Rising to the top of genre television is a feat in and of itself, but young star Jessy Schram has had a great year, co-starring in the TNT alien-invasion series FALLING SKIES, making guest appearances in the ABC fantasy drama ONCE UPON A TIME, and was cast in Shawn Ryan’s hot new military drama series LAST RESORT. Taking a few minutes to chat in an exclusive interview, Jessy shared what draws her to these diverse and fascinating roles and what we can expect from the upcoming season of FALLING SKIES and LAST RESORT.
What can you share about your new series LAST RESORT?
JESSY: It’s a dramatic story about my character’s husband who steals a Navy submarine believing that we’re under attack, and the show is explores what’s really going on between our Navy system and whatever else is out there. There’s also a question about that and whether Washington knows. So there’s a lot about the political side of things. And I play the wife of the main character Sam Kendall, that’s played by Scott Speedman, and Christine’s an officer’s wife.
Does Christine actually interact a lot with her husband, or is everything done with her being separated from him due to this incident?
JESSY: As you come into the story, there’s a little flashback and you see us together. But when you come into the story, he’s already been underwater for about 3 months, and he goes and leaves at about 4 months at a time, so for the most part, he’s on an island underwater and I’m back in Washington at my post. So most of the time, we’re separated which is what most of the Navy relationships are. So I have some interaction with him, but not much. I’m mainly on my own.
Is Christine going to be protesting and stand-by her man for the action he has taken, or does she start to wonder who she actually married?
JESSY: Right now, it’s kind of at that point where they are deciding where the characters are going, but it feels like she is going to start fighting for him. There’s so many different directions they could go. In the pilot, it just kind of shows that she’s his wife and he’s been gone for a long time and there’s a little bit of strain on their relationship because he’s constantly choosing something else — like his career path, but she hasn’t chosen that willingly. So you see that tension throughout this time period he is in trouble, so she is brought into the Washington office and they are showing me all these things he’s doing, whether he’s doing them or not. It definitely puts her in a position to question everyone — especially her husband. She really does not know what to believe. I think at this point, it is something where she either goes straight behind him, or turns against him. I guess she doesn’t know. It’s a test of her commitment and willpower as she starts to wonder: who is this man I married?
What was it about the script or series that drew you to the role of Christine and the show?
JESSY: I think it was each and every character. It’s such a huge cast. What I love about it is that its not a procedural show that’s underwater dealing with our political system and people in service. It’s actually a story about what’s going on. You not only see this action-packed world and see what all the service men are doing, you also see Christine — who is just as much part of the service — it’s not about just the people left behind, but about how they are supportive and committed in a different kind of way. So I think the coolest part about it is that you get the viewpoints of over 10 different characters, all in different situations included in the show’s subject. So I think that’s one of the most awesome points. That each character is so defined.
Did you have any scenes with Scott Speedman besides the flashbacks, or are your characters kept completely separate?
JESSY: Well, he’s underwater, so we are kept separate. My character in the pilot is very much part of the show, but the show focuses on explaining on what’s going on under the water at first, so you don’t see as much of me right off the bat. So I don’t know if I’ll see much of him as his character is underwater and there’s so much going on. So the show will probably keep us apart for awhile. I literally read the script when I was flying back from FALLING SKIES and it was right in the middle of pilot season, so I was told, “They need you now. You’ve got to go in.” So that next day I was offered the part and on a plane to Hawaii and then shot all my scenes the next day. It was literally a mind-trip.
If the series gets picked up, would you actually be filming in Hawaii? In that case, you must be pushing for it to be picked up.
JESSY: Yes, we’d shoot in Hawaii. It was a bit of a shock. It all happened so fast and in just one day. As I was on the plane going there, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m filming in Hawaii!” I was so caught up in the negative 20 degree celcius weather and doing the whole alien attack and everything like that on FALLING SKIES, and I was like, “Now I’m going to Hawaii to play the wife of this beautiful man!” And you’ve got the Navy Seals, so it’s not the worst thing in the world. It may have been a bit of an identity crisis, but I guess that’s the life of an actor. [Laughs]
Speaking of FALLING SKIES, now that you’ve wrapped the second season, it seems like Karen is playing a bigger role now that it has been revealed that she is working with the Skitters and the Overlords. Can you talk about where she may be headed in this next season?
JESSY: In the first season, she was taken away and you never really knew where she went and you just got little pieces of her. They were just developing it as they went along. But at the end of that season, you saw her taking Noah Wyle’s character Tom Mason into the spaceship and you kind of learn that the aliens can communicate to the 2nd Mass through harnessed teenagers. So she’s one of those teenagers and because she was part of the 2nd Mass, I think she plays a more personal role and a stronger role. She can connect to them, she has personal value with them. So right after that in the first episode of the second season, everything takes place right after I’ve taken Tom on the spaceship and he’s been there for three months. Karen is still the communicator for what we’re calling the Overlords, the alien you saw at the end of the first season in the spaceship. Then throughout the second season, we’ll meet up with the 2nd Mass again. I think so many questions arise — as you saw with Ben and Rick in season one, each had a harness on yet one is more connected to Earth and the human relationships, and the other was more connected to this new world that they’ve discovered. I think that any person that you come across that was harnessed, there are so many questions. Karen is definitely someone they are not sure about, so when she meets back up with the 2nd Mass all the same questions arise.
