Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, which is based the film by the same name, premieres tonight, but a few months ago, we had the chance to chat a bit with series star Aaron Stanford and co-executive producer Travis Fickett.
So why was this the perfect time for a 12 Monkeys TV series?
“I think because the audience was ready for a serialized time-travel show, something that we – Terry and I always wanted to do, and they, I think, were educated. The audience is educated now as to the intricacies of that kind of narrative style. Lost tricked everyone into doing a time travel show. At the start of season four, they’re like, “Oh, by the way, we’re a time travel show now” and it worked really well.,” Fickett commented. “I think it’s always been a, I think, under-utilized part of science fiction in television. Most of the time it was, you know, touched by a time traveler — oh, that sounds bad. But it was episode of the week or it was procedural or, you know, it wasn’t a continual story like a larger canvas.”
FX’s Fargo this summer explored the film as a TV series space. What type of difficulties did Fickett and Standford have with making this project work as a TV series – yet still honor the film?
“There is a moment where you’re intimidated and you’re like, 12 Monkeys? That’s a perfect movie, I can’t — I can’t write, I can’t do this. And then you just start writing a story, and the story becomes what it is. It becomes its own thing. And I think these guys, it’s the same thing,” Fickett explained. “They don’t call us up and say, look, I just rewatched the movie and your script is not right. And they’ve done an amazing job of creating very distinct characters that are — that are unto themselves, just like, you know, in FX’s Fargo, I don’t think anybody is angry that Billy Bob’s character was not in the movie. I think that worked pretty well.”
“I think it’s both daunting and very exciting as a fan to get an opportunity to do something like this, because in a way you can just sort of just touch that movie that you love so much and feel like maybe you’ll get a chance to live inside of it a little bit,” Stanford commented. “But in terms of making sure that it’s a different thing, I just — it just happened naturally. You have an entirely different team. You have an entirely different, you know, cast, creative team, and the differences — it just happens naturally. Can’t help but be different.”
“We are going to diverge pretty widely from the movie. I think you can – there’s a spiritual continuity, in a way. I think it feels like the movie a lot of times in that the hero is an unlikely hero. He’s doesn’t have the best time machine to achieve this mission. There is a tinge of madness and craziness throughout the whole story, and that, kind of, was one of the central sort of tenets of the movie,” Fickett explained. “And it’s also, in the movie, you didn’t know
until the end what the 12 monkeys were and, you know, how the virus broke out and all of those things, and that’s going to be the same kind of mystery that we’re dealing with.
So the big question, will fans of the film be happy?
It wouldn’t be any fun for anybody if we just did the television version of that story, you know. So we’re taking all of the elements that we kind of loved, the impressions from the movie, and not the straight, you know, checklist of story items,” Fickett continued. “I think fans will be pleased with what we took and what we expanded and what we changed. I am. And I’m the biggest fan of that movie, like I’ll fight anyone here who says they’re a bigger fan of that movie than me. So, I would lose, but I’d still try to fight you. So yeah, I think people will be happy.
“The pilot adheres relatively closely to the movie and then it takes a very dramatic turn, I think, right with episode two, if I’m correct, and from there on its own thing.” Standford added.
12 Monkeys premieres tonight on Syfy!