12 Monkeys Cast & Creator Tease Darker, More Complicated Season Two
12 Monkeys is arguably the strongest addition to Syfy’s re-vamped slate of dark and gritty programming. Its fleshed out characters, complex relationships and intricate world building make it a prime example of what the network — and genre — is capable of.
An adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s cult hit, 12 Monkeys follows James Cole, an anti-social wanderer from 2043 who — with the help of some friends in both the past and present — re-writes time in order to prevent the complete destruction of humanity in the future.
Cole’s (Aaron Stanford) mission to stop the death of seven billion people is guided by Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), a scientist who has found a way to break the laws of physics and time travel. Jones’ time machine, along with the help of unsuspecting puzzle piece Dr. Casandra Railly (Amanda Schull), help Cole re-construct the world as they know it. Cole meets a number of interesting people and obstacles along the way, all the while begging the question: can we alter time or is fate a continuous loop?
The cast and creators made their New York Comic Con debut in 2014 with a premiere screening at the Paley Center, earning it early praise. The series returned to the east coast’s biggest comics and entertainment event with even more surprises up their sleeves. Speaking to a crowd of eager fans, the show’s actors and series creator Terry Matalas discussed the work that went into constructing the complicated universe, before sharing an exclusive season two teaser.
ScreenSpy was present for a more intimate post-panel Q&A with series stars Aaron Stanford, Kirk Acevedo, Amanda Schull, Emily Hampshire, Barbara Sukowa, Todd Stashwick and showrunner Terry Matalas.
The nature of the world-ending virus left 12 Monkeys‘ characters in a nightmarish wasteland. The idea that their reality couldn’t get any more dire propelled them all into action and the web of time. But as the season one finale illustrated, it is entirely possible that they weren’t living in the worst-case scenario. According to series showrunner, Matalas, this realization — and the role the army of the 12 Monkeys — will be more fully explored in season two.
“Clearly, the army of the 12 Monkeys has some apocalyptic vision of a red forest,” said Matalas. “And what we do know is that distortion of time makes this foliage grow red and really fucked up. So what is their larger plan? Why do they keep talking about this red forest? Is the plague only part of the plan?”
Matalas pointed to the season two teaser, which premiered to a large crowd of New York Comic Con attendees only an hour before, to help drive home his point. “I think one of the trailers has — which they showed — Joan saying the very fabric of our existence is unraveling. That’s a hint towards what they want.”
Speaking of time, Matalas shared that our traditional concept of it would be further challenged in season two. We’ve already watched the series play with it in a non-linear way, but it doesn’t necessarily function within the narrative in the way many of us assume. In fact, you might say time has a mind — and goal — of its own.
“We’ve implied that time is cruel. We’ve implied that it seems to have its own sort of ways. We saw the scratch disappear on her watch,” Matalas said. “So time definitely wants certain things to happen. The question is: Is time on our side? And, if that’s the case, how does mankind and time work together.”
Matalas went on to describe time as a very tangible thing that will force viewers and one of the series’ main characters to take pause.
“We are the only species that is aware of time, and maybe it’s aware of us. Maybe one depends on the other in the same way. We’re kind of going into some new places with time, which will throw Jones for a loop. This is not Einstein. This is not Hawking. This is something else that she needs to get ahead of. And I think it’s going to challenge her character in a really neat way.”
The season one finale saw Dr. Katarina Jones and Deacon, whose only real connection is Cole, in a predicament that had the potential to push the opposing forces in the same direction. Barbara Sukowa and Todd Stashwick, who play Jones and Deacon respectively, briefly discussed how their new relationship will play out going forward.
In particular, fans should expect Jones to make significant changes in how she tries to come back from the finale’s fall out.
“Jones, the last season, got pretty humble, right? I mean her bravado, intellectual bravado, doesn’t help her very much when the brutal force comes in,” Sukowa said, gesturing to Stashwick. “And so she has to deal with that in the second season. She’s confronting more personal issues, such as issues involving the plague or also time travel [which ] gets more important. She really has to go to he bottom of why she is doing this mission.”
“The apocalypse makes for strange bedfellows,” Stashwick followed up. “And I think for Deacon… halfway through the season finale, he realized, ‘Maybe I’m backing the weird horse. Maybe that’s not the horse to back.’ And I think he’s starting to see — ‘I may be nuts, but those guys are crazy.’
In case you forgot, season one’s final episode saw Deacon and his culty-crew busting into Jones compound, but ultimately falling to the mercy of a group of creepy blue-faced men. Those men had plans far larger and far more dangerous than anything Deacon could have cooked up. Expect the new “big bad” to force to the surface Deacon’s true colors and where he stands in the battle for humanity’s survival.
“I think he’s gotta choose a side, and I think you’ll see him, he’s an opportunist, and I think he puts more faith in humanity as opposed to clay-faced people. I think he sees an opportunity to maximize the situation and I think he aligns himself — you’ll just see him be not just an antagonist. I think he’ll find himself more of an ally at times.”
Viewers can also expect to see other characters evolving in significant ways. According to actress Amanda Schull, Cassandra’s exposure to a different side of humanity will harden her, while it may sand down some of Cole’s rougher edges. Cassandra and Jennifer’s exposure to time will also change the way both women exist in the 12 Monkeys universe.
“I think that with Cassie in particular up to what we’re shooting right now in [episode] 208, she has a very contemptuous relationship with time, but she also learns how to play it,” Schull said. “And she also learns how to play time in her favor, although it takes a few tries before she understands how she can manipulate time. And when you see episode 208, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.”
As for actress Emily Hampshire’s character, Jennifer Goines, time is a far more personal issue.
“Jennifer’s relationship with time is a very intimate one,” Hampshire teased.
Matalas expanded on Hampshire’s statement, saying, “Last season we kind of hinted, if you were watching closely, [Jennifer] kinda knew things that she shouldn’t have known. She kinda knew who people were. She would say things like ‘green to red’ which we knew was happening. It seems like she’s connected to the changes in time in some way.”
Time certainly had its affects on two of the series main and closest characters, Cole and Ramse. The once next-to-brothers found themselves on opposite ends of the world-saving spectrum towards the end of season one, before they were able to find some middle ground in the last moments of the finale.
With the many rules of time travel in mind, ScreenSpy asked Aaron Stanford and Kirk Acevedo about whether viewers could expect to see more of the push pull of season one or if another timeline might offer them a different outcome.
“I think we’re always going to come to the same loggerhead,” Acevedo said. “We each have a different agenda. And I just don’t see how — it’s always going to come to a head somehow, do you know what I mean? The two different directions are just going to pull from the other. Like I say, we agree to disagree. But the bond is so strong that you let things slide.”
“It’s like family. You don’t really have a choice who your family is. And Cole and Ramse, they’re family. They have their differences and things are going to heat up — as in real life situations can blow up into very ugly situations, murder or what have you… it’s like they’re family. But there’s a lot of turmoil there too, and a lot of tension,” Stanford said.
Outside of character and relationship development, fans can also expect to see time and time travel in more ways, including several visits to different decades.
“We’re going to explore different time periods,” series creator Terry Matalas teased. “Season two will show the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and maybe a few new places in the future.”
Season two returns on Syfy in 2016.