Connor Jessup gets physical in 'Falling Skies'


  • Connor Jessup stars as Ben Mason in TNT's sci-fi drama "Falling Skies."
Connor Jessup stars as Ben Mason in TNT's sci-fi drama "Falling… (Benny Haddad )
June 14, 2012|By Curt Wagner | RedEye

As Connor Jessup explains it, he didn't see much action in the first season of TNT's alien invasion drama "Falling Skies." Not that the 17-year-old is complaining.

"I was more than happy last season," said Jessup, whose character Ben Mason spent half of the season in a "zombie haze" after being captured by alien "skitters." "I know it kind of sounds trite, but I was really just happy to be in the company of my coworkers ... And I was more than exhilarated just to go back and do the exact same thing this season."

Jessup was given a whole lot more to do in the new season, which launches at 8 p.m. Sunday with a two-hour premiere. Season 2 picks up three months after the cliffhanger ending that saw Ben's father, resistance leader Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), enter an alien spaceship to learn more about the creatures that have attacked Earth and are enslaving humanity's children.

Tom hasn’t been heard from since he went aboard the vessel, and 15-year-old Ben has joined his older brother, Hal (Drew Roy), as a resistance fighter. Ben still feels the affects of the control harness that the aliens attached to his back. It was removed, but the freaky spikes that fused it to his spine remain and are changing him—which makes him angry, resentful, and too much for Hal to handle alone.

“He’s afraid of what he’s turning into,” Jessup said. “He’s afraid of what it’ll mean for him and the people he loves. He’s just afraid, and that fear is manifesting into kind of an excessive anger toward the aliens—kind of an all-consuming rage.”

That rage triggers a more dramatic and action-packed journey for Ben than in the freshman season. New show runner Remi Aubuchon said he liked Jessup’s take on Ben, and had several discussions with the relatively inexperienced actor about beefing up his role.

“He’s a smart kid. We felt pretty confident that he could handle what we’re going to give him,” Aubuchon said in a separate interview. “Ben is a very different character than we left him in the first season ... Connor, I think, just does a tremendous job.”

Jessup, who chatted from his hometown of Toronto during a study break—he's catching up so he can graduate from high school June 22, the day before his 18th birthday—is grateful for the chance to break out of his acting comfort zone.

The self-professed nerd when it comes to Japanese anime had to deliver a much more physical performance this season. With Ben's harness-induced, seemingly super-human new abilities, he leaps from buildings, takes down skitters and pummels his big brother. Jessup enjoyed the character's new physicality, with a caveat.

"I enjoyed it," he said, laughing. "But was I good at it? Anyone who knows me even slightly well will tell you that I'm kind of graceless. When I play soccer in gym class I tend to kick the ground and not the ball."

"Last year it was kind of a running joke that every episode they would give me something more to do," he continued. "First it was sprinting, then it was pushups, then it was skipping. They kept adding these physical elements. This year they took the joke to a whole other level. ... Physical acting is very different from like talking to someone across the table because you have to focus on what you're doing with your body while also maintaining your character, which is amazingly hard I found.

"I've learned a newfound respect for Noah and Will [Patton] and Colin [Cunningham] and Drew and all these people who do it constantly."

Jessup talked more about Ben, the new season, his favorite anime and how at 15, he became a movie producer. Read the Q&A after this clip of the first 3 minutes of "The Falling Skies" Season 2 premiere.

I’m loving Ben’s story for Season 2. Tell me about his journey since the first season.
Ben wasn’t rescued until halfway through Season 1. So most of the first season he was gone or he was just trying to kind of reacclimatize himself to life with his family and trying to understand how to come to grips in a very surface way with what had happened to him. He’s trying to understand the initial impact of being harnessed.

There's a three-month time gap between the first and second season and a lot has gone down in those three months. His dad’s been missing; he’s presumed dead. There have been some pretty hard battles. A lot of people we know have died. The 2nd Mass. has really been thinned out. And I think that changes people, especially young people, which I think is one of the more interesting [parts of the series].

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