“I think I knew it was going to be a physically demanding show, but I don’t think I had any idea how physically demanding it would be. It wasn’t too bad, but there was a lot of running and jumping and diving and rolling,” Wyle tells Zap2it. “And for the first time in my life, I found myself being the oldest cast member [in a lot of scenes] and having to keep up with these young springboks.
“I enjoy the physicality. I certainly like the freedom to move … and it’s sort of the Spielberg aesthetic to shoot big, wide scenes where the actors do more moving than the camera does. So I thought that was great, but I’m also now experiencing amnesia of all the bumps and bruises and scrapes I endured.”
In “Falling Skies,” which debuts Sunday (June 19) on TNT, Wyle plays a Boston University history professor who joins a human resistance after aliens wipe out most of the population and abduct one of his sons. The Steven Spielberg-produced show is his first series since “ER,” and he is something of an elder statesman in the cast (along with Will Patton, who plays the military commander under whom Wyle serves). We talked with him about where the story takes his character, Tom Mason, this season, the show’s mix of action and family drama and more. Some highlights of our conversation:
Zap2it: Is there a season-long arc that viewers will follow? Is it just about survival?
Noah Wyle: A lot of the episodes are kind of mission-based: Let’s find defensible shelter, let’s find food, let’s find ammunition. Then those missions get subverted or diverted because of twists and turns that pop up. … But I’d say at the outset, the primary focus is for my character to find his missing son and bring him back. Then it’s to move this larger group of people into an area of safety in the hope that you’d sort of get a pause and begin to synthesize these loose strands of information we gather about the aliens, in hope of weaving them into a tapestry which can become a strategy or tactic to fight back — which eventually we do toward the end of the season.
Do you get a better sense of why they’re here by season’s end?
We do, but like any good sci-fi show, the more we find out, the more questions that get answered, the more that get posed. And by the end of the season … we find out we were radically wrong about a lot of our assumptions.
Obviously there’s a good amount of action and battle scenes, but at its core the show is kind of a family drama.
Yeah — it’s a bit trying to have our cake and eat it too and appeal to two different audiences at the same time. It’s attracting new viewers to the network with this being a big thematic departure for TNT, doing a sci-fi show, but at the same time [we want to] satisfy the audience that’s currently there and tunes in to watch human drama.
What’s the significance of Tom being a history professor?
That’s kind of his arc. When it starts, he feels his skill set in his previous existence is fairly superfluous and esoteric to the matters of the day. But as it goes on, he begins to see that his knowledge of historical battle strategy and tactics and his teaching ability actually puts him in better stead to lead a civilian army than Will Patton’s character, who’s career military.
Do the two of you have a lot of conflict because of that?
We do — although I give all the credit in the world to Will Patton and the powers that be who cast him, because Will played what easily could have been a two-dimensional character really interestingly and showed a lot more depth and humanity. That allowed us the opportunity not just to butt heads but to find moments of commonality which bring the characters closer together, then, because of our conflicting ideologies, sort of tear them apart again. So it’s not just butting heads — it’s much more complicated than that.
“Falling Skies” premieres at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on TNT. Here’s a clip from the two-hour premiere: