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Rob Hall

Rob Hall & Thomas Dekker - "Terminator : The Sarah Connor Chronicles" Tv Series - Ign.com Interview

Thursday 11 October 2007, by Webmaster

On the Set of the Terminator TV Show

We talk to the stars and creators of the upcoming FOX series about the return of Sarah and John Connor.

October 10, 2007 - Lorelei and Rory Gilmore better watch out, because their town has been overrun with Terminators! No, there won’t be an actual onscreen Gilmore Girls / Terminator crossover (at least that we know of), but on the famous Warner Bros backlot, the area that was used for seven years as Stars Hollow on the new defunct WB/CW series has become the home to FOX’s upcoming Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The new TV series follows the adventures of Sarah Connor (300’s Lena Heady) and her teenage son John (Heroes’ Thomas Dekker), picking up with them a couple of years after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and creating a new continuity for Sarah than the one revealed in Terminator 3. Sarah and John learn that there are still many threats they have to deal with, and gain an important new ally along the way to help them — a female Terminator named Cameron (Firefly’s Summer Glau), who is posing as a teenage classmate of John’s. The pilot is a big one, filled with action and effects, and has a very interesting ending that upends Sarah and John’s dynamic in a big way.

After seeing the exterior sets of the neighborhood John and Sarah live in, we paid a visit to the makeup trailer, where one of the visiting Web journalists in our group would get to be made up in Terminator "battle damage" makeup. The lucky recipient was Daniel from thetvaddict.com, and the rest of us looked on as special makeup designer Rob Hall transformed Daniel, giving him the bullet wounds and torn away skin — complete with gleaming metal beneath — that would make him a Terminator.

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Rob Hall
Hall has an incredibly impressive list of credits, including the Joss Whedon trifecta of Buffy, Angel and Firefly. As Hall worked on Daniel, he discussed his excitement over working on Terminator, saying that he didn’t need to go back and watch the films again when he got the job because "They’re in my CPU unit. I think all of us that are our age and especially people that love this kind of cinema are all huge fans of Terminator. I’ve never met anyone who’s like ’Terminator? I don’t like those movies.’ Everybody loves the franchise. It’s absolutely a dream job." While Hall has mainly worked on films since the end of Angel, he said the offer to work on The Sarah Connor Chronicles was "something you can’t pass up."

Hall said that due to the nature of her character, Glau is the person he works with the most on the show. Nearly ever episode "she has some kind of fighting to do" he noted. While he previously worked with Glau on Firefly, her part on that series didn’t require much special makeup, causing Hall to quip "I didn’t torture her on Firefly. I got to torture her on this."

It was amazing to see how quickly he was able to give Daniel a realistic looking makeup application, which included bullet holes on his face. Hall explained "These are these little tattoo transfers we came up with. They’re three dimensional, so they’re actually raised bullet wounds but we have them on tattoo transfer paper. They’re actually made out of adhesive so they go on really fast. On the field you can be out on set and David Nutter [who directed the pilot] can go ’Give me some more bullet wounds on the back of his neck!’ and you go ’Okay!’ They’re really, really quick. We came up with them for this show."

Hall admitted it was a bit daunting working on a project with Terminator in the title, saying "You’re going into a show that is known for having like the best special effects ever, both in makeup and visuals and every kind. Yet, you have to do it on a TV budget and schedule, but it has to look just as good! It’s pretty challenging." Hall said the trick was "trying not to bite off more than you can chew. Trying to keep it really basic," and explained how he makes sure that he knows what the camera will capture in order to not waste time working on a certain portion of something that will never make it on screen.

With Daniel looking damn cool with his Terminator makeup completed, we then went inside the set for Sarah and John’s house. Unlike many backlot sets, the same house used for the exterior shots is also used for the interiors, giving it a much more realistic feeling than the sets for homes used on many other shows, which are inside large soundstages.

As he took a break film filming, we were able to speak to Thomas Dekker for a bit about his role as John Connor, who joked "The whole show is just us sitting on the couch, opening up." More seriously, Dekker said he’d done "a lot" of action scenes filming the Terminator, especially in the pilot, enthusiastically recalling that while filming it "We were all hurt, repeatedly. There were only two stunts in the pilot I didn’t do. Most of us did our own stuff, most of the time. I got shot in the back with flying metal, and cut my leg going over a table, that kind of stuff. I like it though. They’re battle scars."

Asked how John reacts knowing that Cameron is a Terminator, Dekker said "In the first episode it’s a shock. He really likes her and it’s a bummer, you know. It really sucks when you like a girl and it turns out she’s a robot! I can tell you, I know. I think the way I feel about it now is John has grown up with these things so much; his life is so predicated on this that I don’t think he’s constantly thinking ’She’s a robot, she’s a robot, she’s a robot.’ He just thinks of her as Cameron and is almost kind of amused now by how much he has to teach her. There’s a lot of humor in the show, which was present in the films but not to a huge extent. A lot of the humor arises out of Cameron just not understanding the ways of society and having a very cut and dry approach, and me having to educate her on that."

