Noah Wyle on ‘Falling Skies’ Season 2

The star of “Falling Skies” talks about his Close Encounters moment and its consequences.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

At the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Richard Dreyfus got on the alien spaceship leaving us to imagine what happened next. In the first season finale of “Falling Skies,” Noah Wyle got on the spaceship, and now we get to find out what happens next.

To promote the return of “Falling Skies” to TNT, Wyle met with journalists at Zoic Studios, the visual effects company that designs the show’s aliens. "Falling Skies" returns this Sunday, June 17 at 9pm.

 

CraveOnline: Was the season finale like your Close Encounters moment where you get on the spaceship?

Noah Wyle: That was it. That was a little homage to the dreams of my youth. Yeah, I was thinking about that moment last night, thinking how I was able to justify it by being teased with information about my kids which is Tom Mason’s Achilles heel. I called Will Patton up and said, “How did you justify that moment? You let me get on that ship?” He said, “Man, I was playing some kind of alien hypnosis, like they had me in a trance or something.” It was hard for him to play.

CraveOnline: What electronics would be the hardest to give up if the invasion happened?

Noah Wyle: I’d do quite well without these gadgets.

CraveOnline: Is there one you’d miss?

Noah Wyle: Skype. It kept me in touch with my children in the five months that we were in Vancouver, Canada. I can’t imagine having to do that without it.

CraveOnline: How does coming back after the three months on the ship compare with the backstory of the 9 months after the invasion in the pilot?

Noah Wyle: Well, walking onto the ship proves to be a really horrible decision and one that he regrets for most of the second season, and he’s led off inexplicably far from where the second Massachusetts is and has to make a sort of pilgrimage to get back to the group.

All the while he’s wondering and playing these questions about why did they let him go and if he does find the group, is he going to be a security risk? Is he going to be liability? Is he changed somehow? What’s he going to find if he does find them? Will his kids still be alive? Will Anne still be alive? Is there still a second Massachusetts?

So the backstory before the pilot, at least his family was intact. They lost their mother but the kids were all alive and in my care. This was much more of feeling very isolated and very much alone.

CraveOnline: Will it be like “Homeland” where your character is suspect for his time with the aliens?

Noah Wyle: For the first couple episodes and then that kind of dissipates a bit, although I haven’t really seen “Homeland” so I can’t make a fair comparison but that’s the gist of the first couple episodes is they have to find that trust again.

CraveOnline: How is it different playing the lead to the ensemble of “ER?” Do you prepare differently like working out?

Noah Wyle: Yeah, “ER” was a sort of atypical experience because I started off fairly low on that call sheet and then inherited the show as other characters defected so it was different to come into a series top of the call sheet. And it presented a challenge that I was curious to see how I would do under.

It’s different. It’s sobering to feel like the old guard with a very young ensemble after having been the young guy in a very old ensemble. In terms of physical preparation I did unfortunately very little. I don’t think I ever quite understood the physical demands that this show was going to have. So I made a pretense of doing a couple sit-ups and pushups before we started.

CraveOnline: Now that you’re getting older do you have to do more physical prep?

Noah Wyle: The show is physically demanding. We carry these really heavy machine guns around with us all day long. It’s a bit of a workout in itself. Because some of us are trying to adopt the post-apocalyptic diet and thin ourselves out a bit, we stay away from the craft service table and eat less and work more. So far so good, it’s working.

CraveOnline: What’s the most extreme situation you experienced in real life?

Noah Wyle: I did some work in the mid ‘90s with a medical relief organization and spent some time in a refugee camp in Macedonia during the war in Kosovo. It got a little tense.

CraveOnline: Was it “ER” that made you more interested in medical causes?

Noah Wyle: Well, it’s directly because of “ER” but in an indirect way. We used to shoot a lot of the show in Chicago. I met a guy 17 years ago named Tim Sullivan who is a longstanding member and soldier in this organization called ADAPT which is a national organization that has a very strong chapter in Chicago.

