Falling Skies, a drama detailing the aftermath of an alien invasion, has proved to be a great success for TNT this summer. We had a chance to talk to Connor Jessup, the actor who plays Ben Mason, about his role and the show in general.
Jessup’s character, Ben, is the second of hero Tom Mason’s (Noah Wyle) three sons. Early in the invasion, he was captured by the aliens and “harnessed.” His return to his family thus carries a lot of intrigue for viewers.
Were you surprised by the success of Falling Skies?
Connor Jessup: “We kind of expected it to be a big hit. It’s the kind of show that, with its pedigree and with its themes and just the kind of show it is, I think it was kind of destined successful. I was definitely happy and I don’t think I really understood just how big it would be, but, yeah, it’s definitely nice to see everyone’s work pay off in such a big way.”
What do you think it is about the show that has actually connected with audiences this summer?
Connor Jessup: I think that the show is, unlike most sci-fi shows, which… I love sci-fi, but a lot of sci-fi shows are hard sci-fi. They tend to be about, really about the science fiction, whereas I think, with Falling Skies, it’s about the drama.
It really is a drama more than anything else. And I think that aspect has allowed the demographics that watch the show to widen and to expand, and I think that that element of it allows it to appeal to a lot more people than it normally would. So I think that people who would not normally watch a show about aliens or about alien invasion or about action, an action show, are watching this. And think that’s indicative of how good the writer’s did, how good of a job the writers did at mixing the sci-fi with the drama.
Since you’re a big sci-fan, do you have a favorite sci-fi or alien movie?
Connor Jessup: My favorite sci-fi movie is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I’m a big fan of Blade Runner and Close Encounters and Alien. I love a lot of good sci-fi movies.
What’s it like working on Falling Skies?
Connor Jessup: It was incredible. I’m relatively new to this business, and I’d never worked in anything as big as Falling Skies before — as big-budget or as high concept. So to work on and be on a set where every day something exciting was happening, there’d be a car blown up or something flipping over or some visual effect I’d never seen before. That was an incredible experience, to be able to learn and experience and watch all these things I’d never seen before happen.
But also the cast and the crew, everyone involved in the show, was incredibly experienced and incredibly talented. And to work with them for an extended period of time was also an incredible experience. I learned a lot. I learned a lot, and it was just incredibly fun as well. Everybody meshed really well together. When you spend long days with people for three or four months in a row, everyone kind of becomes a family, so it was a really fun environment.
What are your favorite and least-favorite parts about working on the show?
Connor Jessup: My favorite part would be, basically what I just said, which would be the people. My favorite part is my fellow cast members, because they’re really what makes working on the show fun and exciting every day, because they’re so talented and so interesting. Every time I work with them, I get a bit better myself and it’s fun.
My least favorite part? That’s a hard one. If I had to pick a least favorite part, it would be just the sheer amount of work, because sometimes it can be 13-hour days, five days a week, and it’s exhausting. It can really tire you out. But, again, it’s a good kind of tired, it’s not a useless tiredness. It’s a sense of accomplishment that goes along with your exhaustion, so it’s not that bad. But it can get to you.
Since it’s safe to assume that you haven’t had a lot of the same experiences as your character, what do you identify with the most when playing Ben?
Connor Jessup: What I identify with, I think, is before the invasion, he was a lot like me, like how I am now. He was very kind of, he was a bookworm. He was very kind of, he wasn’t the jock, he was more the homebody. He just had a personality that was similar to mine.
What was interesting to me was to take a personality similar to mine and see what would happen if he was, if this did happen to me, if I was kidnapped by aliens, if I was separated from my family for six months and weird things happened to me in the interim. And the way I kind of wanted to play the character was to take me, and then make those changes to me.
So I think that’s what was interesting about playing Ben, because a lot of the elements, a lot of the scenes did feel like me. But at the same time, there were weird changes and these weird after-effects that were a lot of fun to play with.
What can we expect from Falling Skies as we go through the season?
Connor Jessup: Falling Skies gets, in my opinion, it just gets more exciting as it goes on.
Anyone who’s watched the show has seen that it’s a slow-burn type of show. So as the series goes on, every episode you learn a little bit more, and more and more, about the aliens and about what they want, and especially in relation to my character.
You learn what’s happening with these kids and what these harnesses do and how they tie everything together. So I think each episode reveals a little bit more of the mystery or pulls back a little bit more of the veil, so I think that’s what will keep people watching. And some really good drama and really good action.
Because it’s a 10-episode series, there’s no filler episodes, there’s no junk episodes. Every episode is integral to the overall plot.
Other than Falling Skies, what have you been up to recently?
Connor Jessup: I just finished shooting, in May, an indie feature called Bye-Bye Blackbird. It’s about a teenager who gets falsely accused of planning a school massacre and then kind of how his life changes after that and how everything around him changes. And it’s a really interesting, kind of gritty, indie film. So I shot that in May. Hopefully, that will play the festivals next year.
Right now, I’m just enjoying summer.
If aliens did visit Earth, do you think they’d be more likely to be peaceful aliens or crazy, genocidal aliens like on Falling Skies?
Connor Jessup: I have to think that they would be peaceful. It seems strange to me that they would come all this way, and invest that much time and effort and inevitably money into intergalactic travel, only to come to our planet to wipe us out. It seems odd that they would be after resources or anything like that, because you’d imagine that they would have those on their planet if they were able to fly across space.
I think that if it did happen, it would almost inevitably be them trying to be peaceful or trying to learn from us. It could be that they just are simply trying to communicate in us in any way, it’s not peaceful or otherwise. I have to think that they wouldn’t just come for genocide. It seems a bit pointless.
If you happen to be wrong, and the alien invasion was genocidal, what would you do to survive?
Connor Jessup: I think I would run.
I think that’s what interesting about the show. Everyone that did survive did it by running and hiding and kind of fleeing. And I think that’s really the only way to survive something like that.
I think that you’d have to move to the countryside, which is what the Second Mass has done, because aliens would definitely be concentrated on the cities.
I think that staying together in groups, probably not groups as big as the Second Mass — they might give you away. But staying together in groups of five or six or seven, when different people have different abilities and can contribute different things, probably is the best way to ensure long-term survival.
Falling Skies airs on TNT on Sundays at 10pm.
(Image courtesy of TNT)