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Interview with Jason O'Mara of "Terra Nova" on
FBC PUBLICITY: The Terra Nova Conference Call with Jason
September 20, 2011/11:00 a.m. PDT
Todd Adair – Fox Broadcasting Company Publicity
Jason O’Mara – Terra Nova, Jim Shannon
Moderator Welcome to the Terra Nova Conference call with Jason O’Mara.
At this time all phone lines are in a listen-only mode. As a reminder,
today’s conference is being recorded. At this time I would like to turn
the conference to our host, Todd Adair.
T. Adair Hi, thanks everyone for joining us today and thanks, Jason, for
taking the time out of your schedule to do the call. Terra Nova has a
special two-hour series premiere on Monday, September 26th, from 8 to 10
p.m. Eastern/Pacific. That is next Monday on Fox.
Jason joins us from Los Angeles today where he flew in to present at the
Emmy Awards on Sunday and he’ll be returning to the Gold Coast of
Australia where Terra Nova is currently still in production and wrapping
up its first season. So, we will get started with the conference with
our first question.
Moderator Our first question Reg Seeton with TheDeadbolt.com.
J. O’Mara Thanks everybody for joining us today. This is great to be
able to do this all at once because I’ve got to get on a plane tonight,
so thanks. Go ahead with your question.
R. Seeton Well, can you talk about how Jim looks at himself within the
world of Terra Nova and what he struggles with most when he gets there?
J. O’Mara I think his primary goal is to protect his family and ensure
that they thrive and survive in this new place. He’s also been sort of,
whether he likes it or not, he’s sort of been made the sheriff in this
frontier town. So he has to kind of go along with what Taylor does and
says and sometimes he has reservations; sometimes he’s in accordance to
it, but the questions that are brought up sort of affect the very fabric
of Terra Nova’s society that is being created as we go along.
Even though Taylor is heroic in many ways in what he does, he also can
be a little bit autocratic and so not everybody agrees with how he rules
and Jim has to tow the party line to an extent. There is also a kind of
partnership and a friendship that is emerging between Taylor and
Shannon. I really enjoy kind of the subtleties and the little
relationship beefs that we have between all the characters on the show.
It’s kind of – I believe it’s quite unusual.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Joshua Maloney with
J. Maloney Jason, I think you’re a very talented actor. You’ve been on
some good series that unfortunately haven’t quite caught on with
audiences. Is there something different about this? Does it feel like
this is really going to be the one that really sort of hits it out of
the park in that regard for you?
J. O’Mara Oh, I hope so. Yes, third time lucky, is it, maybe? I’ve never
got a show to a second season so I’m sure people online are painfully
aware of this and maybe audiences are as well. What’s great about this
is that in Life on Mars I had the most amazing cast assembled on
television at the time, I believe, so I was ably supported in that.
In Justice was a great show, but I don’t think we were able to make
enough noise to kind of break through, but with this I’m really not
sweating the premiere because it’s really about whether people are ready
for a show like this, and I believe they are.
It’s not really down to me. The show is way bigger than the actors are.
Steven Spielberg’s presence is one of the selling points. The dinosaurs
obviously are a huge aspect of all of this, so we’re hoping that people
kind of come for these reasons, but stay because they’re enjoying the
world we’ve created and the dynamics between the characters and the
relationships that are forming. As the season progresses and deepens
you’ll get to know the characters better and see where we’re going with
the story lines.
To answer your question, I really feel like it’s out of my hands and
I’ve done my work and now it’s just a question as to how much of a hit
this is going to be. I think we might be on to something here, but I’ve
been wrong in the past.
Moderator Next we go to the line of Curt Wagner with RedEye Chicago.
C. Wagner I was going to ask you about what it’s like playing a Chicago
cop, but you’re not really in that world for very long. So, I was
wondering if you could talk about sort of just acting in the world of
Terra Nova—acting without dinosaurs actually being there and working
such a physical show in the wilderness, so to speak.
J. O’Mara Yes, well, first of all you know Brisbane stood in for
Chicago. Brisbane is the Australian city on the East Coast of Australia,
and a lot of Chicago was CGI because we’re not dealing with Chicago,
we’re dealing with that city 150 years or so from now.
