Successful sci-fi series are often lauded for their impressive visual effects and stunts, but at times cans sacrifice intriguing characters and thought provoking plot-lines. But the hit critically acclaimed TNT series ‘Falling Skies,’ whose anticipated second season premieres tomorrow night at 9/8c, has garnered attention for its suspensefully paced stories and strong-willed characters. Actor Peter Shinkoda, who was cast by the show’s executive producer, Steven Spielberg, returns as Dai in the new season. Dai, the competent commando who is often coming to the rescue of Noah Wylie’s character, Tom, is just one of the strong, memorable characters on the series.
‘Falling Skies’ follows a group of civilians and soldiers struggling against an alien force that has invaded earth. In the chaotic aftermath of the alien attack, most of the world has become completely incapacitated. In the six months since the initial invasion, the few human survivors have banded together outside major cities to begin fighting back. Not only must the citizen soldiers left have to protect the people in their care, they must also engage in an insurgency campaign against the occupying alien force.
Shinkoda generously took to the time recently to speak with us over the phone about the upcoming second season of ‘Falling Skies.’ Among other things, the actor discussed what it’s like working with Spielberg and Wylie, why he enjoys the sci-fi genre so much and his aspirations of becoming a screenwriter and director.
ShockYa (SY): You’ll be returning as Dai for the second season of ‘Falling Skies,’ which is set to start its second season. What was it about the character and the series overall that convinced you to take on the role?
Peter Shinkoda (PS): It was offered to me by Steven Spielberg, that was the only criteria needed for me to take the role. I was excited about all the elements of the show, the science-fiction, the aliens, the action. So all of it combined was very appealing to me.
SY: Dai is often coming to the rescue of Noah Wylie’s character, Tom. What’s it like working with Noah, who made a name for himself on ‘ER,’ on the set?
PS: It’s an utter pleasure. I’ve worked quite a bit in the last decade-and-a-half, and never have I run into somebody, and worked hand-in-hand with somebody so frequently, whose company I have enjoyed as much as him. He’s a very decent fellow, and kind, so it’s easy to get along with him.
Noah’s also amazing to watch at his craft. After all those years on ‘ER,’ he’s very honed into his talent. Just by being in his vicinity, watching him be social, conducting himself on set and performing, the possibilities are endless. I completely enjoyed being around him, on- and-off set.
SY: Like you mentioned, Steven Spielberg offered you the role of Dai. Do he and Noah offer you any acting and career advice overall?
PS: Maybe not so much acting advice. Steven came in maybe only a couple of times on set. I was fortunate enough to be one of the actors he directed for a couple hours. That was a fantasy come true. To tell you the truth, I was probably in shock, so I can’t recall everything.
But growing up, I just idolized the man. He started giving me directions on set, like what kind of expressions (to do), or what I may be feeling as the character. I don’t think there was a presence or gift more fulfilling than that.
As far as Noah Wylie, like I said, all you have to do is watch that man. I would like to try to emulate him, in acting and as the gentleman he is.
SY: The first season of ‘Falling Skies’ garnered generally positive reviews from critics. The show has also been nominated, and won, several awards, including the Critics’ Choice Television Awards’ Most Exciting New Series. What’s the feeling like, knowing that people have been accepting the show?
PS: It’s completely thrilling. Sometimes, in the past year or two, I felt maybe numbers would drop. I could see that the network and studios behind it are pushing it, and people are really responding. It doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down, which is great. I think that it might even pick up some steam. I’m thrilled that it’s such a big success right now.
SY: ‘Falling Skies’s first season premiere was cable television’s biggest series launch of 2011. Have you been receiving positive reactions from fans who you’ve spoken to?
PS: Absolutely. It’s difficult as a performer to go out and meet all these people, other than on social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. But generally, the ones I interact with are searching me out. Rarely do I find any kind of negative feedback. Most of the time, I’m getting a lot of support.
SY: Are there any details about the upcoming second season that you can discuss?
PS: I can touch on it a bit. I can say that the action is up. A lot of people love the action from the first season. But there’s no such thing as too much, really. So I can say that people can expect more action.
But with lots of sci-fi shows, the first season is the ground and foundation that you lay. I think people will be pleasantly surprised that the stories will get more complex. We’ll get into more interesting story-lines.
