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How Persons Unknown would have progressed – Interview with Rémi Aubuchon

We spoke with one of the leading minds behind the short-lived 'Persons Unknown' to get the lowdown on how it would have progressed, and he delivered. Contained within are some details about 'Falling Skies' and 'Stargate Universe' as well.

So what of these characters that we came to know and learn morsels about throughout the season? What was special about these particular people, and when would we have learned more about them, if at all?

“What we loved about the character of Janet, and what we wanted to create is that all of a sudden they have identified this one particular individual who seemed innocent enough — she was a single mother, trying to struggle, her husband left her — but what they never realized is that she’s not someone that the program can actually change. And by throwing that into the machinery, they accidentally killed themselves. The question we were always going to be playing with was: did the Madame Director do this on purpose? Was she trying to bring down this program herself? Does she understand? Or is she the evil person that people are fighting against, and is Janet eventually going to become an assassin? Or is she actually going to become someone who saves everybody from the program? And what they didn’t count on was her love for Joe and that changing everything.

“We had a lot of discussion about what ‘level two’ would be. Part of it was they were going to be on a secret island but … we didn’t go with that [laughs]. But somehow this next level would be actual training. It’s clear that Joe has been through several levels of the program, and so the other characters — and Janet in particular — were going to go through the motions in order to figure out where in the world the town is so that they can setup the rescue.

“Down the line — within five years was our plan — eventually an entire organization which we called ‘The Mansfield Institute’ would eventually be completely and utterly destroyed, with Janet being the major agent of that destruction and change. (Truth is we named it ‘The Mansfield Institute’ after one of our executives at FOX Television Studios, Pancho Mansfield.) We just had this idea that we had this sort of benign, plain paper bag of an organization that the public never really understood what they did; they’d show up on the general service budget every year but nobody quite knows what they do. So that’s a general overview of what that was going to be like.”

Does that mean that each season was going to be another level?

“No. I think that once Janet broke out of level two that all hell would have broken loose.

“The questions viewers had coming out of the first season was: was it all manipulated? Did they really escape from the town? Or were they allowed to escape from the town? Was Janet allowed to escape from the hospital? Was that all part of the plan or were there some accidents that allowed them to happen? We didn’t answer all of those questions but we were eventually going to answer those questions.”

It seemed that, as the show was progressing, we got some sense that a lot of what these “prisoners” knew was hidden from us — and from the other prisoners — and we got some hints regarding that as the season came to a conclusion.

“It would turn out that almost everybody had been briefed on everybody else during the course of being in the town. Nobody really knows why they were briefed or how. We hadn’t worked out all the specifics on that, and we came up with that idea fairly late in developing the show. We always knew who Joe was; we always knew Janet’s story. We hadn’t really figured out everyone else’s stuff.

“Around episode five or six is when we really had to start thinking seriously about them. Blackham was going to know a lot more about Charlie than Charlie knew about Blackham; we were certainly going to develop that more in the second season. The major thing we wanted was when they all find themselves back in the hotel again, we wanted them to have something that they could look at each other at with suspicion. That was the first and foremost reason for doing that — now all of a sudden we learn the soldier’s been tortured, and we had no idea how those girls got back from Morocco. To be honest we hadn’t done a lot of thinking about that.”

So, the prisoner camp we saw in the finale was was the cast-away area, where people who were rejected wound up?

“Yes. It was kind of one of those things that we thought was cool but hadn’t thought it out fully yet. ‘Oh we’ll figure it out in the second season,’ we thought.”

Now, about the Falling Skies and Stargate Universe stuff I mentioned earlier:

“We just wrapped production [of Falling Skies]. We still have post-production and visual effects to finish up.”

He had an interesting note to add about Falling Skies and how they reveal the alien side of things. Executive Producer Steven Spielberg had the idea that, in order to not build an overly complex and misunderstood mythology behind what was going on with the aliens, the viewer would only be privy to what was known about them through what the human characters experienced of them on-screen. There would be no POV scenes of the aliens, further complicating the storyline.

Interestingly, Falling Skies is not listed on Auduchon’s IMDb page, as of this writing. He took over the show for the second season, but wasn’t involved with the first season at all because of involvement with Stargate Universe.

Speaking of Stargate Universe, I did get to quickly ask a bit about that. There’s been talk of something to resolve SGU in the form of perhaps a movie of some kind, but nothing’s yet solid.

“Brad [Wright, co-creator,] has been pushing for it for some time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear an announcement about it some time, but at this stage I don’t really know.”

I thought perhaps I could take our little remaining time to get some answers as to where SGU was going to go, had it continued. Seeing as there may be a movie, it was a longshot.

“I will tell you in terms of [the alien signal] that Brad had very specific ideas of what that was, and I know what those are but I’d rather not mention it in case there is going to be a movie. I will say this: he had a full story worked out in terms of what they were chasing, which is fascinating and interesting. But in terms of character development, we didn’t really have a clear idea about that yet.”

I did get him to give me a “yeah, sure” when I asked if I could approach him in a couple of years for those answers, should a movie never come to be. Personally, as a fan of SGU, I’d rather see it come to the screen in some form than hear it from his mouth, but I’ll take what I can get.

Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/NBC

Categories: | Clack | Falling Skies | Features | General | News | TV Shows |

4 Responses to “How Persons Unknown would have progressed – Interview with Rémi Aubuchon”

April 4, 2012 at 3:46 AM

I actually watched the entire series, and I’m satisfied with that resolution to the story.

The odd thing is, as bad as the writing could be on Persons Unknown, I actually viewed the reactions and relationships of the random group of strangers stranded in the artificial town to be more realistic and human than that of the elite coworkers dumped through the ninth chevron. I remember thinking that specifically at the time, and had no idea Aubuchon was behind both shows.

April 15, 2012 at 1:29 PM

I think the major problem with Lost is that it stated out a Science Fiction show and then evolved into a fantasy show. You’re either one or the other–not both.

June 15, 2012 at 5:47 AM

I just finished watching Persons Unknown on Netflix, I must say I loved the entire series. It had that feeling Nowhere Man did except with tons of people not just one guy, it also delivered interesting characters and made the entire 13 episodes seem like 24! I wish they’d have continued the series but I am definitely satisfied with the entire thing and the only sad part is how Kat Damatto and Mark Renbe get separated in the end. I really thought those two had their acting down perfect and seemed great together. Making her end up in the camp wasn’t exactly thrilling to me were they planning to kill her :( I do have to say thanks for this and I wish just 1 more season could’ve happened, the show was damn good.

June 23, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Still sad it didn’t continue.. I really couldnt figure out why it didnt have a second season its a great serie. Agree with you Sam DeRenzis.

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