Drew Roy's Hal Mason ended Season 2 of TNT's alien invasion drama "Falling Skies" with an evil smile on his face after an alien creature crawled into his ear and took control of the freedom fighter.
It was a cunning smirk I suggest few knew the always pleasant Roy could produce.
"Probably my sister knew," the 27-year-old recently told me, laughing. "My mom probably knows."
That evil smile returns to Hal's face in Season 3, which launched with back-to-back episodes Sunday on TNT, but not before Hal faces some extremely difficult days and even more frightening nights. (Spoilers ahead if you haven't watched the premiere!)
That nasty earworm sets Hal on a darker path this season that includes the paralysis revealed in the premiere, which is set about seven months after Season 2 ended. In the season's backstory, Roy said, Hal had originally been unable to move at all, but through rehab has gained control of his body from the waist up.
"We open up seeing Hal in that first scene when he needs help to get out of the Hummer," Roy said. "And all looks well with Hal. He's laughing and carrying on. He's flirting with Maggie. I chose to play it that when [Hal] was out in the public he made everything seem like it was all good ... It wasn't until he was behind closed doors and with Maggie that you see the frustration and the confusion going on.
"That was such a fun thing to get to do, to find those moments."
Hal is the third Mason to be infected by alien technology. Brother Ben (Connor Jessup) was taken by the aliens in Season 1 and harnessed to be an alien slave before he was saved. In Season 2 an alien eyeworm briefly infected their father Tom (Noah Wyle) before being removed.
Hal doesn't have it as easy as Tom did. Not only has the earworm disrupted his mobility, it's also controlling him. And although he suspects the aliens have done something to him, he can't stop their control over him.
"It's like he's this sleeper cell that the aliens can use anytime they need, but he's aware that something is not quite right," he said.
For Roy, it's been a treat to go from heroic Hal to "evil Hal," as he was called on the set during filming.
"It's fun to be able to walk on that dark side," he said. "So I feel like I have the absolute best of both worlds. I'm the guy that shoots the gun, that rides the dirt bike, that saves the girl and gets to play bad."
Roy talked more about playing evil Hal, his research on paralysis and getting all the girls (in the show).
Let's talk about where Hal is at the beginning of the season.
OK. Well we had the bug go into Hal's ear last year. We've seen a bug go into an eye before. So the fact that it was going into his ear, we weren't sure where that was going to take the character. Actually the writers knew we could do all sorts of cool, interesting things with it, but when we actually shot that scene we didn't know where it was going to go.
It wasn't until the following summer when we were down at Comicon that Remi Aubuchon, who is our show runner, took me aside and he said, "Hey, I've got some ideas of what this is gonna actually look like for the character—how it's going to play out." And that's when he told me about the idea of the paralysis and that Hal, when he woke up from that coma or whatever had knocked him out, was fully paralyzed and through rehab slowly has gotten [back] basically all the mobility from his torso up.
And he's still having to deal with his legs being paralyzed. And it was an interesting thing to play because Hal is such a physical, active guy that to literally have his legs taken out from under him was going to cause some trouble.
What was most challenging or interesting about the wheelchair and not being able to use your legs?
I decided to just buy a wheelchair here in Los Angeles and wheel around in it and sort of get familiar with it. And then once we got out to Vancouver they wanted to put me in a sportier wheelchair so that I could get around and it sort of made more sense for Hal and who he actually is. I got this new wheelchair but I only had a day or two in it before we started filming.
And, of course, the first scene I film of this year is the one where they take me out of the Hummer and I then I hop in the wheelchair and I do a 360 and I say, "I'm mobile boys." And they wanted me to do a 360 in it. And I was like, "I'm going to get this down, but why would you make me do that on the first day, on gravel, on an incline?" [Laughs.]
How many takes was that?
I nailed it every take. [Laughs.] I was just frustrated because I look at it now and I can see that my wheels touch every now and then. It's smooth, but by the end of that first week, the entire day if I chose to I could have just stayed on the back two wheels. I had gotten so good at it. It was great to have a chair for you whenever you needed it wherever on set. [Laughs.] Some of the actors looked a little jealous that; I just get to sit down whenever I wanted and wheel around.
There are scenes where you get out of bed. Was it hard for you not to just swing your legs and move like normal? It's such a reflex move.
Right. That's one of those fun things to do as an actor. Anything you have to do—move around or communicate or anything—differently sort of helps you fall into that character. I actually wanted to take it quite seriously, the paralysis aspect, because there are so many people out there who live with that every day and have a true paralysis.
I went to a couple of places out here that specialize in spinal cord injuries. And I really got to learn a lot working with the different trainers and physical therapists and talking with patients. There's this one guy who'd been shot ... but it was a partial paralysis. He could kind of move his legs and through rehab he was slowly regaining that ability. And he was showing me, a guy who can walk, how to look like I can't walk. He was a super cool guy who's name was Vince. And we just laughed at the absurdity of it all.
He let me video him and I used a lot of his movements in those scenes that come later when I am going through physical therapy and I'm on the two Lofstrand crutches ... That kind of stuff, I always feel like it's the actor's responsibility to not look like a joke. Don't come on screen and play something like that and everybody go, "That's an actor. I'm not buying that."
Walking with the Lofstrands was definitely harder than the scenes of not moving my legs. But it's all so disciplined and focused; it was something worth working toward that I feel like it had a nice payoff.
Evil Hal or not, you still get to kiss both girls this season.
