The Visitors have arrived. They are now among us. Simultaneously appearing in every major city in the world, they promote a message of peace; they want to share their extensive knowledge of technology and their concept of absolute world unity, a view that the world should not be constricted by division. And to do so, they are counting on an important component of human nature: devotion. But what is their ultimate plan for the human race? One thing is certain; every person’s life will change as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. With the uncovering of experimentation on humans and the plot of a biological threat looming on the horizon, things are not as they seem.
Follow the dissidents who believe the Visitors are not who they say they are, including Ryan (Morris Chesnut), who is faced with a life-altering decision when the V’s arrive, a decision that could have a detrimental effect on his fiancée, Valerie (Lourdes Benedicto). And when FBI Counter Terrorist Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) discovers, while investigating the formation of a terrorist cell, what lurks beneath the alarmingly human exterior of the Visitors, resisting this new world has never been more important — and never has there been more at stake. It truly is the dawning of a new day.
Last Thursday I was lucky enough to attend a V Q&A at the Apple Store, Regent Street, with stars of the show Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf and Elizabeth Mitchell.
Elizabeth Mitchell plays FBI Counter Terrorist agent Erica Evans, one of the first humans to get close enough to the Visitors to realise what lurks beneath their well-meaning exteriors. Elizabeth has previously played, among other things, Dr. Juliet Burke in the hit series Lost. Scott Wolf plays Chad Decker, a morally ambiguous and career-hungry news journalist that sees his exclusive contact with the Visitors as vital to his dominance of the airwaves. Scott has previously had roles in Party of Five, Everwood and The Nine. Morena Baccarin plays Anna, leader of the Vs and main media contact for the humans. She has previously had roles in Firefly, Stargate SG1 and The OC.
The trio took questions from guest moderator Boyd Hilton and from the audience in attendance.
BH: First of all, V’s been a huge hit, when did you find out it was renewed (for a second season)?
Scott Wolf: Just two weeks ago now. That’s when we got the phone call.
BH: Were you tense; were you nervous, did you have any heads up before you heard it was renewed?
Morena Baccarin: We had no idea.
SW: I think from the beginning we’ve all loved and believed in what we were making here and thought that this show really deserved a second series, but you never know. Just getting out of a first season any more is really really challenging. So it was a huge vote of confidence from the network and the fact that audiences are loving it.
BH: Elizabeth, when you were approached to take part in a remake of an iconic show did you immediately think, oh that’s not such a great idea, or did you think “yeah, why not?”
Elizabeth Mitchell: Yeah I thought it was a great idea actually. To run around like an action hero… I was really excited. I just thought it would be fun. And it has been.
BH: And were you confident that they would be able to make it relevant for our time, 2010, or were you not worried about that?
MB: I wish I had given it all of that thought and obviously someone else did but I’m really usually in it for the role. (laughs) I just thought it was a good role.
BH: Scott, did you think it was a great idea or did you have any doubts, that it might be a bit cheesy?
SW: No I didn’t because reading the script you knew right away it was in really good creative hands, great characters, really great drama, I could not put it down. The unknowing is how it’s going to come together from there.
BH: Morena, you’ve been in big sci-fi shows before (Firefly, Stargate SG-1), were you reluctant to stay in sci-fi?
MB: I didn’t even view it that way, maybe that was stupid of me but I really am drawn to roles and I didn’t worry about being pigeon-holed in sci-fi, because it’s the character that I’m attracted to and drawn to and inspired by, hopefully I’ll do a good job. So it wasn’t a big deal…. And V is more than just a sci-fi show; it holds a mirror to our lives today.
BH: This could have been a mini-series with a limited number of episodes but they wanted to do it as an ongoing piece that gets renewed year after year. Were you happy with that, with committing to another long-running show?
EM: I was happy to do so. I love to work and I love to work on the roles that I love. OK that was a lot of love (laughs) but that is how I feel, I wouldn’t have chosen to do it if I thought it was just going to go away. On the other hand a lot of us have been in shows that haven’t gone (to a full season), where you kind of view it as a mini-movie. So to get to do more of it is a good thing.
