School’s Out: Connor Jessup Talks Falling Skies’ Second Season
Yes, it really was the mother of all cliffhangers, but the wait is finally over. Falling Skies makes a welcome return to TV this Sunday, June 17, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) with two back to back episodes, ‘Worlds Apart’ and ‘Shall We Gather at the River.’
We last saw Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) boarding an alien craft in search of answers about his son, Ben (Connor Jessup). When Ben was abducted and ‘harnessed’ by the aliens in season one, the show began to unveil a deeper mythology where the taken children were concerned, giving rise to questions about what the harness meant for those who wore it, and if a return to full humanity was even possible. With Ben as the focal point for many of these larger mysteries we thought we really ought to get on the phone with Connor Jessup and talk about what’s in store for his character this season.
I begin by asking Connor if audiences are going to see more of Ben now that he is finally unfettered from the harness.
“A lot more,” he says in definitive tones. “In season one, for the first five episodes I’m kind of in absentia. I’m there but I’m not there. They talk about me a lot!” he laughs. “Then once I’m rescued I’m featured a little bit more prominently, but not super prominently. I’m tied into a lot of the mysteries including what the harness means for humans and so on. But in the second season, my story really becomes one of the A storylines of the season. It’s the mystery surrounding what’s happening to me and what it might mean for the 2nd Mass and for the aliens. I’m lucky enough to have a character that acts as a hub for all the mysteries of the show. I’ve been really fortunate that they’ve decided to capitalize on that in the second season. It gave me a lot to play with. You’ll definitely see a very different Ben.”
Those who watched the recent sneak peek from TNT, featuring the first three minutes of the premiere episode will know that this really is going to be Ben’s season. Struggling with his anger and new found abilities, could he prove to be equally problematic for the 2nd Mass and his alien abductors?
“I think he’s trying desperately to be helpful to the 2nd Mass,” explains Connor. “These changes are happening in him. He has these developed abilities that are super-human, you could say. He’s afraid of it. I’m going to describe it as puberty on steroids!” he jokes. “He’s afraid of what’s happening to him. He doesn’t quite understand it and he’s afraid of what it might do to the people around him – and to himself. He doesn’t want to become detrimental to the 2nd Mass, so he’s funneled all of that confusion and fear into anger and hatred towards the aliens. So yes, he’s become one of the best soldiers, and he’s very effective against the aliens but he’s so reckless that there’s a very real possibility he could become a liability to the group. That’s one of the themes with my character that gets developed over the course of the season.”
It’s clear Connor finds both the role and the high-octane nature of the show to be very appealing.
“It’s like doing what I dreamed of doing when I was eight years old,” he says. “I get to run around with guns and have explosions going on, and jump out of buildings and fight aliens. Basically I’m playing a soldier in a scifi world. It’s the kind of stuff you pretended to do in the schoolyard when you were in grade school. I mean, it was fun back then, but now there’s actual explosions and actual gunfire and CGI and mechanized robots it takes on a whole new dimension. It’s really like getting paid to play. This job in particular – because of the big budget, high concept nature of it – is … well I’ll put it to you this way. There’s never a dull day on set,” he laughs.
The new season is set to kick things up a notch too, Connor divulges. “When you have a world with such a rich mythology, and so many characters you have to spend a few episodes establishing all of that. But as the first season went on, the pace began to ramp up, and things got a little bit more exciting. Mysteries were unveiled and layers were peeled back more and more, and we really ended the season on this incredibly high note. We were, in essence, half way through the build up. And season two continues that without pause,” he says.
Have we finally said goodbye to the school set that featured so prominently in the show’s freshman season?
“In season one we were kind of stuck in that school set,” admits Connor. “That pretty much became our set. We had this one central location. It was very easy for us and very helpful to establish these characters and their storylines but I think it also probably constrained the action. But in season two we’re constantly on the run. There’s no one specific location. Every episode sees us moving from place to place to place. There’s really a feeling of kinetic energy – which was there in the first season, but is more prevalent in the second. Those first three minutes you saw kind of set the tone for the entire season. It’s darker. It’s more action packed. There’s a pace to it that wasn’t quite there in the first season.”
Explosions. Gunfire. Leaping from 90 foot buildings. Just how physical do things get on set?
“Stunt work is both fun and challenging,” says Connor. “I’ve really really done a show which involved stunt work before. Even last year on the show, we got to see a whole bunch of scifi action, but my character wasn’t really involved in too much of the action. I got to watch people do stunt work, but this year I get to do it.”
“That jump out of the window in the first episode is actually all me. We also get to ride our motorcycles around ourselves. It’s nothing too arduous. The general thing with actors is that everyone wants to do their own stunts. Everyone is eager to. It’s kind of considered strange if you don’t want to do your own stunts so we try to get away with whatever we can, but there are some things we can’t do.
“It’s funny though. I’m not actually a very physical person in general. I’m kind of graceless. And of course, they choose my character to be the super-powered, super-athletic super hero which is completely out of touch with my actual personality and physical capabilities. Even things like sprinting for long distances, or kicking soccer balls – or whatever it might be – are usually things I’m incapable of doing! But with a little bit of training and some movie magic I think they worked it out. It was definitely a challenge,” he admits.
“Well don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me … and a few hundred thousand readers.”
He laughs. “If you ever meet me it’s very evident right away. Ask any of my gym teachers from school, or anyone who has seen me trying to do any sort of physical activity. They’ll comment rather negatively, I’d imagine!”
“I’m sure we won’t notice on the night.”
“I certainly hope not,” he laughs.
Catch Falling Skies two hour season premiere event this Sunday, June 17, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).