Amanda Schull on Action & Adaptation in the new 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys Amanda Schull

We sat down with Amanda Schull back in December for an awesome talk about her work in the new series adaptation of Terry Gillian’s cult classic, 12 Monkeys. Even at the end of a long day, Amanda was bright and shiny and ready to tell us all about what makes 12 Monkeys distinct from the film, moving between action and comedy/drama, and how her dance background lends itself to action scenes.

On watching the movie “12 Monkeys” and comparing to the source material

I didn’t rewatch before I shot the pilot. I did not want to allow that determine my character, the choices I made, or anything because it’s its own thing and we’re our own entity. As much as we are an adaptation and we’re taking certain ideas and storylines we’re definitely expanding on things and starting new storylines and she’s a very different character from the character that was initiated by Madeleine Stowe. And so I didn’t rewatch it but after we shot the pilot I rewatched it and remembered how great it was. 

I know Aaron Stanford who plays the role of Cole, he rewatched it. Before we shot and he still is his own character completely, he doesn’t try to mimic Bruce Willis in any way so he did it his way, I did it my way. Hopefully, we both made the right choice for ourselves.

On Comparing the Series to the Movie, and folks who are new to the story

You can absolutely jump into this if you haven’t seen the film. But I also am really optimistic that people who are fans of the movie will also be fans of the show. Because, it’s not like I said an imitation it’s not us trying to redo the original it’s us paying a lot of respect to the original and making our own jumping off point and we have so many storylines that are unique to our series and characters that are unique to the series and then like the choice of Jennifer Goines played by Emily Hampshire which was originally the Brad Pitt role obviously that’s a very different choice and a very different character. So there were a lot of intentional decisions in that regard. That are similar with maybe some character traits but we’re all being very mindful of the fact that we want to have our own entity going forward.

On the shift from Katrina (Suits) to Cassandra (12 Monkeys)

They’re both very smart ladies and it’s obviously a shift but going from one character to another in any realm is a very different shift. I really make a conscious effort to be very distinct from one role to the next and I don’t use notes from one character as kind of like X things out and insert name here I really try to be a completely unique person, and that’s how I approach this. Although, it’s a very different genre than the drama and dramedy of Suits.

On the differences with shooting a genre show vs. Suits and shooting in low, low light

Well, there isn’t a lot of action in Suits, it’s usually verbal action. There aren’t a lot of squibs being exploded and not a lot of gun fire and not many plagues and apocalypses. And of course it’s a very different thing on set of 12 Monkeys the environment really lends itself to the material.

We shoot in very dark lighting which while you’re on set you’re thinking “can they really see me” I mean, there was one day where Tom Noonan who is in several episodes of the first season. He set foot in the room and he looked around and he said, “Are you guys even looking at me? Can you see anything I’m doing?” Because the lighting is so dim. But with the cameras they have now the irises are so open you can really shoot in really dark lighting. So it really lends itself to the mood and the mystery and the intrigue with everything. So once you’re on set it sort of envelops you in this environment that really is believable as an actor. Which is very helpful.

On what a dance background brings to an action environment

It’s definitely helpful. I’ve been very lucky to not have to do anything too crazy this season.

On getting into crazy stunts… or maybe not

I would like to. I don’t mind that. I mean with the exception of maybe diving off a building through a burning hoop of flames or something – that does not interest me in the least. Or anything really that involves a high speed boat chase that would not go over so well with me but. I do like it. I like the physicality of getting to do something like that.

There’s also. There have been times where for whatever reason we’ve needed a stunt double to do something if it meant that there was maybe something falling or whatever else. I get very attached. She’s portraying something that I built you know and I want to be able to do it myself for the integrity of the role and my own personal selfish reasons you know.

On having a sense of humour with the apocalypse

On set, it’s a nonstop barrel of monkeys. Pardon the pun. But it really is. I mean, I really enjoy the people I get to work with. They’re very smart people. Everyone has a fantastic sense of humour so that’s very lucky. We go to set – with the hours we work – the fact that we enjoy each other that much is really remarkable. In the show there’s definitely levity because I think, who wants to sit through 42 solid minutes of just doom and gloom.

There are opportunities also in different people’s lives that that wasn’t the main focus. Or that having the impending doom and gloom makes you live out a certain thing. No I think that’s something that’s going to be explored also because if you know that something going to happen, how will you behave?

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