With a line up filled with genre shows like “The Originals” and “The 100” as well as comic-based series like “Arrow” and “The Flash,” The CW has become the go-to network for storytellers wishing to create high-concept series that bring to life elements of fantasy, science fiction and the supernatural. The CW’s latest genre offering, “The Messengers,” plays for big stakes with the story of a group of disparate individuals who return from the dead with a new, unified purpose: preventing the impending apocalypse.
Ahead of its Friday debut, “The Messengers” was previewed at WonderCon 2015. Cast members Anna Diop, JD Pardo, Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank spoke with members of the press following the panel to discuss their characters, the show’s fast pace and dancing, resulting in a mild spoiler warning for those of you wishing to go into the CW’s new series clean. The press first spoke with Anna Diop, who plays Rose Arvale, and JD Pardo, who plays Raul Garcia.
Rose starts out in a coma. What else are we going to learn about you, since it takes seven years from when we first meet you to reach the point where the show really starts?
Anna Diop: Well, it takes seven years for a reason and we find out [why] in the second episode. And like I said earlier, Rose does wake up and the other Messengers are also brought together by fate, and when that happens, this happens, and it’s just something you have to tune in and look forward to see why it takes seven years, why that moment and etcetera.
Is it a spoiler to say whether or not Rose is a Messenger? You’ve been very cagey about that. I’m very impressed!
Diop: Have I been cagey? I don’t think I’ve been cagey. [Laughs]
Diop: Rose is a Messenger and she’s different from the [other] Messengers only that she knows what needs to be done. She knows what our first task is, which is revealed in the second episode.
There are a lot of reveals in the pilot, is that going to continue as we go along? They’re not going to keep things held tight for a long time and then wait until the finale?
Diop: We’re not good at that in this show. Yeah, in the second episode a lot is revealed. And throughout the season, yeah, it just keeps getting peeled back.
JD, you previously appeared on “Revolution,” a show that is similar to “The Messengers” in that both establish and build new realities. Is that something that you like to explore as an actor?
JD Pardo: You know, in all honesty… when “Revolution” ended I had a couple meetings for different projects and I really liked the script for the pilot and we didn’t really know too much. I mean, you knew kind of the direction it was going, but as far as being angels or Messengers, there really wasn’t any of that — which I think actually lends to the storytelling of the show, because you get caught up in angels and demons and you feel like it’s so out there, and here you see that these angels are human. I think right now the machine is driving toward the apocalypse and what happens at the end, if there is an end. How does it end? It’s just a hot topic right now and I think a lot of shows are headed in that direction, which I believe the storytelling is great in this one. I think there’s something for everybody to be interested in, or even to just have a conversation about, so hopefully it sticks.
What are your thoughts on having a thirteen-episode season versus the standard length of twenty-two?
Pardo: You know, I think there are positives and negatives to everything.
Diop: Yeah, I agree with that.
Pardo: The downside to not having the time to really explore your character and to really tell that story is that everything’s thrown at once. And as an audience you can kind of be like, “Oh man, they just kind of gave away the farm in episode two!”
Diop: Yeah, because we move fast.
Pardo: Because you move fast.
Diop: Yeah, really, really fast.
Pardo: On the other side, a lot of people, the audience, will watch something and they’re just like, “Come on! Let’s get to it, let’s get to it!” I think that as long as the storytelling is good then people are going to be into it.
Was there a specific characteristic about your character that, as you were reading through the scripts, you really admired?
Diop: Rose is extremely empathetic and patient, and she’s a leader, which I’m sometimes good at. It takes a lot to be a leader, and she was thrown into it, too. You know, it’s not like she asked to have to lead these people into this massive task, but she steps into it I think in a really beautiful way. I admire that, yeah.
Pardo: I love that he was a fugitive. Because I thought about how, unless they solve that or answer that really quickly, that would be fun to play throughout. You know, he can never really be comfortable and I like that. I like thinking about how would he be present in this situation and still kind of watch his back and what’s going on around him.
Is it possible for a Messenger to be turned to the other side?
Pardo: That’s an interesting question. I think so. I think so. I mean just going into how these angels are human, you get to see that they’re human and they do have lives, and they’re not saints. And there is this movie that I watched where one of the lines the characters said, he’s a debt collector and he tells this guy that he’s about to collect money from him. He’s got a bat in his hand and he’s like, “It’s up to you to turn me into an angel or a demon.” And that was like, wow… it’s really in your choice. It’s like, you can choose to be angelic, where someone might think you’re a blessing from God, or you can do something to be someone’s nightmare and, yeah, so I think anything’s possible.
Additionally, the press also got the chance to talk to “The Messengers'” pair of scientists — Shantel Van Santen, who plays Vera Buckley, and Craig Frank who plays Alan.
Alan lacks certain information. Is that going to continue or are you eventually going to find out that your colleague is an angel of the apocalypse? What’s your relationship like?
Shantel VanSanten: I’m like your Victoria’s Secret dream come true, basically.
Craig Frank: I lack information now.
VanSanten: Still after shooting, he lacks information.