How does that affect Karen’s prior relationship with Hal? Is he able to trust her or does it create a lot of tension for them?
Jessy: That’s something I can’t get too much into to tell you the truth, only because it is such a fine line that I walk, but there are so many questions. Even with Tom, and Karen relates to this too, when someone comes back after being with the enemy for so long, everyone has conflicted feelings and doesn’t know how much they can trust. So I can definitely say that Hal will have those same questions for Karen as for his dad, in the sense of: who are you and what happened?
Karen seems to be the murky, mystery aspect.
JESSY: Yeah, it’s an awesome role to play because it was just kind of sprinkled throughout the first season, and now you get her sprinkled again this next season and there’s so much going on. Then, as you noted, there’s this mystery piece that will come in and just kind of shift things a little bit. There’s so much going on in the second season. It’s just another thing that will make you go, “What?! The what?!”
Would you describe this next season of FALLING SKIES as bigger, better and badder than the first season?
JESSY: The first season was amazing, but this second season — I know for me personally — it’s just different. It’s bigger in different ways. It’s gritty and it’s real and it touches more on relationships and bombs. The first season was all about finding out what landed and who these beings are. In the second season, we’ve discovered how to kill them and that’s in hand-to-hand combat with them. It’s a whole another thing. The first season was just about discovering what was going on and how everything was working; and now in the second season, we’re just bad-ass trying to figure out how to take everything back.
Maybe you could describe generally one of your favorite scenes that you go to work on in the second season.
JESSY: Like I said, the second season is my favorite and I would say right off the bat, that scene coming off the finale and going into the opening scene where I take Tom on the spaceship. It’s such a blessing and pleasure to be able to work with Noah and it’s fun embodying this different character that no one has met yet. Giving him information and kind of playing with his mind. And just working with Noah on the spaceship and seeing this world that was created — which we only saw on a blue screen — was pretty, pretty cool. So actually watching it back and seeing what they created in this whole entire world, that’s definitely a highlight to me. To see what we were doing and seeing if it actually matched our reactions.
JESSY: It is. And you’ll also see the relationships, how Karen and different people react to each other when she finally does meet up with the 2nd Mass again. All of those relationships and reactions are really interesting. This whole next season is such a blessing. It’s a really cool one, for me especially.
You’ve had a busy year, including the cameo on ONCE UPON A TIME. Have they approached you about making another appearance on the show?
JESSY: Like I said, identity crisis. Totally. Yeah, during FALLING SKIES, I was doing ONCE UPON A TIME. They both shot in Vancouver, which is pretty neat. But what’s so cool about being able to play those two characters is that they’re really defined characters. There’s one in the sci-fi world and there’s one in the fantasy world. They’re both characters that you get to play make believe and then channel that. So, for me, that was kind of fun to put on the character of this iconic Cinderella, but you get to create and make it real, and for FALLING SKIES, you’re a harness kid that used to be a scout and you are shooting guns all the time. So it’s complete opposites. It was really fantastic.
Is that how you approach your scripts, you want to find the richest and most fascinating characters?
JESSY: [Laughs] You know, they just kind of come. At least lately. It’s always fun. Now I’m playing a wife — a secure, grounded role — and yet they all have the same aspect. Each of these three characters I’ve playing the past 3-4 months, they all have the grounding of vulnerability, of strength, of wisdom — so the trend that I notice of the characters that I’ve been able to play in the last few months all have the same base, it’s just different situations.
You are becoming more and more recognizable, not just because of who you are, but the type of character that you like to portray. They are independent, strong women that are creative in their own way. It’s been fascinating.
JESSY: Yes, yes, definitely. Thank you for saying that! They all — Karen, Ashley/Cinderella and Christine — they are all independent. They’re all on their own and alone in some way; but at the same time, succeeding. So each of the characters are own their own. Cinderella didn’t have any family. Karen doesn’t have one, the 2nd Mass is hers. Christine, her husband is gone all the time. So even though she doesn’t have a child, it’s the role of the mother, the lover, the father — you’re everyone to yourself. So they are all people that need to stand strong, but they are constantly searching for acceptance. But nothing can keep them down. They are always emerging above the surface.
Wow, that was very well said! It has been fun watching the characters you’ve brought to life. I’m looking forward to seeing LAST RESORT to get a chance to meet Christine.
JESSY: It’s going to be great! I was actually talking to one of the other actors last night and we were talking about whether it’s going to be picked up and whether women will be watching the show. You think that for a Navy show or some kind of military service show, it would only appeal to a male audience. But the women in this series are so kick-ass. It’s a great show and I’m really excited for people to see it. It’s done by amazing people and everyone in it is just so talented. So I’m hoping everyone gets the opportunity to see it.
Is there one last final teaser you want to share for any of these shows?
JESSY: Just to watch because it’s worth it!
FALLING SKIES returns with its 2-hour premiere on June 17th at 9:00 p.m. on TNT and ONCE UPON A TIME airs its first season finale on Sunday, May 13th at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.
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Preview for “Last Resort”: