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Interview with Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull of 12 Monkeys



12 Monkeys premieres on Syfy on Friday, January 16 at 9/8c. I had the opportunity to talk to stars Aaron Stanford (James Cole) and Amanda Schull (Dr Cassandrea Railly) about the show. Both were appreciative of everyone’s excitement over the show and were both lovely to chat with. What follows is a quick synopsis of the interview – the full transcript should be up sometime in the next day or so. Check orout the complete transcript for direct quotes.

For below, Q=Question, Aaron = Aaron Stanford, and Amanda = Amanda Schull. Clearly, initials weren’t going to be too helpful here!

Q: As actors do you find the jumping around between different timelines confusing?
Aaron: We have a large army of people to keep it straight. It can be confusing, especially when multiple version of yourself are running around.
Amanda: I’m a meticulous note taker, I have my own notes on what my character knows or doesn’t know at any given point and what has or hasn’t happened yet.

Q: How would you convince fans of the movie to watch?
Aaron: I’m a huge fan of the movie and I was excited to get involved for that reason. The television series gives us a chance to expand and explore the universe of the movie. The movie had the same basic plot as the short film La Jetee but expanded on that universe.
Amanda: You don’t need to a fan of one or the other, you can be a fan of both. Our characters are different and the storylines are different. We have a lot of different characters and can have guest stars.

Q: Does the recent concern with pandemics make this show even timelier than the movie was?
Aaron: There’s a lot going on now, like Ebola, but this type of thing has been going on for a long time. It’s been a viable threat for a long time.

Q: If you could time travel to any time, what time would you choose?
Amanda: I used to think a monumental moment in history, but now I’d like to go back and hide to see the dinosaurs.
Aaron: The difficulty is that periods are fascinating but would you really want to go there? You’d have to give up all the comforts that we’re used to. I think I’d like to go to a fictional future with a Star Trek like holodeck where you could visit all of those times, but in comfort.

Q: How was filming in Toronto? Are you done now?
Aaron: We filmed from the end of July to the beginning of December. We hit the sweet spot of summer and fall to early winter. I filmed Nikita there and it was all year – through the entire winter.

Q: Both Demore Barnes and Todd Stashwick have tweeted that they’re going to be on the show. Can you tease what their roles will be and who they’ll be interacting with, whether in the present or the future?
Aaron: Both are from the future and are pitted against each other. One is a scavenger king, leading an assault against Demore.

Q: Amanda, will you be primarily (completely) in the present?
Amanda: What she knows of the future is limited to what Cole has told her.

Q: How did you develop your working together?
Aaron: Amanda hated me (he’s kidding!). It’s not like a movie where we know the whole story from the get go. We have to watch their relationship unfold in real time. We’re thrown together and in the crucible of their difficult mission they form a bond.
Amanda: Aaron shows up every day so well prepared and gives you 110%. It’s nice working with someone who gives you as much as you give.

Q: Do we ever see the two years between when Cassandra first meets Cole and when he returns? Her career falls apart during that time, but it seems she’s still at the CDC in 2017.
Amanda: Those questions will be answered in the 3rd episode. The police are on the scene when he disappears and assume he’s just gotten away, but she knows what she saw and she doesn’t keep quiet about it. She’s definitely shared it with Aaron.

Q: Does Cole realize he has to be careful with her life? That he’s causing her great upheaval?
Aaron: As she comes to means something to him, he comes to realize what he’s asking of her and the toll it’s taking on her and the danger he’s placing her in. He comes to question putting her in danger.

Q: Did you have scenes together in Nikita?
Amanda: No. I didn’t have any scenes with Aaron or Noah, just Maggie mainly.
Aaron: She did some ass-kicking though!

Q: If you could go back and change one thing through time travel, what would it be?
Amanda: I didn’t prepare for these questions! It would change from moment to moment. It’s the butterfly effect too – if you change one thing, what else changes?
Aaron: I’d love to go back and find a much younger version of myself and give him advice.

