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TIMELESS Scoop From The Set: Interview With Matt Lanter

TIMELESS -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan -- (Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC)

A ruthless villain steals a time-machine and the government quickly sends a team of a soldier, a scientist and a historian after him to eliminate him before he does irreparable damage to the existing timeline. In NBC’s new adventure series TIMELESS, the action starts and does not stop leaving little time to peel back the layers on the characters that are immediately introduced. In order to get a better sense of who our heroes and villain are, we made a trip to the set of TIMELESS to get the answers fans will want to know.

Star Matt Lanter revealed just what is propelling his character Wyatt Logan, the government soldier with the order to track down and kill the time-machine thief no questions asked:

What attracted you to TIMELESS?
MATT: Developed in such a smart and interesting way, it’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m having a blast doing it. It’s getting to do something where I’m playing a new character within a character is something that not many actors get to do. We’re getting to do something different every single week and the chances of something getting stale is just not possible. It’s been fun, so far.

If you had to introduce the concept of the show to people who know nothing about it yet, how would you set it up?
MATT: I would say it’s a time-travel adventure. We follow a team of three people as they try to bring a criminal to justice who has stolen a time machine. It’s sort of a “Mission Impossible” meets “Quantum Leap.” I love that it’s got a fun, adventurous aspect to it. Very Spielberg-esque. Peppered with comedy. Like in “Indiana Jones,” you’ve got the guy with swords and Indy pulls out a gun and just shoots him. We’ve got a lot of fun peppered comedy like that. I really enjoy doing that stuff. Keeps things light. Tongue in cheek, really.

There’s a lot of time-travel shows this fall, like TIME AFTER TIME and FREQUENCY. What makes TIMELESS stand out from the others?
MATT: Well, I’ve not seen them, but I don’t think it’s similar to any of them. I think FREQUENCY is based on the movie, right? Where they communicate through a FM radio or something. TIME AFTER TIME, the ABC one, I’ve heard that they’re actually in present day.

In TIME AFTER TIME, they travel from the past to present day and one of them is Jack the Ripper. I don’t think TIMELESS has Jack the Ripper.
MATT: But then they stay? Or do they go back and forth? But, don’t they come to the present day and that’s the whole thing?

In TIME AFTER TIME, they came from the 1800’s and flashforward about a hundred years, and then they stay.
MATT: I think what I’m saying is we are actually traveling on weekly adventures back and forth. I think that’s the key thing for us — is that we’re doing episodic adventures. There’s obviously through-lines with stories and things that are tied together, but it’s fun in a way that I think any one could tune in week to week and go on an adventure with us. There might be a bit of resolve at the end of an episode with larger story lines carrying over. I think that’s what people are going to find interesting and fun about our series.

If you could leap into anytime, if you could choose to go somewhere, where would you go to?
MATT: There’s so many interesting eras. I would love to see the span and the reach of the Roman Empire. I think it would be a little bit scary, but it’d be interesting to see. And I’d love to be a fly on the wall at The Last Supper.

Watch out for Judas. You would not be tempted to try to interfere?
MATT: Yeah, but I don’t know if I would. [Laughs] Don’t interfere with God and what he’s got going on. That was all planned, obviously.

Your villain in TIMELESS, of course, is Garcia Flynn (Goran Visjnic) and there’s a lot of murky motivations going on there. Flynn’s not just stealing a time machine to change history. There’s something else on his agenda. It seems like in this episode something gets revealed to your character Wyatt about Flynn’s agenda. How quickly does that puzzle coming together?
MATT: Yeah. We cannot chase one evil villain doing evil things every episode so, obviously, there’s more complexity to the story. We’re going to find out the Flynn has legit motivations. At least, that he feels justified by. We’ll start to find out from his perspective why he’s doing what he’s doing. I think that’s still muddy and murky to our time-team, but I think that as we go on these weekly adventures the stories will change and shape and we’ll see who’s the enemy at the end of the day. We don’t really know yet.

We found out how if you take an object with you and something happens, like your brother disappears in the present timeline but you still have a photo of you with him, then you have proof that he still existed. I imagine in each episode there are probably going to be little changes that keep happening, like we see in the pilot. At what point does the fabric of reality just tear apart because of all these little objects that you might have with you in the time machine? How far can you take it? Is that something that the show deals with?
MATT: We haven’t gotten into that a lot. We’ve dabbled in it a little bit with things that are in the time machine, or something that’s in the time machine, does stay. As far as if those specific things change, or rip the fabric of present day reality, that’s not happened yet, but it could. Then you start getting into, this is just all my speculation, like you could take video recording of 9/11 happening, and see proof if you take it with you, and bring it back. I don’t know. I’m not sure how it could change, or what it could do, but I think that’s interesting. I think that’s something we should play with, because there’s the possibility of some really screwy stuff there. It’s also weird though, because we can get into really weird stuff too.

That’s the thing with time-travel is you set up your rules, and then you’re constricted by them. Like are you creating different parallel universes?
MATT: No, we’re not doing that. Especially not yet. I’m only saying this, because I’ve heard the showrunners say it, that they are establishing their rules and they want it to be a fun show that’s not too head-spacey. That’s when people get lost and it becomes work to keep up with it, as opposed to just having fun with it. I think that’s their main goal right now. “Let’s have fun with it adventure thing.” I think they’re establishing solemn rules right now that defines it, but it’s in a bit of a box, if you will, so we all can play. Who knows how that can change the future.

