Colin Cunningham on ‘Falling Skies’ Season 2

The actor behind John Pope shows us his battle scars and tells us what he doesn’t give a flying fart about.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I was kind of hoping Colin Cunningham would really have the long biker hair he has on “Falling Skies,” but even with short hair he’s still badass. Especially when he started showing me the scars on his arms and hands.

You might be wondering what’s in store for Pope, especially since he just returned to the 2ND Mass in last Sunday's episode. We met Cunningham earlier this summer at Zoic Studios, which the show’s alien effects.


CraveOnline: Did you know from the beginning, the first time Pope appeared, that he would become a regular character?

Colin Cunningham: No clue. No clue. If anything, when I got one episode, I thought, “This is great” because there were some great scenes in there. And I thought man, if I can even just pull these scenes off and actually have them make the cut, I’ll be a very, very happy actor indeed. One scene became 9/10 episodes, one full season and now we’re picked up for the second season and finished shooting that. I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

CraveOnline: How are tensions between Pope and Maggie?

Colin Cunningham: Tense. Pope certainly knows things about Maggie that no one else knows, so therefore Pope becomes very much a threat to her, especially in terms of her relationship with Hal. He knew her before. She’s trying to turn over a new leaf but it’s very difficult to do with Pope there. They share a past together and he knows things with regards to her history that no one else knows and that’s a threat.

CraveOnline: And vice versa? Does she know about Pope?

Colin Cunningham: Yes, but it would be nothing for Pope to be ashamed of. He wouldn’t give a flying fart because he’s not trying to turn over a new leaf. This is who I am. If anything I think Pope teases Maggie a lot saying, “Who are you fooling? I know who you are. You’re trying to fool all these people here. Well, you’re not fooling me. I know who you are. I know what you’ve done and you’re not going to bullsh** me so knock yourself out, have your fun, but I’m not buying it.”

CraveOnline: How did Pope earn Weaver’s respect?

Colin Cunningham: That’s an interesting thing. It wasn’t so much earned. I think that respect was just there from day one and I can’t really describe it. I think Pope and Weaver were able to see something in each other that was just understood, and I think in a way as Weaver thinks with his head, not his heart, Mason thinks with his heart. He’s got that human compassion/empathy kind of thing that clouds or filters his judgment.

Whereas I think Weaver looks in terms of the battle, in terms of strategy, what needs to be done. We stand to lose X amount of soldiers but this will be worth it because we’ll end up getting this as the goal, and I see Pope thinking the same way. It’s very practical. You can’t get caught up in violins and all that kind of crap so I think they both understand that about each other.

CraveOnline: Do you like having Pope on the front lines?

Colin Cunningham: It’s great. He’s either coming back from the front lines or you see him right up there in the front lines so he’s not in the kitchen anymore which is great. I’ll show you the scars. I got a scar here, a nice crescent moon there, and I’ve got another one here that’s almost black, I don't know why.

CraveOnline: How did you get those?

Colin Cunningham: Just an explosion of blood. The gun scenes. This happened on Sarah Carter’s rifle. I did a jump over a car and wham, went right into the gun. My finger just exploded into blood, so that was a couple stitches, but it’s all worth it, man. It’s a lot of fun.

CraveOnline: Was that a big adjustment from season one to season two?

Colin Cunningham: It was a big adjustment but it wasn’t a difficult one. If anything it was a “wow” one because the show looks different, it read different. It’s less “I love you, you love me and there’s hope.” It’s “to hell with you and I’m sick of you and there’s death everywhere.”

So I think the 2ND Mass have just been getting their ass kicked for so long that it’s no longer well, there’ll be a happy day, hang in there. Many of them don’t have anything left to live for. They’re starting to battle with each other now. You’ve got Hal and the other Mason brothers fighting because they’re coming of age, so there’s just a lot more conflict going on.


CraveOnline: How does Pope react to the new government in South Carolina?

Colin Cunningham: Well, naturally I don't think Pope’s all that crazy about it. I think he’ll hang around for a little bit but after a while he’s going to say, “To hell with this. I’m out of here.”

CraveOnline: Is he really breaking off from the group again?

Colin Cunningham: Yes. There’s definitely a time in the season, because he’s always saying why doesn’t Pope just split? Well, he does. He finally says, “All you people can just kiss my ass.” So he does. He takes off.

CraveOnline: How many episodes are you out for?

