Timeless interview - Season Pilot

I understand the rule that you can’t double back to a place you’ve always been. Does that give you another problem with the process of elimination? Eventually, they’ll have been to enough places you can’t revisit.

Ryan: That’s when the show ends. After 189 episodes.

Kripke: Look, if we were doing 1,000 episodes, maybe, but there’s enough historical periods that are fascinating.

Ryan: And they’re usually only in for a day or two.

Kripke: That we don’t foresee running into that problem.

Has costuming for each episode been a challenge?

Ryan: Yeah. First of all, it’s expensive to wardrobe not necessarily your main characters, but all the extras. When you have all the people out at the Hindenburg field or we have 100 audience members at Ford’s Theater. There’s a big street scene that we just filmed on Friday with all these people in 1865 Washington, D.C. It’s a challenge but it’s not an impossible one. It’s just a question of time and resources and will. We have the will. Sony and NBC have been great about giving us the resources and we’ve been vigilant about giving the production team time to do that. As for wardrobe for our main characters, that’s one of the fun things you get to play with each week, especially with Lucy, Abigail’s character. Abigail is in pig heaven each week figuring out these things that she gets to wear. We have a fun thing I don’t want to give away but in an early episode, the whole idea of we can’t just keep scrambling for outfits at the last minute each time. What are we going to do about this if these missions go on? We have some fun story stuff with that.

You invoked the name of Quantum Leap on the panel as a great example of a time travel show. What aspects of Quantum Leap do you see in Timeless?

Kripke: I think primarily in the way that Quantum Leap was fun. Especially at the time it was made, with a really unique focus on character. There was an incredible amount of heart on that show. There was an incredible amount of emotion in that show. We aim to capture all of that. I don’t know what law got passed over the last few years that said that all time travel shows have to be complete mindfucks. Time travel used to be fun. Back to the Future was fun. Quantum Leap was fun. They used to all have a lot of heart. Our goal is to very consciously return to that style of storytelling. There was a show that I used to love when I was a kid called Voyagers in which they traveled to a different time period every week. So to me, to do the sophisticated modern day version of a show like that was very appealing.

Quantum Leap changed history every week too.

Kripke: Well, Quantum Leap had a model in which he was basically God sent to places where history was wrong and he had to set right. Our guys have a more complicated journey which is they have to decide whether or not they should set things right.

Ryan: I would just add, what I always liked about Quantum Leap when I watched it was that each week he was a fish out of water. Now he’s a black female maid in the 1950s or this week he’s this and that week he’s that. He always had to adjust to the surroundings and that’s what our main three characters are doing each week. They find themselves having to adjust and improvise and think their way out of these situations.

Just to reiterate what he’s talking about, I’m partly to blame because I did The Shield. This movement towards TV being this dark thing with hugely damaged characters and pessimistic looks at society, certainly I did that for seven years. I’m very proud of that work but the only reason I ever made The Shield was because I’d spent the previous three years working on Nash Bridges which was so phony and light. Now to be able to make something, I think this is an optimistic show. There’s a lot of TV now that believes that in order to be good, you have to be pessimistic. I don’t believe that’s the case. We reference all the time these classic Spielberg movies and Michael Crichton stuff. Jurassic Park is ultimately, despite the Icarus-esque hubris of making dinosaurs, it’s ultimately an optimistic movie. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an optimistic movie. E.T. is an optimistic movie. I think there are ways to be entertaining, to be thoughtful, to go deep into the character and yet still be something optimistic.

I have a 16-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son and they love the show. You might say, “Well, they’re your kids.” They love to tear apart my shit. My son goes out of his way to find mean critic quotes about stuff. Just last night he was reading a list of like, “Yeah, Shield’s on the list of the best cop shows of the last 25 years but Criminal Minds is ahead of you.” All this sort of stuff but they both legitimately like it.

I want the show to be inclusive and welcome everyone. That’s why you make a big show on NBC that airs after The Voice because everyone’s invited. There’s a place for the FX and AMC and Showtime/HBO shows that dive into the darkness but to me, if you’re going to make a show on NBC, make it with some hope. Make it fun. Make it an adventure that each week you’re excited and thrilled to come to. TV is a big wide canvas and to me, that part of the canvas has been abandoned and ignored in recent years to networks’ detriment. Hopefully audiences will respond to it.


Timeless airs Mondays at 10PM on NBC.

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