Connor Jessup, star of Falling Skies, was at the NEC for MCM Birmingham Comic Con to talk about his role in the hit sci-fi TV series.
Focusing on the aftermath of an alien invasion, Falling Skies follows a group of human survivors as they work together to fight back. Connor plays Ben Mason, son of Tom Mason. Captured by the Skitters, he is ‘Harnessed’ by them, wearing a device that forces him to do their will. Eventually rescued, the result of having been Harnessed leaves Ben with superior strength, sight and hearing, as well as being able to hear the Skitters communicate via certain radio frequencies.
“When you’re a teenager and you get to play an angsty character, you may as well jump at that,” said Connor of his character. “It was a lot of fun. Especially in the second season too, to go through those slightly more gloomy parts.” While his character is left with a few unique powers in the show, Connor wanted to stress that what’s seen on screen are “feats of movie magic” and he can’t really jump as high or run as fast as Ben does. “I can barely do five push-ups let alone a hundred,” he joked.
On shooting Falling Skies, Connor described how he had previously not done anything action orientated before. “It was an interesting experience, and by an interesting experience I mean it was hard,” he said. “The very first scene I shot in Season Two was the very first scene you see in Season Two, which is this big battle sequence that took four days to shoot. [It] involved me jumping out of a building, stabbing our six legged aliens in the mouth, getting covered in blood, all in one shot. It was a combination of wiring and CG elements and all this techy stuff. It was my first time ever doing something like that and it’s challenging.” Though for Connor, the action itself was not the hardest part. “The most difficult part is not actually doing it, although that’s hard enough, but it’s staying in character while you do it. You’re supposed to be intense. Our director, he worked with Jackie Chan’s stunt team, he worked on a movie with them, and they would go up to actors between takes and they would say ‘Fierce Face’. And so he kept coming up to me after takes saying, ‘You have to keep the Fierce Face.’”
When asked what has been the most fun he’s had on set, he said, “The answer that everyone gives is that the people are the most fun and I hate to fall into cliché, but it’s true. We shoot in Vancouver and all of our actors aren’t from Vancouver so the only people we know in that city are each other. We shoot five months a year so we really spend an abnormally long amount of time together. It just so happens that everybody is kind of cool! So that summer camp experience is a lot of fun.”
A question from the audience had Connor being asked if there was a favourite episode he liked. He cited Season Two, Episode Six, Homcoming, where Ben meets Karen, played on the show by Jessy Schram. “She’s sort of a new villain and she’s become one of the main villains of the show,” said Connor of Karen. “She comes back and pretends to have been cured and rescued. Most of my storylines have to do with my family members, but this was something completely different, so that was a lot of fun to shoot.”
He then revealed one of the reasons why that episode was fun “There’s a scene, a very, very strange hard to watch scene I think, where Karen’s being held in a psych ward, and I go in to give her food and I get spikes on the back of my neck,” this being a side effect of telepathic powers from having been Harnessed. “She activates my spikes and we get… very close. The scene was really that there’s this eerie connection. We did a couple of takes; it was kind of weird but okay. Our director, who has a fondness for pulling pranks, he told her, not me, ‘This take, just kiss him, just to see what happens,’ which in the middle of the take was not expected, and it’s the take that they used in the show. What you see in that moment when you watch the show is very much a cinéma vérité capture of a real reaction.”
However, whereas Jessy surprised Connor with a kiss, Connor accidentally ended up knocking her at one point. “I actually did knock her out in a scene, in real life,” he said. “I knocked her unconscious. There’s a scene where she’s getting all angry, she’s crouched and she’s about to run at my dad and I stop her. Apparently my character has an affinity for grabbing characters around the neck. She runs and I grab her. She’s yelling and screaming and spitting, then halfway through one of her lines…” At this point Connor dropped dead on the stage. “For like five minutes she was knocked out. I guess I cut off her circulation. That was humiliating. All my funny stories are of people getting hurt.”
Season Three of Falling Skies returns to screens later this summer.