Colin Cunningham: I am gone for a couple. I don’t want to say how many I’m not in, but the great thing about the show is the show’s bigger than any one particular character, and this season is so different. It really is. It’s darker. There’s some great, great stuff going on so I don't think anybody’s going to miss Pope that much. There’ll be so many other things to really embrace.

CraveOnline: Even darker than kidnapping children?

Colin Cunningham: It’s just darker. I’m telling you, I love it. It was tough to do. We were shooting in the middle of the night in Vancouver for five months, five and a half months, 19 hour days. It wasn’t a party. It was hard. So if we look tired it’s because we are tired. It’s 4, 5, 6 in the morning, we’re exhausted and we’re cold. Nobody’s really having any fun but it’s awesome. It’s incredible but it wasn’t yippity doo.

CraveOnline: How much does the costume help you get into character?

Colin Cunningham: All of it. It’s awesome. It really is. Once the extensions and the hair, once that leather jacket comes on, that’s it. It’s just time to play and party. It’s awesome.

CraveOnline: So none of the hair was yours?

Colin Cunningham: Well, you can see right now. Then they’ve got to attach more and get it in there and all that kind of stuff.

CraveOnline: Well, I didn’t know if you got it cut midway through the season.

Colin Cunningham: No, this season he’s going to be Pope as we know Pope. That’s funny, I actually threw a few ideas around to some of the writers. I’m like, “Hey, what if Pope shaved his head, shaved it into a Mohawk or something.” Which I wouldn’t be beyond doing at all. I think it’d be a blast.

CraveOnline: Did you come up with a backstory of who Pope was before the aliens, or did they give you one?

Colin Cunningham: Yeah, I came up with my own personal backstory which I just kind of keep to myself as an actor, but I will say it was really interesting. I had a conversation with Mark Verheiden and Remi Aubuchon and they hinted at a few things in Pope’s past. They hinted a bit at Pope’s past and I was fascinated by what their ideas were. It was like wow, that’s cool, because it wasn’t necessarily what I had anticipated.

CraveOnline: Are there any you can share or will they be revealed?

Colin Cunningham: If it comes to pass, it’ll be a season three or four thing which I’d just be fascinated to see how it unfolds. Yeah, it’d be really interesting getting to know what was this guy doing before all this happened.

CraveOnline: Do you ride a bike in real life?

Colin Cunningham: Yes, yeah, I’ve been riding motorcycles for a long time, although I will say I’ve never ridden a Harley before I was on “Falling Skies.” I had a couple street bikes, the little racers and I’ve had dirt bikes and stuff but never actually sat on top of a big old hog. So it was a lot of fun.

CraveOnline: How does it feel with that engine under you?

Colin Cunningham: Well, I’ll tell you, the bike I was riding was like 1962 Panhead with the big giant bars on it. It’s a deathtrap, that damn thing. It’s one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever sat on. A lot of power and they don’t brake for crap. It’s all old leveraging and cables. There’s no hydraulics on it. It’s a really, really dangerous thing to ride.

CraveOnline: What are you doing during the hiatus?

Colin Cunningham: Right now, I also work behind the camera so I’m directing a film for Bravo. We’re in post right now, and did a little bit of vacationing. I actually just got back from France and Barcelona. So now we’re back and we’re going to spend some time with family and do some writing, shoot a couple music videos. I work on the stable of directors for CMT.

CraveOnline: What’s the Bravo movie?

Colin Cunningham: It’s for the World Cup 2013. I’ll tell you about it when I’m done with it.

CraveOnline: But is it soccer related?

Colin Cunningham: It’s soccer related, about a young nine-year-old kid who fantasizes about playing in the world cup with the big adults.

CraveOnline: Did you start your career as a director?

Colin Cunningham: I started as an actor and nobody would give me a job so I thought, “Well, the hell with it then. I’ll write it, I’ll direct it and produce it and cut it all together.” I’ll make a movie and put me in it essentially. That’s what I did. I went up to Vancouver, went to film school and started my own production company and made a movie and put me in it. Either that or sit around waiting for the phone to ring, and that’s just not something I’m very good at.

CraveOnline: As a self-starter, how does it feel to be in a season two of an ongoing series?

Colin Cunningham: It’s a trip. It really is. 12 years ago I was living in my car. Now I’m doing interviews at Zoic studio for TNT/Dreamworks on a Spielberg show. For me, as an actor, when you’re down I don’t take it too seriously and when I’m up I don’t take it too seriously, because they’re both illusions. I’ve been up and down and for me it’s all about staying in the middle of the road and just enjoy it and be grateful for your blessings. That’s pretty much it.