As seen on TV

Connor Jessup’s only human in alien drama ‘Falling Skies’

 

Being a teenager is tough. Now try being taken over by an alien. Just ask Connor Jessup, who plays Ben Mason on TNT’s Sunday night series Falling Skies. After being rescued, Ben’s on the road to recovery now, as we see in season 3 of the Steven Spielberg-produced sci fi drama. The Canadian actor, 19, talks about his character’s road back to “normalcy” and other stuff.

How does your character develop this season?

Season two saw a much colder and darker and more bang-bang Ben than the first season. A cynical side was born from the confusion and chaos of certain chains of events, both on and off screen, both major and minor. In season three, having gone through a process of reconciliation (mostly with himself), Ben is significantly more well-adjusted. Living within an expanded structure of a society, as opposed to being on the move, has given Ben the opportunity not just to settle down, but to meet other people who find themselves in similar binds. One of the core themes of this season for every single character is the idea of rebuilding, the shimmering promise of reclaiming and reconstructing something which resembles pre-war life. Ben’s movement in this season, like the movement of most characters, is toward that ideal. Whether or not it’s feasible is another matter altogether.

What changes can we expect?

Ben is no longer the angst-ridden, existential moper; he’s evolved into a unique, effective and stable member of organized military, part of a unit who perform tasks that nobody else is physically capable of. The lone wolf-wannabe, renegade mentality has been tossed out the window. Though he still does wear a lot of black.

What can viewers expect from the plot?

Season three vastly expands the scope and reach of the show’s mythology. More aliens, more hard-to-pronounce words, a larger theater of combat and operations. In the past, it’s been a show about a relatively small group of people in a single, isolated part of the world fighting against a nameless, faceless enemy. But we are starting to learn things, and this is broadening the range of the show. We start to learn a lot more about the motivations behind the alien invasion, and the universal context of it. New allies, new enemies, new drama. Also, we blow a lot of stuff up.

What is the chemistry like on set?

Like a circus family. It’s crazy and wonderful, and I feel unfairly lucky to have somehow snuck in under the radar and been allowed to join this wonderful group of people. I feel like I’m going to be found out any day now. The cast has all been working together for almost four years, and most of the crew for two or three. Also, we spend an unhealthy amount of our free time together as well. They’re the weirdest and most diverse lot I’ve ever met. Basically I’m trying to say I love them all.

What was it like working with Spielberg?

Like most kids in North America, I grew up on a fine diet that was one half food and one half Steven Spielberg movies that were all formative films for me in one way or another. So to be able to be involved in one of his shows is a little dreamy.

Do you have a favorite movie of his?

I would have to say Empire of the Sun. I really did laugh and cry when I first saw it, and every time since. It’s a magnificent achievement in both grand spectacle filmmaking — those scenes on the streets of Shanghai! — and humane and heartbreaking coming-of-age. It’s not gritty, it’s not violent or brutal like most war movies these days, it wasn’t even anything particularly new, but it was stitched together with such energy and skill and love and infectious good humor and quiet humanism. On top of all that, Christian Bale gives one of the greatest child performances of all time.

Madeleine Marr

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