We tried to recreate it in the most imaginative way possible. I think it
looks pretty darn cool, but scary as well. The future is kind of a bleak
place. Listen, it has been very challenging shooting this show. We’re
outside for a lot of this. The Australian Outback can be quite
unforgiving. We haven’t had any medical emergencies on the cast so far
in terms of the wildlife. There are a lot of snakes. I don’t know how
poisonous it was, but I had a toad like crawl across my boots just last
week, which was really kind of cool actually, but we’re really out
there. We’re really out there in the rain forest and on location and
we’re exposed to the elements for better or for worse.
I mean anybody who goes out for a hike on a regular basis knows how
tired you are in the evenings and you come back after a long day’s
shooting of being out in the forest and you want the next day off, but
we don’t get days off. The next it’s up early and it starts again.
That’s the challenging thing with TV; it’s not the action scenes per se
and it’s not the location scenes and the heavy dialogue scenes, but the
fact that there is just no let up; there is no break. Oftentimes we’ll
even work Saturdays to get all this in.
We’re shooting in eight or nine days per episode, but we shoot in blocks
and to accommodate publicity like the tour I’m on now and other things
we have to move the scheduling and the shooting days around, but it’s
something we have made work for ourselves. It’s working so far. We shoot
with three cameras per unit. Sometimes we shoot with two different units
or where we’re shooting two different episodes at the same time.
Sometimes we splinter units that have cameras on board helicopters. It’s
a pretty big production—the size of which I’m not sure has been seen in
recent memory on broadcast TV.
Moderator Now we go to the line of April MacIntyre with Monsters &
A. MacIntyre So listen, call it women’s intuition or whatever, but I get
the sense and the feeling that your wife is going to be chip and a
source of contention between you and your new buddy there, Nathaniel. Am
J. O’Mara Well, listen, there are a couple of times in the upcoming
season where we do argue about what is right. There are a lot of moral
questions being asked with regard to how this place is run. Yes, there
are a few moments where our opinions cross, but that’s what’s really
exciting about this world because we’re sort of building this place from
the ground up we’re able to ask these allegorical, sociological, and
philosophical questions about the world we’re living in now and where
we’re going and what we would do if had a second chance. I must say that
dinosaurs aside, that’s kind of the thing that I find most intriguing
about the series.
Moderator Our next question is from Alice Chapman-Nugent with Times
A. Chapman-Nugent What do you think about Terra Nova, so far as the
appeal across the board for the general public? Do you think it will
attract pretty much different genres of people or pretty much a family
show, sci-fi, what do you think on that?
J. O’Mara Well, I believe the expression in the TV business is four
quadrant appeal and I think that’s what they call it in that world. As
far as I’m concerned as an actor, I read the script and I thought, look,
this is so cool that there is time travel involved; there are obviously
a lot of visual effects. There are futuristic effects, dinosaur effects,
all sorts of things going on, but one of the earlier scripts very much
read as a genre piece.
We’re trying to create something that’s a little bit bigger than that.
It’s not just for a niche audience; this isn’t Battlestar Galactica;
it’s not Star Trek. This is not for, necessarily for sci-fi fans out
there even though I think sci-fi fans will get a lot out of it. This
kind of has that all-inclusive look and feel of a true Steven Spielberg
production where people are going to E.T. for the cinematic experience
not because it’s just about a boy’s relationship with his alien who
comes down from space.
That’s kind of how the feeling is on Terra Nova. This isn’t just about
time travel and dinosaurs; it’s about a lot more than that. I think
that’s what’s going to bring this show and put it on sort of a level
where an entire family can watch it from the ages of—I think it might be
suitable for sort of 10 year olds maybe, 11 year olds. I’m not quite
sure what rating they’re putting on us, right through to people in their
80s. I really do stand behind that. I think there is literally something
I know that can be tricky. I know that’s hard to do. Everybody is really
aware of that, but I’m betting that, and I have a pretty good feeling
about the fact that we’ve done something approaching to that and
hopefully we’ll succeed.
Moderator We’ll go now to the line of Henry Hanks with CNN.com.
H. Hanks Hey, I really enjoyed the pilot and we see a couple of
dinosaurs sort of are able to have a meal of some of the humans there.
Can you give us any tease, any idea, are we going to be seeing more
possibly like major characters or characters we know that get put on the
menu, so to speak?
J. O’Mara So you just want an idea of the human fatality count, is that
H. Hanks Yes, is this going to be a—
J. O’Mara Do you want a number?
H. Hanks —a pretty deadly season?
J. O’Mara Okay, how best to answer this. Dinosaurs do kill people. We
don’t kill dinosaurs because they’re animals and we are as humane as
possible when we try to corral and wrangle the local wildlife so we use
nonlethal, humane weapons to control them.
