Noah Wyle Looks Up In the Falling Skies
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted on May 29, 2011.
Noah Wyle is back.
He is returning to series television six years after he hung up his stethoscope as the beloved Dr. John Carter in the classic series ER in 2005 – though he did guest appearances on that show periodically until it eventually left the air in 2009.
It would take a pretty special project to lure Wyle back into the fray, and he found that opportunity in TNT’s new alien invasion series Falling Skies. The show was co-created by super-producer Steven Spielberg – who also was behind the scenes in the first season of ER before handing the reigns off to co-creators Michael Crichton and John Wells.
Falling Skies takes place in some undetermined time in the near future, six months after the Earth has been attacked and decimated by space aliens. The military has been pretty much destroyed, forcing normal people to take up arms to fight off the deadly invaders.
Wyle plays Tom Mason, a fortyish former college history professor whose wife has been killed, one of his sons abducted by the aliens and he is trying to keep his other two sons safe as they plot to save the remaining survivors and hopefully release the kidnapped son. He is drafted into running a new militia of normal citizens because of his knowledge of the history of war and his ability to teach young people.
We were recently lucky enough to be one of several websites that had the chance to speak with Wyle about his return to series television.
I’ve been struggling with the series V for its current run because there’s too much soap opera drama that continues to build. What I love most about Falling Skies is it picks up right in the thick of the madness. Talk about that aspect of the show where we go right to the meat of the story instead of having a season or two of build-up?
Yes, it’s sort of atypical story telling in the sense that we don’t start with everyday life going on business as usual and then suddenly everybody’s eyes turn to the heavens and say: “What’s that coming in towards our planet?” We pick up six months into what has been a devastating alien invasion and meet our characters already in a pretty high state of disarray – which is exciting storytelling because it allows you the opportunity to fill in the back story through episodic storytelling and also opens up the possibility of being able to track back in time down the road if it seems dramatically appropriate.
How involved is Steven Spielberg in the production of this show?
He’s pretty damn involved. His fingerprints are all over it. He was instrumental in helping craft the original pilot script and certainly in casting the pilot. He came out and was on set when we were shooting the pilot. He made lots of editorial decisions and even drew some storyboards for the reshoots on the pilot. Then he helped craft the overreaching story arcs for the season, watched all the daily’s and made lots of editorial suggestions all along the way in bringing those shows to their final cut. So I would say he’s instrumentally involved.
You’ve been very active philanthropically about wildlife preservation so I thought it was interesting that you’re doing a show about humans facing extinction.
(laughs) Yeah, we’re the new polar bears, right?
Yes, that’s true. Now, if you were in the position of your character – what do you think you’d miss the most in the new world and also what do you think would be the most exciting opportunity about a civilization to start over?
I’m guessing a variety of diet would be the thing I’d miss the most. And hot food. But we tried to pepper each episode with exactly that. What are the cons and disadvantages to the state we’ve been thrown into but what are the sort of more subtle pros – whether it’s seeing a group of kids having to exercise their imaginations at play and actually relishing in the opportunity to do so or the quality of relationships between families being that much enriched without all the other distractions. There’s a sequence that comes midway through the season where a woman who’s among our ranks is pregnant and is throwing a baby shower. Having been to quite a few baby showers this was unlike any that I had experienced, in the sense that it wasn’t so much about the gifts and the swag and stuff for the impending birth it was really more about the spiritual aspects of brining a new life into the world and your responsibilities are as a parent and what are our collective responsibilities for this new life? Those I find very rewarding aspects to the storytelling because it allows us an opportunity to kind of pick and choose between separate the wheat and chaff – what’s important and what’s not.