IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Moon Bloodgood Talks 'The Sessions' and 'Falling Skies' Season Three

Friday, 19 October 2012 12:37 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Moon Bloodgood Talks 'The Sessions' and 'Falling Skies' Season Three

Actress Moon Bloodgood is probably best known for playing kick-ass characters in genre films like Terminator: Salvation, and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, as well as on her hit TNT series Falling Skies. But the actress has recently been making a name for herself in critically acclaimed films too, such as last year’s Beautiful Boy with Michael Sheen and Maria Bello, and now The Sessions, which opens in theaters on October 19th and also stars John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy.

The Sessions tells the true story of Mark O’Brian (Hawkes), a man in an iron lung who decides he wants to lose his virginity. After consulting with his priest (Macy), he begins working with Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Hunt), who is a professional sex surrogate. Bloodgood plays Mark’s faithful medical orderly Vera, who helps him on his journey. The film was directed by Ben Lewin (Georgia) and also stars Annika Markis (TV’s Southland), W. Earl Brown (There’s Something About Mary), Adam Arkin (TV’s Life), Robin Weigert (TV’s Deadwood), and Rhea Perlman (TV’s Cheers). 

Bloodgood has also been busy shooting the third season of her alien invasion series Falling Skies, which will begin airing again next summer on TNT. On the show she plays Anne Glass, the doctor of the 2nd Mass (the alien resistance militia) and love interest for Noah Wyle’s Tom Mason. In fact, the season-two finale ended with news that Anne was pregnant with Tom’s baby, which is quite a coincidence when you consider that Bloodgood herself is actually pregnant in real life as well. Unfortunately, this means that the actress will only be able to appear in the first half of the upcoming season before she has to take time off for her maternity. 

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Moon Bloodgood to talk about her work in The Sessions, as well as the upcoming third season of Falling Skies. The extremely talented actress discussed her new film, getting away from genre projects, working with John Hawkes, his performance, Mark and Vera’s unusual working relationship, director Ben Lewin’s vision for the film, Falling Skies, just how many season three episodes she’ll be in, how her character will be temporarily written out of the show, if special effects actor Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth) will be playing the new alien creature introduced in the season two finale, what other guest stars will be appearing in season three, and if the absence of co-executive producer Mark Verheiden has affected the show. 

Here is what she had to say:

IAR: To begin with, I think most people first became aware of you from action films like Terminator: Salvation, and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, as well as your sci-fi TV series Falling Skies. But recently you have done a few independent dramas including Beautiful Boy, and now The Sessions. Have you been consciously making an effort to find different material and, with the exception of Falling Skies, stay away from genre and sci-fi projects?

Moon Bloodgood: Yeah, I mean I definitely had those conversations with my management but it was such a casual conversation. They said, “You know what? You've done science fiction, you've done big budget movies, let's try some really great independents.” So they simply said it like that and then my manager found Beautiful Boy. My manager or my agent found this project (The Sessions) and the independents have kind of been a little effortless for me. I didn't have to work that hard but I forget sometimes how lucky I am. I'm reminded when I do press and I realize I was in Beautiful Boy, which was a really good project. It was sad and dark but I knew that it was a quality project. I'm not really known in the indie world, that's not really my genre.

But it feels like you're starting to make an indie name for yourself working with great actors like Michael Sheen in Beautiful Boy and now John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy on this film. Do you feel like these types of projects are coming to you a little more frequently now?

Bloodgood: I do but I don't think about it much. I go home and I go back to my life and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am. It must be some sort of defense mechanism for me so I don’t get caught up in my own importance. I don’t say, God, I'm so amazing! I did Beautiful Boy! I'm such a great actor! I don’t want to self masturbate. But when you say it like that I go, yeah, you're right. I mean Michael Sheen is one of the best actors out there. John Hawkes is also one of the best actors out there, and Helen Hunt, and Maria Bello, I’ve work with great people. But I always have these easy supporting roles that don't require a great deal of me. They really don't.

What do you mean when you say that those roles “don't require a great deal of you?” I think you are not giving yourself enough credit because you still have to be present and fully available when you are working in those scenes with the other actors, correct?

Bloodgood: Absolutely. When I do TV sometimes I feel that the material could be better and I kind of want to work a little harder at it. When I have really great material I feel like I have to work less. In my personal life I'm an extremely analytical person, but when it comes to acting I'm not overly analytical. So when I approached The Sessions I just try to play it real to life. I don’t order like special shoes and do quirky things. I remember that at the time when I was doing it, there was stuff going on in my life and it was just really simple. That's all I can explain and there was not a lot of dialogue. I just observed and I made sure that every time I was in a scene I was thinking. I was really present and I was thinking. That was important. What was Vera thinking? That was something I wanted to show.

