TV Squad

The Visitors are back, and they don’t come in peace. After seven months away from our screens, ABC’s ‘V’ returns with a vengeance tonight to begin its long-awaited second season, and judging by the first few episodes, it certainly intends to make up for lost time.

TV Squad was among a select group of journalists invited up to the set of the Vancouver-based series last September, and we have plenty of juicy scoop to whet your appetite for the new season before it premieres tonight.

Join us after the jump to get your ‘V’ fix — it’s far more tasty than eating a rat, we promise.

In case you need a refresher course, the show — a reimagining of the 1983 miniseries of the same name — began with the arrival of a (seemingly peaceful) contingent of alien visitors to Earth, and humanity’s subsequent reaction to the event.

Some folks welcomed the technologically advanced beings with open arms; some were skeptical; and some, such as a rebellious group known as the Fifth Column, did the smart thing and set out to destroy our scaly extraterrestrial interlopers, who turned out to be far more nasty (and far less attractive) than they first appeared.

As well as boasting impressive special effects and more betrayals and backstabbings than you can shake a tail at, ‘V’ also features one of the strongest ensemble casts of 2011. During our visit to the sprawling set, we had the opportunity to talk with stars Elizabeth Mitchell, Laura Vandervoort, Scott Wolf, Logan Huffman, Charles Mesure and the legendary Jane Badler (star of the original ‘V’ miniseries).

We were also able to observe Morena Baccarin (who plays the icy Visitor queen Anna) and Morris Chestnut (alien defector Ryan) filming a scene on a gigantic green-screen soundstage that doubled as the Visitors’ mothership, but didn’t quite manage to squeeze in a conversation.

The ever-convivial Mitchell stopped by the set on her day off to share a little about her character’s development in the second season. As FBI agent and single mother Erica Evans, Mitchell is the emotional linchpin of a much larger story, acting as an officially sanctioned protector for Anna whilst simultaneously trying to bring the aliens down through her involvement with the anti-Visitor group, the Fifth Column.

Fans may remember that last season ended with a literal bang, when Erica and her allies made a very decisive move against Anna and the Visitors. “I destroyed all of her babies. That tends to get to a mother,” Mitchell pointed out wryly. “She doesn’t seem to suspect me yet. Not even where we are so far [shooting episode 4]. But I think that if I keep making such bold moves, she’ll figure it out…”

But Anna’s unborn offspring should be the least of her worries, since Erica will also be growing closer to the queen’s fully grown spawn, Lisa (‘Smallville’ alum Laura Vandervoort).

“Lisa’s going to the human side,” Vandervoort confirmed. “She’s realized that the V’s aren’t quite what they appear to be and that her mother is actually evil… And the motherly instinct that Erica’s shown to her, she’s loving the emotions. She’s never had that before.”

We’d call that the understatement of the year — last season, we witnessed the terrifying lengths that Anna would go to in order to manipulate the humans, even to the detriment of her daughter.

“With Anna as her mother, I feel like I win. I’m like, ‘I’m not going to hit you across the head and break your legs, so we’re good!’” Mitchell laughed, before admitting that, while Anna may not be winning any mother of the year awards, Erica will be making a lot of mistakes with her own argumentative son, Tyler (Logan Huffman), which will push him right into Anna’s waiting arms in return.

“Sometimes I can reel him back in, I’m doing everything I can. I use every tool that I have to get him back, so hopefully that works. It didn’t work so well with Anakin [Skywalker]…” Mitchell ominously mused.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, however, and Huffman was happy to share a little of the motivation behind his character’s decisions this season, even if he hasn’t quite reached Darth Vader levels of betrayal just yet. “I think for the first time, you see justification for Tyler running the opposite direction from his mother,” he told us. “She makes bad moves this season, and I think that’s what’s making him stray away even more.”

It doesn’t help that Tyler views Anna as “a goddess,” in Huffman’s words, and that the usually reticent queen seems overly eager to bring the troubled teenager into her confidence. In fact, Huffman revealed, Anna’s “whole plan might rely on Tyler … I don’t know how much I can tell you, but there’s something different about Tyler that makes him very, very usable for the V’s. So, Anna needs him to be safe. Anna needs him to be protected.”

This may tie into a shocking revelation that Erica discovers within the first couple of episodes of the new season, but to say more would be to risk Anna’s wrath …

For now, though, Anna’s wrath is firmly directed at the enigmatic figure of her mother, Diana (Jane Badler), whom we meet in the season premiere.

Although Badler’s character in ‘V’ shares a name with the character she played in the original miniseries, the new role is more of an homage to that incarnation, not a recreation. This version of Diana is a deposed queen who has been overthrown by her daughter, Anna, and held in captivity for fifteen years. So, understandably, there’s no love lost between the pair, which offers a delicious new dynamic for Badler to play with Baccarin.

“Your mother always has a particular power over you,” Badler pointed out. “No matter what [Anna] might do to me, I am equally as powerful and strong. And that’s great, for her to have that [opposition]. Because we’re not humans, there’s a great control. Waiting for the right moment to attack. And even though it’s been fifteen years in captivity — which for me, would seem like a lifetime — for her, her patience is beyond anything.”

