"I kind of love the idea that any of us could get bumped off with the slightest provocation," said "V" star Elizabeth Mitchell recently about the increased stakes in the second season episodes of the science fiction drama, which returns to ABC's schedule tonight. While the first season of the series had its share of challenges in terms of relaunching the franchise from the iconic '80s series of the same name, the goal of season two is clearly to make "V" a must-see show for viewers.
Our Jim Halterman spent a day on the "V" set in Vancouver last fall during shooting of the new episodes and chatted with cast members as well as Executive Producer Scott Rosenbaum about picking up where things left off with the season one cliffhanger, the addition of Jane Badler as Anna's mother (who just happens to be named Diana, the character Badler played in the original series) and the challenges faced by all the characters as the Visitors continue their plan to take over Earth and its inhabitants.
For those playing catch-up, the first season cliffhanger involved Mitchell's character, FBI agent Erica Evans, secretly gaining access to the location on the V ship where leader Anna (Morena Baccarin) was nurturing eggs waiting to be hatched for the sole purpose of increasing the size of her army. Unbeknownst to any of the Vs, Erica destroyed all but 12 of the eggs and Anna, upon discovering their demise, showed some human emotion with a blood-curdling scream and quickly retaliated by changing the Earth's sky to red, causing widespread panic. How does the "red sky" play into the new episodes? "The driving force certainly through the first half of the season is the repercussions of the Red Sky," said Rosenbaum. "We learned in the season finale last year that Anna releases the Red Sky earlier than she anticipated. We didn't learn what her plan was at that point but just by that one line of dialogue you knew that she had a plan and she initiated it early. When you initiate something earlier than you intend to, there's got to be repercussions of that. Things will go wrong."
One person who was glad to share her satisfaction with the direction of the second season was Mitchell. "What I loved," she shared with great enthusiasm, "is that I had all these hopes for what I thought it would be - in my head I had written it because it's exciting - and then it was actually better, which is really rare! I was really happy with where they went with the Red Sky." Mitchell also hinted that the drama involving Anna's wrath is not drawn out in the season opener. "What happens happens in the first five minutes," she teased.
Shifting allegiances is a big part of one key character's journey in these new episodes as Lisa, Anna's alien daughter, begins to see her role as a Visitor differently. Laura Vandervoort, who plays Lisa, talked about her character's epiphany by explaining that Lisa has "realized that the Vs are not what they appear to be and her mother is actually evil and she's decided that the humans have a nicer way about them and the motherly instinct that Erica is showing to her... she's loving the emotions. She's never had that before so she's going to the good side." In terms of Erica's affection for Lisa, Mitchell added that her personal feelings for Laura mirror that of the characters. "I enjoy Laura so much and I do feel that way about her," the actress said. "I have no problem feeling nurturing for her." Besides, Mitchell added, it's not difficult for Erica to be seen as a better mother figure when competing with alien Anna. "With Anna as her mother, I feel like I win! I'm not going to hit you across the head and break your legs!"
Vandervoort also said she's well aware of the difference in playing good and evil but isn't worried about never having the opportunity to play the darker side of things in the future. "I think it's always fun to play evil but it's nice that [Lisa] has chosen the right side and I'm sure she still gets to play the tough, evil side because she's going to take on her mother at some point. I'm sure there's going to be a war and she's going to have to fight her and still be strong and tough."
One huge point of fan excitement in regards to the new season of "V" has been the addition of Jane Badler as Diana, the mother of Anna. Despite having the same name as Badler's infamous character in the original series, this Diana is a new character. "I think they always intended it as an homage to Diana and not necessarily the same character," Badler explained, "which is kind of weird but the truth is that I won the part and I'm the right person, I feel, for the role. In the end it worked out really well."