Could you talk a little bit about Vera and Mark's unusual working relationship and exactly what it was that you liked about the character when you initially read the script?

Bloodgood: For selfish reasons I liked that it was someone who wasn't a love interest. She wasn't the sex person and the role was like nothing I have ever done before. It was not about the way I looked. I liked that I got to be a part of his journey in the finding out about sex surrogacy. I got to be there in the interviewing process so that was fun. I always got to take him there and wait for him. Then Mark said that I was like his protector. I didn't look at it that way, I just looked at it as someone who was his friend and I was doing a job. I was his confidant, but I wasn't one of his love interests and it was nice. It was so freeing to be someone who was real and didn't say a lot because I've always found as an actor that less is more. I don't want to do a lot. I think simplicity is something I really admire in other actors. Certain actors convey that like when you watch Robert Redford. I was drawn to it because it was different for me personally and also because it was the kind of character that could observe and not have to be constantly making a point or in the thick of the scene. I was more reactionary. I didn't think I'd be that important in the script. When I read the character I was like, she's pretty simple. But Ben (Lewin) really gave me a lot and it's really because of Ben that I am good in this film. I say that sincerely. I never understood when actors would say, “It's really about the director making it better.” I always thought good actors were either good actors or they weren't. But if you have a director who is looking out for you and wants you to shine, and particularly likes your character then he can make you look great and he did.

Obviously the film is a drama but there are a lot of comedic moments in it too. What was the mood like on set and how did director Ben Lewin accomplish balancing the two tones of the movie?

Bloodgood: It was super casual. It was like no big deal. You can hear the birds chirping while we're doing the scenes. Ben doesn't instruct a lot, he just says a couple things and he watches it. There's not a million takes. He is really light and he never really loses his temper. It was very effortless. Ben’s doing crossword puzzles! He likes to talk and he wants to know about your life. He's having fun when he's on set. It's not like he's going to die if he doesn't make this film the greatest thing ever. There's not that intensity. He's not an intense person. So that conveys itself in the movie and just the overall tone. You'll like him if you meet him. He's kind of like this jovial, sarcastic man. He makes dirty jokes. He's not some prim and proper kind of guy. 

Actor John Hawkes gives a completely transforming and extremely impressive performance in the film playing a paraplegic man. Can you talk about the first day you were on set acting opposite him in a scene? Were you just like, “Oh my God, this guy is really bringing it?”

Bloodgood: Yeah, I met John and we went to Ben's house where we were talking about the characters. He's kind of shy, but sweet. You don't feel like oh, he's an actor and he's brooding. He’s soft spoken, articulate, soft, thoughtful, and sensitive. Here's when I knew: I heard his voice. When he started doing that voice and he's in his nose, I was like oh, wow, that's really interesting. Because I had watched a documentary about Mark O'Brian and I had seen John's other work and all of a sudden it was like this really sweet voice. Then the body, the physical things he was doing, with the pillow and the hand. I don't know how other people feel, and I imagine every movie's different but you don't know you're part of an amazing project. I don't always know that. I just knew that John was a really talented actor. Then I had a scene with Helen and I was like, okay, these are really good actors. But I've worked with great actors before and you never know what's going to happen. Then when it all came together you're like, oh, this works, this is amazing! But the one thing I did know was that John was doing something unique. He was so committed. He was working really hard and he was so … you were just drawn to him. He was just so adorable, that's all I can say. You just wanted to gravitate towards him. 

Finally, I’m a huge fan of Falling Skies so I hope you don’t mind if I ask you some questions about the upcoming third season. I know that you have already begun shooting season three but in addition to your character being pregnant on the show, you are also pregnant in real life. How many episodes of the new season will you be in before you have to leave for a maternity break?

Bloodgood: Well they're still shooting, but I think you're going to see me in the first seven. 

How will they temporarily write your character off the show? Is Anne going to be abducted?

Bloodgood: Right, I have to be careful because I don't want TNT calling me. But think about it … it's science fiction!

After you have your baby will you return to finish shooting the third season of the show?

Bloodgood: I'll go back to the show, but they'll be done shooting at the end of December and I'll be having the baby then. So I won't go back to shooting this season. I'm done for this season.

So you have wrapped shooting all of your scenes for season three?

Bloodgood: Yes. I shot some stuff ahead of time. Now, our show changes a lot, so they could use it, or they could change it, but there's definitely some storylines with my character’s pregnancy. It gets really tricky and Noah's character is involved. There are some hairy situations that are going to come up and it's definitely connected to the baby so use your imagination. 

Is it true that special effects actor Doug Jones is going to play the new alien creature that was introduced at the end of the season-two finale?

