Sci-Fi Storm

A talk with Ascension‘s Al Sapienza, part 2 – spoiler version

by on Dec.17, 2014, under Television

In our earlier article where we talked with Al Sapienza, who plays Councilman Rose on Ascension, I mentioned that I couldn’t tell you everything that was said, as we had both seen the first night of the show already and the “big reveal” at the end. What follows is the remaining part of that conversation. So if you HAVEN’T SEEN the first night yet, bookmark this article and come back after you have seen it. I REALLY don’t want to spoil it for you.

Really. I mean that. Do not read another word until you’ve seen it.


Still here? OK…if you’ve seen it, you probably know how much I wanted to talk about it with SOMEONE…I wanted to have a “It’s made of people!” moment. But that probably would have made me persona-non-grata with my friends at Syfy, and no bowling next year. 🙁

I had realized before watching that the possibility of that twist existed. After talking about the show with the cast, I started to see the show as a social experiment in a sense – take 600 souls, lock them up with no outside contact, and see how they evolve independently. Will the evolve at all? I thought it would be an interesting way to explore the concept on TV – like some of the reality series that have recently aired, but in a fictional format. The space setting was just icing.

I didn’t realize how right I was. More right, apparently. I thought of the twist the more I thought about it, but didn’t want to believe it at some level. So I was still floored at the very end. My fourteen year old daughter, watching it live, started to realize it just before the end, and she was just as floored.

So, while talking to Al I mentioned the idea of the social experiment, the discussion turned right to the whole concept.

Al: At the end of that show, did you realize that they weren’t in space?

Doc: Yes! I was going in thinking, reading about the concept about the show, and there could be this cop out, but we were given the description, and the presentations, and watching the show…even still, in the back of my mind there could be this thing, and it still surprised the hell out of me when it came up. Especially the way they did it.

Al: It surprised the hell out of me too. I didn’t know until the second day of filming. They didn’t release that in the script that they sent to all agents and managers – they didn’t have the ending. So I got hired really fast. I was supposed to do that show “NCIS: New Orleans“, I was up for that, and they give me this script, I read it, I get hired the next day – I didn’t even audition, and I was on a plane the next day. So I’m thinking how fantastic this is, this space thing – I don’t even know the second element of this whole story which is equally as fantastic. So I’m filming the whole first day, lunch the second day Tricia Helfer popped over and says, “You don’t know, do you?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” “You don’t know!”, and I’m like, “WHAT?” She said, “We’re not in space!” I said, “What the?!? What are you talking about?” So I learned on the second day on set that this was a social experiment, on Earth…I was really blown away. I was blown away to begin with, but now…the possibilities are endless. They’re endless!

Doc: I mentioned the social experiment thing, and I’m thinking, Wow, this IS a social experiment…

Al: Totally! It’s exactly how people would react to long term space travel. That’s what they are doing.

Doc: And to such an extreme, as opposed to some things that they’ve really done, they’re like, “We’ll take people, and we’ll take several generations to see what happens…”

Al: Well, that’s what it would take. Light travels at what, 186,000 miles per second? The closest star is I think 12 light years away? [Doc: 4, actually :)] Realistically, unless we can get in to some sort of wormhole, or figure out how to travel the speed of light which ain’t gonna happen for a long long long long time if at all, then it’s going to take 50 generations before a craft would get near a planet that is inhabitable, you know what I mean? It’s an interesting concept. It’s a really interesting concept. You would want to observe this on Earth for as long as you can before you send that spacecraft out there so you can do these things in advance because out there they’ll just die. There’s no lifeboats. This whole thing is fascinating.

Doc: For the whole experiment to work no one can know.

Al: Exactly. I hope the public loves it as much as I do.

Doc: It’s interesting because they bill it as “Syfy’s return to space” and they throw that in there and it’s like “WHAM! Wait a second, they were lying to us!”

Al: The only thing is, on that ship, it’s the exact same thing. We really do believe were in space. But we’re not going to be encountering any aliens, we’re not going to be encountering real meteors, so it gives us – the story will go so far with the ship, but the Earth story, and the relationship between the Earthlings and the people on the ship, and the people on the ship have no idea they have any relationship with Earthlings, and never will for this experiment to work, that’s what will be incredibly fascinating. And unique – you see every space situation between Star Trek and Deep Space Nine, and Battlestar Galactica – you’ve seen all that. This is going to be different.

And different it is. I’m watching the final hour right now…and HOLY CRAP…


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