When I was doing the press tour for this show last year I had dinner with him in Chicago. I’ve supported them financially in the past and he asked if I’d be a participant in the fun run that they had scheduled for D.C. and the following subsequent action that they knew we were going to stage in front of the Congressional office buildings. So it came about because of an “ER” association.

 


CraveOnline: How grueling is the show to shoot and the locations? How does that affect the cast relationships?

Noah Wyle: This is a show that would be no fun to shoot in Los Angeles, that’s for sure. The fact that we’re all on location away from our comfort zones and family goes a long way to fostering a sense of camaraderie. The more deplorable the conditions, the colder it is, the wetter it is, the longer the day, the more that it just sort of solidifies the bond and we all look back after the fact and go, “Hey, remember that night?”

Actors have to get to know each other very quickly and at an accelerated rate to build up a certain trust and affinity for each other anyway. That just gets amplified in these type of situations.

CraveOnline: How much do Tom’s political history lessons play into the second season?

Noah Wyle: Less. It pops up now and again but we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t becoming a punchline, that every time there was an engagement he would go, “Well, you know this reminds me of the Peloponnesian War.” But because we establish that he looks at situations for their historical precedent in order to inform his decision making tactically in the moment, we didn’t really have to go to that well too often in the second season. It was pretty evident.

CraveOnline: How does the emotion of Ben fit into the new season?

Noah Wyle: When we last left that young hero, he had been harnessed and the harness had been successfully removed but it still had some residual effect. It seemed to be mutating him in an odd fashion. When we meet him this season, he’s been a completely redefined character. He’s got more physical prowess. He seems to have almost an ESP sense of where to find the aliens and how to dispatch them.

He’s become a very effective alien fighter. And he’s got a lot of misgivings and awkwardness about how he relates to the other people in the group who, while he serves a very valuable purpose, also serves as a reminder that he’s not quite human and we don’t know where this evolution is going to lead us. That becomes one of the dominant themes of the second season. His character in particular becomes a dominant theme in the second season.

CraveOnline: What have you realized about your survival skills doing this show?

Noah Wyle: How cowardly I really am.

CraveOnline: What are the basic steps you need to follow in an alien invasion?

Noah Wyle: Stop, drop and roll? No, that’s fire. I have not idea how to answer that question about a real alien invasion.

CraveOnline: Have the alien battles gotten harder this year?

Noah Wyle: There’s no room for ambiguity anymore. I think when Tom gets off the spaceship, he realizes there’s no peace to be brokered, there’s no negotiation to be had and there’s no future for anybody until this threat’s been eradicated or lifted. So nobody’s harboring any sense of hope any longer. It’s a fight to the last man on the last stand.

CraveOnline: What feedback do you get from Spielberg?

Noah Wyle: They’re not direct, but we receive his notes and he hears our suggestion and it sort of works communally that way. It’s still amazing to me and incredibly gratifying that he’s as involved in every level of production as he is from shaping the scripts to casting to watching all of our dailies, making editorial suggestions on the episodes and certainly spending a lot of time in this place doing the design board for the post production.

It gives you great confidence to know that your work is being given over to the most masterful storyteller of the 20th century and that he’s at the helm helps certainly in terms of selling the show but creatively also gives you a good safety net to work under.

CraveOnline: Have you met a different kind of fan from the sci-fi community than you have from “ER?”

Noah Wyle: It’s not as different as you would think. Fans are fans. People that tune into watch work tap into different themes. There were a lot of different kinds of fans on “ER.” Some would really like the medicine, some really tuned in for the soap opera of the characters. I find the same is true with this show.

Some watch it for the spaceships and aliens. Others kind of hook into the family aspect of the show or the what if scenario aspect of the show. They tend to be in costume more often than the average “ER” fans but aside from that, they seem pretty similar.

CraveOnline: Have you heard from George Clooney since your arrest?

Noah Wyle: Yeah, he texted me and offered to bail me.

CraveOnline: Do you believe in aliens?

Noah Wyle: I don't know. I think like we’d be a little hubris filled to think that we were the only intelligent life in the universe. Who am I to argue with Stephen Hawking who thought similarly? But I haven’t seen them yet.