'Sarah Connor' Season 2 Takes Time Travel to Extremes

Sarah Connor EP Josh Friedman Interview

On Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the future is now. Based on the popular Terminator movie franchise, the Fox television series finds Sarah Connor and her son John teaming up with an advanced female Terminator known as Cameron, as well as resistance fighter family member Derek Reese, to prevent Judgment Day from coming to pass. With those metallic menaces hunting them down and the company Skynet on the verge of being created, Sarah has finally decided to stop running and go on the offensive before it’s too late.

Just weeks before Chronicles kicks off its second season, series' Executive Producer Josh Friedman escaped long enough to discuss terminators, new characters, Sarah and John’s struggles, and why saving tomorrow is never an easy thing.

Newsarama: Josh With three movies in the can and a fourth on the way , the Terminator mythology can be extremely dense. Has that been a concern for you has the television show has developed?

Josh Friedman: It was absolutely a concern in the beginning. Trying to figure out where the show fit into the mythology and how much of the mythology to pay attention to was one of our biggest challenges. Now, it’s really about our own mythology and trying to work off what we built. I feel we were very loyal to the first two movies and the show ignores the third one. We pay no attention to the fourth movie and at this point, it is just about being consistent in our own world.

NRAMA: Season One must have been all mapped out before the WGA strike hit. How did that affect your master plan?

Friedman: Well, we were lucky that the timing of the strike allowed us to finish episode nine which made sense for a season finale. It made the first season feel more complete. Going forward, I was able to use a lot of the ideas I had for last year.

NRAMA: What did late comer Derek Reese add to the series?

Friedman: When you look at the movies, John was always looking to complete his family, especially in T2 when Arnold Schwarzenegger became like a father figure. It’s nice when you put some of these other alpha male types into the Connor dynamic to see how people react. It is inherently threatening to Sarah and interesting for John, especially since it’s somebody who is a blood relative.

Brian Austin Green has done a good job bringing Reese in emotionally and he also represents the Future War. That is a large function for him in that Reese is the only human in our show that has seen what is going to happen in the future. His actions, while sometimes extreme, are really reflective of the stakes of what our characters are doing.

NRAMA: Most viewers were probably extremely surprised to see Beverly Hills 90210 alumni Green as this tough and gritty soldier. What was it about him that impressed you?

Friedman: I just wasn’t sure what Brian had been up to in the last few years. I literally walk by the Freddie poster 50 times a day in the hallway at Warner Bros [editor's note – "Freddie" is short-lived 2005-'06 ABC sitcom co-starring Green]. I really didn’t know until about 15 minutes before that he was coming in. I couldn’t picture it and the funny thing is Brian walked in, did the scene, and I knew he was the guy. I can’t say I was 100 per cent sure how it was going to work but it was pretty clear from the audition he was the best person for the role.

He pretty much locked into the character the day he got the sides. Brian is great and for him, he’s been through this before and instead of making him jaded, it has made him more excited. He’s excited to work on something he enjoys and knows these opportunities don’t come around often. He’s a happy kid all day long.

NRAMA: At what point did you know Derek would become a permanent mixture on SCC?

Friedman: It was just something we talked about between the first and second season. You may be responding to a particular character but you don’t really know what the audience response is going to be. Certainly by the time the season was over, I could tell he was someone viewers were really excited about. For us, it just seemed organic. He was getting some heat from doing the part and Brian was going for other auditions because we didn’t have him locked down. It was pretty much a no-brainer giving him a contract.

NRAMA: Have you received a full 24 episode order?

Friedman: No, it’s just 13 with the possibility of another nine. I don’t know when we will find out. We go on the air September 8th and I am hoping we will come out of the gate pretty strong so Fox can make a decision quickly about the back nine. We are just about finished writing the first 13 scripts so we need to get moving on the rest of them.

NRAMA: Will you be keeping SCC’s serialized nature or doing more stand alone episodes?

Friedman: It is still serialized. It may not be as serialized as before in the sense that last year, we serialized almost every single element of the show every week. Now while there will always be serialized elements with an ongoing saga being told, I am trying to have a few more self-contained stories to allow people access points into the series. I don’t know if it was intimidating last season but it was complicated for people who jumped in mid-point and tried to figure out what was going on. Last year was one big premise pilot and now the series is raring to go.

NRAMA: All the time travel and possible paradoxes must cause some serious headaches. How do you keep track of everything? Is the writers’ room this huge storyboard with arrows going all over the place?

Friedman: Yeah, there have been some episodes we’ve had some big diagrams. We have people who have different theories about time travel or how they want it to operate in the show. We just call it the rabbit hole. Once you get down the rabbit hole, you can be there for hours.

One of the things the movie has done so well is even though there are time paradoxes, the emotional core of those movies are so strong, people who have no interest in time travel can watch Terminator 1 and 2. That is the balance you want to strike. I am always trying to curb people to stay oriented around the characters and emotions.