Frank: I don’t think it has anything to do with what they wrote. I think it’s just the fact that I don’t know anything. No, no, eventually I will get information. It does come from a lot of questioning, and a lot of prodding, and a lot of annoying.
VanSanten: I don’t think scientists know or I don’t know, as an answer.
Frank: So eventually I will get information. I like where I stand being outside the group as opposed to being inside the group because of the fact that I come from an audience standpoint where I can ask questions and I can go, “That doesn’t make any sense. You should do that again.” As a scientist, that’s what you would want to do is see. So I like that I don’t have any powers or information. It’s the reason for me to be there. [Laughs]
VanSanten: Why are you on this show again? [Laughs]
Do you think that makes you the audience’s way into the show, as you are the person that lacks the most information?
Frank: I think it helps. I think it definitely helps, because I get to ask questions that maybe someone at home is going like, “Wait. Why did he…?” I’ll be the guy who goes, “Why did he…?”
VanSanten: I think it’s interesting going into the show that has this religious and faith theme playing the two scientists, because that is the truth. Even for Vera, after a really long time, it’s not as though this thing’s going to hit Earth and she’s going to be converted. You can’t deter people’s belief systems…that have been engrained in them through their own journey. There were times when I’d be saying things like, “Exactly, that’s what I’m asking,” when I’m reading it and trying to understand exactly what was happening.
So it does allow for a voice and a way in. I think each character allows a voice, coming from different people’s standpoints. Some people may think, “That’s exactly what I think, exactly what Joshua was preaching, and it’s exactly how I feel.” So it’s interesting to have these different Messengers and different voices really that speak to different types of audience members.
After reading the pilot script, what was the one characteristic about your character that you liked the most?
Frank: To be honest, I like that no matter what was happening he found a way to be a coward about it. A lot of times I feel as though we don’t have enough of that, because I’m a massive coward and I feel like someone should stand up for the people who are cowards and go, “Look, sometimes we have a reason to be cowards. It’s okay to be afraid sometimes. It’s okay to question things and step back and go, ‘I don’t want to do that,'” as opposed to being the hero and the guy who stands up who’s like, “Look at all my big, old muscles. I can take care of this.”
VanSanten: Which is me, right? I’m the one with the big muscles.
VanSanten: For me, I like Vera’s fight but I like where it comes from. As you find out, she has a son that she thought was dead. So much of her life has been tucked away and is in this science, in finding answers, because the one [question] she’s never been able to answer is very personal. It’s not something that anybody else knows.
As human beings, I think that we’re so complex. Each of us [has] dark stories, bad pasts, and things that drive us, things that motivate us. “Why is she doing this? Why did she choose science? Why does she want answers? Why does she not take no for an answer? Why does she fight so hard?” And that’s what I loved about her. It’s what drew me to her very much.
Will they focus more on the backstory of your character and Michael, Vera’s son played by Zeb Sanders?
VanSanten: It’s so funny because I never know how to explain this story, because she is a Messenger but there’s a meteor that they’re trying to discover. She has a personal life that you meet her at a very interesting time. You meet her at a time where for years and years she has thought that her son was dead, and now she finds out he’s alive. There’s a personal journey in the midst of this impending Apocalypse that she can’t ignore. It’s what drives her. It’s what’s driven her every day of her life, but even more so now as a mother that she knows her son’s alive. It’s an interesting time to pick up on where her character is.
Do the complicated character backstories help you get into the bigger storylines?
VanSanten: I love that they explore our characters. For me as an actor, I’m always driven to character stories and background and all that kind of stuff. But to have something like that overlaying it all makes it even more complicated and I think they did a really good job of balancing our journeys. Every character has a really great arc and really great journey that they go on, including Alan. He’s kind of along for Vera’s but he set off on his own, too.
Frank: What I think is interesting about that is, if you really think about it, if the apocalypse were to happen now, we still have to deal with our normal lives. We still have to deal with our kids and our cousins and our parents. What are we going to do? Who’s going to go where? How do we handle this?
VanSanten: I just have a small choice of whether or not I want to stop it. No big deal.
Frank: I have a smaller choice if I want to stick around.
Since your characters work closely together, do you ever distract each other while shooting?
VanSanten: I can tell you, we had scenes where it was intense and emotional. I would be crying and we’d just be cracking up in between. What has been one of my favorite parts about this show is being able to work with this jackass. [laughs]
Frank: I had a very, very emotional scene —
VanSanten: He ignored me for three hours, and I was like, “What?”
Frank: And she shows up and she tries to dance. She can’t dance.
VanSanten: Yes, I can.
Frank: No, she can’t. She is the worst.
VanSanten: People have different kinds of dances.
Frank: And I was like, “Okay, well, I guess I’m not crying in this scene guys.”
VanSanten: Actually he did cry and I have a video to prove it. He has the best laugh out of anybody I have ever met. When he gets going, it doesn’t stop. Tears were running down his face.
Frank: I did cry laughing after seeing her dance, or try to dance, I should say. Oh, my goodness.
“The Messengers” premieres on April 17 on the CW.
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