So here for your viewing pleasure is that interview in association with Terra Nova...
QUESTION: Was it a challenge to find that protective spirit to make James Shannon a credible hero in Terra Nova?
JASON O'MARA: I think mostly because I’m a father in real life, and I had never played a father on screen. Every parent knows how protective you can be over your family. You would go so far as to say you would die for your children. And that’s just normal. You know, that’s not extraordinary. So the idea of playing a man whose actions are motivated by that is a very strong choice to make.
QUESTION: What motivates James Shannon? A need to be the hero or something more profound?
O'MARA: Whatever he does heroically, he does it for a pure reason, for a good reason. And not only that, that sense of emotion is very empowering, and it’s strong. It gives him an emotional base to make all of his decisions, and it gives him his moral compass without which I’m not sure where he would be. I don’t know where James Shannon would be without his wife and his kids.
QUESTION: How does Terra Nova affect his own code of survival?
O'MARA: He’s from a pretty tough background and he could have gone the other way at any time. He’s impulsive, which can be his own worst enemy. I just think the idea that he wants his children and his family to thrive and survive in this new place, and knowing that they are part and parcel of what could be the future of the human race is very powerful. And I think it’s also a really strong idea. It’s a really strong theme.
QUESTION: How do you define a series like Terra Nova?
O'MARA: It is quite hard to define. What helped me get into it was thinking of it in terms of a classic western, like Gunsmoke. But there are also science fiction elements. I suppose. More than anything else, it’s Swiss Family Robinson. Lost in Space was Swiss Family Robinson in space. This is Swiss Family Robinson in the Cretaceous period. When you look at it more like that, it actually just boils it down to its elements.
QUESTION: How do the family dynamics enhance the Terra Nova experience?
O'MARA: It’s really the story of a family in a very extraordinary situation, and there are all these other things going on politically, philosophically, socially, and even challenges with just surviving with the wild life. But ultimately it’s about a family experiencing and seeing this world through their eyes.
QUESTION: How does this first season evolve from its complex first episode?
O'MARA: We want to keep developing all of these creation stories, how Terra Nova came about. Taylor has some dark secrets, events that happened at the birth of Terra Nova, the first people that were involved in forming it. That’s all revealed. What’s in the box will be revealed, what the carvings on the rocks were all about. Bear in mind, it all comes down to family at the end of the day. That’s an important clue as to what’s going to happen.
QUESTION: Where does your imagination go when you’re in the midst of an effects sequence, say after five takes? Ever find your mind drifting as to the day’s grocery list, for example?
O'MARA: [LAUGHS] First of all, we don’t get five takes. Second of all, no, we’ve developed a series of processes in order to try to bring these sequences to life. It’s difficult. The dinosaurs are not there. So we’ve found ways. There are ways you can play a scene just using your imagination alone as to what’s happening. Also you can play a scene where the director’s saying, “Okay, it’s crawling up your leg,” or “Now it’s about to take a bite out of you, dodge it, quick!” We have a guy with a cardboard dinosaur head on a stick, making you flinch. We’ve sort of incorporated all of these different ways, shooting it from different angles and multiple takes. But every take we do, there’s a lot of pressure on us to try to make this as real as possible. I’m never thinking about my grocery list. [LAUGHS] I’m always trying to give a truthful reaction to these dinosaurs that aren’t there.
QUESTION: What remains in store for this first season? How will the Terra Nova mythology evolve?
O'MARA: We’ve got to find out who the spy is, what’s motivating the spy to do what they are doing. Also, what’s coming through on the 11th pilgrimage, and what’s happening in 2149. We really do develop our mythology, deepen it and answer all these questions that we’re posing. While there will be a cliffhanger at the end of season one, which will lead to another set of storylines, we pretty much answer all of these storylines. It’s self-contained, even though it sets us up easily for a second season. There’s something very satisfying about that, I think.
TERRA NOVA is available on DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.