Interview: The History Professor and the Aliens - Noah Wyle Talks 'Falling Skies' Season Two

When we last saw Tom Mason at the end of the first season of TNT's Falling Skies the former history teacher was boarding an alien ship in the hopes of negotiating with the alien invaders. You see, near the end of season one, Tom, played by Noah Wyle, and Dr. Glass (Moon Bloodgood) made a shocking discovery about the remnants of the alien harness that had been removed from Tom's son Ben: it was growing and somehow changing the boy—the aliens promised a remedy for the change.

But when we return to Tom at the beginning of season two, three months have passed and maybe his trip on a spaceship wasn't such a great idea. We spoke to Noah Wyle about the second season development of his character, and where he fits into the human resistance of the Second Mass.

MTV Geek: Looking at those final moments of season one, what do you think is going through Tom's head in that last scene as he's headed onto the ship?

Noah Wyle: Well, his one Achilles' heel is his kids, and that was how I justified it: if it weren't for his son Ben (Connor Jessup) being in harm's way, he never would have gotten on the ship. It turns out that when he got on the ship, that was a huge mistake that he regrets for most of season two.

But that was a tough moment for Will [Patton, Captain Weaver] and I to play. I asked him, "So how did you justify—I mean, I know I was getting on because I was saving my kid—but why did you let me get on the ship?" And he said [dropping into Patton's Southern accent], "Aw, I had to play it like they had some kind of alien hypnosis, like they put me in some kind of trance or something!" [laughs]

I thought that was pretty funny.

Geek: But I'd imagine that Weaver would see, having known Tom all this time that Mason's kids are the reasons he does anything.

Wyle: Yeah, and it's also the first chance at a parley that we've been offered. He's been invited onto their ship to have a dialog, possibly broker a peace. It seemed like a viable move to make. But Tom learns the folly of his ways very quickly.

Geek: The aliens don't seem at first blush to have a whole lot of nuance—they just seem out and out awful.

Wyle: That's true at the outset, but there's a huge reveal that comes this season that I was very excited about when it was pitched in story form and really gratified by the execution of that ramps up the mythology quite a bit and makes them way more dimensional than we saw in the first season.

Geek: Getting back the Second Mass, do you feel like Tom and Weaver have kind of been allowed to soak up one anothers' personalities a little bit?

Wyle: In a lot of ways, I think that was a the love story of season one. [laughs] Almost more so than Tom-Anne, where [Tom and Weaver] started on opposite sides of how to lead the group, put a lot of obstacles in the path of reconciliation. By the end of the season, there certainly was a mutual respect and a budding realization that the most effective way of leading this group was to arrive at a synthesis between those two ideologies—a little bit of the humanist in Tom, a little bit of the militarist in Weaver.

In season two, we sort of bounce back and forth, alternately, being mother and father to this group and getting them on the same page.

It was great because—I don't know if you can tell from the way I speak—I absolutely adore Will Patton, and any time we were on set together were some of my favorite moments.

Geek: So is Tom fully a soldier at this point? Or is he still the history teacher who has to fill that role?

Wyle: I think he's become a realist. I think he realizes that there's no place to hide, and that there's no peace to be made and that it's going to be a fight to the last. Whatever lofty notions he may have had about how to rebuild society in a better image than the one we had before the invasion have to be sidelined until the threat's been removed.

I think during his three month absence, his greatest fear is that his kids can't survive without him, and he comes back and finds that they've not only survived but thrived, that's his greatest wish come true. Which allows him to adopt a greater and greater leadership role in the group and he comes more and more in harm's way as a byproduct.

Geek: And does that change in how he sees his sons allow him to let them be a greater part of the fight than they have been up to this point?

Wyle: it's a gradual, releasing of the reins, you know. It's one that he feels increasingly comfortable with, the more they assert themselves and prove themselves in his eyes.

Geek: How are you feeling about heading into the second season as an action hero? When we spoke last year, you said that it was one of the reasons why you took this role.

Wyle: Yeah, it's fun. I mean, I grew up in my backyard playing Cowboys and Indians. So running around pretending to shoot aliens feels a lot more like play than work.

It's physically demanding, but it's a box that I hadn't checked yet in my career, so I was happy to do it. Plus, my nine-year-old son loves it and thinks it's cool.

Geek: What's the tone like in the second season when compared to the first?

Wyle: Yeah, there were a few things. First, we moved the entire production to Vancouver, Canada. And then behind the scenes we had a big shuffle of desks as well, with the new showrunner, Remi Aubuchon. And almost a brand-new writing staff.

So really the same characters, same premise, and really the creative elements going into the execution of it. And there were sort of two things that I honed in on last year that I thought we should address: one was the fact that we kind of made camp in that high school for a long time. It made good shows, but it didn't seem as exciting as this group on the move and kind of under the threat of always being hunted. So this year, we're a lot more mobile, we have a destination that we're moving towards, and it's part pilgrimage, part escape route.

The other was that we had a lot of shoots during the day last year and something about the sun on the show dissipates the tension and the threat. So we wanted to add a lot more shadow, filming a lot more at night, which I think is a really interesting aesthetic.

Geek: So you were hoping the give the show a greater sense of danger?

Wyle: Greater sense of danger, greater sense of tension, you never know what's lurking around the corner. The shadows are wonderful for creating dramatic tension.

And in a world where we've lost the power grid and have been thrown back into a 19th century style of existence, man for the first time in a hundred years fears the night. And that's kind of a fun angle to come up.

Geek: What do you feel like having a new showrunner has brought to the series?

Wyle: It was actually all sort of cobbled together. I don't know if you know the whole backstory on it, but Robert Rodat wrote the pilot script and had a lot of film commitments that prevented him from being the creative element behind the show. He didn't want to lose his place at the table, so he had a sort of placeholder in Fred [Golan], who had just come over from Justified which was on hiatus. He did the outline for the season and ran the writer's room. And then Mark Veheiden, who was a staff writer got promoted to sort of being the show writer.

And it was sort of hard to ascertain who was in charge; we all had a great affinity for Mark and were all gratified immensely that he came back as part of the writing staff for season two. But I think having Remi onboard as the "buck stops here," kind of accountable man behind the desk was great. He's great, he runs a talented room and he sort of runs it up a notch for the kind of story we're able to tell.

Geek: What's one big thing you're looking forward to fans seeing in Tom's evolution during season two?

Wyle: I think in terms of taking the arc of the guy who's intellectual and having him arrive at a sense of leadership is the journey. And I think three quarters of the way through this season, he's a pretty dynamic character. He doesn't put such a tight lid on his rage and his emotions and he definitely feels a lot more volatile and unpredictable than he did last season.

He defines himself differently than a teacher and father.

The second season of Falling Skies makes its two-hour debut Sunday night at 9 ET on TNT.