Q & A: Noah Wyle on ‘Falling Skies’, the Cast and His Newest Co-Star, Booger the Horse

Noah-wyle-falling-skies-interviewFalling Skies, TNT’s hit series, just started Season 3 and as its star, Noah Wyle, said in a recent conference call that he’s “never experienced a show that got better, and better, and better.”

Wyle is really proud of the show and in particular, this season. The “scare factor” is up, the characters are more “engaging” and the show is working on all cylinders.

In this interview, Wyle talks about the show and how it was much more physically demanding than previous seasons, how his son suggested that he originally take the role and his newest co-star, Booger the horse.

Falling Skies airs on Sunday at 10pm on TNT

What are you most proud of about this new season?

Noah Wyle:  Well I’m happy to say that it’s an interesting thing. I’ve never experienced a show that got better, and better, and better. I’ve been on a couple that started off great and dipped, but this one I think for some reason the first year we didn’t know quite what we wanted to do. We had a really good idea and implementing it – we just sort of took a scatter-gun approach, and that was a really good learning experience for us.

We learned what worked well and what didn’t work well.

Second season I think we really built on that knowledge and momentum and delivered a pretty solid season and came out the other side realizing, “Okay, now that we’ve introduced these characters, and now that we’ve established this world, now we’re going to have some fun. Now we can start talking about the bigger themes that we thought this show would be about and we can really start to peel away the layers of these characters and get to what’s underneath.

And as hard as it was to shoot this season, and it was the toughest one yet, I’m really gratified at the outcome.

Could talk about your relationship this season with Anne, how does having the baby on the way you know unite you and how does that also affect your relationship with your other children on the show?

Noah Wyle:  Well, this was a tricky one to negotiate this year because Moon Bloodgood showed up pretty pregnant in real life, which meant that we only had her for a couple of episodes before she had to fly back to California and have her baby.

So that meant that we had to shoot a lot of scenes out of context with her for future episodes that hadn’t really been written yet so we could pepper her into the season. It also meant that she wasn’t going to be able to be an action hero the way that we had sort of hoped to develop her character at the end of last season when she was running around with a blow torch frying Crawlies and looking very much a bad-ass.

So creatively, we had to make some adjustments, but I think it worked out very well because the notion of bringing a child into the world, while it seems inherently cruel, is a biological necessity if these people are going to continue.

And, it seemed appropriate that these two characters had finally put to bed their grief of the lives that they’d loss and the spouses that they’d lost. And through this baby, really forged a commitment to each other.

And I think the other kids to a certain extent aren’t as clingy to their father as they used to be. They’ve been sort of chomping at the bit to exercise some autonomy and some independence away from him, and this is the season they finally get it for better or worse. And there’s enough of an age disparity that there doesn’t feel like there’s any real sibling rivalry. The baby is pretty much embraced by everybody until the baby starts to exhibit very odd behavior.

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Your son Owen suggested that you take this role in Falling Skies. Have you been watching the series with him? Is he now regretting that dad took the roll?

Noah Wyle:  No. He’s not regretting it. In fact, he gave me a really beautiful gift half way through last season when I was on the phone with him. And, I was lamenting that you know I really missed him, and I’m sorry that work had to take me away for months at a time. And he responded by saying, “Dad, I’m really glad you’re doing this show. I think this is – I’m really happy that you’re on this show.”

And, he loves to come and visit the set and he has no actual older brothers, but Drew Roy and Conner Jessup and Maxim Knight, who play my sons, sort of embraced him as a little brother. And he gets to hold my machine gun and he gets to pet my horse, and he gets to work the animatronic alien head and go back to school and brag.

So he’s still very happy I’m doing this show.

You were that this has been the toughest season to shoot. What made it so challenging?

Noah Wyle:  Well, there were a lot of variables. We – it was a particularly wet winter up there and we had a lot of practical location shoots. We integrated horses into the plot line. We had a lot of disparate story lines going all at once. You know, we came back with huge gamble creatively in initiating three or four gigantic storylines, all of which had an element of science fiction to them.

And in a lot of ways, I felt that we were maybe taking too big of a risk, so it required a lot of diligence and attention to detail to make sure that we were playing these things out and that they were going to pop at the right times during the course of the season.

So, it just was a lot more work for all of us. You know, you put in your 12-1/2 to 13 hours on the set, then you’d come home and you’d look at the next day’s work, and then I’d be on the phone with the writers in LA talking about other things, since I wear a producer hat on this as well.

Just felt – I was more exhausted at the end of this season than I had been. But in a weird way, I’m told there’s an analogy to childbirth to be made where this kind of nice amnesia settles in after the pain and what you have to show for it makes it all seem worth. You kind of forget about how miserable it was until you try it again.