Badler hinted that although her new character is “not necessarily a villain,” she also wouldn’t shy away from things that “might seem cold-blooded.” The veteran sci-fi actress also teased that Diana’s plans might involve her granddaughter, Lisa, but wouldn’t reveal more than that.

One of the first season’s most intriguing — and infuriating — aspects was the suggestion that no-one was ever who they appeared to be, and that our heroes (if they were heroes at all) rarely knew who to trust.

No character had to walk that tightrope more delicately than journalist Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), who barely seemed to know which side he was on himself, most of the time. After initially deciding that a professional alliance with Anna could prove beneficial to his career, by the end of the last season, Chad had made some startling discoveries that may have shed some light on the Visitors’ true, nefarious purposes for being on Earth.

When we sat down with Wolf, he was able to give some insight on his character’s allegiances at the start of season two. Sort of. “Chad is trying to save his ass,” Wolf admitted with a chuckle. “It’s pretty much the driving force behind most everything he’s doing. I think he has gotten himself in way over his head. Whereas before, we’ve seen him kind of doing this dance in the middle and waiting to see which was the better team to pick, we now see a guy who is going to pick a side, and ultimately knows that the key to his survival is staying in good graces with Anna.”

Wolf was quick to acknowledge that last season, Chad was acting as a somewhat “villainous” character in his own right, since he was enabling many of Anna’s schemes, but said that he was interested to see how the audience would respond to his change of heart.

“Chad’s first step at some sort of redemption comes through Father Jack (Joel Gretsch). He’s the best ‘out’ that I think Chad has, to [make] up for some of the mistakes that he’s made,” Wolf observed philosophically. “With Jack, there are these two men who see something in each other, believe something about each other, but they don’t fully trust each other. They don’t know if the other person’s going to ultimately hurt them. They want to believe in each other, so I love what their relationship represents in the story, and it does continue to progress. It doesn’t get easy right away.”

Although it sounds as though Chad and Father Jack have the makings of a fine bromance brewing, we couldn’t help but wonder whether there would be any actual romance brewing between our favorite holy man and a certain single federal agent ..

“I love the idea of both Father Jack and Hobbes (Charles Mesure), I do,” Mitchell conceded, when we put the question to her. “I love Father Jack because he’s the best of all of us, to me, anyway. With the way that he is, and who he is, and maybe it’s just the fact that Joel is so lovely. But you know, Charlie is smokin’ hot, so I feel like there’s that. And he’s the bad boy, which is always enticing. I just would want to make it real. I mean, he is a mercenary who kills innocents on occasion; I feel like maybe that might be a little bit of an obstacle … “

When we caught up with Mesure himself, however, the physically imposing (but equally charming) actor told us of another obstacle standing between Erica and Hobbes; a mystery woman named Sarah, who became a target for the Visitors at the end of last season.

“She’s someone very important to him, so when Marcus says ‘we can get to Sarah,’ he’s got a lot of leverage over Hobbes,” Mesure revealed. “So now he’s caught right in the middle. He wants to be 100 percent behind the Resistance and Erica and those guys, but Marcus and the V’s have a lot of leverage over him now … He’s trying to do the right thing by everyone, and he’s trying to support the Resistance, but he’s trying to keep Sarah alive. So there will be some shady dealings going on.”

We were always Team Jack, anyway.

During our tour of the set, we had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with ‘V’ executive producer Steve Pearlman, who was happy to share a number of spoilery nuggets with us:

– The “driving force” of the first half of the season will be the repercussions that stem from Anna releasing the red sky ahead of schedule. “When you initiate something earlier than you intend to, things will go wrong. She didn’t wait; she blew it, kind of,” Pearlman teased.
– Anna’s itchy trigger finger will apparently also cause some dissent amongst the ranks of the 28 captains from the other ships, as well as from Anna’s right hand man, Marcus, who will begin to question her leadership skills.
– This season, we will start to see the “global impact of the Visitors”. There will be episodes that take place in Rome and in Tokyo.
– The ranks of the Fifth Column will be expanded. Oded Fehr will join the cast for a three-episode stint as a member of a radical Fifth Column cell. ‘Reaper’ star Brett Harrison will appear early in the season as Dr. Sid Miller, an evolutionary biologist who can shed some light onto the genetic makeup of the Visitors.
– Episode 4 will introduce a new partner for Erica, played by Jay Karnes. He will thankfully not be a V. The two share a close past, and, as Pearlman explained, “they can sense when the other is lying, and obviously, Erica is hiding a big secret, so that’s something that she’s got to be very protective of, with this new partner.”

Though ‘V’ is at a distinct disadvantage, having been absent from our screens and from viewers’ minds for the better part of a year, the second season looks set to confidently improve on the solid groundwork already laid by the first season.

The storylines are tense and move along at a rapid pace, keeping viewers guessing without ever allowing them time to grow restless, and with the promise of expanded scope and fresh faces to open up the show’s universe, ‘V’ could easily become the kind of appointment viewing that ABC always intended it to be.

The second season of ‘V’ begins Tue., Jan. 4 at 9PM on ABC. Will you be watching?

Source: TV SQUAD