They, however, don’t have the same control with us; they’re animals;
they’re wild and sometimes they get hungry so we have to be very
vigilant around that. There are other fatalities to look forward to in
the season, you’ll be glad to hear, Henry, but they aren’t always series
regulars. However, I can reveal that one of the characters that you will
have come to know, and hopefully love, will die by the end of the first
season. There will be a death of a regular character by this season’s
end. Does that help you, Henry?
T. Adair We’re going to say it does.
Moderator We go now to the line of Kathy Huddleston with Blastr.com.
K. Huddleston What kind of a journey would you say that the Shannons,
and specifically your character, are on during this first season? What
can we expect?
J. O’Mara Well, firstly, they’re a very lucky family. They’re one in a
million. They’ve managed to escape this dying world and get this second
chance in this sort of Utopia, this beautiful place which has been sold
to them, certainly if there was ever a travel brochure it would be sold
as just the most beautiful place imaginable, a Utopia.
However, once the Shannon family gets there you realize, and it doesn’t
take too long, you scratch the surface and you realize that there is
something else going on here. There are splinter groups, splinter
factions, people challenging Taylor’s rule over the place. You also find
out that there are people close to Taylor who have become estranged and
might even be plotting against him and his sort of rule, for want of a
better word, as commander over Terra Nova.
By the way, you know who put him in charge? Was he ever elected? All
these questions are asked so the Shannon family are caught up in all of
this and they become the audience’s eyes and ears and they get involved
in a first-hand way directly in the intrigue that’s taking place,
politically and socially. At the same time trying to sort of survive in
this place that is certainly a lot more hostile than it’s first thought
and it’s not just the dinosaurs.
Josh Shannon gets embroiled in the first season in something and gets in
way over his head. Maddy Shannon has her story line and at times she’s
put in terrible danger, as well as Zoe as well and some of Zoe’s
stories, my seven-year-old daughter, really played really well. I think
everyone was surprised how well her character plays in the stories, but
also surprised with how good Alana Mansour is as Zoe. She’s just
becoming a really great little actress. I really enjoy working with her.
People warn you not to work with children or animals, especially
dinosaurs in this case, but Alana has just been a delight from start to
finish and her acting is really deepening and maturing and she’s
starting to have a lot of fun with that.
So the relationship between Taylor and Shannon is obviously at the
center, at the heart of the first season, but also you’re right in
asking that question that the Shannon family and their experiences are
also at the center of the first season. Obviously I have to paint very
broad brush strokes here, but I think as the episodes progress you’ll
get a feel for the kind of show that we’re trying to make week after
week. Just to put everybody’s minds at rest there will be dinosaurs in
every episode regardless of how human the stories become, we’ll always a
healthy dose of dinos.
Moderator Our next question is from Steve Eramo with The Morton Report.
S. Eramo I was wondering, perhaps you could tell us what maybe sticks
out most in your mind about shooting the pilot for Terra Nova? Also,
maybe what were some of the initial acting challenges you found stepping
into this role, would you say?
J. O’Mara Let’s see. Well, first of all, it’s been well documented how
difficult some of the shooting days were on the pilot due to the
inclement weather. As if it wasn’t hard enough trying to create as
ambitious and as complicated a show as this is to make, we had to
contend with some extreme weather. The days where I opened my trailer
and stepped down and literally was up to my knees in a pile of mud—they
were the days where you go, I don’t think we’re shooting today.
They were able to work magic with the schedule and oftentimes we would
be back in a studio or whatever, wherever we needed to be while it
rained cats and dogs outside, or cats and dinos, as it felt sometimes.
So that was probably the most challenging aspect of that. What was the
second part of the question?
S. Eramo Just from an acting standpoint, what maybe were some of the
initial acting challenges stepping into the role for you?