Bloodgood: Is that out? Am I allowed to say that? I don't know what I'm allowed to say, so I’ll just say that it’s going to be a big change for the third season and I hope to God the audience loves it because I love it. 

Is it also true that co-executive producer and writer Mark Verheiden did not return for the third season? 

Bloodgood: He's not back and I don't know why. 

Have you been able to feel a difference in the writing of the show now that he is no longer there? Or is the writing department such a well-oiled machine at this point that they are able to carry on the tone of the show that he set without him present?

Bloodgood: Well there were so many people that helped set the tone because we had executive producers like Robert Rodat, Mark, and then we had Graham Yost. I don't know that it's a well-oiled machine but the one common denominator is Noah Wyle. He's a big part of the show and he orchestrates a lot. He's a producer now and so a lot falls on his shoulder. He makes sure that there is continuity and consistency to the quality of the show. It's hard for me to say because I left mid-season and it's too early to say how different it is, but I certainly felt second season was better than first. Not for me necessarily, I don't even speak from my perspective. Just story wise I felt the first season though it was a beautiful show, it lacked the science fiction rock and roll. We needed the rock and roll. We needed the bells and whistles. We needed the rhythms. We needed the anxiety, and the stuff that comes with science fiction. You need that element and we picked it up. So this year we start right out of the gate and it's exciting. We answered questions but we don’t overwhelm the audience. I'm always afraid we're going to overwhelm and that we're going to pose too many questions that we just can't answer. That every question is going to lead to another question and then all of a sudden it is so convoluted that you don't know what is going on and it then becomes a soap opera. But we have good characters and I think we have good story lines. We have real confident actors that are steady and then these great guest stars. You can see we've got some big guest stars coming up.

Speaking of big guest stars, I’ve heard that Robert Sean Leonard (House), Gloria Ruben (E.R.) and Scott Collins (Seventh Heaven) will all appear in season three, is that true? 

Bloodgood: Absolutely. Isn't that great?

Yes it is. Did you get to have any scenes with them?

Bloodgood: Yeah, I got a lot of stuff with Robert and he’s great. Robert is a great actor. Noah and he know each other from back in the day. You can just see that our caliber of guest stars has gotten better in our third season and I think it's because we have a pretty good show. Our show is not revolutionary, but hopefully it’s good, it's steady and it's good science fiction.

You’ve been on several sci-fi series in the past (Day Break, Journeyman) that didn’t seem to find their audience, how does it feel for you now to be part of a show like this that has become so popular with fans and critics alike?

Bloodgood: I didn't know in the beginning when I was a part of it. I was like, okay, wait, this is more of a family show as the primary story and then the science fiction is sort of this second element. Now I feel like I'm in the rock and roll of it. I feel like the show has picked up. You always have a wish list of things you want your character to do, but I feel like I'm on a good solid show now. We're not Mad Men! We’re not changing people's perceptions about science fiction, but we're certainly not boring them to death with cliché storylines. 

There is something to be said for building your audience slowly and not having the pressure of being an instant hit like Heroes, for instance. Is that true in the case of Falling Skies and do you think that has added to the show’s success?

Bloodgood: Well if you're on a show that big you become suddenly like, “Where do we go from here?” We're slow and steady. The science fiction community likes Falling Skies. They might not love it like The Walking Dead, but that’s because we don't have those kinds of bells and whistles. I do think that they know it's good. They know it's not bad science fiction and that it's great writing. You've got all the people on it that know what they’re doing like (Steven) Spielberg and (executive producer) Greg Beeman. There is a character on the third season that is going to make or break it for us. Either you guys are going to love it or it's not going to work. I think it's going to work and I think it's going to take our show to the next level. 

One thing the show has really excelled at is introducing a new “game changer” at the end of each season to keep it fresh and keep audiences coming back for more. Have you been impressed with the way the writers and producers have been able to make that work?  

Bloodgood: Science fiction is based on game changers! The stakes are always going higher because that's the genre. It's not just about the characters because science fiction is a character in itself. That's a whole character by itself and you want it to be exciting. I never want us to be like a comic book. I don't want to be Heroes. I don't want us to feel like fantasy, I want us to feel like realism, and I think we’ve succeeded because of Noah, because of TNT and because of Spielberg.     

It also works because the show is rooted in the idea of family, which is very relatable to an audience. Do you think that is one of the aspects of the series that fans have really latched onto?

Bloodgood: Do you mean with the Mason family? Yeah, because it's a post Apocalyptic setting and we don't want to get too ahead of ourselves and start becoming fantastical. We want to be set in realism. You want to feel like the humans are the characters and the aliens come in and we're reacting. There are different ranges of science fiction and we're like a family show. We're a character show with science fiction in it.  

The Sessions opens in theaters on October 19th.

Falling Skies returns to TNT in 2013.

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