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As one of The CW’s new generation of Tomorrow People, actor Luke Mitchell has to shake of a lot more than his natural Australian accent on screen.
Playing John Young, rebel leader of the titular group of evolved young adults, Mitchell has to be an action hero, romantic interest for Peyton List’s Cara and occasionally ideological foil for Robbie Amell’s Stephen Jameson. But with tonight’s episode, which airs at 9 ET/PT, Mitchell steps into the spotlight as his character’s back story, along with that of The Tomorrow People’s shadowy government antagonists known as Ultra, is revealed.
Speaking with Spinoff Online, Mitchell revealed why John’s knowledge of Ultra will affect the series, why his character’s mistrust of humans is so strong, and how to look cool without falling off rooftops during the show’s CG action scenes.
Spinoff Online: The Tomorrow People centers on Robbie Amell’s character Stephen Jameson. But since he holds that “chosen one” role on the series, doesn’t that leave your character John Young open to be the Han Solo?
Luke Mitchell: [Laughs] I like John’s position in the world. I think that the story essentially revolves around Stephen’s character, and that’s a great basis and center for the story. But John is my character, so of course I love where he’s situated and the journey he has to go on from, where you first meet him in the pilot. You can tell that there’s a lot there – there’s a lot more to John than face value. That certainly hasn’t diminished as we’ve gone on. Episode 4 is the first taste of his past, and we delve into that a lot more after that airs.
He’s a fun character to play because he’s complicated. He’s not at all straightforward. He’s got a very kind of complicated history with Jedikiah. It’s revealed in Episode 4 that he hasn’t had a great childhood, and he’s a very flawed character as a result. And a flawed character is a lot more fun to play than a perfect character.
From the few episodes we’ve seen so far, John seems very reluctant to let the Tomorrow People’s existence be known by the public – more so than Cara or any other of their group. I wonder does the root of that fear get exposed in the upcoming episodes?
Absolutely. He knows better than anyone what Ultra is and what Ultra is capable of. Through the series we see what that’s all about. We touch on it in Episode 4, but we see even more about that in Episode 8. He knows what they’re capable of, and therefore he knows at the end of the day that the Tomorrow People can’t beat Ultra because Ultra can kill. And at the end of the day, if they can essentially wipe us out, they will. It’s not only that. It’s also the experimentation side of things and the torture side of things that torments John because he’s been there.
John also gets to be involved in one of the more romantic relationships in the show through his connection to Cara, and the way you and actress Peyton List play that is a little different than most teen dramas. What’s that side of the character been like for you?
It’s a lot of fun. Peyton’s great to work with, and the character she plays is very intense. So it’s nice to grow the complexity of that relationship. I’m not sure our relationship is growing forward or in a positive way, but it’s growing more complex as the episodes go on. They have to work together as partners. Even though John is the leader, what Cara says is taken into consideration at all times. They’re partners for the cause of the Tomorrow People, but they’re also lovers. So when we get to see the tender moments like we did in episode three – where her capture led to some quieter moments of what they’re like when they’re not around the other Tomorrow People or fighting – it’s been really fun to play.
The show uses a lot of special effects shots as it goes, and the specific teleportation effect seems to happen almost exclusively when you’re running at full speed. Does your part in that piece of the storytelling essentially boil down to sprinting your ass off all day? That seem pretty physically demanding.
[Laughs] It can be! One of my first teleports that we shot in New York during the pilot was on a rooftop as I was escaping, and that was really interesting because it was one of the ones I had to run time and again. I had to do this 30-meter sprint and then at a certain point just jump. And the railing on the edge of the roof was not too far away from where I was landing! And the camera crew was right there as well. It seems pretty seamless for what you see on TV, but the reality of it is a bit crazier. I wish we could do more behind-the-scenes videos. Sometimes it’s quite hilarious. You have to be confident, and then the moment you’re off camera, you’ve got to protect yourself from falling off a roof or hitting the camera or landing on someone. Sometimes you’ve got to duck out of the way of something, so it’s a matter of looking badass and cool before ducking in the last minute to curl up in a ball so the camera doesn’t see you. You go from feeling really cool to feeling so very uncool.
Well, that’s a phrase that works for the show because it seems one of the big themes of the series are the rights of passage for teenagers and how awkward or even painful that can be. We saw that in Cara’s episode a lot. Do those ideas play into John’s story?
Yeah, a little bit. I suppose the interesting thing for me is that it’s set up that the Tomorrow People are genetically different than human beings. But through the journey and through the series, they’re really not too different in terms of the fact that they’re still people. Everyone’s got emotions and decisions they’ve got to make, and that’s what’s interesting to explore. We set up that these are different species. The Tomorrow People are the next step in human evolution, but at the end of the day, they’re just as human if not more human than anyone else. That’s a lot of fun to play with – especially with some of the big decisions coming up. There’s a big reveal in episode four that I won’t spell out, but that reveal for my character comes into play in later episodes. It goes to show that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should. And I think that’s a really great message to send out.
Today’s sci-fi shows are always a balance between stand alone character episodes and longer mythological arcs. What’s the most important part of the big picture that you want to see developed over the course of the show?
It really is incredibly exciting. I can’t wait to see it myself. We’re doing some stuff where the cast literally fights each other to be the first to read the script as they come in because we don’t know what’s coming up, and we fight for it because we’re excited to see where the writers take us. It keeps growing and expanding and getting faster, which is fun because they’ve had great ideas. They’re really going there in terms of the character development and the back stories but also going to some really dark places. It’s fun territory to explore, and I can’t wait for the audience to go along for the ride.