Actor Aaron Stanford seems to be better at landing in the right place at the right time than his TV alter ego.
Playing the time-traveling James Cole on Syfy’s reimagining of “12 Monkeys,” Stanford is front and center of one of the most critically praised and cult-beloved series of the past year. Ahead of tonight’s Season 2 premiere, SPINOFF caught up with the star at NBCs Summer Press Day, where he offered a sneak peek at the show’s ever-shifting storyline.
On the new territories, and timelines, explored in Season 2
Aaron Stanford: It’s a lot of fun this year. In Season 1, we basically stuck to the apocalypse of the future, and present day. It was back and forth between that. This year, we get a chance to use the time machine and have a little bit of fun with it.
We get to go to the 1940s and drink cocktails; we get to go to the 1970s and drink Tab and shoot people and drive around in old cop cars; the trenches of World War I – all the stuff that basically everybody loves – anyone who likes time travel, that’s what you love about it. That’s what you want to experience.
One of my favorite films, “Time Bandits,” does a great job of that – of taking people to all these different fantasy places they’d love to go to. So we get into that in Season 2.
On how time-hopping affects Cole
He enjoys it. He really likes it. He’s a person who hasn’t had very much pleasure in his life. He hasn’t had very much pleasure. He hasn’t had very much enjoyment. So he goes to these places and he starts to really have fun and become attached to these places, and not really want to leave when it’s time to leave.
On the evolving relationship dynamics
The core of it is the love story, obviously, between Cassie and Cole, which is this very sort of bittersweet, drawn-out engagement between the two of them where there’s so much simmering tension between them. They never are able quite to make it happen. So that’s very much present in Season 2 as well.
There’s the Jennifer Goines character, who nobody quite really understands. Somehow Cole is able to communicate with her. He’s like the Jennifer Whisperer. Then Deacon has an expanded role as well. So basically, all of the relationships are further explored and all the backstories are expanded.
So basically, this season, everything becomes enriched, becomes deeper, and a lot more rewarding because of that.
On finding hope in the dystopian scenario
I personally did find hope in the first season. I think that was the journey. I think the beginning of the season was very bleak and very dark. In the finale when we see Cole make this decision to take on fate, take on destiny, and say “No, I’m going to change things,” I think that’s the moment where the hope is born. That’s where we start going into Season 2. More hope. Hope for all. Hope for all mankind.
On whether Cole is, like his film counterpart, ultimately doomed
Am I destined to die as well? That’s the big question, right? Clearly the show makes a departure from the film very, very quickly. We basically cover, the core mythology of the film is covered in like the first two episodes, and then it just completely branches off into a whole new story. Which is the great thing about remaking films into television shows, is you have a chance to tell a really epic story. You have a chance to tell a novel-sized story as opposed to a short story.
So in terms of where Cole’s ultimately going to end up, it’s anybody’s guess. That would be an interesting ending if they brought it full circle and did that with him too. But we just don’t know.
On making changes to the original mythology
I was a huge fan of the film. Basically everybody involved was as well. So we were very conscious that we were dealing with something that was very sacred. You just have to put that aside, the pressure of it, and just do the best you can with the story.
I mean, the thing about “12 Monkeys” is, the original story of “12 Monkeys” began with a short film called “La Jetée.” It was shot in the ‘60s, which was essentially the same story. Completely different format, completely different length. They remade it into a film, and we took that same base story and turned it into a television show. So it just got passed along to us, basically.
They made a choice. They wanted to make the show very different. You can see that in the casting choices that they made. It just ended up being a very different animal, and from what we’ve seen, the feedback and social media, everyone’s very happy with it and really interested and into seeing where it’s going to go.
“12 Monkeys” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.
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