Adapting the respected 1995 movie 12 Monkeys into a TV series was a risky venture for Syfy but it also had plenty of potential. In the show’s first season the writers stuck to the film’s basic premise but necessarily expanded the story in ways that allowed the series to become an independent entity in its own universe. That, in turn, created an opportunity for 12 Monkeys: The Series to expand its mythology into valid territory that the film never explored.
When Season 2 premieres in the UK on 27th April that expansion will take off in a big way and fans will be surprised by what is to come, says star Aaron Stanford. “I think it’s a much more epic story,” Stanford told Geektown during a Syfy press conference . “It’s almost as if Season 1 was a prequel in a lot of ways to where we go. That’s how big the show gets certainly. By the end, it’s going to be pretty surprising.”
For the uninitiated, Stanford’s character, James Cole (played in the movie by Bruce Willis), is sent back in time from 2043 to stop an organization called The Army of the 12 Monkeys from releasing a virus that will wipe out most of humanity. After arriving in 2015 he joins forces with a virologist, Cassandra Railly, played by Amanda Schull, and the daughter of the original creator of the virus, Jennifer Goines, played by Emily Hampshire, to prevent the apocalypse.
Because the action moved quickly during the first season we only got brief insights into the backgrounds of these characters. The second season will reveal much more, says Terry Matalas, who developed the series with Travis Fickett. “I’d say one of the big surprises in Season 2 is the characters. There’s a lot more development with them. There’s a lot more expansion of the back stories of these characters. And I think you’ll find that a lot of them turn out to be not exactly what you expected them to be.”
A time travel story is the ideal vehicle for a writer to expand characters because it offers opportunities for emotional exploration that you don’t get with other genres, explains Matalas. “You get to see characters at different points in their lives; you get to see somebody young and you get to see somebody old and ask the question about how the egg became the chicken. I also think all good time travel stories have an emotional component. I mean, Back to the Future is about a kid who goes back in time to make his parents fall in love. There’s nothing better than that. The sky is the limit really as to what you can do, and the places you can go; the different time periods and how they reflect in the characters.”
Those sentiments are shared by the actors. Stanford, Hampshire and Schull all acknowledge that they get the kind of variety on 12 Monkeys that they wouldn’t get on many other shows. “We get to be placed into these emotional circumstances that we’re comfortable with, but we don’t know what’s coming,” says Schull. “We have to stay on our toes because of that. So it’s not like doing a completely different role from week to week but a lot of elements change and we have to adapt. It’s not just your ordinary run of the mill weekly procedural.”
12 Monkeys: The Series returns for its second season on Syfy UK, Wednesday 27th April at 9pm.