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Timeless' Shawn Ryan talks renewal, Rittenhouse and a 'Wucy' payoff

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Mar 11, 2018

The phoenix known as Timeless is back. Last May, the series was literally canceled and then miraculously picked back up in a whiplashing-inducing three days. That’s an incredible rarity in broadcast TV, but the ardent fandom and Sony TV, NBC, and the creator/executive producers, Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, were able to make the right cuts to make a second season feasible.

Now it’s back to pick up right where the Season 1 finale left off, with Rittenhouse seemingly dismantled, Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) reeling from the discovery that her mother was part of that dark organization, baddie Garcia Flynn (Goran Višnjić) in jail, and Emma Whitmore (Annie Wersching) absconding with the time-travel machine, the Mothership.

We talked with Shawn Ryan about what the renewal has meant to the creative team, how their production move to Los Angeles impacts their storytelling, and what we can expect with some key characters.

Timeless lived to tell more stories! You have, unfortunately, experienced the opposite with many of your series, so how did the surprise renewal impact the path of the series overall?

To be able to tell ten more, after thinking that we were done, gives us some responsibility to make sure that the ten are really good. Not that we didn't care and didn't strive to do that in Season 1, but it's certainly a reminder of how precarious in this television landscape a lot of shows are, and our show was. I feel like on shows like Terriers and Chicago Code that I had some bad luck when things could have gone the other way.

Season 1 was shot in Vancouver. Season 2 moved to Los Angeles, which is a very different environment. How did that influence the storytelling this season?

Vancouver was a great place to shoot in Season 1. We shot some great episodes. We did episodes there that we wouldn't have been able to do in Los Angeles. We had a great snow-filled western episode that was really spectacular. But coming down to Los Angeles now allows Eric and I to be closer to the production, which is great. It allows me to go to table reads each week, which I wasn't able to do before. And it allows us to tell certain kinds of stories here. This time of year, it's hard to be outside a lot in Vancouver in January and February. It can be so cold. And so much of our show is about being out in different worlds. So now we are on the Paramount lot. We built an entire episode around our characters being on the Paramount lot in 1941, which was really amazing because we used the old Paramount lot entrance that still exists. That was great. It allows us to tell some different stories that we weren't able to tell in Season 1.

Eric teased back in January on Twitter that there would be stories involving Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, Wendell Scott, the Salem witch trials, and Robert Johnson. I’m assuming Hedy’s story is the old Paramount lot episode? Where did the other ones come from?

Yes, I had always wanted to do one on a studio lot, and we looked around Vancouver last year and realized we would have a hard time to be able to do that one. The Robert Johnson one has long been a wish-list one of Eric's. And then I would say for the last eight, nine months I've been pestered by my high school daughter to do the Salem witch trials. I honestly didn't think of a way that it would work for us. I was like, "Yeah, we're never going to do that. Stop bugging me." And then the writers presented us this year with an approach that I haven't thought of before that I thought was really great, and so we did that. It's really a spectacular episode. That's the fourth episode of the year. And so it was nice to be able to go back to my daughter and say, "Hey, guess what story we're doing on Timeless?" At which point she goes, "Do I get credit for that?" And I was like, "No, just pitching a time period doesn't get you writing credit on a show." I had to explain to her all the Hollywood rules of that, and she was very disappointed.

Last season, Lucy found out her mom is part of Rittenhouse. I'm assuming that we're going to pick up with her dealing with that bombshell?

Yeah, without giving away too much, it will definitely be addressed very quickly. It's not something that we're punting for later episodes. It's something that plays a major part in the first episode back.

We also saw Emma (Annie Wersching) stealing the Mothership, which is obviously a huge cliffhanger that needs to be resolved in order for the team to jump through time?

That's addressed as well. You'll see a lot of Emma in the first episode. And let me say something about Annie, because we gush regularly about our regular cast. She came and played what we thought would be this sort of one-off. Maybe do two or three episodes. She’s so great. But now she’s a regular on Marvel’s Runaways. When I first heard about it I was like, "Oh, that's a real bummer for us. We're not really going to be able to use her." But the schedules really worked out, so that she was able to come and really do a lot of work for us this season. It's always just a real pleasure to see her on screen.

How does Garcia Flynn play into all of this now that he’s behind bars?

Well, we'll certainly see. He's in jail when the season begins, having committed some heinous crimes. But one thing we do know is that he knows Rittenhouse well, better than any of our main characters. And in that way, he could potentially be a resource. But he's also someone who feels burned by Lucy and Agent Christopher at the end of Season 1. And so, if they're looking for his help, it won't come easily, or cheap, I'll say that.

For the Wucy (Lucy and Wyatt) shippers, can we hope to see those two kids get together this season?

Essentially, I just want to say Matt Lanter is so good on the show, and it's a real pleasure and joy to write for him. I really like the arc of a guy in Season 1 who is really still mourning the loss of his wife. I think one of the things we learn in Season 2 is that the reason why he volunteered for this job and participated in the first place was that he was at a point in his life where he felt he had nothing really to lose, and that he didn't mind throwing himself into a lot of danger. I think what you saw at the end of the season finale in Season 1 was that the connections that he was making with Rufus, and especially with Lucy, really had him re-examining that.

Not being pessimistic but with the new lease on life, how have you approached the Season 2 finale? Is it a season ending or potential series ender in case there needs to be closure?

We have the approach that the only way to proceed on this show is to plan for success. We don't want to go into it preparing for failure, so it's our intention to write a show as if there definitely will be a Season 3, and 4, and 5.

Watch our exclusive interview with Annie Wersching:

Timeless returns on NBC March 11 at 10/9CT.

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