Peter Shinkoda on ‘Falling Skies’

The 2ND Mass' resident badass takes us inside his character and the first season of TNT's hit series.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

For over twenty years, Peter Shinkoda has been active as an actor in film and television with an impressive list of credits, including appearances in "The Dead Zone," "Paycheck," "Andromeda," "Supernatural," "Stargate SG-1," "Dark Angel" and "I, Robot."

More recently, Shinkoda has landed one of the lead supporting roles on TNT's hit series, "Falling Skies." In the series, Shinkoda portrays Dai, one of the fiercest warriors in the 2ND Mass and the confidant of Tom Mason (Noah Wyle).

Earlier this month, Crave Online spoke with Shinkoda about his role on "Falling Skies," what's coming up for his character in the future, his previous appearances in "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" and "Power Rangers" as well as an interesting discussion about the live action American adaptation of "Akira." 


Crave Online: Tell us about how you got involved with "Falling Skies."

Peter Shinkoda: Through the typical channels, through my refs. Very, very late in the game, after the character breakdowns had been out for a month, I got the opportunity to read a take. Steven Spielberg saw it a couple of days later and he pretty much offered the role to me without having a screen test or anything, he was convinced off that take. And just a couple days afterwards I was flying off to Toronto to start the production.

Crave Online: Tell us about Dai, who is this guy?

Peter Shinkoda: Dai is the civilian survivor from the initial attack who, according to the Dark Horse "Falling Skies" comics, crosses paths with Noah Wyle’s character Tom Mason previous to when the show actually starts. Just a few months previous to [the pilot]. And they become tight. He’s the most trusted fighter in Tom Mason’s crew, so Dai is heavily relied upon when it comes to military operations. And he also offers an ear to Tom Mason when he has to confide his personal feelings. Which he doesn’t do much; he’s always preoccupied with playing the father role to his sons.

After about a month of playing the military leader and keeping that stoic face, maintaining a certain level of strength and confidence, Tom has moments where he does have things to say, and he can say them to me.

Crave Online: Was Dai being sincere when he says he had nobody to care about before the invasion?

Peter Shinkoda: He was, he certainly was. The back story, according to the writers, is that his father had been in the ARV, in the U.S. army during Vietnam. He was a scout working for the armed forces, the CIA, and throughout my childhood I was raised by him alone and I learned all his combat techniques.

Crave Online: Earlier in the season, we saw John Pope get the better of Dai.
Peter Shinkoda: Yeah [Pope] does get the better of [Dai]. Dai would, I’m sure, be looking forward to some kind of reunion so that he can have some words or somehow address the fact that he was knocked about. (laughing)

Crave Online: Will Dai get a shot at a rematch before the end of the season?

Peter Shinkoda: I’m hoping so, it’s pretty unclear right now, but you know I’m looking forward to it as a performer, I would love to see some kind of conclusion, to put some kind of reprimand on him for it. Because it has not been addressed. Yet.

Crave Online: What’s your favorite moment as Dai in the course of the first season?

Peter Shinkoda: You know, there’s enough scenes where they show me in battle. I’m actually really fond of the scenes where I get to talk. There are a few, usually talking to Noah Wyle’s character. I really treasure those moments where we actually have specific conversations.

Crave Online: Can you give us a taste of what we can expect for your character in the remaining episodes?

Peter Shinkoda: A little bit. Dai is very focused, very loyal, that’s a true line with his character. One thing that we consistently see and that we’ll build more upon is the fact that Dai is highly courageous. It’s almost obscene how selfless Dai is, And you’ll see as it progresses that Dai is almost made up of super hero qualities. I mean he is absolutely, absolutely brave and selfless.

Crave Online: What direction would you like to see Dai’s character go in the second season?

Peter Shinkoda: Well hopefully we’ll develop the character, give him more of a history. Hopefully the writers will come up with something with a little bit more dialog or storyline where it shows a little bit more of his back story and his reasoning for being there with the 2ND Mass.

Crave Online: If you got the chance to write an episode of Falling Skies, what would you make it about?

Peter Shinkoda: If I had a chance, well I would certainly like to expand, gently expand a little bit more upon my character. Maybe touch upon the fact that according to the Dark Horse comics that [Dai] did save Noah Wyle’s life and maybe he could verbalize it. You know, bring that up with Tom and consider the beginning of our friendship. Pretty much give more character development. You can only ask for that.

Crave Online: Now, you were in the "Mortal Kombat" web series recently right?

Peter Shinkoda: Yeah. Did that earlier this year.

Crave Online: Which character did you play?

Peter Shinkoda: I played Sektor in the season finale. I was expecting it to drop on the Internet weeks ago but only 24 hours before the director, Kevin Tancharoen and Warner premiere decided to premiere it to the world, live at the Comic-Con panel. So, this character Sektor, he is a cyborg ninja. If you’re familiar with the storyline then you’ll know that he’s part of the Lin Kuei clan of ninjas. And he first appeared in the third incarnation, Mortal Kombat III back in the 90’s. He is reminiscent of Boba Fett. He’s got weapons, he’s a cyborg, and he’s quite evil.