J. O’Mara Yes, well, I’ve always tried to keep my character—I like to
play very raw characters, characters who have a degree of vulnerability
and passion about what they’re doing. I suppose the greatest acting
challenge was to allow Jim to have enough darkness and even allow him to
be more flawed than perhaps he was on paper. That is something that I’ve
sort of confidently been talking to the writers about, about trying to
keep Jim as complicated as possible so he’s not just a hero running
around protecting his family and chasing dinosaurs, either chasing after
them or running from them, so that there is a little more to him than
I suppose that was sort of my challenge to try to keep Jim as grounded,
as real, and as complicated and human as possible. Technically the green
screen acting can be difficult because—there is something worse by the
way than a tennis ball on the end of a stick, it’s an Australian visual
effects assistant running around with a cardboard dinosaur head cut off
on the end of a stick while wearing shorts and sandals running around a
field. And you’re supposed to look intimidated and scared to death of
this guy and he’s a very sweet guy, but it’s just really hard to be
really scared of something like that when all you want to do is burst
out into fits of laughter.
That stuff can be tricky and difficult, but then you’re really at the
whim of the visual effects guys and the editor when it comes to that
stuff, so you do your best with it and move on. I think just trying to
keep Jim as edgy and engaging and as intriguing as possible given that
we’re also trying to make this as appealing for as many different people
as possible. That’s always a very thin line to walk.
Moderator We’ll go now to the line of Jenny Rarden with
J. Rarden Well, you mentioned at the beginning about the show is
shooting in Australia. How was it decided to shoot there or using
Brisbane as Chicago, for example?
J. O’Mara How was it decided? I’m not really involved in those
decisions, but I know that there was talk initially—I only know just
through the phone calls I would get last year and it has been well over
a year now since this whole journey started for me. I would get a phone
call saying, “Okay, right now they’re considering Louisiana.” “Right now
they’re considering Hawaii.” “Right now they’re considering Florida
again.” I think it was deemed that Australia would offer the show the
right kind of locations in a pretty localized way. We’re only sort of 30
minutes drive from one place to another.
From where we live to the studio to the Terra Nova location to all of
the other locations that we’ve been shooting like waterfalls and forests
and beaches and cliff faces and all that stuff—it’s all pretty
localized. There is an amazing amount of sort of topical diversity when
it comes to landscape in a sort of small amount of space. I think that’s
probably why it was chosen over the other places.
There is also a fairly established infrastructure there that is their
sort of Hollywood. They have stages set up there and next to it is like
a theme park called Movie World. Sometimes we have roller coasters and
people screaming as we’re having a break inside the studio and walking
from our trailers. It’s kind of funny. They do have that sort of already
set up. They have very experienced crews. Our crews have been fantastic.
It’s also a beautiful part of the world.
I think while I find the separation very difficult, and while I always
prefer production to be done on U.S. soil because I think it’s important
for jobs here in the states and to keep the industry in the states, I do
understand why Australia was the set location for the first season of
J. Rarden Well, I’ll let somebody else ask a question, but I just had to
ask real quick, you’re in One for the Money, which comes out at the end
of January, I think?
J. O’Mara Yes.
J. Rarden Right. I’m a huge Stephanie Plum, so when I told all my other
friend that I was talking to you they were all very jealous.
J. O’Mara Well, thank you very much. I’m very flattered. Actually I’m
just about to go to a screening of it. I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m
hoping everybody enjoys it. We’re really happy that it’s kind of secured
the—it really has the atmosphere of the books and the flavor and tone of
the books. We think it’s pretty funny and exciting at the same time. It
has that kind of Janet Evanovich irreverence and fun to it. By the way,
Katherine Heigl—she totally nails Stephanie Plum.
Moderator We’ll go now to the line of Charlie Jane Anders with io9.com.
C.J. Anders One of the things that I was curious about—in the pilot we
see Jim and his family arrive and they’re newcomers. Wondering how long
it’s going to be before the next group of settlers arrive and Jim has to
step up and be the old hand and kind of show them around and show them
the ropes and have that kind of role reversal.
J. O’Mara The 11th Pilgrimage is coming and it’s coming at the end of
Season 1, but we don’t know what the 11th Pilgrimage is going to be made
up of. By then it could be pilgrims, but it could be something else far
C.J. Anders Do you think that Jim is going to be excited to be kind of
the more experienced—by then to be kind of the guy who actually knows
the ropes and showing other people the ropes, perhaps?
J. O’Mara Well, he settles down is his role as sort of town sheriff. He
settles into it pretty quickly, so he’s already kind of laying down the
dos and don’ts for a lot of the colony. Yes, I think it would be nice
for him to not be the new guy all the time, but at the same time it’s
enjoyable for me as an actor and for the audience to see Jim do things
for the first time.