In your own words, what are those time-travel rules?
MATT: One of those rules is: you can never double back on a time period that you’ve existed. What I’m personally not clear on is, is it a period that we have just existed, or we just can’t see ourselves, or go back to that moment in that spot? You could go insane from that, which they kind of said something about that. That’s what I actually want to know for sure. Can we go back as long as we don’t get near, or spot ourselves, or anything like that? The only thing that they say is you can’t double-back, which makes our missions that much more imperative is that we got to fix it because we can’t go back to try to fix it again and you have one shot. I think that helps with the stakes, because if you could double-back you could just, “Let’s do 20 episodes of the same event and try to fix it every time.”

How much does Wyatt’s military background come into play?
MATT: A whole lot. That’s the whole reason he’s here. He’s plucked out of the battlefield. He’s specialized. He’s Delta Force. So he’s specialized in a lot of things. They need someone on the team who’s going to be able to operate in a military way and get things done tactically as well as hunt down the villain. The historian is not going to do it, and the scientist is not going to do it, so they need someone to actually carry out the actual mission, which is get rid of Flynn.

That always creates an interesting dynamic of who is in charge once they are out there in these little time adventures?
MATT: [Laughs] I think it depends on the situation. I think there’s moments that we can play, and some maybe are funny, and some not. I think Wyatt thinks he’s in charge a lot of the times. I think Lucy (Abigail Spencer) thinks she’s in charge a lot of the time. She knows culturally what’s going on around us. Wyatt knows mission-wise what’s happening and what needs to happen. I think there’s a little bit of butting-heads.

Wyatt also has two different missions we find out and those don’t always work together too easily. He’s been given two assignments basically: one’s to kill Flynn on sight and the other one is yet to be revealed.
MATT: I think they’ve all been given the mission to preserve history. You’re going to see that with Wyatt more than anyone — being frustrated with preserving history — but trying to carry out a mission of getting rid of Flynn. That sort of continues to happen, not that Wyatt blows it, but it’s the frustrations. I think there’s a line, and I don’t remember what episode it is, but it’s something to the nature of, “I can’t carry these missions out walking on egg-shells and worrying about the shifting of a paper weight, or whatever it is, and screwing the world up. I can’t do it.”

Obviously, you have a show like THE FUGITIVE, where the final episode was David Janssen kills the one-armed man. How excited are you for whenever that day comes? To kill Flynn.
MATT: [Laughs] I’ve dreamt many ways. It’s gory.

In all seriousness. Wyatt’s living for that, right? That’s his mission.
MATT: I think that is his mission that’s assigned. I think what we find with Wyatt is there’s more internal missions going on too. We know about this from the pilot that his wife died. He’s got things going on that I think he’s probably not revealed to the team, to everyone else around him, things that he’d like to accomplish personally. That plays into things as well.

Does that give him something he kind of relates to Flynn about, once he learns a little bit more about Flynn, because they both lost somebody and that propels them on this little parallel journey?
MATT: This episode [five] is when we start to learn a little bit more about Flynn, why he’s doing what he’s doing, and we have a scenario where Wyatt is clued in a little more to what Flynn, his thought process, more so than the other two. It creates an interesting dynamic where Flynn can relate to Wyatt and vice versa. Flynn’s trained. He’s ex-NSA. They both come from that world. I think we’re going to find that maybe they have more in common, these two, than previously thought. I think that sets up a possibility for: does Wyatt go to the dark-side? Does Flynn come to the good-side? I don’t know.

Is Wyatt going to feel betrayed when he finds out there might be a connection between Flynn and Lucy?
MATT: Yes. That’s all playing in this episode [five]. I think that’s going to play into the next few episodes, which I’ve not read. But we’ve been creating this time-team with Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus right now. We’ve been setting it up, and it’s strengthening, and we’re figuring out how to work with each. Then this episode, in particular, rips that to shreds. We find out that all of us, these two [Lucy and Rufus] more so, are holding secrets that Wyatt doesn’t know about. In the same episode, like I mentioned, there are things revealed about Flynn that I think he can relate to. It’s definitely breaking-up the team a little bit, so to speak.

How much time are you getting with scripts? Just speak to that point you were making about, you don’t know what’s coming necessarily.
MATT: They’ve been doing really great about getting us the scripts. We’ve been getting scripts probably at least five days in advance from when we start shooting. However, it’s still difficult for us, especially with me, and Abbie, and Malcolm [Barrett]. We’re here all the time. We’re working long, long hours. It’s tough to dive into all process of your character from the next episode when you’ve still got five to six days filming. I think we do have a good balance, but if I had to pick one, I would say we’re slightly more history-based than science-based right now because we see the fun time-travel stuff. We really haven’t dove into how did we figure this out and how did they create the machine. I assume that’s probably coming down the road. Right now it’s a little more history-based, mission-oriented. We jump into a world where time-travel already exists, so we don’t need to explain to audience how each screw turns this way. [Laughs] Not yet, at least.

To find out just what secret agendas and alternative missions each of the TIMELESS time-travelers have hidden from each other, be sure to tune in for the premiere of TIMELESS on Monday, October 3rd at 10:00 p.m. on NBC — and remember that Episode 5 holds some big reveals of those secrets!

For those curious, here is our video interview with Matt Lanter from San Diego Comic-Con:

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