20th Dec2013

Interview: ‘The Tomorrow People’ executive producers Phil Klemmer & Danny Cannon

by Phil Wheat

Based on the original 70s British TV series of the same name and starring Robbie Amell (1600 Penn, Revenge), Luke Mitchell (Neighbours, Home and Away), Peyton List (Mad Men, FlashForward), Aaron Yoo (21, Disturbia), Madeleine Mantock (Casualty, Edge of Tomorrow) and Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural, Revolution), The Tomorrow People is a brand new sci-fi series set to make its UK debut on E4 next month. With that in mind, we sat down with executive producers Phil Klemmer and Danny Cannon to talk about what we can expect from this new iteration of the show and how much of an influence the original series has had on the pair…

Tomorrow-People

How would you describe the genesis of this exciting new sci-fi show?

PHIL KLEMMER: I worked with Greg Berlanti on his Emmy-nominated television program,Political Animals. We were on location in Philadelphia and we had just shot the pilot, so we were flying back home. It had been a month of 12-hour days, but Greg nudged me and he wanted to know if I was interested in talking about developing a new show. I remember feeling exhausted and saying, “Are you crazy?” But that’s what makes Greg so great; he never stops. He said to me, “Have you seen The Tomorrow People?” I think it was a show he watched as a kid, so I got the DVDs and I watched them the next time I headed back to Philadelphia. We started to talk about the concept when we were on set. Obviously, our show is very different – but in our down time we kept talking about a cool way to remake the original series. Brick by brick, we built The Tomorrow People.

DANNY CANNON: Warner Bros. said to me, “Are you aware of a TV show called The Tomorrow People?” My response was, “Yes. It was a show in the 1970s and it was based on a David Bowie song called Oh! You Pretty Things. I used to watch it with my sister.” It all started from there.

The Tomorrow People was originally a British children’s television show in the 1970s. How much pressure is there to live up to the expectations of the fans of the original series?

PHIL KLEMMER: There are no obligations. It’s really a question of inspiration. It’s not like it’s so well known in America that we’re going to be lambasted for changing anything in the storylines or plots. I think the sky is wide open, but the original series definitely touched us. Our obligation is to honour the dreams of what it meant to the people who saw it when they were young. I saw it as an adult, so I’ve seen it through fresh eyes – but our show is a different show. I think we’ve created something that’s designed for an older audience, but we also want to touch people the way the original did.

Are there going to be any nods or references relating to the original series? Maybe other characters from the original show will turn up in upcoming storylines?

PHIL KLEMMER: Absolutely. It’s awesome to imagine the 1 per cent of the television audience that will understand these references. You always want to keep the 99 per cent totally engaged, but you’re totally going to blow the minds of that 1 per cent. It’s such a thrill. I’ve always loved doing things like that.

TIM the biological computer is a fan favourite from the original British series. How much will we see of TIM in your updated version of the show?

PHIL KLEMMER: TIM will feature in every episode. There was an incredible temp dialogue that Danny contributed. As soon as I heard it, I knew it was perfect for the show. He’s got a great know-it-all snarkiness to his voice. It works really well.

DANNY CANNON: I was in the cutting room and they needed an English voice – and now I’m TIM. For TIM, I spoke the way my mother always wished I would speak, instead of my ‘North London rebel’ accent.

What aspects of the original show appealed to you so much?

DANNY CANNON: The Tomorrow People was about kids from a normal neighbourhood that I recognised, and the kids had London accents that I recognised. They were alienated and made to feel invisible, but they were then told that they were special. Watching the show as a kid, it felt like I was watching people down the block from me. It felt like I was watching people I knew. I related to the characters. They were everybody. There were no leotards and there was no special weaponry. These people had their feet on the ground. They were normal people – but then they found out that they had a special gift.

How does the David Bowie song fit into the show?

DANNY CANNON: The David Bowie song was called Oh! You Pretty Things. The show’s original creator and writer, Roger Price, saw a shift in the youth in the mid-1970s compared to the youth of the 1960s. He noticed how the youth were feeling empowered. The 1970s were all about not cutting off your hair and going into the army. It was about not doing what mum and dad said. The nuclear family had gone and everyone was experimenting and moving forward. There was a sense of freedom and I really related to that. The youth of the 1970s was rebelling against the short hair, post war, public school world. They were growing their hair. They were experimenting with drugs and experimenting with their sexuality. Bowie was revelling in that.

Which of the show’s storylines or plots excite you the most?

PHIL KLEMMER: When you think about the shows you love and the things that really affect you, those things are only possible after you’ve got to know the characters deeply. One of the things we’ve done in the upcoming episodes is include a lot of backstories for the other characters. If the pilot episode was all about Stephen breaking out, we also find out about Cara [played by Peyton List] and John [played by Luke Mitchell] in the upcoming episodes. We find out about who these people were when they were human beings and I find that fascinating. I think the fans are going to love it.

What story arcs can the audience expect in the first season of the show?

PHIL KLEMMER: We really like the dynamic of Stephen trying to live with one foot in the Ultra world and another foot in the world of the Tomorrow People. He’s got one foot in the human world and another foot in the world of this exciting new species. For a while, we’ll be looking at the complications of him making that impossible balancing act.

What would you say to potential viewers to entice them to watch the new show?

DANNY CANNON: Right now, superhero films are huge. The X-Men franchise is awesome, but I think our show is a much more grounded way to show these themes. Rather than costumes, acrobatics and explosions, this show is about, ‘What if there was something in our DNA that could change somebody?’ The show could be about any kid on any block in any street in any country – and I think that’s great. It’s a super-easy show to relate to. I really like the ‘feet on the ground’ approach to our show.
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The Tomorrow People will premiere in the UK on E4 in on 8th January at 9pm

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