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SDCC: CBS Gets Edgy With ‘Extant,’ ‘Under the Dome,’ ‘Limitless’ and More

by  in TV News Comment
SDCC: CBS Gets Edgy With ‘Extant,’ ‘Under the Dome,’ ‘Limitless’ and More

The stars and creators of five of CBS’s new and returning genre series — “Extant,” “Under the Dome,” “Zoo,” “Limitless” and “Scorpion” — previewed their new seasons during a mega-sized three-and-a-half-hour presentation at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

“Extant” was the first show of the presentation, with stars Halle Berry and new addition Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Supernatural,” “Watchmen”) joining creator and executive producers Mickey Fisher and Craig Shapiro for a look at Season 2 — a reboot from the shaky first season.

“There is a through-line in Season 2 that is carried over from Season 1 with robotics and aliens and coming back from space pregnant. There is some fallout from that,” Morgan said. “My character comes in and meets Halle’s character at a crime scene. I play a cop investigating a murder and she’s escaped a mental institution. I think she’s certifiable and that’s where we take off.”

Moderator Chris Hardwick noted that “Extant” doesn’t look or feel like most CBS shows. “At every turn CBS has told us to push the envelope,” said Shapiro, the sci-fi drama’s new showrunner. “We take the show to an edgy place. It’s sexy. It’s rock ‘n’ roll right out of the box with a mystery that’s going to carry through the whole season.”

Berry said “Extant” was one of the hottest pilots last year. “I fell in love with the character and with the idea of where it could go,” she said. “I liked that it deals with A.I.’s [artificial intelligence] and extra-terrestrials and the human species and figuring out who will survive. Our show really addresses evolution. Who will survive?”

The Oscar winner plays dual roles: Not only is she the star, but she’s also an executive producer. “Some days I just want to be an actress,” Berry said. “But I like having a say. I played a part in hiring the new showrunners. We knew we needed a reboot. We knew we needed a new direction. I was lucky that I got to be a part of deciding that. I got to be a part of bringing in Jeffrey Dean Morgan.”

They revealed that David Morrissey, best known for his role as the Governor on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” is joining the cast as Tobias Sheppard, the head of an organization called the Global Security Commission, which is like the NSA of the future.

Berry also teased that her and Morgan will “swap fluids sometime this season.”

Fisher said he’s happy with the reboot. “We wanted to come back at it with a whole new energy, new stories, new worlds, new characters — but more edgy — more sex,” he said. “We also wanted to make it accessible to new viewers. If you haven’t seen the show, you’ll be able to jump right in and enjoy it,” he promised.

“Extant” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

“Under the Dome,” based on the Stephen King novel about a town trapped beneath a large invisible dome, was second in the lineup. Executive producer Tim Schlattmann joined cast members Mike Vogel (Barbie), Colin Ford (Joe McAlister) and new addition Marg Helgenberger (Christine Price) to preview the third season

Schlattmann, who comes to “Under the Dome” from “Dexter,” said the storyline this season is very serialized. “We threw a lot of stuff at viewers in the first two hours this season, and it’s going to play out over the entire season,” he explained. “We meant what we said about answering questions. We will answer every question that viewers have by the end of the season.”

Helgenberger wouldn’t whether the new character she plays is good or bad. “I’m complex,” she teased. “I have an agenda for Chester’s Mill. I refer to this as a kinship — a collective. Some people will go along with it. Others won’t.” She did say that an upcoming episode shocked her. “I couldn’t believe what I do. I almost cried reading it.”

Schlattmann praised Helgenberger’s addition. “We needed a great actress,” he said, “we got a great actress.”

Vogel joked about the love triangle that his character Barbie has with Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) and Eva (Kylie Bunbury). “Love triangles are tough, and it’s made more difficult by the constructs of our show — the way they orchestrated the time we spent in the alternate reality,” he said. “You can see how that might complicate things.”

Known for its high character death count, will “Under the Dome” continue in Season 3? “One hundred percent,” Schlattmann said. “I think this season, these deaths are really going to matter.”

“Under the Dome” airs Thursdays 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

The new “animals-gone-amok” science drama “Zoo” is only a few weeks old, and CBS used Comic-Con to give it exposure. Creator/Executive Producer Jeff Pinkner joined Executive Producer Josh Appelbaum and cast members James Wolk (Jackson Oz), Billy Burke (Mitch Morgan), Kristen Connolly (Jamie Campbell) and Nora Arnezeder (Chloe Tousignant) in a discussion moderated by “The Insider’s” Michael Yo.

