No one can see the future, particularly when it comes to the longevity of a new television series. So when Fox cut the season order for “Minority Report” from 13 episodes to 10, were the producers and cast worried?
“It hasn’t actually had any impact on us creatively, because our plan has always been to do 10 episodes,” creator Max Borenstein told reporters during New York Comic Con. “The three, which we hadn’t really done any work on, were always really part of the second order. … Those episodes 9 and 10, we’re really excited about in terms of where it takes us in a serialized arc and the very exciting ending cliffhanger that it leaves us on.”
A sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi action thriller, “Minority Report” is set in Washington, D.C., a decade after the dismantling of Precrime, the law-enforcement agency tasked with identifying and eliminating criminals, before their crimes were committed. The series follows precog Dash (Stark Sands), who’s returned in secret to help police detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) attempt to stop the murders from his terrifying visions.
“It is so timely,” said Daniel London, who plays Wally. “I was reading an article in The New York Times just last week about predictive policing in police forces across the country. It’s precisely what this show is looking at and tackling and trying to figure out the morality of it and the line between privacy.”
“One of the first meetings that we had with Kevin Falls and Max Borenstein was seeing what really our show was not only going to be known for, but remembered for,” echoed Wilmer Valderrama, who portrays Will Blake. “I think that one of those things were, how can we really make a big social statement in the future?”
Almost every cast member, from Meagan Good to Li Jun Li, mentioned the intrusive Hawk-Eye program as an example of how they’re making that commentary. “We live in a time when people are being investigated for their Google searches,” said Stark Sands. “And I’m not sure I’m on board with that.”
But it doesn’t just stop with invasion of privacy. “There’s an interesting thing that — can I say it? — Vega has the idea that an ear of corn should be, like, this big,” Laura Regan (Agatha) said, holding her hands two feet apart. She also said they give a sly nod to global warming, and Li noted that even the show’s casting is a commentary on mankind’s trajectory. “It’s a huge melting pot,” she said. “Even the cast itself is diverse, and then also the background actors are all mixed. They’re beautiful, and I think that’s exactly how the future will be.”
Of course, playing in the future isn’t all about social commentary; sometimes it’s just about badass technology. Sands and Nick Zano, who plays Dash’s twin Arthur, are looking forward to getting their hands on the smart-guns seen in the movie, while Good said she’s happy with her sonic rifle. “I really like using the sonic gun because it’s meant to be nonlethal, even though it could be lethal if someone hit something or something like that,” she said. “But the gun is just really cool because it blasts someone across the room without actually killing them.”
Valderrama, meanwhile, said he’s waiting for the day where police’s pre-entry tech catches up with what’s on the show. “[What] is really great is the non-man powered tools that we have to map out a structure before we enter a room. How many suspects are in there? Are they armed? How many are armed? How many are not? That’s something that I wish our law enforcement or even our armed forces really had. I think it would reduce casualties by a crazy amount.”
The flip side of that awesome future tech is that a lot of it doesn’t exist, which means the actors spend a lot of time in front of green screens. “Gotta use that childhood imagination!” Good said. “And also you talk to guys and ask how is it that this works and what would it look like. .. Or you’ll just come up with stuff. Like, ‘OK, so if it’s on the screen, can I just grab it from the screen and slide it down onto the table?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, we can do that.'”
“We stopped feeling silly,” Valderrama added. “Because when we were filming the pilot it was like, ‘Who’s watching?’ Now, it’s like ‘fooom!’ With sound effects! And then it becomes this little language and eventually you put a little [extra] into it.”
“I think what I’ve learned is that keeping it simpler, less is more,” London said. “I had a conversation with our great visual-effects guy, David, early on. He told me, every move I make on my screen is then X amount of hours of work for them to then sync something to it. So I’ve learned to keep things very simple and small. If you ever see me going crazy you’ll know that I’m pissed off at David and want to give him a lot of extra work.”
Sands, however, was equally as impressed with the non-techy green screen scenes. He recalled one moment where they had to go back in to film a closeup for a scene they’d shot months earlier on a cold day by a river. He said it was tricky getting into that head space while in a comfortable studio. “They had to adjust the lighting, and you had to sort of put yourself back in that place,” he recalled. “It was an interesting, challenging experience. But I’m glad they did it, because when I saw it, you wouldn’t know. You wouldn’t have spotted it. And I’m glad they did it because it connected you to our characters more, which is important.”
Sands did say, though, that the original film’s tech played a factor in attracting him to this project. “The movie was very good at predicting what was going to happen, and it’s happening a lot faster than you’d think.” Zano added, “The fact that they knew the touch screen stuff was coming then, when we were clueless about it. I wonder what’s brewing now behind the scenes for ten years from now.”
Although the series is most certainly a continuation of the film, the cast of “Minority Report” want to make sure it stands on its own. “It’s a lot lighter too,” Lin said. “Even just on camera, it’s much darker, much more rough. The future has developed over the ten years, so it’s different in that way. There is a lot of pressure with fans of the film who are expecting it to be a certain way, just as any fans would expect a movie made of a book would be.”
London is the only major cast member to have made the transition from the movie to the show, something he takes a lot of pride in, but doesn’t let cloud his performance. “[Getting the call] was really exciting, because playing Wally in the movie was one of my greatest, happiest, best experiences in my life,” he said. “That’s been really exciting. But it was very clear from the get-go of the series that this was its own thing, its own entity.”
Borenstein says that while the relationship between Dash and Vega is one part of the tale, the bigger question is one of ethics and morality, as well as politics.
“At what point is them doing this kind of living room version of Precrime, where they’re judge, jury, and execution and they have to make all the moral and ethical decisions on their own,” he said. “At what point is that itself a huge ethical problem? At what point do they need to go to some other authority? How many lives have to be at stake before it’s Dash’s obligation — or at least he feels it’s obligation — to try to tell somebody other than this one cop who has to keep it secret?”
For the studio and the audience, the question then really becomes can following that story sustain a serialized network series. But when asked if he’s worried about ratings, Borenstein said he thinks they’re doing just fine.
“These days, the live ratings are more or less irrelevant,” he said. “They matter, but it’s a vestige of an old organism. Our show has had really, really significant bumps in DVR and live streaming stuff. That’s huge. That’s where the money people make the decisions as to whether or not the show should have a second season is how many people have watched that first season.”
“Minority Report” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
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