Yep. And if any other ones come they'll probably have a thing for Hal. [Laughs.] It seems to be the way that they go, which can be a little silly but I'm not complaining.
Let's talk about those two girls. Hal and Maggie (Sarah Carter) have sort of skipped the honeymoon part and gone right into the nagging boyfriend-girlfriend.
We're exactly like that. We missed the honeymoon and we went right to being 70-, 80-year-old married couple because I can't take care of myself. ... We wanted to also incorporate just into our own work the fact that there were a lot of things that Hal can't do on his own now and Maggie had to be there to help him. And so she's seeing a side of Hal that she didn't sign up for but yet she's there out of love.
And she actually found this very interesting thing to play that because of Maggie's past and the abuse that it looks like happened while she was with Pope's gang and particularly Pope's brother, that the fact that we don't have this physical love side might actually be easier for her because that's sort of a touchy subject in her character.
And I really feel like that was a good explanation of why she stuck around and helped Hal. And even when Hal's getting frustrated on his own and sort of taking it out on her, she's still there for him. It just shows the odd connection between those two characters who come from such different places but have found this middle ground that really works.
Right. And then there's Karen (Jessy Schram).
Oh, Karen. She's got all this alien stuff going on but yet she still needs a little Hal in her life. [Laughs.] I thought that those scenes where Hal feels like he's dreaming yet it's real, that that was such a creepy, interesting thing. And now that Karen is the head alien that they left her in charge yet she still has this thing for Hal. At first I thought, "How does that make any sense?" And then I thought that's really cool because that shows that she still has a little humanity in her. I think that's why Hal gets so caught up in the two girls; he's always going to hold on to the fact that maybe he can save her. So even when she's doing the most horrible things I think there's still a little Karen in there. And that causes some trouble later on.
You think Karen really still does have feelings for him and she's not just using him?
I think that he can't help but to think that. I've always played Karen as the first girl that Hal ever fell in love with. And it was such a deep falling in love because they had to have each other's back out there on the scouting missions. And I felt like it really amplified things and the guilt that comes from losing her right there under his nose. ... He wasn't able to save her and I think that always really resonates with Hal and it's really been a big influence on how he deals with a lot of things.
There was definitely a moment in the second season when she comes back and it's snowing and it looks like she's turned into the ice princess, we joke. And she's just as ruthless as can be and is claiming she's going to kill us all. That was one of the moments that I think Hal decided, "No, she's not in there." But every now and then something will happen and just kind of makes him a little curious as to why somebody with that kind of power still would have that kind of a desire for a human.
It looks like they've amped up the action a lot more this season.
Yeah. That opening sequence is pretty large in scope. Skitters coming running over the hill and jumping down and big battles and the new Mega Mechs coming up. Shooting that scene was one of the most fun things I've done in a long time.
Being up on that Hummer shooting those two 50-caliber machine guns and having explosions going off all around you in this gorgeous canyon. You can't see it in the shot but you could see water all around. There were these giant mountains and it was just like playing cowboys and Indians when you were a kid, except for you had real guns and explosions.
That was up around Vancouver, right?
That was halfway up—if you were going up to Whistler that—the town right before you hang a right and cruise up to Whistler. There's a giant mountain there called Big Chief, I believe, and it's known for people who rock climb to go up this sheer, huge face of a rock that has an amazing view.
When you guys are doing things like that there are actually explosions going off and everything, right? That's not all added later is it?
Oh yeah, definitely. That's one of the reasons we had to shoot way out there. It was about an hour-and-a-half or so outside of downtown Vancouver. We were using so much firepower and whatnot that we needed a location that was a little less crowded. I forget what movie it was, but they shot in downtown Vancouver 10 or so years ago and used all kinds of explosions and full load dummy rounds. it caused such a terror in the town that now it's really hard to be able to film in the downtown area because it scared so many people to death. [Laughs.]
Right. Like they didn't get the word.
Yeah, they were like there's a war that's broken out and it's going on right there. [Laughs.]
How happy are you about being on this show?
Oh my gosh. It's absolutely fantastic. I have other buddies that are on like the major network shows that shoot 22, 24 episodes. And sometimes you look at that and you think, "Oh, that would be cool to be able to work for that long." But I've got to say, shooting these small seasons, it keeps the storytelling interesting. You aren't known just for that role. I very easily can walk into other auditions. And they love the fact that you work but you're not known as only Hal.
I think it also helps relieve some of the stress and tension of having to shoot such a long series. We get in, we have a great time, every episode's loaded with all kinds of drama and action and we shoot 10 and we're done. And the fact that it's done by someone of the caliber of Steven Spielberg, who has his fingerprints all over it, really makes it feel cinematic. And the sets we've worked on are just unbelievable.
I think each season sort of has just gone a little bit bigger and the stories have gotten a little deeper.
A lot of people have warned me of the third season lull, that a lot of shows have a little trouble in the third season. And I think we somehow just skipped right on past that. I think a third season, I'm pretty certain it's going to be my favorite. Just the story, because we're so drawn in by the characters now and know them so well, I just feel like there's so many twists and turns going on this season that has you guessing every episode.
How much more did you have to work out before this season? They've got you shirtless all the time this season.
I didn't know that they were going to make me take my shirt off this much this season, but I had a feeling. It was one of those things that I just thought, "You know what? In this time off why don't you go to the gym a little bit?" And thank goodness I did because they had me taking that shirt off left and right. I'm a skinny guy, so to keep weight on is incredibly hard for me. I put on about 15 pounds for this season and by the end of the show I'd lost all of it. And I was so heartbroken.
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