Syfy left 12 Monkeys off the Comic-Con schedule this month. And while it might seem like a missed marketing opportunity to tubthump the series before its potential fanbase, executive producer of the series and production exec on the 1995 Terry Gilliam film Richard Suckle explained that the confab “coincides with when we start shooting. We wanted to put the show first as we’re set to premiere in January. It was a production decision with Syfy and we wanted to have the actors on the set.”
Nonethless, the fanboy press corps was out at TCA and ready to grill about the beloved time-travel film, which sent Bruce Willis’ convict James Cole back into the past to stop a virus destined to kill humanity. Co-exec EP Terry Matalas assured that the series is a “complete reimagining. We didn’t want to redo the movie and so we changed everything from the top down.”
From the action-filled clip that was shown at TCA, it appeared that a lot of the same imagery and plot concepts from the Gilliam film remained in play in the series, from men in Hazmat suits throwing dead bodies in a ditch near snowy abandoned buildings to the fleeing car interior shots with Cole and Dr. Railly (played in the film by Madeleine Stowe, but in the series by Amanda Schull). While Philadelphia served as the location shoot for the film, the Syfy series is lensing in Toronto.
One reporter, a fan of the original film, pointed out how the pilot throws away the more quintessential aspect of Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys: The ambiguity, specifically whether Cole is a time traveler or an insane person. Co-EP Travis Fickett exclaimed that the jugular of the film remains intact. “We’re not saying that Cole isn’t an insane person. That’s still open for the series,” said Fickett. Schull mentioned that in preparing for her role as Dr. Railly, she intentionally avoided watching Gilliam’s film so it wouldn’t impact her performance.
Atlas executive Suckle told the TCA corps that the genesis for bringing 12 Monkeys to TV began shortly after the film’s release. There was a rights situation that needed to be cleared up initially as the movie was based on Chris Marker’s short La Jetee. Matalas and Fickett’s reps sent Suckle a script “which was like 12 Monkeys” said the exec in terms of how he was turned on to the duo. The fact that it took several years stemmed from “life and the movie business getting in the way,” said Suckle.
No bother. For Matalas and Fickett, time was on their side. Said Matalas, “We always knew we wanted to do a serialized time travel show as early as five years ago, however, the audience wasn’t ready. Since then they’ve collectively been trained on seasons of Lost.“