MB: I think nobody really knew how the pilot would be received and we were prepared for it to be mini-series because the story kind of lends itself to that kind of structure, but it was such a huge hit that I guess they decided to make it into a full blown series.
BH: Scott, you were of course in a long running TV show in the ‘90s (Party of Five) is it different now with the networks?
SW: The day to day work is quite the same, even doing a genre show with special effects about aliens landing on Earth. There’s a lot more pressure involved now, Party of Five was the little show that could, and I was used to teetering on waiting to hear if we were going to get to keep going but there’s just so much money at stake, so I think the investment that the studio and networks make is so large that you can almost hear people collectively holding their breath and praying that something’s going to work. So just getting into a second season is a huge success for any show, so we’re proud of that.
BH (to MB): Let’s talk about your role and what a great role it is as the head of the alien invasion.
MB: She’s such an interesting character, you don’t want to be play “alien” and be weird and cold and she’s definitely not human, but in playing her human there’s a lot of opportunities there. When I played Adria in SG-1, she was basically Hitler. Anna’s more complicated. You walk a fine line with a character that appears to have no emotion; you have to peel back the layers.
BH (to SW): Your role, can I say slightly oily, very ambitious…? Do you like him? He’s not a good guy; he’s kind of immoral, amoral?
SW: He’s morally challenged, you can say. And it’s fun, and most of the guys I’ve played in my career have absolutely told you who they are and Chad Decker might not be that guy. I’m still holding out hope that in the end he’ll prove to be more hero than villain, but he’s got some work to do. We don’t know how much of himself, if not all, he’s willing to sell to be as successful as he thinks he should be. But the thing I love is there’s this battle, this war shaping up between humans and visitors and most people are declaring themselves and they have an allegiance one way the other and Chad represents the grey area in between. I like the idea that he’s not just a slippery ambitious guy, there’s the seed of a real journalist there if he can get passed the seed of his own desire at the cost of humanity.
BH (to EM): Your character is very strong, very much the centre of the whole show.
EM: I think what attracted me to the show was that the main protagonist was a female and the main antagonist was also female and they’re both very strong. I love that, I thought it was great. In my mind I don’t think Juliet (her character from Lost) and Erica are remotely alike, although I can see why people would…. You hope to inspire either love or hate (with a performance).
BH: Do you guys read the press? Do you respond to what the fans are saying?
EM: I try very hard not to. You read a lot of lovely things and then you’ll read one thing and you’ll remember it for ten years. And every nice thing your husband will say, you’ll say “remember that time I read that thing… “ . And my opinions about people are fleeting and change and.. I don’t wanna hit somebody at a point where they’ve vented.. I try not to… if you believe the good you have to believe the bad.
SW: But it only takes one bad thing…You can read a thousand glowing things and then one persons says you’re a hack and you should quit..
EM: I read Elizabeth Mitchell is the most over-rated actress in history. But I thought to myself – Really? In history? That’s really bad, I didn’t know I was rated so high that I could be the most over-rated actress… so I thought oh, there must be good stuff I’m not reading!
SW: It matters, that’s the sort of paradox, what fans think of what we do matters but us processing it or reading it or using it in some ways is impossible..
MB: It doesn’t help the work at all, but we certainly care if that makes any sense.
BH: Do you ever go into fan forums and see what people say?
MB: I don’t actually, I stay away. With the character of Inara, she was a space whore, of sorts (laughs) but very early on I learned my lesson the hard way because that character lends itself to a lot of rude comments by people who don’t know any better. And after few rude comments I thought I don’t really need to be reading this, so I left that a while ago.
BH: Did you feel you wanted some of the camp energy of the original show? Or are you happy with the slightly more serious, a lot more serious tone of the show.
EM: I like humour, I’m a big fan of gallows humour or trench humour, I love it when you get down and the best thing ever is when someone says something completely inappropriate, I love that. Maybe that’s not camp but that part of it I wouldn’t mind adopting.