It’s fun as an actor to discover things for your character as opposed to
show other characters around. As I said, we don’t know what the 11th
Pilgrimage will bring, so there are lots of mysteries and story twists
to look forward to.
Moderator Next we’ll go to the line of Lance Carter with the Daily
L. Carter How did this part and this show come to you?
J. O’Mara Well, to be perfectly honest it was one of those kind of
things that was—okay, let me start at the beginning. I was in London
doing a play at the Donmar Warehouse.
L. Carter What play?
J. O’Mara It was called Serenading Louie. It was an off-Broadway play
from like 1972, I think, or ’73, that was being revived and I did it
with Jason Butler Harner, who is a great American actor. I think he’s
going to be in Alcatraz on Fox in the mid-season. Simon Curtis directed
it, who’s married to Elizabeth McGovern and he’s directed a lot of stuff
recently, actually. He’s just directed My Week with Marilyn, which is
coming out soon.
I really had a great time, but I really felt—I had skipped pilot season
because I was in London for all of that and I thought that Hollywood had
completely moved on and had lost interest in me, which would have been
fine, you know, whatever. Things go in cycles. I came back and my agent
called me and said, “Just so you know I’ve had several conversations
with Dreamworks and Fox about a production that they’re working on
called Terra Nova and Steven Spielberg is highly involved in the casting
and is signing off on everything related to the production. That’s a
hoop that we need to jump through before we progress any further.”
I hadn’t got an offer or anything. This was just, you know they were
just sort of checking my availability and seeing if I was interested. I
read a version of the script, which has changed a lot since, but I was
intrigued by the scale of it and the ambitiousness of it. After I was
done reading it I thought that this can never be made for television;
it’s too big. This is a movie. Then remembering that Steven Spielberg
was involved, I thought well, if anybody can do it, he can.
What intrigued me most about the script was that it was really about
second chances and if we were given a second chance as a race would we
make the same mistakes? That was kind of the thing that hooked me onto
it. I said to my agent, “You know I would be interested if it goes
further.” He said, “Okay, well there are a lot of people involved with
this because it’s such a big production. I’ll discuss this with
everybody and get back to you.”
Then I got a phone call. I was walking down the street in New York City
and I got a phone call from him again, my agent, saying, “Okay, Steven
Spielberg has been in touch and he wants to watch some scenes from your
work. He wants to see some reels.” But not my show reels, he wanted to
see some more dramatic stuff. I sent some scenes from Life on Mars to my
agent and he put them together on a web site for Mr. Spielberg to watch
and he watched them.
Then I didn’t hear anything for about 48 hours and I was sure that I
would not get this; that I wouldn’t hear any more about it and I got a
phone call saying, “They want you to take the role of Jim Shannon on
Terra Nova. Would you be interested?” I said, “Hey, man it has Steven
Spielberg; it has dinosaurs and it’s one of the most ambitious TV
projects of all time. That sounds like a dream, sign me up.” I did and I
haven’t regretted a single thing. It’s been a wonderful journey.
Moderator Our final question today will come from the line of James
Zappie with TheHDRoom.com.
J. Zappie You mentioned Spielberg and time travel and dinosaurs and the
intense shooting schedule and everything. Do you find it even the little
off time that you’ve had a weird transition to doing mundane things like
taking out the trash or doing dishes?
J. O’Mara No. No, what’s good about this is the really hard thing about
this – the hardest aspect of all of this is being away from my family. I
don’t know if I’ve answered any question like that since we started this
call, but the hardest thing has been being away from my family. My wife,
Paige Turco, who is an actress, who is pursuing a career from New York
City and my son who is seven years old. I really, really miss them.
They have come over to visit me for an extended period of time, but not
for the full five and a half months or whatever it’s been. I‘ve spent a
lot of that time missing them terribly. That’s the bad news. The good
news is my wife hasn’t been there to tell me to take out the trash, so
every cloud has its silver lining. No, I did actually go to the—I’m so
intense on this show; I work almost every scene. I work almost every
day. I literally do not have time to take out the trash. I’m going to be
coming down to earth hard when I get back home because that is one of my
major jobs in the house is to stamp out the garbage.
T. Adair Thank you everyone for participating today. Jason, thanks for
taking the time out of your schedule. We will get you back to Australia
so you can wrap up the season and get back to New York as soon as
As a reminder, Terra Nova premieres with a special two-hour premiere on
Monday, September 26th, from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. Thank you.
J. O’Mara Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks everybody. Bye.
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