In CBS’s summer-event drama “Zoo,” humans quickly realize they’re no longer at the top of the food chain.
Based on the 2012 sci-fi novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, “Zoo” finds animals from all over the globe rebelling against mankind. It’s up to a small group of specialists and scientists to discover what’s behind the animal kingdom’s aggressive nature, and how to stop it, before it’s too late.
Cast members James Wolk, Billy Burke and Kristen Connolly joined executive producer Jeff Pinkner (“Fringe,” “Lost”) at Comic-Con International to speak with journalists about the threat depicted in the thriller, which beasts will be featured next, and working with real animals on set.
“Zoo” has mainly featured lions and dogs attacking. What other animals can viewers expect to see?
Jeff Pinkner: We have bears on set, leopards, wolves, rats, bats and rhinos.
“Zoo” is a couple of episodes into the season. In what ways are the characters beginning to connect the dots?
James Wolk: Everyone is beginning to realize this problem is not sequestered to one area or one type of animal. The characters are starting to realize this is more of a global epidemic.
What ultimately brings the characters together?
Billy Burke: The events are happening worldwide, but we are all brought together by a force that may, or may not be, nefarious. They are hiring all five of us to figure out what is going on and put a stop to it.
Jackson is the antihero who really doesn’t want to become involved. What’s his motivation for pitching in?
Wolk: The backstory behind Jackson is that his father was a very famous zoologist, and when Jackson was a child, his father had a mental breakdown because he could not get it out of his mind that animals would turn on humans. He is shamed and commits suicide. Jackson moves to Africa and wants nothing to do with that. He loves animals and is out on a safari one day, but the lions attack. In a way, it’s a very personal journey for Jackson.
Not much is known about Jamie. What can you tell us about how she’s going to develop?
Kristen Connolly: She has a lot of plates spinning and some things have to eventually come out. It takes a few episodes, but it all comes out on the table. They gave us backstories and stuff from our past that is affecting us now. It’s fun to play that.
Burke: Her curiosity is one of the larger engines that drives the show.
Mitch and Jamie have a complicated relationship. How does that progress moving forward?
Burke: We are a little preoccupied with animals killing people, so although we like to think of it as a human drama set against a world where animals are attacking, there’s not a lot of time for that. There’s no nudity … yet.
How has it been acting with your furry, ferocious co-stars?
Wolk: The animals have been great. It’s very safe; it’s a very controlled atmosphere when we work directly with the animals. They are very comfortable with our boundaries. Besides the animals being taken care of and the Humane Society being on set and having the utmost respect for them, the actors are also watched out for. It’s not as dangerous as the show feels. It’s much safer behind the scenes.
You have all these elements in play. There are the actors, the storyline, but then also these real-life animals in the mix. What’s that been like in terms of the way you work?
Wolk: It’s definitely pushing our improvisational skills because if the script says we are supposed to reach this way, but the animal reacts another way, we have to change.
”Zoo” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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