Crave Online: Did you appear in the Sub-Zero episode as well?

Peter Shinkoda: I did not. There was Sub-Zero and Scorpion part one and part two, I did not appear in those. I know that IMDB said that I appeared with the leads, who were my good friends Ian Anthony Dale and Kevan Ohtsji. They did great, both of them.

Crave Online: So you’re saying IMDb has lied to us?!

Peter Shinkoda: Wouldn’t be the first time for that.


Crave Online: What else have you got in the pipeline?

Peter Shinkoda: A couple of projects that my reps are working on right now, big projects. We’re going to see. They’re concentrating on trying to get me in them, but we don’t know so I won’t tell. Hopefully.

I can tell you I would love to be involved in developing "Akira" with Warner Bros. Love to be the one Asian-American face in there (laughs) if they decide to actually throw any Asian guy a bone. You understand that Warner Bros. is considering casting everybody in Akira as Caucasian or American actors? That would be a shame because it’s a Japanese property; it’s a very sacred brand in Japan, without even one Asian person being cast, that would be a tragedy.

Crave Online:The fans aren’t any happier about that.

Peter Shinkoda: I don’t believe I’ve seen the online petition to keep the name "Akira" itself. It’s not a selfish act, as a fan it’s enough that "The Matrix" kind of took a lot from another Japanese property, "Ghost in the Shell" and it did reasonably well. But "Akira"? At some point Hollywood has to realize that you’ve got to play ball here. It’s crazy, it would absolutely alienate a hell of a lot of their fan base it they were to take it over that way, if they hired all white actors.

Crave Online: You mean it would be something along the lines of taking "The Last Airbender" and casting all white people in that movie?

Peter Shinkoda: Yeah, it’s quite like that. But I think it would be an even more epic mistake. "Akira" has all the potential of the world and messing with what’s clearly a good formula established in the manga…

Crave Online: It’s also quintessentially a Japanese story. You can’t make that happen in America. It’s not going to be the same.

Peter Shinkoda: Well people are trusting that it can fly like that. I heard predictions that the working title for the movie is "Neo-Manhattan," as opposed to "Akira." I understand form the breakdown that they’ll still have the names Kaneda and Tetsuo, why wouldn’t you just call them Bob and Jimmy if you’re going to cast them, I don’t really know what the specs are at this point but I’d love to be a part of it.

Crave Online: Even if they change the name to "Neo-Manhattan," then they lose the branding for "Akira."

Peter Shinkoda: I know, exactly. It’s all a loss. It’s almost like they were designing it into the worst thing possible [thing].
Crave Online: If they do go through with those plans, then Neo-Tokyo is about to explode.

Peter Shinkoda: (Laughing)

Crave Online: I also wanted to ask you about a very distant credit on your list. It says on IMDB that you were on the "Power Rangers."

Peter Shinkoda: I was! It was a decade and a half ago, a handful of episodes and some more on the "Masked Rider" spinoff from the "Power Rangers."

Crave Online: Can you tell us about that?

Peter Shinkoda: It was one of my first credits, I’d been pursuing acting for a few years. And to tell you the truth when I did get the part in "Power Rangers" I was already a huge fan of the show. I mean I got a lot of flack because I liked it. but I insisted to friends [that] it was going to be a whole institution. People look back on "Power Rangers" fondly. I myself was a fan because they took a lot of the raw footage for sequences from the original Japanese program. So I was a big fan, when I got the role I was doing cartwheels. I was 20, 21 years old and being part of it was a thrill at that time. I look back and I’m really happy that I participated in something so significant.

Crave Online: We're getting the wrap up sign, so I’ve got one last question for you: Can you give us any closing thoughts on "Falling Skies"?

Peter Shinkoda: Well like I said, I’m really appreciative to be a part of it right now. Fans and viewership seems to show that people are enjoying the show. I know that the writers and producers have big hopes, and it’s only up from here. At this point at least in my eyes I’m considering it a success; whatever happens it’s great to be a part of it. I myself am a big fan whether or not I have any part. And I think what’s in store for viewers for the rest of the season is going to be huge. We’re going to lock down a big fan base, I actually think it’s quality programming.

Crave Online:Thank you very much Peter, and off the record I will say that I honestly hope they do not kill off your character.

Peter Shinkoda: (laughing) You can put that in the article because we’ll see to that. But Dai is certainly established as one of the badass characters and every show like this needs a badass character. It was pretty audacious for producers to write a decent character and cast someone such as myself. So you know; we’ll see where it goes. I’m just happy to be along for the ride here.

Crave Online: In comic book terminology, you’re the Wolverine of the show and John Pope is Sabretooth.

Peter Shinkoda: (laughing) Yeah! Exactly! I’m hoping, there’s a lot that can develop between us. Cross my fingers.