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Aaron Stanford Talks 12 Monkeys [Exclusive] 

Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/Syfy
Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/Syfy

We’re very fond of Aaron Stanford around here, first for Nikita‘s Nerd and now for Cole on 12 Monkeys. I had the chance to chat one-on-one with him this week about the first season of 12 Monkeys, the terrific news about the renewal, and what’s next.

Stanford has had a few months to catch his breath since wrapping production in December, and he’s seeing the episodes for the first time on Friday nights when he and some of the cast and crew live Tweet with the fans. “I’ve been watching along with everyone else. While we were shooting, I didn’t watch any rough cuts. Everything was perceived in front of the camera. I’m on the edge of my seat along with everyone else,” he says. “It’s fun. One of the drawbacks of live Tweeting is part of me is worried that they should be watching the show, or I should be watching the show.”

“I’ve never done this before. I’m learning how it should be done more and more. Hearing the fan feedback and being able to interact with them is really cool, and is a really fun, new thing that just wasn’t accessible until a couple of years ago, It’s pretty interesting.” Like us, he’s very happy about the renewal. “We’re over the moon about it,” he says. “I’m really thrilled we’re going to continue the story because I want to know what happens, too.”

Photo Credit: Jeff Riedel/Syfy
Photo Credit: Jeff Riedel/Syfy

While it was great to have his Nikita co-star, Xander Berkeley, come play for two episodes (“Yesterday” and “Tomorrow“), he didn’t have the luxury of standing in the wings and watching him tango with Barbara Sukowa. “I had about 15 minutes of spare time the entire four months of the shoot. Mostly likely while they were shooting their scenes, I was off with a second unit shooting other scenes,” he explains. “They’re killer. They’re both such heavyweights. Getting to watch their scenes for the first at home was fantastic.”

He’s happy with the 13-episode order for the second season (which the first season had, too), and says it makes for tighter storytelling. “I think everything is better suited to 13 episodes, to be honest. Almost anytime you see a show stretched out to 22 episodes, you’ll see spots where things get really thin because they’re really, really stretching. Nikita was a 22-episode show and it was tough,” he says. “It was hard to sustain. It’s hard to tell a concise and complete story when you have to stretch it out over that long a period of time.”

Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel/The CW
Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel/The CW

“I feel it’s better in installments. You do your tightly conceived and written 13-episode season. You complete it, finish it, get it in the can, and you take a break and then you’re recharged and refueled to do the next 13. There’s so much work involved and these writers are grinding out stories at such a frenetic pace that do more than that seems crazy.”

The pilot was the most challenging episode of the season, both for newness and location. “It’s always harder in the beginning. You’re figuring each other out and learning how to work with each other,” he says. “We shot it in Detroit in the middle of December. Almost everything was nighttime exteriors and it was sub-zero all night, every night.”

Once production kicked in on the first season, the show moved to Toronto, Stanford’s stomping grounds for Nikita‘s four seasons. “I’ve esesntially been working in Toronto for five years. I know the city very well. I love the city,” he shares. “I know the areas and neighborhoods I like best. I knew right where to go. I already had my favorite restaurants. It was great to go back.”

With some downtime, he’s been catching up on other shows, including working his way through all of the seasons of Game of Thrones again in anticipation of season 5. When he says he just rewatched “The Red Wedding,” I mention that one of the Twitter fans made a comparison between “Tomorrow” and that episode of GoT.

As flattering as that is, he says GoT stands on its own. “I don’t think anything compares to ‘The Red Wedding.’ I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. I literally couldn’t get off the couch for two hours afterward,” he says. “I’m [also] anxious to see the final installments of Mad Men. One of my favorite shows of the last couple of years was Enlightened, which was shamefully underwatched. It’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen on television in years. There’s so much out there [now].”

Despite the ability to binge-watch shows these days, Stanford points out that for shows like 12 Monkeys, real-time eyeballs are best. “We always want live viewers. That’s the name of the game. If you really like the show, and you want to support it and you want it to continue on, do your absolute best to watch it live,” he says. “That’s the best way to ensure that it will continue and have subsequent seasons.”

Next up, Stanford is beginning work on an indie film, which he’ll shoot before beginning season two of 12 Monkeys later this year. He explains that it’s a familiar tale. “There’s an element of the apocalyptic survivor in it,” he laughs. “It just doesn’t seem to be something I’m able to get away from.”

12 Monkeys airs Fridays at 9/8c on Syfy. We’ll have part two of our interview on April 10th, following the season finale.

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  1. Maria Foss

    Thank you for this insightful interview! It is so wonderful to read a profile of a celebrity I admire that doesn’t rely on the same twelve overused questions for its content. Nice work. Will always seek out and read anything about the always articulate and impressive Mr. Stanford.

    1. Heather M

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Maria!

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