably?
Freddie: It’s tricky because a lot of what we know about Wells is when he was a little older. A lot of it is once he’s had his success. This is pre all of his novels.
I think he would have been likable. But I think there are other sides to him that I didn’t bring into it.
I think that from what Kevin wrote, and from what was in the original film and book, he was this wide-eyed, bushy-tailed kind of guy who really believes in utopia. I latched onto that.
Josh: He cheated on his wife a lot, though, didn’t he?
Freddie: Yeah. That’s what I’m leaving out. (he laughs)