BH: How was it described that the tone would be. Did they make it clear that this would be different, it would be more dark?
EM: I was told that ABC was taking it very seriously.
SW: I feel like the beauty of it is, you’re talking about important things like our society and our religion, family and relationships. On the surface it’s a popcorn thriller that aliens have landed on the earth but you’re also having the audience contemplating some important valuable stuff. The more real it feels, the scarier it is.
BH: Did you ever think that the trouble with doing a remake is that people would have all kinds of preconceptions about the show?
SW: We knew we had the potential to remake, and it’s completely reimagined as well. None of us are playing characters from the original show. I think the fans would have struggled a bit if it had been a line for line remake. That was never the intention.
MB: It had to be relevant for today’s audience. It’s kind of boring just to redo the same thing.
BH: There is this kind of weird rumour that this whole thing is an analogy for the current presidency – I don’t get that, I don’t understand how that works.
MB: I think that’s because of the health care line, I think that’s the thing that people latched on to. It’s wonderful that people are making that analogy not because we are intending it to be a political show but because it is a current show, that grapples with our everyday lives and I think that’s wonderful.
SW: There’s no way that we would tell anyone who’s watching this show and creating an idea for themselves that they’re wrong.
MB: But I don’t think the writers made that as they wrote it three years ago as a first draft, so no I don’t think that was an intention.
BH (to EM): You’ve been on a successful show that ran for six years, got very complicated.. they took a very good premise and turned it into a huge long running thing, would you like this to happen with V, would you like in six years time to still be a part of this show with an incredibly rich texture?
EM: I love the texture. I always felt like the reason I did this because this was a very entertaining intelligent popcorn thriller, but I really like the fact that there’s a lightness to it and I would like to be doing it, sure, I think that running around being a mother action hero is really fun and I think that as we’re given a second season we’re going to be able to make it even more fun. So I’m really looking forward to what we can do.
(BH then invited questions from the audience.)
Audience Member: If the V’s came to earth, which side would you be on, would you join the 5th Column?
SW: I’m a pretty optimistic guy, I’d give them a chance, I wouldn’t join the resistance right away, I think I’d see how things went… and then run away!
MB: I’m very cynical, I wouldn’t trust them.
EM: I’d be cautiously optimistic, but then Stephen Hawking says not to be…
Audience Member (to MB): Every one remembers the rodent eating scene from the original series. Are you going to be munching on a guinea pig any time soon?
MB: Well, it’s not been mentioned yet but I would imagine so, yes and quite soon.
EM: We were saying it should be something uneventful, she should just have a bowl of them ready to be picked up and eaten, really casually.
Audience Member: As actors what do you get from this show, personally and professionally?
EM: I always say I “marry up” on shows, I find people far better than I am and I work with them. I’m only richer for the people I work with.
SW: Party of Five set the bar for me. The idea of going backwards from that is difficult.
MB: It can be a lonely experience if people aren’t interested in sharing experiences and working well together. V just raises the bar.
Audience Member: The season finale had a great scene between Anna and Erica, how do you see those two developing in season two?
MB: Well we’re both protecting both our children and our race; I think we’ll see a change of emphasis for both. Erica will get more badass while Anna starts to feel more emotions. It will be fascinating to see how the lines between them are blurred.
Audience Member: If you could write your own story arc for season 2 what would it be?
MB: I’d like to see Anna’s struggle with human emotion and how it changes her. Either in the way she becomes more emotional or possibly pulls herself back and loses those emotions, but learns something from it.
SW: Well I would chose for Chad not to die of a brain aneurysm. It’s fun to have him as a walking talking grey area, but it would be fun to see him declare himself for the 5th Column and maybe work as a double agent against the V. That or marry Anna…
EM: I would like Erica to find out what Anna has planned and then tear it apart piece by piece. Also for her to have a relationship with Hobbs and Father Jack at the same time!
V is shown on Syfy at 10pm Tuesdays and is also available to download from iTunes and Blinkbox. You can also download this entire Q & A as a podcast direct from iTunes.