Sunday, May 22, 2016

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Merc Talks With Terry Matalas, Co-Creator of Syfy's '12 Monkeys'

Recently, I had the great honor of interviewing the very talented Terry Matalas, one of the showrunners for the hit Syfy series 12 Monkeys.

Created by Terry Matalas (Star Trek: Enterprise, Nikita) and Travis Fickett (Terra Nova, Nikita), 12 Monkeys tells the story of James Cole (Aaron Stanford), a time traveler from a post-apocalyptic 2043 sent back in time to stop the spread of a deadly plague with help from Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull).  It is a reimagining of the 1995 film of the same name starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt.

MERC WITH A MOVIE BLOG: Being a huge fan of science fiction, when I heard that a television adaptation of the 1995 film, 12 Monkeys was on its way, I was of course excited.  What was it about this property, for you, that screamed "We have to turn this into a series"?

TERRY MATALAS: The characters first and foremost. And the opportunity to do a serialized time travel show and really blow out the world of the film.   

MERC: What was your reaction when Syfy finally gave the green light for the first season, nearly a year after they announced it was being developed?

TM: We were thrilled.  We jumped right into building that world. 

MERC: After writing on shows like Nikita and Terra Nova (both of which I loved), how does writing 12 Monkeys compare?

TM: Well some of the DNA of those shows play a part.  Particularly the characters and story telling pace of NIKITA.  I definitely had learned a lot working on both.  But on NIKITA is where I learned how to produce - from script to post.  It was an incredible educational experience. 

MERC: And speaking of Nikita, did you always have Aaron Stanford in mind to play James Cole?

TM: We really didn't have anyone in mind, actually.  We went down a few different routes before Aaron became apparent.  He captured everything we wanted from Cole.  He's amazing.

MERC: When working on a show as intricate and complex as this, how far done the line do you map out what will happen? Is it a season by season kind of thing, or do you have an endgame in mind?

TM: We need to know almost all of it with wiggle room in between.  But all the major plot and character tentpoles are set. 

MERC: I imagine it can be difficult keeping all the time travel in line.  Do you guy have a "show bible" to keep all the paradoxes in check, or is that something you're just able to keep track of in your heads?

TM: We are able for the most part to keep track of it all, but yes we have it all on dry erase boards.

MERC: How long does it take you to plan out and produce a season?  Has this season been any easier compared to the first?

TM: It takes about three months.  The season was easier in the respect that we knew our characters better.  It was a lot more fun. 

MERC: The first season was mainly spent setting things up, and now you've been able to really delve into the deeper story.  Has that made things more or less difficult for you, creatively?

TM: Well, the world has opened up a lot more.  And we know what the mythology means.  But there is a lot more that has to be carefully placed.  So it's as difficult as you can imagine. 

MERC: My favorite character has been Jennifer Goines, played by the very talented Emily Hampshire (although Cassie in this season is getting up there).  What was the decision making process like when choosing to make this character (whose counterpart in the film was male, played by Brad Pitt) female in the series?

TM: It was simple.  The role had been done perfectly as a man once before.  What other male actor could you put in Brad Pitt's place?  No one.  So I thought, hey, maybe we give it to a woman.  I called Travis Fickett and Richard Suckle and pitched it to them and we were off! 

MERC: The use of time travel in movies and television seems to be gaining popularity as of lately.  In your opinion, what has and will make this show stand out amongst the rest as something unique and must-see?

TM: Hard to answer that question being so close to it.  I hope we've told an epic tale with amazing time travel set ups and pay offs -- but at the end, I really hope you love the characters. 

MERC: Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the future (or past, as it may be) of these characters, and the show itself, as it moves forward?

TM: They are in for an epic adventure by the time the season is over.  A dark Wizard of Oz journey that will change everything for them all forever. 

Be sure to follow Terry and 12 Monkeys on Twitter.  Terry Matalas: @TerryMatalas  12 Monkeys: @12MonkeysSyfy.  Also be sure to watch 12 Monkeys every Monday at 9:00pm on Syfy.

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