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Thomas Dekker
As for whether John might be considering the fact that he has a robot in his life as something beneficial to him for less than noble reasons, Dekker smiled and said "Yeah, I think he has. In the last scene we did he’s like ’Do you want to do my homework?’ John’s a mischievous kind of guy, so I think sure, he’d like to take advantage if he has a robot. The only thing that’s different is that Cameron, unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in the second film, she doesn’t obey everything he says, so that’s a slight switch on the level of things. I can’t always get whatever I want from her." Dekker remarked that this difference was an "Interesting one. It’s probably the biggest thing I’m allowed to reveal!"

In Terminator 2, John famously made the Terminator swear to not kill anyone. As to whether John is doing the same thing with Cameron, Dekker said "I don’t think we’ve had a moment yet where he’s blatantly asked her ’Don’t kill anybody,’ but he’s constantly trying to educate her. There are things that happen in the show that we’ve already shot where she doesn’t comprehend why it’s wrong or why it’s not a good thing to do, and sometimes he’s frustrated by it and sometimes he’s angered by it, sometimes he’s amused by it. There have definitely been some moments where he’d had to get serious and say something. She learns. She’s a fast learning robot; she’s the most advanced. She picks up on how to even trick us. "

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is scheduled to premiere in January. Asked what he felt about the show not debuting in the fall with other new series, Dekker said "It’s kind of nice in a way it means that we’ll have so many episodes done. We won’t be racing to get them out in time which happens to a lot of shows. I think in a way it’s a really nice thing and it gives people a chance to really hear about it before [it debuts]."

We then were able to watch Dekker, Lena Heady and Summer Glau film a scene taking place in the Connor family kitchen, in which their characters discussed an important piece of information they’ve discovered. Giving away more would definitely get into some spoiler territory, but let’s just say it had some interesting ramifications regarding John and the future where he is destined to lead the human resistance against the machines.

After that, we went outside to have lunch and were joined by a number of notable Sarah Connor participants, including executive producer Josh Friedman, composer Bear McCreary (who also composes the scores for Battlestar Galactica and Eureka), and actor Richard T. Jones, who plays James Ellison, an FBI agent searching for Sarah Connor. At one point we were treated to the rather ridiculously adorable sight of Summer Glau riding up on a bicycle with a gleeful smile on her face, as Glau and Lena Heady came over to greet us, having gotten a break in production.

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Lena Heady
For the next hour plus, we were treated to a casual conversation with Friedman, McCreary and Jones. McCreary hinted that we would be hearing the familiar Terminator theme on the series, though likely only in the opening credits, as he was busy creating new themes for the series and the characters. Considering his excellent previous work, it would seem that, musically speaking, the show is in good shape.

We had a chance to look over the costume design photo boards for the series, which feature the actors in different possible clothing for future episodes. In talking with costume designer Amanda Friedland, we saw how the world of the show is coming together. There is a distinct militaristic flavor to the show and that goes right down to the clothes. This seems appropriate given who Sarah Connor is and the mission she has given herself. What was most interesting were some of the costume choices for Summer Glau’s character, who does her best to adapt to her surroundings. This often includes a certain chameleon like approach, so it’s possible we’ll be seeing Cameron in a variety of different looks - one wildly different from the next. Even within this framework though, Friedland manages to keep the wardrobe of Cameron and all of the characters grounded in reality - which will most likely work to make the show that much more believable and engaging.

While it was clear that Friedman is a fan of the Terminator movies, he seemed determined to make the series its own entity. He talked about moving away from the simple chase formula used in the three films and exploring the characters and the world they inhabit. He was not at all guarded or defensive with reporters and even referred to himself as a "retired blogger" - Friedman used to run the screenwriting blog "I find your lack of faith disturbing". This seemed a sign of confidence from a man who has to fill some pretty big shoes with this franchise.

While he was open with the press, Friedman also asked to be kept mostly off the record in an effort to maintain some of the mystique around the series and keep much of what’s to come a secret. At one time, Friedman believed that Summer Glau playing a terminator would be the big surprise twist of the pilot — a belief that was dashed when Lena Heady gave it away in an interview while promoting 300 early this year. As a result, Friedman is even more intent on not letting too much information out early for the rest of the series.

It’s a testament to Friedman as the show runner that everyone seemed to know exactly what this show was. It is Terminator — that word was initially taken out of and then put back into the series title — but with a new focus. There are plenty of mysteries and secrets, some of which Friedman is keeping even from his stars. Most importantly, there seems to be a real vision for what Sarah Connor will be. While we watched a fairly basic scene of dialogue being filmed, even in those few lines there were hints that this show will hopefully take the world of The Terminator and deepen it, exploring new complexities that will draw people in and keep them wanting more.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premieres in January on FOX.