“Together, we changed history.”
It sounds like a line ripped out of an episode of Timeless, NBC’s time-traveling drama, but it took on a whole new meaning Thursday at the series’ San Diego Comic-Con panel.
The panel came two months after the show was axed and then, shockingly, un-canceled by NBC. Despite spending much of its first season on the bubble, the series amassed a fiercely loyal fan base that was up in arms over its demise. (Timeless also ranked as the fourth-highest-rated scripted series when all delayed viewing is factored in.)
Despite the show’s high price tag — Timeless hails from Sony Pictures Television and is one of NBC’s few dramas not produced in-house by Universal TV — Sony and NBC were able to come to an agreement for a 10-episode second season that will launch sometime in 2018, either spring or summer. Creators-executive producers-showrunners Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke reportedly pitched a more family-friendly second season, which also helped incentivize the decision for NBC.
Fittingly, Ryan and Kripke were joined Thursday by stars Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett and Goran Visnjic to discuss the miraculous turn of events with a video that showed just how Timeless’ die-hard fans and the fervent #RenewTimeless social media campaign helped resurrect the series and, as the video said, “changed history.” (Watch the video below.)
“The point of the panel is to celebrate you for saving the show, so I think you deserve a round of applause,” Kripke told the Comic-Con audience, which drew enthusiastic applause from the ballroom.
Barrett also celebrated the fans by bringing #Clockblockers t-shirts that he threw to the crowd towards the beginning of the panel. (Fans in attendance were also treated to a sneak peek of the blooper reel from the season one DVD, which will be released Sept. 19.)
When Kripke and Ryan polled the crowd about which fandom name they preferred, not surprisingly “#Clockblockers” easily won over “#TimeFandits.” After the introductory video — set to the opening music of the time-traveling blockbuster film Back to the Future, no less — the cast and creators discussed their reversal of fortunes.
“We had been canceled that Wednesday, so … we started to make peace. You’re starting to go through your grieving process,” Kripke said. (Or “drinking process,” as Spencer jokingly called it.)
“There was no hint. It was Sony, to their credit, and NBC busting their ass behind the scenes,” Kripke continued of the surprise Saturday phone call from the higher-ups at the network. “It was truly out of the blue.”
While Kripke was busy driving his kid to soccer, others (i.e. Spencer) were fast asleep when the good news broke. “I was totally asleep. My phone was off and I woke up, I’m not kidding, to hundreds of texts,” said the actress. It was only when she got an e-mail from Ryan that she truly believed the good news. “It’s truly magical,” Spencer said of the fan campaign to save the series.
Despite the show’s perennial bubble status during season one, Kripke said that didn’t make the writers think twice about how to end season one, specifically the reveal that Lucy’s (Spencer) mom, Carol (Susanna Thompson), is Rittenhouse. “You come in hard, like, ‘No, man, we’re coming back,’ and you write that way,” he said. “To me, that’s the only way you write a show.”
Spencer recalled shooting that final scene, which was also the last scene they shot of season one.
“What was difficult about that scene was … we’re basically wrapping up all of season one and dropping this huge bomb all in the same breath,” said the actress. “I felt very close to Lucy. I felt very overwhelmed, I felt saddened. … It was a lot of emotions and feelings going on and a lot of words to say. Lucy is, unlike me, very verbose,” she added with a laugh.
However, Spencer also embraced the twist because “I love the way that we portray women on the show.”
Looking ahead to season two, Kripke said that reveal will have a big influence going forward.
“Lucy’s mom is really going to be one of the major big bads in season two,” he said. “Rittenhouse does have their hands on the time machine, so that is way worse than Garcia (Visnjic) having his hands on the time machine, and Garcia and the team are kind of, sort of now facing a common enemy, so there’s going to be some sort of complicated, really fraught, messy team-up with that.”
Among the changes for season two is the shooting location, which will move from Vancouver to Los Angeles when production begins in November. “I think that will allow us to tell a few stories that we were unable to tell” in season one, Ryan said. “We definitely have some ideas, nothing sort of set in stone.”
However, one of Ryan’s hopes is to “dip deeper into character” in season two. “We’ll still have spectacle and bigness,” he said, but “I think we’ll just have episodes where we dive deep into the Lucy and Wyatt (Lanter) of it all.”
Kripke also said season two, like much of scripted TV, might be influenced by the current political state of the country, even if he was hesitant about making a political statement.
“The thing that we really found this year, that we really love about the show is we really, like, are very proud that we were able to tell these very positive, really inclusive stories about history, stories about women and stories about minorities and stories about gay people — that everyone contributes to the history of this country,” Kripke said, which was met with applause by the Comic-Con crowd. “I will be the opposite of political in this, but I would say that’s a very good message these days. I would say there’s a lot of doubling down on that in season two.”
He added, “History is for everybody, and America is for everybody.”
Kripke also pointed to Timeless‘ diverse and inclusive stories when asked about the show potentially traveling to the future at some point. “Never say never, but kind of never,” he replied. “It’s rare that the future is done well on TV — you can probably count on one hand or a couple fingers. It’s always bad, and so I don’t think we want to do that. We love the research, we love that it’s historically based. We love that we can represent stories that are diverse and inclusive. God willing, [when] we’re in season seven or eight, ask me again … but I don’t think anytime soon.”
Kripke was, in comparison, more eager to look ahead to the future of the series itself. In the closing moments of the panel, he tasked the crowd of eager fans with helping spread the word about season two before it returns.
“I wish I could say the job was done. … I’m psyched about season two, but I’m also thinking about season three. We’re going to be airing in 2018, and that’s a lot of time off the air,” he said. “Bring new people to the show. The more you can bring people into the time team and we can enlist you all as time team members, the better we’ll be.”
Added Spencer: “Clearly we can’t do it without you. We need you.”
Watch the Timeless Comic-Con video below: