The Masons, played by Drew Roy (from left), Connor Jessup, Maxim Knight… (TNT )
Connor Jessup has grown up a lot in the last year, both on and off the set of TNT's alien invasion hit "Falling Skies." His recent travel itinerary proves the point.
Jessup spent 2 1/2 months of his spring backpacking through Europe with a friend before heading, alone, to Korea and Japan. That's quite the solo trip for an 18-year-old who finished high school just a year ago as his series was beginning its second season.
"I hadn't really had the sort of wonderful chemistry of free time plus no school. So I decided to take advantage of it," said the Canadian, who turned 19 on June 23. "Japan is my favorite country in the world. I came here for a while a couple of years ago and fell in love. So this country's the best. I'm so happy to be back."
Having been on the road so long, Jessup has had to view reactions to the show's third season from afar. But they've been positive for the show and for his character, Ben Mason, the middle son of Noah Wyle's Tom Mason, who leads the human resistance against alien invaders known as the Espheni, whose foot soldiers are called skitters.
Ben, like the actor who plays him, has grown since the first season. A former harnessed captive of the aliens whose ordeal has given him physical advantages over humans and the ability to communicate with the aliens, Ben has become a translator for a group of rebel skitters and, on the family side, a supportive older brother to young Matt (Maxim Knight).
"He still wears a lot of black, but he's not so much of a tortured soul anymore," Jessup said of Ben, who has befriended other former captives like himself. "I don't feel as alone, as ostracized or as isolated, which was a big part of my negative feelings in Season 2. We've become extremely helpful. We do jobs and missions and elements of missions that other people physically can't do. So we're kind of an invaluable asset to the Second Mass."
As for Ben's relationship with Matt, Jessup believes Ben can help his little brother because they face similar issues: They both want to be assets as fighters for the resistance. Many in the Second Mass. remain suspicious of Ben and his harness spikes, while Matt's age often keeps him from battle.
"I've always found [Matt's] story, or at least the story of the child soldiers, to be particularly fascinating since the very beginning of the show because it begs the question: Where do we draw the line?" Jessup said. "How young is too young to fight and how young is too young to sacrifice? Because he wants to fight but he's still a kid. So at the same time we're short on manpower. It's a hard world to live in … and Matt just sort of provides an immediate, intimate example of that."
Jessup, who chatted by phone last month from an airport in Osaka, Japan, talked more about Ben's relationship with Matt, guest stars and just how long he's willing to play Ben Mason. (He filmed the pilot when he was 15 years old.)
You must be in heaven. I know that you like manga a lot, and Japan is home to manga.
Yes, I do. I love everything about Japan. It kind of does it for me. I really dig this country. Yeah, I could talk about this for a while.
You missed the big "Falling Skies" premiere.
Yes. It happened while I was sleeping and I woke up to all the people talking about it.
So is it weird to be away while this is happening or not really that much.
It is. Usually I've been in L.A. actually ... for the premiere with my other cast mates. So it definitely felt more immediate and it felt more like an event, you know? For the most part nobody in Japan or Korea knows about the show, so you're sort of distanced from it both literally and mentally. So it felt different than previous seasons but it is fun to kind of see everything stream in from afar.
While you were on your trip did you get recognized?
A couple times actually. Surprisingly, apparently the show's quite popular in Korea which ... which surprised me. A couple other times along the way but in a lot of these countries the show has only aired the first season or maybe a little bit into the second season. And I look quite a bit different than I did in the first season. So that's my excuse at least. That's how my ego deals with it.
Well, you have grown a lot, that's true, since the first season.
Yeah, I started it when I was 15 I want to say or, yeah, 15 when I did the pilot for the show. It's been a significant portion of my formative years spent on the show.
But you're still loving it, right?
Oh yeah. You know and every season's different. Both for my character and in general. It's great; I hope we run for many, many, many seasons. I'm not ready to be done quite yet.
Good. You're ready to grow all the way up on the show.
Exactly, yeah. I'm not gonna be happy until that happens.