Thomas Dekker has been acting since the age of six and has had roles in “CSI,” “House, MD” “Boston Public” and even “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but it was his breakout performance as Zach on the first season of “Heroes” that really got him noticed. After eleven episodes, Dekker left the show amidst some controversy and got the part of John Connor on Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” He is the fourth out of five actors who have been hired to play the part originated by Edward furlong in 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” The Fox series aired during the Writers Strike, one of the few shows on at the time with new episodes, and soon developed a following strong enough to get it renewed for a second season, which begins September 8. CBR News sat down with Thomas Dekker at last month’s Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk about the brand new season and what’s in store for the savior of the human race.
Stepping in to the role of John Connor was not something Thomas Dekker did without trepidation. “It was terrifying for all of us, and I didn’t know if the show was going to be good,” he said. “When I first heard they were making it I thought, ‘I love Terminator’ and I thought it was going to suck. Then I read the script and talked to [Executive Producer] Josh [Friedman] about all the avenues and the idea of doing a robot show that has musings about religion and art and love and all that kind of stuff [and it] is very cool. I felt confident with the show.”
Now that “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is in its sophomore year, Dekker’s even more pleased with the series. “[In the] first season, we were really paying attention to every little thing and trying to be true to the movies,” Dekker said. “Now I feel like we’ve established ourselves. Of course we are still part of the movies, but more of our own thing and that’s making the show better because we are being able to go off and do all kinds of stuff.”
One thing that some Terminator fans have been critical of is Dekker’s portrayal of John Connor, something the actor actually expected. “I knew it would frustrate some people in the first season with the performance I did,” Decker remarked, “because I wanted him to be kind of weak and hide behind his hair and sit behind the computer and people to go, ‘This isn’t the savior of the world, where’s he?’ so that then we could watch him shift. I felt that doing what he does just wouldn’t happen, I think there has to be things that occur that just build up till the end of this thing and that’s what happens. So this is so great, I just get to play rage and bitterness and power that I didn’t get to do at all last year, by my own choice.”
In the Terminator universe, great power doesn’t necessarily come with great responsibility, but what it does come with are fight scenes. “What’s cool is I am fucking kicking ass this season for a change,” Dekker said. “I am actually getting to fight people and shoot guns, not that that is all I care about. If I had to that [all the time] it would be boring but it’s nice to do when it’s for a reason, so this season I’ve gotten to do a lot of stuff. I’ve gone to a firing range, I’m actually using guns and I get into a big fight. There’s so much action in the first episode. A lot of it in the next couple [episodes] is with Cameron, but in the first episode I’m in a car that flips, we’re upside down, and I get a windshield smashed in my face. That was an intense episode right out of the gate after five months of eating bon bons and watching TV. First day at work and there’s glass flying everywhere.”
Not only does John get to kick ass this season, but he also gets a new love interest as well. Her name is Riley and she’s named after Fox executive Kevin Reilly, who suggested they add girlfriend to the show. Riley will be played by Leven Rambin (“All My Children”). “It’s a tricky relationship because John, on the one hand, doesn’t want to feel anymore,” Dekker explained. “I think that’s the biggest difference. [In the] first season, he was really very emotional and was holding on to his feelings and [now] he doesn’t want feelings because they get in the way. Yet on the other hand, he really likes this girl. He can’t help it, it’s kind of his one way to a normal something in his life but she’s the pushy one. At first [he is] like, ‘I don’t, I can’t, just leave me alone,’ but she breaks through so I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s smooth.”
At the “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” panel at Comic-Con, it was announced that one of the show’s characters would be killed off this season, something that took the actors in attendence by surprise, Dekker included. “I did not know that until half an hour [before the panel],” Dekker confirmed. “I just got a house and I’m very scared because [Friedman] could kill me but then that means the rest of the world is fucked!”
A rumor that has been floating around is that viewers will actually get to see Dekker play an older version of John this season. The validity of that rumor is something Dekker is not ready to speak to just yet. “I can not disclose [that],” he said. “I am not saying yes or no.”
Stay tuned for more coverage of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” as our weeklong series continues tomorrow with the Terminator Cromartie himself, Garret Dillahunt.