This season, we’re introduce to the new character of Marina, and we see that once Tom leaves at one point, she’s not exactly going by what he would want, so what can you say about that new dynamic?

Noah Wyle:  Well a couple of things. First of all, it was really gratifying to work with Gloria Ruben again. She and I played doctors on ER together for many years and I think the world of her.

She’s an interesting character because at first blush she just sort of seemed like Tom’s Gal Friday who’s going to assist him in his learning curve in accepting the responsibilities of President. But then we come to realize that she’s fairly ambitious in her own right and she’s got an agenda of her own and doesn’t necessarily always agree with Tom’s decision making.

So it’s just a way of creating conflict within Tom’s learning curve of power and helping plot that out.

It’s a significant part of the season. It’s not the dominant aspect of the story telling, but she has a great character, as does bringing on Robert Sean Leonard. It’s sort of an attempt – even though we’re floating a lot of the characters right now, to bring in new people who are actors of a very high caliber. And through their characters, help reveal to a larger degree who the people that are already in place are and to peel back the layers of their character’s onion, so to speak.

My question is animal-related. This is the first season that horses have been introduced onto the show as far as I know. Did you get to keep your own horse throughout the whole season? If so, have you given him a name? Could you talk a little bit about that?

Noah Wyle:  Sure. Well yes, I do – I stay with the same horse all season. He’s a beautiful horse. His breed is called a Tennessee Walker, which if you’re not familiar with it is a breed of horse that was sort of created in the South of the United States on plantations and they have a very distinctive gait. It’s not really a trot and it’s not really a gallop. It’s a very smooth sort of fast walk and you can cover a lot of ground very quickly, but you don’t have to post.

So it’s an ideal movie horse because you look very strong in the saddle and you’re actually moving at a pretty good clip through the frame. And he was beautiful.

I had a Tennessee Walker at one time, and it’s a particular horse that I have a lot of affection for.

And we had a ball. There was no mishaps, and we shot in some pretty difficult locations on some pretty rocky terrain in the middle of rain storms and everybody did great. Everybody did wonderful.

I’m trying to remember. His name – it’s a little embarrassing to say because it’s all in the pronunciation. It’s spelled B-O-O-G-E-R, but pronounced Boo-ger.

How do you feel that this season really compares to the other seasons in terms of scare factor?

Noah Wyle:  I think it ranks pretty high. I think it ranks pretty high. I think there’s some moments in the pilot that were great. I think he had a couple of moments in the first season that were fairly terrifying. I think Season 2 was a lot better season comprehensively than Season 1. And I don’t know if it was appreciably scarier, but the storytelling is smarter and the reveals are better, and it’s more satisfying viewing.

But, there’s a couple episodes coming up latter half of the season that should be pretty terrifying. Does that answer your…

I wanted to know if you can talk about your scenes with Colin Cunningham.

Noah Wyle:  Sure. Well the characters of Pope and Tom just don’t like each other, and with good reason. They’re very different men. And what Colin and I have tried to do is show – to really have that tension sort of simmer, and then come to a slow boil, and then boil, and then pop. And each time it pops, whether it was the third episode of Season 2 or the 5th episode of Season 3, these guys just go at it and there’s always somebody that interrupts it from coming to its final conclusion, which is one of them killing the other one.

It’s just great storytelling and really fun to play. To have a character that you keep around out of basic necessity but that you really have no affinity for.

And Colin’s a very smart actor. He’s a very clever actor, and you know when you work with him, he keeps you on your toes and makes you a good tennis player. We work very differently as actors, which also sort of helps that tension, because neither one of us is really aware of what the other one’s going to do, and it just tends to pop on camera as a result.

Is Season 3 going to stick to the ten episode format of the previous two seasons? And if so, what do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of that?

Noah Wyle:  It will stick to the ten episode format, as will a probable fourth season. The advantages are better quality of life for me and an ability for the writers to be able to see the entire season and its arc at the outset, which you don’t always get. In fact, you never get when you’re shooting a 22-episode season.

When we did ER, 22-episode season was carved up into thirds and you’d write in sort of seven episode blocks. But, that just meant that when you started the season, you had no idea where your characters were going to end up.

We have the luxury of knowing where we’re going to finish and having a really good sense of the overall structure of the season. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t variables that come into play along the way. Characters become very engaging. There are some storylines that fall a little flat and you make adjustments.

But when you sort of have a very clear road map of where you want it to go, it helps a lot.

It’s also a very physically demanding show, and I don’t know that we are capable of shooting anymore than ten. I think we could do 12. 14 would be a stretch. But as frustrating as it is for viewers, and believe me I get a lot of phone calls from my mother and other people saying, “What! I can’t believe it’s already over.” You know, I think it’s pretty much all we can handle.

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