FOX’s “Terra Nova” is shooting in Australia, so it’s a bit of a roll of the dice which stars are going to be liberated for public appearances.
Two weeks ago, Stephen Lang was the star capable of escaping production Down Under for Comic-Con promotion.
This week, the Television Critics Association press tour is lucky enough to get Jason O’Mara and Shelley Conn.
We’re also getting producers Brannon Braga, Rene Echevarria and John Cassar.
Let the live-blogging good times roll…
3:39 p.m. PT. The first question refers to some really awful changes that were made after the pilot was first screened for a small group of critics. “It was our desire to engage you in the Shannon Family story,” Rene Echevarria says of the Act I exposition that cripples the show.
3:40 p.m. “It gets easier,” Jon Cassar says of progress on shooting since the long-delayed pilot. He adds that the weather has been cooperating.
3:40 p.m. Shelley Conn is very pretty. She’s playing Elisabeth Shannon, wife to Jason O’Mara’s Jim. She’s basically just reciting her bio, which is basically what she was asked to do. “It’s a dream come true for me, really. I never imagined I would be sitting here with these people,” Conn says. It’s an honor to be sitting next to Brannon Braga.
3:42 p.m. Jason O’Mara is asked about getting back into the time travel business. Darnit. The American “Life on Mars” wasn’t about time travel. They were on a rocket ship. To Mars. To have a gene hunt. A GENE HUNT. “I was aware of the similarities when I read the script, but the differences are so overwhelming I can’t really compare the two,” O’Mara says.
3:43 p.m. Ray Bradbury’s name is invoked for some reason. Brannon Braga compares it to “The Sound of Thunder.” Braga raves that their visual effects team is doing advanced things with motion capture dinosaurs and motion capture animals. “We’re creating things as we go along to make it possible,” Braga says. Echevarria said that several visual effects houses rebuffed them and said it wouldn’t be possible and that even five years ago, this show wouldn’t be possible.
3:43 p.m. A critic says it was hard for him to act in front of a green screen and asks the actors how they prepared. “I think experience is probably the best thing,” O’Mara says. He adds that his biggest advantage is that he gets a second take. O’Mara also singles out Stephen Lang’s experiences on “Avatar” as a big plus. “I’ve had several personal interactions with these creatures. They weren’t there on set, but I felt them on me, taking chunks out of me, ripping my clothes,” O’Mara says.
3:48 p.m. “It’s not record-breaking,” Brannon Braga says of the number of executive producers, noting that it’s fewer than there were on “24.” Echevarria says there are many executive producers for a variety of different reasons and that many of them are “creative partners.” Steven Spielberg has weighed in on visual effects, concept art, casting and scripts.
3:49 p.m. Our perception is that this is a difficult undertaking. Where are they in production and in the series? They’re currently shooting episodes 8 and 9. They’re in post-production on 3-through-5, but also a bit on the second part of the pilot. “It has its challenges. Australia, it’s almost like time travel itself. It’s morning there tomorrow. You have to have special calendars and you always have to double-check like, ‘Is it Tuesday here or Tuesday there?” Echevarria says. “There’s lots of whiz-bang, but it’s not about that,” Echevarria adds. Braga insists that their proudest accomplishment is the cast, rather than the dinosaurs. “We’re also cheaper than the dinosaurs,” O’Mara cracks.
3:52 p.m. “Absolutely,” Echevarria says on whether they’ll be able to get the visual effects completed on time every week. “There’s a pipeline,” he says, admitting that there was a learning curve. He promises that in episode two, we’ll meet Slashers, which are like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
3:53 p.m. The new pilot has eased over the Butterfly Effect by saying it’s an alternate time-line. “They’re colonizing another time period,” Echevarria says.
3:54 p.m. “Dudes in animal suits” are doing MoCap dinosaurs, specifically the aforementioned Slashers.
3:57 p.m. Marital difficulties between the main couple have also been smoothed over between the original pilot and the current pilot. Nobody on the panel wants to say “testing” was the reason for these changes.
3:58 p.m. Brannon Braga says that Steven Spielberg has been involved from day one, that he’s wanted to add verisimilitude, to make things feel real. O’Mara says that Spielberg has even been directing performances, albeit through intermediaries. “His movies have probably had more impact on television than his television,” Braga says of Spielberg. Jon Cassar calls Spielberg’s TV work as “daring.”
4:00 p.m. What’s gonna be happening in the future as we go along? “The happenings in 2149 will figure into our storytelling,” Braga says. There’s a conspiracy in the future with people who have a different vision for “Terra Nova.” The fringe group in the past is called The Sixers, which raises the ire of a Philadelphia-based reporter.
4:02 p.m. “We write it as an adult show,” Braga says, but adds that they hope it will become a family show. “It’s not ‘Jurassic Park.’ This is an entire ecosystem of weird creatures,” Braga notes, adding that there isn’t a certain number of dinosaur sightings required each episodes.
4:05 p.m. What’s it like being in Australia? Conn’s a fan. “There’s a sentiment in Australia to make sure that they do take care of the natural beauty,” she says. “It makes our job easier as actors,” O’Mara says. Cassar praises the technical community and says that while the acting base in Australia isn’t what you’d find in New York or LA or Vancouver, it’ll do.
4:10 p.m. For Cassar, differences and similarities to “24”? “To me, it’s very much the same,” Cassar says, reminding us that “24” was really about Jack and his family, while “Terra Nova” is really about Jim Shannon and his family. “From my end, as a director, that’s how I’m concentrating my efforts to make sure that works better than anything else,” he says.
4:11 p.m. “Would probably need to start production in the early spring,” Braga says of how much time they’d need from FOX to get to work on a second season, in the event of a renewal.
4:12 p.m. Producers stumble when asking if there are any stakes for the people in the future if they’re not in the same time-line and there’s nothing they can do to fix the future. “This is very much the beginning… these are the pioneers,” Braga says. But an early episode will deal with the first murder in Terra Nova.
4:14 p.m. Yes, it’s a family drama and it’s not about the dinosaurs, but will science fiction fans want to watch? Braga says yes and compares this to the family (crew) focus of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
That’s all, folks…