12 Monkeys showrunner talks 'going inward' in Season 3, adding Christopher Lloyd

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Oct 24, 2016, 9:32 AM EDT (Updated)

Production is officially underway on Season 3 of 12 Monkeys — and with the series landed Christopher Lloyd in a key role, we tracked down showrunner Terry Matalas to talk about what fans can expect when the show returns.

The Syfy (Corporate owner of Blastr -Ed.) series is adding Back to the Future alum Christopher Lloyd as cult leader Zalmon Shaw, who recruits new members to the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and Matalas offered up some exclusive details about how the character will be incorporated into the narrative. Matalas also gave us an update on the creative direction for Season 3, and said it will be both the biggest — and smallest — story they’ve ever told. 

What can you tell us about how Season 3 is coming along? Logistically how's it going (as far as shooting, etc.), and creatively what are some things you're looking to explore?

Matalas: We’ve just started production – right now, I’m surrounded by a small army of incredible cast and crew – but creatively, conceptually, thematically the season’s all there. Last season we really wanted to explore the biology -- the psychology – of Time. We wanted to tell a big, ambitious, sprawling time-travel story that ended with a very intimate, heart-wrenching reveal. This season, it’s about going inward. 

The stakes are deeply, deeply personal for Cassie and Cole. It’s really the a real time travel dilemma, the fundamental question: "If you knew that your child would one day grow to be the Devil, would you – could you – kill him?" Or is there another way? And what that struggle does to our characters as a team – to Cole and Cassie as a couple – how it divides and unites them – is going to make for some remarkable drama. In some ways it’s a more linear season, and in others, it’s more complex than ever. 


What can you tell us about the opportunity to land Lloyd for this new role? Why is he the man for the job?

Matalas: The fantastic thing about this character is that it’s not even remotely stunt casting.  Certainly, when you make a time-travel show, you carry an obvious list of influences – Back to the Future, Doc Brown, Marty McFly – but when you cast that show, you never want the actor to distract from the moment. It’s difficult to tell a story or create an emotion if you’re constantly winking at the audience. We aim for levity, sure, but we never put the bullseye on “meta.” 

So when we came to this particular character – with this particular set of traits – with this particular heritage – Christopher Lloyd was not only an inspired choice, he was the right choice. Put a photo of Lloyd against a picture of Tom Noonan and there’s zero difficulty imagining them as father and son. 

Tell us a bit more about the decision to cast Lloyd, who genre fans obviously know best from Back to the Future, against that character type as the leader of the Army of the 12 Monkeys?

Matalas: It oddly never struck me as against type. When you look at the length and breadth of Lloyd’s resume, dramatically speaking, he’s run the table. He may be canonized as Doc Brown, but his IMDB page looks like the shopping list for a legendary career. There’s drama, comedy – heroes, villains – a hundred shades in-between. But the common thread is always charisma – whether it’s inviting or menacing, there’s an energy to his performance that pulls you closer. And Zalmon Shaw is both. He’s a preacher -- our version of an old-school, revival-tent preacher with an apocalyptic message. His god is Time; his cross is the clock. And yet, when he’s done speaking, you’ll want to sign up.  

It was just announced you’ll be making your directorial debut with the season premiere -- how has that experience been, in going from the writer's room to behind the camera?

Matalas: It’s been fantastic. Rewarding, challenging, humbling. I'm grateful the studio and network has been so supportive of the idea. Writing and producing TV can sometimes feel like directing – you’re making very specific choices, you’ve got an eye on every ball in the air – but it’s not until you sit in the chair and call action that you truly appreciate the monumental work that our directors do. We have a tremendous crew – honestly, just a surplus of visionaries – who make this happen. Every single day. If you told them to invent time-travel, they could. Absolutely. So to work with and learn from these tremendously talented people, I’m uniquely blessed.

12 Monkeys returns to Syfy in 2017.

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