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‘Falling Skies’ Interview: Colin Cunningham Previews “Hardcore” Season 2

Falling Skies Season 2 John Pope
James Dittiger, TNT

Sunday, June 17 will see the the arrival of ‘Falling Skies‘ season 2, near of a year after the action-packed post-apocalyptic alien drama first debuted on TNT.  Even better than simply getting to revisit the world of the 2nd Massachusetts fighting off the Skitters, the return of ‘Falling Skies’ means one very important thing: Colin Cunningham his back as the bad-ass biker brigand John Pope!

‘Falling Skies’ season 2 debuts with a two-hour premiere this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. on TNT, which will see Tom Mason returned from the Skitter ship he departed on in season 1 finale “Eight Minutes.”  Chief among those suspicious of his return is Colin Cunningham’s John Pope, breakout character from the first season, and now-trusted leader of renegade squad “The Berserkers,” who thinks that Tom could be a danger to the existence they’ve crafted. So what’s on deck for season 2?

We recently had a chance to sit down with Colin Cunningham, a sci-fi veteran of series like ‘Stargate SG-1′ and ‘The 4400,’ who gave us the inside scoop on the darker, “more hardcore” season of ‘Falling Skies,’ and just what’s in store for the battle against the Skitters!

It’s been three months since we saw Tom Mason taken away on a Skitter ship, and the survivors have been through quite a lot.  What can you tell me about how the tone of the show is different for ‘Falling Skies’ season 2?

The second season of ‘Falling Skies’ is darker, it is edgier, the stakes are higher, and it’s just badass.  It even looks different.  It’s really taken on a bit of a hardcore quality, which for me and my character is the “John Pope” kind of thing, he’s right at home in it.  It becomes more like John Pope’s world than any of the other characters.

How have Pope’s relationships with the other survivors changed in the months since Tom’s been gone?  Is his friendship with Tom’s young son Matt in tact?

I think that the experience that Pope had with Matt reaffirmed the fact that he doesn’t think he can get close to anybody; it’s just not worth it.  So, to hell with that.  It’s back to me thinking about me, and Pope and his very selfish, pragmatic way of looking at life and survival and what needs to be done.   I think we shy away a little on the second season from the spark that we saw in Pope’s heart, and instead, we begin to see a little bit more of the stone there.  I’m extremely happy to explore that, and I think it’s a great, complex direction to take the character in the second season.

What about his relationship with Tom, upon his return?

Tom’s been gone for three months, so if anything Pope’s had more free reign to do things the way he sees fit.  I think when Mason comes back,  it isn’t like he necessarily picks up where he left off, at least in terms of the way Pope sees it.  There’s a lot of doubt, and a lot of suspicion.  The last we heard of him, he went aboard an alien ship, and now here he is.  Doesn’t anybody find that interesting?  Because Pope certainly does.  I think he didn’t’ trust Tom before, in terms of their two differing values systems, but once Tom comes back from that ship, [Pope] really doesn’t trust him for reasons that are now far greater.

Tell me about Pope’s own unit within the 2nd Mass, “The Berserkers.”

The Berserkers were put together in the three months that Tom was gone, and we pick up after they’ve been assembled.  They helped in “The Battle of Fitchburg,” which the 2nd Mass lost hundreds of casualties, and The Berserkers were very instrumental in pulling the 2nd Mass’ ass out of the fire, so to speak.  I guess you’d call them a team, but they’re rebels and renegades, and the other sort of misfits that have a specific purpose within fighting this war.  I think they’re willing to do things that the 2nd Mass doesn’t have the stomach to do.

How do they measure up with the crew that we first met Pope with back in season 1?

Fairly well, [but The Berserkers are] a little bit more sophisticated.  You kind of have to see it, but the guys before were more biker types, kind of leftover from the previous world before the invasion, whereas I think the crew that’s assembled now are more misfits from within the war.  I think they’re more battle-hardened, as opposed to being hardened in prison.  They’ve been hardened on the battlefield, and yet they’re still outcasts.

We know that Pope is much more intellectual than he seems, how does that come out in season 2?

You know, I’ve always said that John Pope and Tom Mason the professor went to the same elementary school, they just made different choices after college.  Pope is incredibly intelligent, he really is, but he’s also unencumbered by things such as compassion and empathy.  So he’s able to think very clearly, very rationally, very practically in terms of what needs to be done to survive.

If you’ve got a weak link, you cut it out.  If there’s a cancer anywhere within the body, you cut it out.  You don’t have compassion for it, you don’t talk to it, you don’t send it little happy cards and little feathered ribbons, you cut it out, you throw it in the garbage, and you don’t think twice about it.  It’s a very, very difficult way, and a cold way to be in a war situation, but it’s also the only way that’s gonna get you through sometimes.

‘Falling Skies’ usually keeps things grounded in the present, but will flash back to Tom’s three months in captivity.  Will we ever see more of Pope’s past, maybe the children referenced in season 1?

Technically it’s a flashback, but ‘Falling Skies’ doesn’t really use them unless its absolutely specific,  something that’s happening relevant to today.  Within the ‘Falling Skies’ world, I don’t think we’re ever gonna flash back to Tom and his kids at the park before the invasion, or to Pope and his kids, et cetera.  We do flash back aboard the ship, because it’s relevant to the right now, so I think that’s the one exception to the rule that they’ve utilized in season 2, at least in the first couple of episodes.

If Pope is a little more stone-hearted this season, what’s his arc for season 2?

Pope’s journey more-so this season is to simply get through it.  Before, there were little experimentations of how his character would perhaps grow, maybe become a better person.  I think, if anything, season 2 is about him becoming a smarter tactician, a better fighter, perhaps learning a bit more in terms of strategy as opposed to “just go out and kill these things regardless of the consequence.”  Pope before was all about killing [Skitters] right now, whereas now, if you let one Skitter go to kill two, then lets work on killing the two.

Pope disappeared a bit during the first season, absent for a few episodes.  Will we see more of of you this time around?

Unfortunately no, I’m not in every episode of season 2.  I really wish I was, but the writing of the show, the stories, and the ensemble that they put together is bigger than any one particular character.  So even though Pope might not be there for a couple of episodes, I can promise you that the show is just as strong, just as exciting, and they explore so much this year that I don’t think he’s going to be missed too much.

What have been some of your favorite moments and scenes from the upcoming second season?

One in particular, Professor Mason and Pope get into a raw fistfight.  Any chance I get to work with Noah is always such a pleasure, because [Pope and Mason] are intellectual adversaries, so that was an absolute hoot.  I love the fact that Pope and the professor actually get into a physical altercation, which I think has been a long time coming.

I’ve got to know, what’s your favorite of Pope’s barbs, his “Popeisms,” if you will?

“Who put paprika on the chicken?  What are you, Hungarian?”

‘Falling Skies’ premieres this Sunday, June 17 on TNT at 9:00 p.m. with two full episodes, before settling into its weekly Sunday 9:oo p.m. time-slot.  Watch, or face Skitter wrath!

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