Robbie Amell is the star of the upcoming TV show, The Tomorrow People, a sci-fi epic that follows the story of Stephen Jameson, your average teenager who just so happens to be able to teleport and read minds. The Tomorrow People are evolutionarily advanced humans with extraordinary abilities… The show follows them, and their struggle with Ultra, a company that wishes to destroy them all. Amell’s character quickly finds himself caught in the middle of these two worlds and looks for a balance between the two as he discovers his true identity.
MTV Geek had the opportunity to chat with Amell about the show, his favorite things about it, and what exactly it’s like to work with the great big baddie himself, Mark Pellegrino:
MTV Geek: With your character, Stephen, we’re presented with a coming-of-age story only on an extraordinary level. Did you relate to your character at all as you were filming? And how much of the show is going to focus on the life of a typical teenager versus a very gifted one living in this fantastic world?
Robbie Amell: I definitely related to the character. One of the things Danny [Cannon] said is ’I want you to play this as real as possible, as if this was really happening to you, hearing someone else’s voice in your head, waking up in weird places’ – that would be terrifying. The nice thing was to be able to play the character as grounded as possible, even though it’s in this extraordinary world with incredible circumstances. I feel like we’ve had to bring that to the whole show. All our writers, and producers, and directors want it to feel as grounded as possible, which I think allows people to relate to it while enjoying fantastic elements. As far as the rest of the series goes, there’s not going to be a lot of stuff at the school. They felt like the school has been done before, which I agree with. You’ve seen the kid in high school, we don’t want to be cliche. More of it is going to be dealing with trying to keep it secret from his family and closest friends. Trying to balance, his life with the Tomorrow People and his life with Ultra, and trying not to let all these worlds cross and mix, because it could mean the worse for the people he loves.
Geek: That’s a lot going on.
Geek: We know from the pilot that Stephen is particularly gifted. Can you tell us about any additional powers he’s going to develop in the first season beyond the three T’s (teleportation, telepathy, and telekinesis)?
Amell: Well all of the Tomorrow People have the three T’s. In this world, each person kinda has a specialty. John’s specialty is teleporting, Cara’s specialty is telepathy. It just kinda goes like that for each Tomorrow person. You find out in the pilot that I actually have a fourth power, I can stop time. We haven’t addressed if there are going to be more powers or not. I don’t want to sound greedy, I’d always like to have more powers, but four is plenty. I’m very happy with the powers I already have. One of the cool things about the first few episodes–we’re starting episode five tomorrow–you really get to see my character struggle with his powers, because even though I am very powerful and the descendent of one of the original Tomorrow people…
One of the original and most powerful Tomorrow people, my father, I don’t have my abilities honed right away. The nice thing is you get to see the origin story, you get to see me kinda stumble and trip through these powers and not be able to use them exactly how I would like to right off the bat. Which I think is important–if I could use them exactly how I wanted to, I feel like you would miss a part of the story or you would feel like there is something you just didn’t quite get. So you definitely see that through the beginning, which is nice. I think everybody likes a good origin story.
Geek: Now you mentioned Stephen’s father… Obviously there are a few pretty big twists in the pilot as far as Stephen’s family goes. Tell me what it was like acting that out especially working with Mark Pellegrino, who is such a huge fan favorite.
Amell: I was a huge Mark Pellegrino fan before I worked with him, and I’m an even bigger fan of his now. He is unbelievable. I’m a big Lost fan, and when I found out he was playing my uncle… I got a text message from Stephen, my cousin, and all it said was Jason with a big exclamation mark. We were both big Lost fans, we were both huge fans of Mark, who plays Jacob. He knew how excited I was. It was great working with him, it’s incredible. The nice thing is, being a part of Ultra is a big part of my storyline, so I get to do a lot of scenes with him. Jeffery Pierce, who plays my father, is incredible. As of now we’ve only seen him in flashbacks. He’s supposed to be dead, and to be honest with you I don’t know if he is or not because they only let me know a certain amount before we shoot it. But I do really hope there’s some sort of twist there because Jeff is really incredible and working with him would be great.
Geek: What has been your favorite scene to film so far?
Amell: Oh I’m sure I’m not allowed to get into too big detail with that
Geek: You don’t have to spoil too much.
