When Childhood's End was first published in 1953, the nation's wounds of war were still fresh. There were problems all over the world on basically every level from the way governments were running to the way countries interacted. Actor Charles Dance, who plays the alien Karellen in the Syfy adaptation mini-series of the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, says these are just as prevalent today.
"This was written in 1952, talking about a world of economic crises, wars, famine, here we are in 2015 and nothing’s changed," Dance told ComicBook.com during a recent in-person interview. "I thought there was a lot of resonance for us now, which was reason enough to do it."
The actor read the novel on his plane ride to Australia to shoot the six-hour series, and was impressed by the "really good story." When he read the scripts, which he praised quite a bit, he was most impressed by how little exposition there was, instead allowing the actions and pauses speak for themselves.
"Exposition is a killer, it’s deadly. Whenever a television show or a film resorts to exposition, it’s because there are major flaws in the script. This doesn’t resort to exposition."
One of the most shocking moments of the first episode comes at the very end, when Karellen's appearance is revealed. We won't spoil it for you, but Dance said it took four and a half hours every morning to apply the makeup and prosthetics.
"I’ve never done anything that involved me being buried in layers of prosthetics," Dance said. "I thought it would be an interesting exercise, and indeed it was, in Melbourne at the hottest time of the year!"
Those prosthetics (and those who read the book know why) also required him to figure out different ways of moving from how he ever has as a human. He had a team including a movement specialist and a stunt double, and they worked together any morning he wasn't shooting to develop the "very strange gait" for the alien Karellen. That reveal, he hopes, will have an impact upon viewers.
"Karellen’s first appearance is really what I’m most excited for people to see," he said with a knowing grin. After spending most of the episode as a faceless voice, audiences will probably be anxious for it, as well.
Childhood's End is a three-night event series airing on Syfy Monday December 14, Tuesday December 15, and Wednesday December 16 at 8pm. Read our spoiler-free review here.