By Frank Barron
Noah Wyle has had a successful history with the executive producer of his new hit TNT series Falling Skies, Steven Spielberg. And that success will continue since the action-drama alien invasion show from DreamWorks Television was just renewed for a second season.
Although the mega-filmmaker is ultra busy with producing and directing many projects, and among those are the upcoming December releases War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin helmed by Spielberg, Wyle says he’s a very hands-on executive producer for Falling Skies.
Wyle first met Steven Spielberg during the casting process for ER in 1994. Wyle won the role of the fresh face young Dr. John Carter and stayed with the show for 11 seasons. He also returned for several episodes during ER’s monumental 15th and final season.
Wyle went on to rack up some other impressive credits, including the TNT series of The Librarian movies, and the TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, in the role of Steve Jobs.
Talking about his working relationship with Spielberg, Wyle says, “Steven was tremendously involved with the beginning of ER. So I had the great fortune of getting to spend a lot time around him and see how razor sharp his mind is when it comes to developing story and character.”
“This job [Falling Skies] came about more probably because of my relationship with [top TNT exec]Michael Wright than Mr. Spielberg. Michael and I have now made four movies together, and we get along quite well. And he was very generous about showing me all the pilot scripts that he had. The fact that this was a DreamWorks project was a very enticing detail, but it was the quality of the script in itself.”
“But getting to work with Steven Spielberg again, especially in the sci-fi and alien genre, has been tremendous. And getting to see his notes come through, whether they were in preproduction, in casting, in script shaping, in the editing room or in the post-production with the special effects, it’s like getting to sit at the foot of the master.”
Wyle likes the idea of playing a heroic character in Falling Skies, and says, “At the root of all heroism, resilience, strength of character — those are the moments when those untapped qualities come into the forefront and become the defining qualities for a person.”
Those qualities were certainly part of Wyle’s roles on ER and in The Librarian movies. But now he’s the guy fighting intergalactic invaders, and he’s playing it to impress a very special young viewer.
Wyle says, “Half the reason I decided to do this show was to look heroic to my eight-year-old son. And he got to come to work and see his dad run around with a machine gun fighting aliens. That was worth the price of admission already.”
Falling Skies sets its story in the chaotic aftermath of an all-out invasion of the planet by an alien military force. Most of the world is incapacitated, but survivors have banded together outside major cities to fight back. Each day is a test of survival as citizen soldiers protect the people in their care, while fighting the occupying alien force. Along with Wyle, the show stars Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy, Will Patton, Jessy Schram, Maxim Knight and Connor Jessup, who plays Wyle’s son captured by the aliens.
It’s a very physical role for Wyle. “ER didn’t have the physicality of Falling Skies, but it was certainly emotionally draining. So I thought this would be a good challenge. The clock is ticking on how long I can do this sort of thing,” says the 40-year-old actor.
It’s been intense and physically demanding work, he points out, but adds he also got some action in The Librarian movies, which are very special to him. “I hope one day we can make more of those because those are just pure joy. And The Librarian didn’t have to carry a twenty-pound machine gun everywhere he went.”
Although an action hero in Falling Skies, Wyle is playing a Boston history professor, Tom Mason, who is the leader of a group of soldiers and civilians in the aftermath of an alien invasion.
Wyle sees his smart character as “the author of the next set of history. Since the reset button on humanity has been pushed, the survivors will become the authors of the next gospel or constitution, or whatever the document or framework for society is going to have to live under. I think his back story of having been a college professor, a history professor, puts him in a great position to be that chronicler.” And it makes for great storytelling on TNT.