Amell: (laughs) There was one day of shooting where it was a big chase scene, where I’m chasing another breakout and my commanding officer at Ultra is chasing the breakout as well, and we’re trying to get him. It kinda turns into a three person fight. It went from a rooftop, through an abandoned building. There’s a ton of teleports, I get pushed off a roof.. It was one of those moments where, as a kid, this is what I would do when I was young, I would play make-believe with friends, pretend we were power rangers or x-men or any kind of superhero. I’m getting to do that every day but with a budget my imagination can only dream of.
Geek: What’s it like on set? Anything particularly funny happen or a story you want to share?
Amell: It doesn’t feel like the first season. Danny Cannon, our director from the pilot, directed episodes two and three. That was incredible. He really set the tone, the crew is fantastic and he had worked with a bunch of them before. It feels like we’re running a well-oiled machine for only having done a few episodes. And we have an unbelievable cast. There’s no divas, there’s no egos. You might say we have a boring set because everyone is actually really nice and everyone is happy to be here. But I’ll take that over a dramatic set with some crazy people any day.
Geek: Now, we know the story tells about the tomorrow people and Stephen’s personal struggles. But if you had to describe what the show is really about at it’s core in one word, what would it be? Would it be friendship? Family? Love? Destiny?
Amell: Family is a great one. Relationships is a great one. You know, like you said… It’s this incredible sci-fi, action, character-driven drama, but at it’s core it’s really about the relationships between these people. It’s got an exciting backdrop in this world where we have real people living in this incredible environment.
Geek: Now I think you mentioned a little while ago that you’re a sci-fi fan, or a superhero fan.
Geek: What’s your favorite sci-fi, whether it’s a book, a movie… ?
Amell: Um, my favorite superhero is Batman, for sure. I love Batman Begins. I’ve been Batman so many times for Halloween, I don’t know how many. I’m a huge Batman fan, I would love to play him one day. A little more Sci-Fi-esque… I’m a big fan of The Matrix, I love the Matrix movies. I love that kind of world where, very similar to Stephen, you’ve got that chosen one storyline. It’s really nice when they’re huge, and crazy and completely insane, they still try to ground them in real life because it allows you to relate to them.
Geek: If you could have one of your character’s powers for a day, which one would you pick and what would you do?
Amell: Only a day?
Geek: Only a day!
Amell: Oh, I’d either want to be able to stop time or teleport. Telekinesis would be awesome, but, I don’t know, I feel like I’d get myself in trouble with that. Telepathy would be horrible because nobody wants to know what everyone is thinking about them at all times. Teleportation would be really fun. I would probably teleport… there are rules to teleporting on the Tomorrow People, we can only go a certain distance, you really have to build up your powers. If they were my powers for a day and I only had them for a day, I would break some of those rules. I’d probably have a 24 hour around-the-world… I’d see everything I want to see around the world in 24 hours.
Geek: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Amell: Oh, man. Um… Probably burgers. I’m a big burger fan.
Geek: A classic.
Amell: Yeah. Then maybe I can cheat the system and I can have turkey burgers, and chicken burgers, and regular burgers.
Geek: What is your favorite movie that you can see over and over again and never get tired of watching?
Amell: American Psycho. (laughs)
Geek: Interesting choice.
Amell: I’ve loved that movie for a long time. I was watching it one time and my dad phoned me and he asked me what I was doing and I told him. He said ’Oh, you’re watching my movie’. I kinda laughed it off – I just figured he was making a weird dad joke. Then he brought it up again and I was like ’What are you talking about?’ It turns out American Psycho was shot in Toronto and my dad was an extra in it. He used to do background work. Sure enough he had me fast forward to a specific scene and he played the bartender in the background. If you know him and you’re looking for him, you can pick him off super easily. I couldn’t believe it. I had watched the movie seven, eight times and I had never seen him. And all I thought was what if he had died and I watched it and saw him in the background and I never knew?
Geek: That would be pretty intense.
Geek: Alright, my last fun, getting-to-know you question… If you had a tail, as in an animal tail. what would you want to have and why?
Amell: Which animal’s tail?
Amell: Um… Can I pick a rottweiler’s since it would be super small and I could probably hide it?
Geek: Sure, if you want.
Amell: (laughs) Either that or… um… I’m trying to think of who has cool tails. A horse tail wouldn’t be that bad. They tend use it to hit flies off their body, so I feel like I could mess with people with that. But no tail would be best, so the smaller the better.
The Tomorrow People premieres on The CW on October 9th!