Rosenbaum was quick to point out that there were two major considerations in having Badler take on the role of Diana. "One was we wanted to give the role to the best actor because this is a character that we're hopefully going to see a bit of in the season and the series," he said. "The other thing was just wanting to make sure there wasn't going to be a backlash in the sense of 'It's too kitschy' or 'Oh God, they have to go there to get attention for the show.' The feeling among everyone that we talked to at the studio and the network was if [Jane] is the best actress for the role, there's definite value from a publicity and promotional standpoint. Fortunately, we've found that there is value from a publicity and promotional standpoint and she's been spectacular."
When we first meet Diana in tonight's episode, she's been in exile for the past 15 years at the hand of her daughter, Anna. That said, Badler warned not to expect Diana to lay dormant for long. "The good thing is that because we're not humans there's a great control in waiting for the right moment to attack and even though it's been 15 years in captivity, which may seem like a lifetime for her, the patience is beyond how long I can wait for my moment to strike." Badler added with a gleam of excitement in her eyes, "That's really powerful because no matter what she'll do to me I'm equally as powerful and strong and that's great for her to have that." There is also the mere fact that even for aliens there is a unique bond between mother and daughter. "I'm definitely there as her mother and that always resonates deeply," said Badler. "Your mother always has a particular power over you."
The Anna/Diana relationship is also going to be one filled with a cat-and-mouse rivalry since there is much at stake with Anna being the ruler of the Vs and Diana previously in that role. As for Diana, Rosenbaum shared, "she never wants to let her daughter get the best of her and that's kind of the dynamic that we're playing with them at the early part of the season, which I think is very relatable on many levels just between a parent and a kid that you never want to lose. Even when you know you're losing, you never want to show the other one that you know you're losing. It's that kind of dynamic so just when it looks like one of them has got the other by throat they come out of it and it's really fun."
Other characters will be going through their own challenges as these new episodes unfold. For Scott Wolf, who plays opportunistic news anchor Chad Decker, he's happy to see his character finally opening his eyes and not letting only his selfish motivations guide his path. "We definitely see a guy who is wanting some redemption for the mistakes that he's made and I think he does honestly feel like he has made some mistakes here even if some of it is driven from this sense of 'I got beaten in this first round.' He's kind of dusting himself off, wanting to get up and potentially fight for one side." However, Chad now realizes the stakes are quite high if he's going to help defeat Anna and the Visitors. "We now see a guy who is going to pick a side and ultimately know that the key to his survival is staying in good graces with Anna," Wolf offered. "I think that he's smart enough to know that the minute they don't like him, don't need him, don't want him around, he's gone and dead."
For Charles Mesure, who is now a series regular, his mercenary character Kyle Hobbes is caught between a rock and a hard place. According to Mesure, at the end of the first season Hobbes was "getting quite tight with the [resistance] team. He was beginning to have some respect and loyalty for them and, also, he knew we were up to a very legitimate and real threat. Like it or not, we had to band together." However, things changed for Hobbes, explained Mesure, when Marcus (Anna's second-in-command played by Christopher Shyer) "comes up with this mystery figure, and he was like 'maybe we can't get to you, but we can get to her,' and that obviously had a huge impact on Hobbes... I now know who this person is and it's someone called Sara, who is an ex-lover of Hobbes and someone very important to him so when Marcus says 'We can get to this person, we can get to Sara' that puts an incredible amount of weight and a lot of leverage over Hobbes so now he's caught right in the middle."
Despite all these relationship conflicts, the war brewing between the Visitors and the Fifth Column is going to continue to heat up with the stakes higher than ever. Mesure mentioned that his character is the one who brings a dose of reality in regards to the Fifth Column, led by Erica and populated with Father Jack (Joel Gretsch) and Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut). "Every scene [with them] is predicated around this philosophical conflict we have about war," Mesure said. "I know they want to be in a war but they don't want anyone to get hurt and they don't want to get their hands dirty. Hobbes has been in wars for a living for 20-odd years so he's [always] saying 'you don't know what we're getting into. In a war, there is a collateral damage. People get killed. We have to get our hands dirty. We have to be proactive. We have to make the first attack and they will retaliate. That's what they do so don't be surprised when they retaliate. That's what a war is!'"
The second season of "V" airs Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c on ABC.