Debris has quickly become one of my favorites, and in advance of Monday’s first season finale, I jumped on the phone with series star Jonathan Tucker to chat about the show, the many layers of his character, Bryan Beneventi, developing the bond between Bryan and Finola, and what he hopes for their characters if we get a second season.
Tucker is right there with us on wanting news of a renewal. “I just think you’re asking people to make an investment and there’s kind of an agreement that should be honored between the audience and the folks putting out the content that they should be given another season,” he shares.
One of the neat things about the way the season begins is that it drops into a new, but already-established partnership with Bryan and Finola, and so far, we haven’t flashed back to how they met. During casting for the series, Tucker read with co-star Riann Steele, and he lobbied hard to get Norbert Leo Butz on board, too.
“[Riann and I] just hit it off right away. She had that empathy and vulnerability, the emotional capital that I think was required of Finola. With Norbert, I have just been a fan of his for years and I’ve seen him on stage multiple times and I went on a bit of a campaign,” he explains. “I knew that the offer was out to him and he was considering it. So I called everybody I could, in and around his sphere, to try to pressure him into doing it and I was thrilled when he accepted.”
The cast was part way through shooting the pilot when the pandemic lockdown booted them out of Canada last year, and Tucker says the time away only heightened his anticipation to get back to the show, especially after the footage they did get was submitted to the network in lieu of a complete pilot and NBC ordered it to series based on how strong it was. “It got me more excited, particularly when I saw the pilot presentation. I thought, ‘Oh, this could be a lot of fun,'” he recalls.
The Bryan and Finola relationship has evolved, with Bryan coming around to Finola’s world view, and it’s avoided the “will they or won’t they” trap, which Tucker is proud of. “It’s a relationship that I like quite a bit. I love that we got this non-romantic relationship from the start. These are people who are trying to work together professionally, and the challenges are going to be about process and procedure vs. are we going to end up together,” he says.
“That’s something that’s very gratifying. What I come to really learn from Finola is that empathy is a tool and it’s as powerful as any tool I can deploy. Point of fact, Bryan starts to learn over the course of the season that he can’t really enact his will all the time.”
“Finola gets to learn why that came about. What we see over the first 13 episodes is [us] learning to trust each other and recognizing that the secrets that we’ve been keeping from each other have been keeping us from succeeding against a group of people that are willing to do just about anything to win, including, kill themselves. The truth will set you free.”
In last week’s episode, Bryan had a follow up encounter with Mariel through the debris that left him completely blissed out and determined to let the debris complete its assembly, something that was terrifying for Finola. Tucker says the debris reshapes Bryan’s perspective, demonstrating that larger human construct that we’re not in control.
“The gift of the debris is that it forces, in this case, a character with a very specific outlook on life, professionally, spiritually, to recontextualize that perspective, or the debris recontextualizes it. One of the joys of working in sci-fi is that anything is possible,” he points out.
“The ability to be adaptable in life is important, but in our case, it’s mission critical because you don’t know what this debris is going to end up doing. It can do absolutely anything. If you think anything is fixed in the world, you’re on God’s time, not your time. All you need is a dog in your life to know that, or a baby, or a mother and father that you’re looking after to know that you’re not on your own time. And on our show, the debris is capable of doing anything. So everything is mutable.”
The two-part “Icarus” episodes were a mix of extraordinary storytelling and performances onscreen and technical feats behind the scenes, which Tucker credits producing director Padraic McKinley with shepherding. “It was very challenging. I have underscored our magnificent executive producer director of the show, Paddy McKinley, [who] directed both these episodes. The amount of diligence, sensitivity, pre-production, and experience that was required to pull this thing off was nothing short of remarkable,” he explains.
“And he was just as good in helping us deal with the literal continuity of wardrobe and scenes and everything else, but also, the spiritual performance continuity that’s required to figure all this stuff out. Our hats are really off to Paddy.”
While the pair of episodes were block shot, there was a limit in being able to shoot the daily resets sequentially. “We cross boarded the episodes,” he recalls. “We shot probably as much as we could [in order] but if you’re setting up a shot at the door, you’re going to be filming us approaching the door, we’re going to keep the camera where it is and shoot all of those scenes in a row before turning over the camera, moving the camera to the other side, to shoot the all the other scenes again.”
As for the emotional impact of the episode on Bryan, something I talked about here, Tucker appreciated layering that into his character. “It’s nice to have a former Marine who is totally vulnerable,” he shares. “I mean, just totally and utterly turned around, out of place, that ‘child lost in the crowd’ feeling in your gut. And I’m thrilled that resonated with those folks.”
Tucker has a few favorite memories from the first season. “Getting to recount the Asalah story to Finola was very gratifying because he’s spent this whole time unable to really meaningfully connect with her and she didn’t know why. The idea that I’m holding onto that not to remind myself of her, but of what it feels like to lose something, that was a big payoff for Bryan. I was grateful for the opportunity,” he says.
“I love all the car scenes with Finola. It just gives us the opportunity to lighten things up and have some chemistry. It’s really fun. Those “Icarus” episodes were true fun things, little gems. [If we get a second season], I’d like to see, I’d like to see them building out the Finola and Bryan relationship. I like when we get to spend time together, not just investigating, because it’s an opportunity to really show the dynamic of the characters.”
“And I want to get stranger and weirder and more into the technology, where it comes from, and how we’re putting it back together again. [Series creator and showrunner J.H. Wyman] is a fabulous writer and a fabulous mind. I really do hope we get the opportunity to share another season.”
When asked about where those injections fit into the mix, Tucker says we’ll have to stay tuned on that, but they don’t tether him to Maddox. “I can’t live without [them],” he teases, “but I don’t give Maddox the credit for keeping me alive.”
The Debris season finale, “Celestial Body,” will air Monday at 10 pm/9c on NBC and then be available on NBC.com and streaming Tuesday on Peacock. No press screener was made available ahead of time, so I’ll be watching it live. The logline from the network on what we can expect is, “Bryan and Finola’s lives are changed forever as Maddox and Influx converge on the debris they seek.”
Photos and video courtesy of NBC.
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