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Q) What are the recent projects you are working on?
A) I've been working towards graduating from high school. I've been overwhelmed with school work, but I've spent the past two and a half years working on "Falling Skies." In between two seasons of the show, I shot a movie called Blackbird. That's kind of an indie movie that I played the lead in that comes out late summer or early fall. I've also been developing my own projects and short films. I produced a movie called Amy George, which did pretty well on the film festival circuit last year.
Q) What can you tease will be new this season on "Falling Skies" and with your character Ben?
A) There is a three month time gap between the first and second season. In the first season, Ben is very passive and bookish. He doesn't get involved in the action much. In the second season, that all changes and Ben becomes much more aggressive and violent. He becomes a fighter and is very much on the front lines of the battle. In terms of what you can expect of my character, you can expect a darker, more conflicted and evolved central figure in the coming season. In terms of the show, you can expect faster pace and we're always on the move now. We peeled back histories in the first season, but in the second season they get tipped back so much quicker. There is so much more kinetic energy and it feels bigger and faster. My character ties into a lot of the central mysteries of the show. He's kind of a central hub and essential figure that connects the Second Mass to the aliens and vice versa. Most of the mysteries, in terms of why the aliens are here, what they want and what they're doing to the teenagers - all this stuff ties into my character. You can expect a lot of that to be revealed over time.
Q) What originally made you want to be a part of the show?
A) It was 2009 when I originally auditioned for the pilot. At that point, it was just a really small part as an add-on shot. I wanted to be on the show because as an actor you always want work and what made the show stand out were the sides. I found it very interesting and emotional. I found the whole concept of the show to be interesting and I also saw Steven Spielberg's name attached to it. When you audition for sci-fi, to have Steven Spielberg is kind of the best association you can think of. A year or six months passed and we started shooting the first season. Now, I'm drawn to it because of my friends in the cast and the storylines I want to see continued and the character I've enjoyed playing.
Q) How did you prepare for this role? Did you need any weapons training?
A) In the first season I didn't do too much since I'm a passive character. In the second season, because I become a fighter, one of the executive producers and directors on the show called me up three weeks before we were going to start shooting. I hadn't heard anything about what was doing with the show or the plot line and he told me, "You're going to be an action hero. Buff up!" Then, he hung up. He's very succinct so I didn't know what context and I didn't know any of the specifics. I just knew they wanted me to be in better shape than I was. Any shape would have been in better shape than I was. I spent the next three and a half weeks doing as much as I could. When I got to Vancouver, we did some weapons training and some stunt training. We did a whole bunch of things over the course of a week to try and get familiar with things for safety reasons and for practical reasons. Last season I kind of came in halfway through. This season was a very different experience than last year.
Q) What of yourself, if anything, do you bring to this role?
A) Last year I brought a lot more of myself to the role because then he was a lot more similar to me since he was bookish and passive. I'm not a violent or physical person. I'm very graceless, as a person. You put a soccer ball in front of me and I'll kick it probably one out of ten tries. So, in the first season it was okay because I did a lot of talking. This season, there is so much running, jumping out of buildings and firing guns that it's all so physical. It was really a challenge for me to do that and become that character. Rather than bringing myself to the character, I had to bring the character into myself. What Ben is going through, I call "puberty on steroids." Also, I'm a big fan of Japanese entertainment. There is a lot of angst in Japanese entertainment and there is a lot of angst in my character. So, I borrowed some things that I knew, but there are not a lot of similarities between Ben and I this season.
Q) Is it a challenge for your trying to act or interact with skitters or any other like computer generated elements in the show that aren’t there with you on the set?
A) I thought it would be harder. I thought there would be a lot more green screen. There is CGI for when you watch things walk by in the distance or aliens are running around. In those cases, you tend to be focused on other things. You tend to be focused on firing your gun or yelling. Those scenes are rarely ever emotional sequences. The scenes where you actually have to interact one on one with the skitters or have "conversations" with them there is an animatronic suit that an actor wears. That was almost always on set. It really didn't feel like we were doing acting to green screens. The big mechanized monsters are all green screen and CGI. The skitters are the ones that we actually interact with and when we do interact with them we do interact with the puppet it never really felt that difficult.
Q) What have been your favorite scenes to shoot this season?
A) Last season I only got to shoot scenes with very specific characters. I had scenes with my dad and scenes with my brothers. That was pretty much it. This season, because of my expanded part, I'm fighting now. So, I get to have a lot of scenes with other people. I get to have scenes with Will Patton (who plays Captain Weaver), Colin Cunningham (who plays Pope) and Moon Bloodgood (who plays Anne Glass). I get to have scenes with all these characters that I've never had scenes with before. I always enjoyed doing scenes where I got to interact with people outside of the core family unit. Also, any scene with Noah [Wyle] is an amazing experience. You learn so much. He really raises you up to his level. I can't comment on specific scenes, but there is a lot of interaction between us. There is a tension between all of the Masons and there are some scenes that really capitalize on that tension, the fear and confusion that we all feel. Those were some of my favorite scenes. I also have a lot of scenes with Drew Roy, who plays my brother Hal. We have a lot of tension between us and butt heads a lot. Those scenes with the nuance of that relationship that was kind of deteriorating, but are still brotherly are fun.
Q) The family dynamic for the Masons is very intense and there is a closeness. Was there instant chemistry between you?
A) The entire cast gets along really well. When ever we have breaks we'll go out to dinner and hang out. We shoot in Vancouver so everyone is from out of town, which means everyone only knows each other. We've really become kind of a concentrated family. In terms of the Mason family, what's great about Noah is that one of his greatest skills as an actor is that he could have chemistry with anybody. He is just so comfortable, relaxed and open to everything. So, he has chemistry with everyone and makes you feel very welcome. When it comes to Drew, he's the nicest guy in the world. He's so laid back, calm and so real. Max [Knight], who plays my little brother, is so cool. You like everybody as friends so it is very easy to imagine them as brothers, fathers or allies. It's a very nice environment on set.
Q) What do you think it is about "Falling Skies" that connects with viewers?
A) I think the reason it connects with not just sci-fi fans, but a wide range of fans is that while it's sci-fi with a backdrop of aliens, mythology and mystery at its heart it is a drama. It's not a show that revolves around science fiction. It just uses it as a setting. Because the show focuses on the humanity, the interaction between the characters and the drama, I think that's what attracts various types of people. The sci-fi fans come for the sci-fi, the cool CGI and the aliens and the mysterious. The drama fans come for the interactions between the families and the characters, the romances and the tensions. Not to over play it, but it really has something for everyone.
Q) Where can people go online to learn more about you?
A) I have a Twitter account that I occasionally update, which is @connorjessup. I have an Internet Movie Database page, where you can see what I'm working on and I have a Facebook fanpage that you can go on. For more general information about the show you can go to the "Falling Skies" website and the "Falling Skies" fanpage, which will update when we're shooting and what we're shooting. There will also be behind the scenes footage there.
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and the show?
A) If you exist, then thank you very much for all of the support. When we're shooting the show it often times feels like there is no one out there watching. You are so caught up in the mechanisms of shooting that it seems like you are shooting the show just for yourself and everyone around you. So, to have people out there on Twitter, at conventions and on online have an outpouring of support for the show is incredibly rewarding and incredibly gratifying. It's totally surprising at the same time because, like I said, it feels like you're just doing it for your little group of colleagues. If there are fans out there, I just want to say thank you for your support because if it wasn't for you I wouldn't have a job.
PHOTOS BY BENNY HADDAD