Colin Cunningham is no stranger to science-fiction.
The American actor has enjoyed roles on such shows as The Outer Limits, The X-Files and Andromeda. But Colin is arguably best known for his recurring role of Major Davis on Stargate SG-1, a part he played between 1999 and 2005.
More recently, Colin Cunningham has been starring on TNT’s science fiction series Falling Skies, which hails from Steven Spielberg and Robert Rodat. The drama, which explores humanity’s struggle for survival amidst an alien invasion, returns for its 12 episode fourth season tonight (July 15th) on FOX UK.
TVWise recently sat down with Colin to discuss his Falling Skies character John Pope, Pope’s relationship with Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and Dan Weaver (Will Patton), what fans can expect from season four and much more.
WARNING – The following interview contains spoilers that some readers may wish to avoid.
TVWise: Pope is one of the most layered roles on television today, what is it like to play such a complex character?
Colin Cunningham: It’s awesome. I have the best part on television right now. I love to disappear in a character. All of my favorite actors are guys who would shape shift and change; you wouldn’t recognize them from one role to another. When I am acting, I get to look like different people and for me, that’s what it’s all about. The great thing about Falling Skies is that I didn’t have to play a cookie cutter character and the writers let me play. Sometimes I can go off script a little bit and they let me do it. The character is so well defined on the page that sometimes I step over the edges a little bit and they allow me to do that, which lets me really make Pope mine. I tip my hat to the show for having the confidence in me to do what I do.
TVWise: Pope’s relationship with Weaver has evolved over the years. Last season, it seemed that, although Weaver still didn’t trust Pope, he started to think that he was right about certain things…
Colin Cunningham: I’m really glad they did that in season three because war does create strange bedfellows. Someone you may have been at odds with in civilian life or just the other day… all of a sudden, you have to work with them. It was interesting after three years that the stuff Pope was saying was finally starting to get through to Weaver a little bit. Although Pope does have his faults, he always speaks the truth even though it may not always be a comfortable thing to hear. That’s the interesting dynamic with the show and the Mason character and Weaver; you are trying to protect those that you love but sometimes it will put other people at risk. What do you do? It’s very interesting.
TVWise: Do you think that in order to truly survive the sort of situation we see in Fallings Skies that you need someone like Pope in leadership rather than a Tom Mason?
Colin Cunningham: Yes and no. If you go down Pope’s road too much, you will lose the humanity. Pope is very pragmatic and logical and he can turn people into numbers and stats. Mason is definitely the anchor to goodness, hope and love because he has his family. Pope doesn’t have any of that stuff so he can think very logically because he doesn’t have to worry about his kids being blown away. So, that’s the interesting dynamic in terms of him speaking the truth, but at what cost. If we lose our humanity while trying to survive then what are we surviving for and what are we becoming.
TVWise: You have some intense scenes with Noah Wyle, what’s it like working with him?
Colin Cunningham: No disrespect to the other cast members, but Noah is my favourite actor to work with. I’ve often said that you have some leading men who don’t want anyone else to shine but them. Noah is about the scene, he’s about the show and it’s not about him. As an actor, he’s one of the most generous actors you’ll work with because he wants you to do well. If I shine a little bit more today or tomorrow instead of Noah, it’s ok because it will all come out in the mix. If anything, in season four I wish there were more scenes with myself and Noah, but the interesting thing this year is that the cast is very fragmented. Everybody has been split up and if anything, they’ve been stripped of their comfort zones. Pope had his Berserkers for a while and most of them have died or are gone. So, Pope has to really fend for himself and really doesn’t have anyone to help him out. It’s a real interesting dynamic that we will see play out this season.
TVWise: In season three, we saw Pope stripped of his power. Do you think we’ll see him attempting to regain some of that in season four?
Colin Cunningham: Definitely, that is what Pope is about, whether or not he’s successful at it, is to be determined. The interesting thing that they’ve done with season four is they have thrown in a love interest. So now Pope isn’t entirely out for himself. The strength of Pope is that he’s not encumbered by a kid or a girlfriend, but they introduce Mira Sorvino’s character Sarah this year. All of a sudden you begin to see the cracks in Pope a little bit and he now has a vested interest in something other than himself and that creates an interesting dynamic.
TVWise: Pope could easily leave the 2nd Mass at any time. Why do you think he continues to stay even though he constantly butts heads with Tom and Weaver?
Colin Cunningham: I’ve had to ask myself that question as well. I think at the end of the day, he needs people. If anything, in order to rebel you have to have something to rebel against. If you cut that thing away, you’ve lost your identity. It’s hard to complain when you take away all the reasons why you are complaining. In many ways, he does care about these people. Maybe not at the beginning, I think he had more political reasons to stay and attain power and get more for himself. By being around these people so long and seeing them live, lose, sacrifice and suffer; I think he does have a bit of a soft spot for the 2nd Mass even though he probably wouldn’t admit it.
TVWise: If and when this war is over, do you think Pope and the rest of the 2nd mass will be able to go back to a “normal” life?
Colin Cunningham: No, I don’t think so. From what little I know of the horrors of war – which is nothing because I play a character on a TV show, I wouldn’t know the first thing about going into combat. I can only assume that it would change you forever. It will wreck you and you can never go back to the way it used to be. My heart goes out to the women and men who come back with PTSD. I hope and pray that they are able to live some kind of normal life after witnessing the worst that human beings can do. So, I don’t think any of the people on the show would go back to their little towns. I think they are fundamentally changed forever.
TVWise: What can fans look forward to in season four of Falling Skies?
Colin Cunningham: More of what they watch the show for and hopefully a few surprises along the way that should shock and provoke. Tom Mason’s daughter Lexi has grown up, so she’s really something to contend with now. That is definitely focused on this season. She becomes a real threat, so much so that Pope’s ambition is to take this kid out. Lexi is Mason’s blood, so he’s caught between seeing the logic of how dangerous this young girl could become and the fact that it’s his own flesh and blood. Pope only sees her as an absolute threat and he’s going to try and take her out any chance he can get. This creates a wonderful dramatic dynamic this season.
Colin Cunningham stars as John Pope in Falling Skies Season 4 which premieres on FOX UK on Tuesday July 15th at 9pm.