The characters are more developed. My character, Dai, will continue to be a selfless rebel fighter. One of the new dynamics is Tom Mason, Noah Wyle’s character, walked on the spaceship last season, and (the second season) starts three months later. My character in now very in tuned with Hal Mason (played by Drew Roy) and Sarah Carter’s character (Margaret), in the absence of Tom, and they may have formed their own unit.
We can create a more precise fighting unit, because there’s no real leadership unit now. Tom was the leader in the first one, and he’s gone. So we’re looking for someone who’s an executive officer. My character’s intelligent enough to know in the struggle for power, a lot of things can get watered down. There’s a lot of animosities that can arise.
So Dai sticks around with a lot of resolve, and keeps fighting. Essentially, it’s going to be an action-packed season with bigger explosions and special effects.
SY: ‘Falling Skies’ is shot in your native country, Canada. What’s the experience like shooting there, do you generally enjoy it?
PS: A good majority of my resume is shot up in Canada. Of course, I love going back there. I’m very eager to shoot things overseas on locations. But going back to Canada is always a pleasure.
One thing I regret though, the way ‘Falling Skies’ is set up in Canada, it’s a shame that not more people see it. I just got back from there, and the Blu-ray box set was sold out in a bunch of the stores that I went to go purchase it at myself.
I know that can be attributed to a lot of my friends. They knew I was visiting, and they bought a whole bunch of them. So I know it’s getting exposure now, thankfully for the DVD release.
SY: Before staring on ‘Falling Skies,’ you also appeared on such sci-fi television mini-series and shows as ‘Sancutary’ and ‘Stargate SG-1.’ Do you generally enjoy working on sci-fi shows and films overall?
PS: Absolutely, I love it because in my core, I’m a sci-fi geek. I love the sci-fi genre, anything I can get my hands on. I still love it, I watch ‘Battlestar Galactica’ on YouTube. I watch the original ‘Battlestar Galatctica’ and the reboot, I’m a huge fan. I even watch Lindsay Wagner in ‘The Bionic Woman.’
Any opportunity I get to work on a sci-fi genre show, I embrace it. I love it, I don’t foresee myself ever getting sick of it as a genre. I just adore sci-fi.
SY: Besides television, you’ve also starred in films, including ‘War’ and ‘The Hole.’ Do you have a preference of one medium over the other, or do you enjoy acting overall?
PS: I enjoy it all. I just told my manager that I’m also interested in theater. Not so much that I want to go play the Tom Cruise role in ‘Rock of Ages,’ but I’m interested in all aspects of it.
I also want to branch out into directing, and I also write a little. With acting, I’m just grateful to have a job every time I’m on set.
SY: Do you have an interest in directing and writing in the future?
PS: I definitely do. In the past decade, I’ve written a few scripts with my writing partner. With some of the executives looking at them, there’s a lot of jumping around and flip-flopping in this industry. So some of these personalities looking at these scripts disappeared or left the business or went to another studio, or what not.
I’d love to write, but I’ve been consumed by my career in recent years. So I haven’t had the chance to take pen to paper in recent years, but I plan to.
As far as directing goes, anyone can say they want to direct. But to be a good director, it takes an inherent genius. I’m no genius, but I’d love to pursue the chance one day.
SY: Do you have any projects, whether acting, directing or writing, besides ‘Falling Skies’ that you can discuss right now?
PS: Well, to tell you the truth, I worked on ‘Mortal Combat: Legacy,’ a television series, last year. I know it’s probably going to go onto some future incarnation soon. I’m just crossing my fingers that I’m going to be included. I’m confident about it, and the world will probably know about it soon. There’s probably going to be some press release about it. But other than that, I can’t say too much.
SY: For people who haven’t watched the first season of ‘Falling Skies,’ why should they watch the second season?
PS: Well, it’s similar to the first season. With the first season, people jumped in and started watching it. The show started six months after the initial alien invasion and colonization. In the end, people embraced it, and it’s an unconventional approach.
But what do you really need to know than the basic fundamentals? It’s an alien attack, humans are almost decimated, they’re at the end of the line, and they got nothing to lose but to fight. Humans are fighting back, and that’s how it starts off. The only twist is that Tom Mason is aboard a ship.
People unfamiliar with the first season, all you have to tell them is that there’s a human resistance. One of the important leaders was abducted, he returns and they fight.
The other reason is that Spielberg handles this material the best the world has ever seen. What always comes with Steven Spielberg material is the human and family aspect. In that sense, it’s perfectly available and understandable for everyone to understand, because everybody has a family.
Written by: Karen Benardello