Falling Skies: Colin Cunningham Interview

Aside from Noah Wylie’s heroic Tom Mason and those skitters, one of Falling Skies ’ other most valuable players is rebel with a cause John Pope. Played by Colin Cunningham with equal parts snarky charm and simmering menace, Pope established himself as the street-wise, opportunistic survivor who got stuck with the human survivors known as the 2nd Mass, first as their prisoner and then as their cook.

In season two, Falling Skies opens three months after the first season finale with Pope and the 2nd Mass in a very different place than where Tom Mason left them. In an exclusive interview with SFX , Colin Cunningham sheds some light on what we can expect from the mercurial John Pope in season two.
Interview by: Tara Bennett

SFX: J ohn Pope showed a little of his inner good guy the more he got invested with the 2nd Mass in season one. Will he be more of a team player this year?

Colin Cunningham: What was interesting about Pope last year was that he started off as a bad guy, but we began to see glimmers of heart in there. Now in this season, I think we’re going to back off on the heart stuff and get down and dirty with a little more of the nasty stuff.

Tom Mason has been gone for three months so what role does Pope take with the 2nd Mass in his absence?

CC: It’s interesting because in the three months that Tom’s been gone there was a very large battle, the Battle of Pittsburgh, and we lost a lot of the 2nd Mass. We’re talking about hundreds of fighters and civilians were wiped out, but Pope and his team (also known as the Bezerkers) were instrumental in saving the 2nd Mass’ butt.

Are Pope and his crazy killing squad a part of the team?

CC: Well, in a normal, civilised society you wouldn’t want to be around any of these people. But in the middle of a war with an alien insurgency these are the best friends you can possibly have. They are the nuttiest, bravest, psychopaths who revel in killing these things. Unfortunately, [these guys] are incredibly useful when circumstances come about. But it would be very difficult for these guys to go back to normal society and set up shop as a dry cleaner.

Pope has some great lines. Fans have even dubbed his acerbic one-liners “Popeisms” and he adds some levity to the mix. Do you improv any of them?

CC: Well, it’s such a pleasure working with such pros, speaking of the writers. They are so confident in their words and their actors, that if you go off book a little and it sounds the same, then it’s all good. No one is on set is counting commas. It’s all about what happens, because sometimes things happen live that aren’t scripted. I also have to give a lot of credit to Noah Wylie. He’s not only the leader of the 2nd Mass, but he’s the leader on set. He sets the bar incredibly high, both he and Will Patton (Weaver), and they are so generous as actors. They are always fighting to make it better. They’re not fighting for bigger trailers or for more dialogue, if anything they fight for less dialogue so Anthony can have his moments or Pope can have his moments. It’s a wonderful ensemble to be led by such high calibre actors.

Noah Wyle interviewed!

How do Pope and Tom get along once Mason returns?

CC: Tom comes back and everyone else is incredibly happy to have him back except for one person – Pope. While everyone else is just grateful he’s back, Pope is incredibly suspicious. How the hell did he get out? This guy just spent time with the enemy and you’re welcoming him back with open arms. Isn’t anyone curious? Everyone is lovey dovey and it’s Pope who stands up and says this is insanity!

Does that just bring out the worst in Pope?

CC: I think season two is more about the “don’t trust it” part of him which always reaffirms that Pope is a very, very complicated character. You never know what this guy is going to do. The beauty is that he can do some good things but usually only if it serves himself. He gets lucky sometimes when it happens to match up.

Falling Skies production moved from Toronto to Vancouver for season two. Did that change the feel of this year at all?

CC: Yeah. What was interesting was that we shot the first season during the summer and in Vancouver, we shot basically over the fall and winter. It was tough. We had a lot of elements to deal with and it was a lot of night shoots. We were averaging anywhere between 17 and 19 hour days, but that said it was very visceral. No one had to pretend to be cold or to be tired. It gave the storyline a reality because no one was faking it and you can see it onscreen.

You direct. Have there been any talks about you directing an episode of Falling Skies ?

CC: There’s been a lot of talk… with my friends but not the producers. (Laughs) I would love to direct an episode of Skies and I think I could do a pretty good job. But I have to give credit to Greg Beeman and the rest of the directors on the show, who are superb. They are really, really good. This show is like shooting a massive feature film and it’s not for the faint of heart.

There are some guest stars this season. Who was a standout addition to your company?

CC: It was a blast to have Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) and also Terry O’Quinn show up and play. Specifically, Terry is known for being a rat on Lost but he does some beautiful work on Falling Skies .

What’s your favorite moment in season two?

CC: Well, Pope and Tom get into a fight and I think that’s one of my favorite parts of season two because it’s just two actors going at it. There are no special effects. Anytime you can work intimately with an actor it’s great. It was pretty much him and me just working it and it was a pleasure.

Falling Skies is currently airing in the UK on FX on Tuesday nights at 9pm. You can catch the repeat of the season two premiere on FX on Friday at 10pm.