Pinkner said this is a good time for “Zoo,” in which all of the world’s animals are no longer afraid of humans and start to turn on them. “Animals are scary,” he said. “We’ve seen a whole bunch of zombie shows and a whole bunch of vampire shows, and while they are not real, we know that animals are real.”

The show is based on the novel by James Patterson, although many changes were made in the adaptation process. “Patterson told us the book exists — it’s not going anywhere,” Pinkner said. “We took the basic hook — what if the animals fight back — and took it in a different direction where had you read the book you could still be surprised by the TV show.”

“The characters of Jamie and Mitch don’t appear in the book,” Appelbaum said. “Patterson told us we need those characters for the show. He’s been incredibly supportive of all the changes we’ve made.”

“He’s been with us every step of the way,” Pinkner said of Patterson’s involvement. “He reads the scripts. He reads the outlines. He’s excited and pleased to see the characters he’s created go on in different directions. The book ends and hopefully the show will go on for years and years.”

Wolk added that the producers have gone out of their way to make sure that Patterson remains involved, which is a unique in Hollywood, where authors are usually shut out of the process once the rights are sold.

The show is shot entirely in Louisiana, but in the first episode alone, scenes take place in Africa, Paris and Los Angeles. “We were able to shoot in all sorts of nooks and crannies in New Orleans and Louisiana and give it an international feel,” Appelbaum said. “All that Africa stuff was shot in the outskirts of Louisiana. It’s amazing.”

The cast looks forward to working with amazing animals. Wolk has a memorable episode coming up this season with Kodiak bears. “The bears fell asleep in the middle of the scene,” Arnezeder said. “We had to wait until they woke up.”

Appelbaum promises things will build as the season continues. “Things will really start to heat up,” he said. “Things go pretty nuts halfway through the season and by the end of the season — it’s on.”

Someone in the audience asked if the animals will start organizing cross-species. “Uh-oh. She’s seen the show,” Burke replied. “Spoiler alert.”

“Zoo” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

The fourth show in CBS’s presentation was “Limitless,” a television adaptation of the 2011 film starring Bradley Cooper as a man who gains the ability to use the full extent of his brain’s capabilities. In addition to serving as an executive producer, Cooper will also reprise his role as Eddie Morra. The actor greeted the audience in a video that transitioned into a screening of the pilot.

Following the video, executive producers Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman joined director Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spider Man”), showrunner Craig Sweeny and actors Hill Harper and Jake McDorman for a discussion about the new series.

Kurtzman said “Limitless” was the perfect choice to adapt into a weekly drama. “We loved the movie and we had worked with Bradley years ago on ‘Alias,'” he said. “We thought the movie opened the story up to endless possibilities. There are a lot more stories to tell.”

Kadin added, “It was amazing how Craig cracked the story and kept the world of the movie intact so Eddie Morra still exists. This is the story of someone else on the drug NZT.”

McDorman said he liked that the pilot script was a continuation of the movie and not a remake. “It expands the idea of what the movie was,” he explained. “It was such a fleshed out story. I got to play almost two different characters in the show — Brian before NZT and Brian on NZT, which was intriguing and exciting. There’s a huge wish fulfillment to ‘Limitless’ that I like. The joy that comes with suddenly being the best at everything you apply yourself to. That’s fun to play.”

Webb said Brian “is an intellectual superhero. The fun of directing this was figuring out how to visualize the inner workings of his head. I like to find the emotional undercurrent — what makes the characters human. Then I like to see my characters torn apart.”

“Limitless” premieres Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

The final show in the presentation was “Scorpion” — the hit Monday drama about a group of super-geniuses who have banded together to protect the world against complicated threats. Panelists included Executive Producer Nicholas Wootton and cast members Robert Patrick (Cabe Gallo), Elyes Gabriel (Walter O’Brien), Katharine McPhee (Paige Dineen), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Toby Curtis) and Jadyn Wong (Happy Quinn).

Wootton began by making two big announcements: First, there will be an extended 90-minute episode of “Scorpion” following the Oct. 26 series premiere of “Supergirl.” Second, KISS guitarist Gene Simmons will guest star on the Season 2 premiere.

The series will continue to show highlight how brilliant the characters are in certain situations but socially awkward in others. “I love that these guys have no idea how to navigate their love lives,” Thomas said. “Surprisingly, it’s something I can relate to.”

“You’re seeing a lot of our real-life relationships with how we mess with each other,” he continued, saying he was initially terrified of Robert Patrick because of his tough-guy “Terminator” persona, but now they like to goof around with each other.

Wootton also hinted that McPhee, a recording artist and “American Idol” alum, will sing on the show at some point this season.

“Scorpion’s” second season begins Monday, Sept. 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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