Q: Any surprises in your research to prepare for the show?
Aaron: Yes. Time travel is a real mathematical possibility. I thought it was just fiction, but they actually know how to do it and just need the technology and resources. Our version of time travel is unique to the show, however. It’s a fictional version that’s appropriate for the story-telling.

Q: Anything about the movie characters that you used?
Aaron: It was a really interesting role for Bruce Willis who was known as an action hero. He brought this child-like innocence. He was a man coming from an unimaginably difficult place, so his experience of our world was like a newborn. I liked that choice and idea so I tried to bring some of that.
Amanda: I didn’t re-watch the film before the pilot because I didn’t want Madeline’s performance to influence mine. We are different characters. I did re-watch before we shot the series. Both characters have a soft spot for Cole, so at the core there is a connection between the two characters.

Q: Do you have any favorite action sequences that you’ve shot so far?
Aaron: I’ve done a lot of action sequences. Any of my favorites involved Barbara Sukowa. She’a a very famous German actress but she’d never been involved in any action scene! Any action scene when she was around was great just for watching her reaction.
Amanda: I get to do a bit of action. I’m always very excited. Any time that I get to do something, I’m excited. I like to get physical with my work.

Q: In the film, you can’t change anything during time travel, but in the series, your mission is to go back in time and change the course of events…
Aaron: In the film, time was fixed. You can’t change events. Cole only went back to observe and bring back information. That holds with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. You can travel through time but you can’t change it. For the series, to tell the story, there has to be the possibility of change and that’s actually Quantum Theory.

Q: Chuck Roven worked on the movie and the series. Did he give you any notes?
Aaron: In terms of performance, he stayed very hands off. He let us find our own way.
Amanda: He didn’t give me any direct character notes. He was very generous in allowing for interpretation and flexibility.

Q: Were you given show bibles or just left to discover the details of your characters on your own?
Aaron: I had a sit down with Travis Fickett and Terry Matalas, the showrunners. They gave me the character’s journey. In TV that’s as good as it gets. It’s all the writers have. Things change as the story unfolds and you see how things are working or not working on camera.
Amanda: I didn’t get a bible, just long discussions, check-ins, emails. My character does have a specific arc. They wanted me to know the specific end point.
Aaron: You know the start and end, but not the road.

Q: Is there a third character that you spent a lot of time with?
Aaron: Noah Bean who plays Aaron. He’s put in a precarious position. He’s in love with Cassandra but believes she’s insane. He ends up pushing her away and damaging the relationship.

Q: Does the timeline provide a safety net?
Aaron: We don’t want to lean too much on that. You want the stakes to be high. Things matter and have consequences. Time is used to complicate and make things difficult – not as a get out of jail free card.

Q: What can you say about working with Tom Noonan?
Aaron: He’s a frightening and imposing character! We were all terrified of him! He had the whole cast and crew terrified.
Amanda: He’s a softie!
Aaron: He’s a very method actor, so he stays in character.
Amanda: We had an evening with him telling me stories about productions between takes. I adore that man!

Q: Is the story arc constructed so that it can be concluded?
Aaron: Anything is possible. That’s the nice thing about this premise. It’s like three seasons worth of story. I haven’t talked to the writers about their plans for a second season.
Amanda: Travis… they have a motto not to leave anything unsaid. They write as if they aren’t going to get a second season. There’s not a single dull moment. It’s like a freight train. They are two really creative guys.
Aaron: They are two of the biggest fanboys you’ll ever meet. This is what they eat and breathe.

Q: Where would you like to see your character go?
Aaron: Only care that the journey is a long one. You want to see your character stretched to extremes I want to see a fundamental change in who he is.
Amanda: I agree, (A) That it’s long and (B) it’s exciting as an actor to change. To be different versions of the person in different timelines. We’re given this luxury of creativity within the comfort of one character. They take her to some pretty amazing places.

Q: What’s it like working with Kirk Acevedo?
Aaron: He was fantastic. He’s great to work with. He’s the real thing, and he’ll go wherever he needs to go. He’s a very intense actor. He was always deeply invested in the scenes.

Don’t forget to look for the full transcript in a day or two and watch the premiere of 12 Monkeys on Friday, January 16 at 9/8c on Syfy.

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.

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