NRAMA: Cameron was caught in an explosion at the end of the finale. Where do things pick up this season?

Friedman: Five seconds afterward. The end of Season One and beginning of Season Two are almost like the second half of the same show. It picks up right away. We do have a recap to try and orient people who haven’t been with us before. There are certainly scenes to help people along and reset some of the situations. You are doing to see what happens to Cameron after getting blown up.

NRAMA: If Season One was about introducing the characters and their dire situation, what themes are you hoping to explore now?

Friedman: This season is turning out to be a lot about John, his evolution, and the changes in his relationship with Sarah. It is about a boy working his way towards manhood and what are the sacrifices you make within your family to find your own identity.

Last year, Sarah had a very good grasp of John, how to control him, and what they felt about each other. That sort of makes the character lazy because she doesn’t have to work very hard to keep his love. I thought that was something we should work out this year and make Sarah work harder for his love.

On the antagonist side, we have a lot of Cromartie this year because I love Garret Dillahunt. Cromartie and Ellison have a weird relationship now because Cromartie left Ellison alive and he doesn’t know why. Ellison also gets involved with one of our new characters, Catherine Weaver, played by Shirley Manson. The story escalates and doesn’t just hip hop along. It is more complicated in terms of the stakes and watching Skynet grow. There is some cool stuff coming.

NRAMA: Since you mentioned John will be evolving, will he be stepping up more as a leader?

Friedman: Yeah, Thomas Dekker and I had long conversations last year about John and we both agreed we liked him as this bratty precocious kid who wasn’t really dealing well with the fact he has to become a man. This year through various circumstances, many of which take place in the first episode, he’s forced to confront who he is and embrace it more. Part of embracing it could be just rebelling and “I have to walk my own path which may not please you!”

NRAMA: Sarah has proven to be more than physically capable of taking care of herself. Will part of John’s training involve learning to fight?

Friedman: I don’t know if we see a lot of that training. I always had this weird idea that I never got around to last year where Cameron was sort of a training dummy for John. She knew all sorts of different fighting styles and he was using her to learn stuff. You could see them in the background beating the crap out of each other all the time but I haven’t got around to doing it. I still might.

NRAMA: As an emotionless Terminator model, has it been tough injecting more into Cameron so viewers care about her?

Friedman: Absolutely, but you inherently feel sympathy for Summer Glau as an actress. Her face is very wide open, she has these big eyes, and there is a vulnerability to her. You can have her do almost anything and people will forgive her. We’ve always tried to use her to inject some humor into the show because it’s pretty heavy. She’s always been a good place to find humor but you don’t want to abuse that and make her the easy cheap joke. I am interested in the things where she does emulate humanity but I am equally interested in the things that make her alien as can be.

NRAMA: As far as Sarah, Derek, John, and Cameron are concerned, are they all on the same page in terms of agendas and ultimate goals?

Friedman: If you asked them, they would say yes. They probably have different tactics for the same agenda. Interestingly enough, as much as Derek doesn’t like Cameron, they probably have a much more similar approach to fighting the war. They are much more hardcore, even more so than Sarah. She is handicapped by the fact she has to be a role model for John and has to be human. At the end of the day, she has to give John that love and respect for humanity.

NRAMA: You’ve stated one of the main characters will die this season. What kind of discussions did you have over that and the impact it would have on the characters?

Friedman: On the characters or cast? [laughs] We kill a lot of people on the show and it’s always a discussion, especially when it’s a character you really like. There are times I have to be really convinced to do something because I might like that person and want to keep them around. It’s whatever is best for the show. At the end of the day, if killing me would be best, we would do that too.

NRAMA: Besides those personal beats, are you eager to revisit the Future Wars?

Friedman: Well, we did a big chunk of it last year. We shot at least three episodes already with future flashbacks. It is part of the franchise we like. It is cool and allows us to raise the stakes and the emotional back-story of our characters. It is also really good for Derek and Cameron. One of the episodes we’ve done this year really gets into Cameron’s back-story in the future which is something a lot of people have been asking for.

NRAMA: It sounds like you are ramping up the action more.

Friedman: Yeah, but sometimes it’s just the scope of the show generally. Sometimes a show starts to feel small and a lot of scenes are at the breakfast table. We’ve really expanded the look of the show. We became more location dependent this year while last season we shot quite a bit on the lot. Terminator is very associated with Los Angeles and that is something we want to explore more.

NRAMA: Lastly Josh, this is your first venture into television. Has it met all your expectations?

Friedman: It has in lots of ways. Everyone told me it was going to be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. It is probably more of both. I don’t think I could imagine working any more hours than I do. I went from a lazy feature film writer working four days a week to 16 hours a day. It’s invigorating and you also get to work with other people.

As a feature writer, you sit alone in your house. I enjoy that but it can get boring and lonely. This is never boring or lonely. It’s been pretty good. I said to my features agent the other day that I don’t know how I am ever going to go back to movies again. Maybe as a vacation.

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