TV preview: 12 Monkeys, SyFy
New television series inspired by Terry Gilliam's dark time travel feature film, starring Amanda Schull and Aaron Stanford
Terry Gilliam's grimy twisty turny sci-fi 12 Monkeys (1995) has been transformed into a TV series. The basic set up is the same as James Cole is sent back in time in a bid to save the world from an extinction level virus. Aaron Stanford (probably most famous as Pyro in the X-Men movies) steps into Bruce Willis' shoes as damaged time traveller Cole who jumps from 2043 to 2013 seeking help from Doctor Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull).
'She is very accomplished in her field and her specialism is disease containment,' explains Schull. 'She has a very comfortable life and a wonderful partner but Cole upsets her entire world.' Much like Gilliam's film there are darker forces at work. 'At first she's very suspicious of Cole but he is able to convince her and she begins to realise that there are several groups behind the plague. There are so many different conspiracies and agendas working against her and her mission.'
The movie is just the jumping off point, more of an inspiration rather than a direct remake. 'It's only the first episode that is most similar to the film before we head off on our own journey,' adds Schull. The cast and crew (including Chuck Roven who also produced the original film and showrunner Natalie Chaidez who worked on V and Heroes) wanted to take the premise in a new direction. 'I had seen the film but several years prior. I purposefully chose not to rewatch it before shooting the pilot because I didn't want it to affect my performance because we're not remaking it. I'm not playing Madeline Stowe's character and I didn't want to imitate what she did. So I waited until we'd shot the pilot to rewatch it again, then I rewatched it several times. It's really interesting because we have a number of nods to the film throughout the season, just little tiny Easter eggs for the fans.'
Schull has appeared in a few genre shows before (including Grimm and The Ghost Whisperer) but is probably better known for playing Katrina Bennett in comedy drama Suits. 'I hadn't done much science fiction,' says Schull. 'It can be quite intimidating because the special effects are often added later so much of the world has to be based on imagination rather than real interactions you can pull from. And I've also come to realise how seriously sci-fi fans take everything,' she laughs.
There seems to be a trend for taking much loved films and repurposing them for television. The recent Fargo was far better than anyone could have imagined while Dusk Til Dawn was trashy but kinda entertaining and coming soon we have Westworld at HBO, MTV's take of Wes Craven's slasher on Scream, with Minority Report, Limitless, Shutter Island, Resident Evil and even Marley & Me in various stages of development.
Schull is hoping 12 Monkeys can tap into the movie's core audience before expanding the story. And she sees potential for the show to grow even further. 'We would love the series to go for a few seasons, I love my character and I find the writing so smart. They have written this woman who evolves over the course of the series and if we're able to do more she'll grow even further.'
12 Monkeys premieres on SyFy, Fri 27 Feb.