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Destiny Calls (in Advance): Cast and Crew Discuss "FlashForward"

"What did you see?"

It's the question that's central to ABC's new drama series FlashForward, which launches this fall and features an ensemble cast grappling with visions of their future--six months forward in time--when the entire world blacks out.

On hand at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Pasadena were Flash Forward cast members Sonya Walger, Dominic Monaghan, Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Courtney B. Vance and executive producers David S. Goyer, Jessica Borsiczky Goyer, and Marc Guggenheim.

Goyer promised that the numerous questions raised in FlashForward's pilot will get answered. "By the end of Season One, most of the questions asked in the pilot will be answered," said Gowyer. However, the cause of the blackout will be an overarching plot that will unfold over the entirety of the series.

What else did they have to say? Let's discuss.

Jessika Borsickzky Goyer said that discovered the Robert Sawyer book "Flash Forward" about nine years ago and brought it to David Goyer, whom she later married. One of the more compelling questions that the book raised was: "What if you could know your destiny?"

Some liberties were taken with Robert Sawyer's book, most notably changing the flash forwards to six months rather than 20 years and shifting the action from CERN to Los Angeles. Goyer and co-writer/executive producer Brannon Braga sold the project as a spec. (We later learned from ABC's Steve McPherson that the project was actually originally set up at HBO.) The producers created a series bible which they took to McPherson when they pitched FlashForward... so they have a very clear indication of where the series is going.

Asked about similarities to ABC's own Lost, which wraps its run next May, Goyer says he's friends with showrunner Damon Lindelof but the genesis of FlashForward took place before Lost.

"We would be thrilled with half the rabid fanbase of [Lost]. We should be so lucky," said Goyer of FlashForward.

Still there are some intended overlaps. Goyer says that Lost "traffics in shades of grey," which he loves. So look for some mightily conflicted characters in FlashForward.

"I don't know that the lessons of Lost are really applicable to our show," said Goyer, who said that they try to imagine, as rapid TV enthusiasts themselves, what they would like to see unfold on a series.

"By the end of the first season, we'll get to April 29th, 2010 and beyond," said Marc Guggenheim referring to the visions that the characters experience, which show them their future selves on that very date. That date corresponds to the airing of the 21st episode of FlashForward (out of a probable 24), though it's worth noting that ABC hasn't strictly speaking picked up the series yet for a full 22 episodes.

Meanwhile, Lost's Dominic Monaghan signed on to FlashForward without seeing single script page for his character, said Goyer, went on to say that in doing so Dominic made a huge leap of faith.

Monaghan contended that there are lots of similarities between FlashForward and Lost but that there are "distinct differences" between the two: "FlashForward is not as deeply rooted in a mythology that needs to be solved," said Monaghan.

One of the funniest moments of the panel came when Monaghan ribbed fellow Brits Sonya Walger and Joseph Fiennes for "stealing roles that should go to American actors." Jokingly, of course.

Seth MacFarlane, who appears in the pilot episode, will be "popping in and out" of FlashForward, said Goyer, who said they've since filmed additional scenes with him.

Jack Davenport is playing a "version of" the novel's Lloyd Simcoe, said Goyer. Novelist Robert Sawyer understands the necessity to change things for series and Sawyer himself is writing an episode of FlashForward for the first season.

"If the show doesn't work, look for us to be back here next year with our show about wacky particle physicists," joked Guggenheim.

Alex Kingston, who appears in a single scene in the pilot will be back on FlashForward. Gabrielle Union shows up in Episode Three. The producers revealed that they have a huge jump on production and have already written scripts through Episode 111.

Asked to reveal certain information about the pilot's mysteries, Goyer and Guggenheim were tight-lipped:

  • "It would be a disservice to our audience to say what happens after April 29th," said Goyer about what happens next.
  • "Significance of the date is one of the mysteries of the show," said Guggenheim. "But April 29th is a Thursday when we will be airing."
  • "The kangaroo will be back. More than once... The kangaroo is a 'thing.'" said Goyer about the use of a kangaroo in the pilot. (Hmmm....)
  • "When we catch up to the future, you'll understand" why some people were looking at the calendar during their flashforward, said Guggenheim.


Lost's Sonya Walger said that Olivia's flashforward has a ripple effect on everything around her as it has a profound influence on how she sees her life. (As for whether we can see more of Penny Widmore,
Walger said she has "absolutely no idea" about whether or not she's done with Lost.)

"That's why I left Law & Order: To be in Kickboxer 2!" joked Courtney B. Vance. Guggenheim hit back: "You never thought your character would do something like that to a kangaroo."

Still, it's not surprising that Vance is in the dark about what happens to his character. Goyer made the decision very early on not to tell actors too much about what happens to their characters in the future. Alfred Hitchcock used to do that with his actors, said Goyer.

Joseph Fiennes said that he was attracted to the project because of the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy, along with strength of the writers and complexity of the characters.

"One of the primary reasons people come to dramas is conflict," said Goyer. "This show hopes to traffic in the gamut of human experience."

A third of characters are afraid of their futures, a third have futures that are aspirational, and the final third are agnostic about it, said Goyer. That mix of reaction is a compelling and interesting mix.

"One of the things the show is about is the resilience of humanity," added Guggenheim.

Goyer said that the flash forwards bring the whole world together, with people coming together over a shared experience, much like they did with the events of 9/11.

So what's the central question embedded within FlashForward? Goyer has a simple answer for that: "If you saw your future, what would you do about it? And can you change it?" asked Goyer.

FlashForward airs this fall on ABC.

Comments

Houston said…
This is going to be awesome. Thanks for the great write up.

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