Showcase’s latest series Travelers is set to debut this Monday (Oct. 17) and comes from Brad Wright (of the Stargate franchise). Hundreds of years from now, the last surviving humans manage to find a way to send consciousness through time, directly into people of 2016. The series follows the “travelers” as they have to assume the lives of random people while secretly having to save humanity from a terrible future. The travelers are armed with the knowledge of history and the archives of social media profiles. They’ll realize that the 21st century lives and relationships are much of a challenge all while trying to manage their high-stakes missions.
Will & Grace and Perception star Eric McCormack stars as FBI Special Agent Grant MacLaren who is the team’s leader. The rest of the cast includes Marcy, a young developmentally challenged woman who is played by Hells On Wheels star and singer MacKenzie Porter. Patrick Gilmore (You Me Her) appears as David, Marcy’s social worker. Awkward’s Jared Paul Abrahamson plays high school quarterback Trevor. Heroes Reborn’s Nesta Cooper plays Carly, a single mom in an abusive relationship while Reilly Dolman (Supernatural) plays Philip, a heroin-addicted college student. Following its Canadian launch this fall, the series will be made available for an international audience on Netflix this December.
We got a chance to speak with McCormack during a roundtable while he was in Toronto for Global’s upfront presentation this past summer. The actor previews how what he loves about the sci-fi behind the show, being ready for genre’s fandom and more.
On the whole “what would you go back and change in your life” question that he’ll surely be asked a lot with doing a time travel show:
I think that the best answer is that once you have kids, you stop thinking about that. It doesn’t matter if you had stayed together with someone you’re not longer with because then you wouldn’t have your child. [Having a child] makes all of that go away. This is philosophical… That line from [Frank Sinatra’s] ‘My Way’ with ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few…’ I’ve had lots of regrets but if I could fix them and I knew it was going to change who my kid is, then I wouldn’t. That’s why they [regrets]become fewer.
On how great is is to film the series in Vancouver:
It’s great for me because I had moved to Vancouver from Toronto 24 years ago and I had just stayed there because there was a lot of work there in 1992 and then I went down to L.A. I’ve had a west coast life for awhile now and my wife and I have built a house there, so I get to live where we intended to live eventually. It’s also an entirely Canadian cast and crew! It’s really exciting.
Do all of the ‘Travelers’ have good intentions?
I think that the safe answer is that all the travelers are sent here to 2016 to do something that is good. But like in Apocalypse Now, you’ll remember that there were some American soldiers that had gone off the track. They couldn’t remember why they were still there. We’re going to see some of that. There are people who, although 2016 is technically better than the time they have come from, there are lots of things wrong here and a lot of people get turned. We’ll see lots of variations of that. Not all travelers are angles. We all have a job to do and we’re all our own personalities but in the body of somebody else who is expected to behave a certain way. They all have a duality — sometimes it can be comic but also dangerous.
Do the travelers stay in 2016?
For now, yes. We don’t travel outside of it. A lot of the science explained from episode to episode so that the audience will understand the logistics of all this. What we know as the travelers is what you know as the audience. It’ll be the same thing. This is the year where we’ve been stationed. Like military personnel. There’s a reason why we’ve been stationed in 2016, in this particular city and these particular bodies.
More about the bodies:
They are host bodies. But they couldn’t have just been anybody. This is part of the show that I love and that I think sci-fi fans will love as well. An absolute thing we know in the future is the exact time of a person’s death. It’s what we call the “tell.” The tell can be calculated. So that’s how we know when we can land [our consciousness]in a particular person’s body. So if the powers that be in the future need three soldiers to land on this particular day in Toronto, they know who dies today. An 89-year-old butcher is not going to be much use, nor is a 12-year-old kid. If a person is dying of heart diseases, then there’s not much point of going into that body either. It’s like stealing a car that’s going to blow up! It’s all that kind of stuff that forms the real minutia of the sci-fi in our show.
Taking over a body the moment its consciousness dies:
We go over in the moment of death. The way we shoot that is really cool. Because of that, that person’s entire consciousness is gone. All I’m armed is with what little know [about that person]. If I were taking over the body of Barack Obama, then I would know a lot. But if I were taking over the body of some random guy in Etobicoke, then I wouldn’t know much. It’s all about what the person puts out there [on social media].
Are you ready to become a Comic-Con sensation? This genre is a whole other audience.
There is no sitcom version of Comic-Con! Am I prepared? Absolutely! I’ll take it on. It would be great because that level of fandom where people care so much and invest so much is what makes television work. Particularly today with the whole binge thing and the idea of really being connected to the characters and what they’re doing.
Does it matter what network your show is on? Or do you care about the story?
It’s sort of half and half. Obviously, when you’re shooting on set with great people, you’re not thinking about the rest of it. You just want the best story. You want a showrunner that has a plan — which we have. Quite honestly, I learned from my last show, Perception, that TNT (in the U.S.) never really kept spending money after that first year on telling the world about us. It felt like we were making TV for a very small number of people. I spent three years going through telling people “No, really — I’m on a show.” Whereas when you have a network like Showcase who is going to promote it and make sure that Canada knows about it. Or outside of this, when we’re on Netflix and people will know how to find it. It does matter to me that the work I’m doing will be seen.
Netflix will definitely be giving a Canadian show much more exposure.
Sure, it’s a broader reach. A lot of the shows in Canada used to amaze me. I’d watch Kids in the Hall about 20 years ago and go like “They can say that?” Canada has always been more progressive that way. Certainly compared to the top four networks in the U.S. Having done a pilot last year that didn’t go [move forward]and having all these frustrations that come with pleasing a network, and a network pleasing a populous. It’s nice to not be dealing with that. It’s nice to have a new set of rules and guidelines where people are taking chances.
Travelers premieres Monday, October 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase. New episodes will be made available online the next day at showcase.ca. The series will stream internationally on Netflix beginning December 2016.