A new sci-fi series is set to debut on BYUtv later this year from the writer of Ender's Game.
Orson Scott Card teamed up with Aaron Johnston to create Extinct, a series about humans caught in a conflict between two mysterious alien factions. One group hopes to kill off or enslave the few humans who remain, while the other revives members of the species to continue the fight.
Actor Chad Michael Collins plays Ezra in the show, a former Army Ranger and family man who passed away when the aliens first invaded Earth years ago. Now revived, he leads a small cadre of allies in the fight against the Skin Walkers, humans possessed by the destructive Karik aliens. Watch the trailer at the top of the page to see more.
ComicBook.com spoke with Collins about the family-friendly action/sci-fi show ahead of its premiere on BYUtv next month. Check it out below.
ComicBook.com: This show is set to start on BYUtv on October 1. Are you guys all finished with filming, with production of it?
Chad Michael Collins: We're all finished. We wrapped around March 1st.
CB: So it's just kind of been sitting in post for a bit making sure all the effects are up to snuff before it goes on the air?
Collins: Yeah, exactly. There were so many effects that we added to our series, that it's kind of good that we had all the months to put them in there.
CB: A show like this is going to be very effects heavy, I'm guessing, because any kind of sci-fi show you kind of have to depend on those right?
Collins: You sure do. The world that we created for Extinct, it is very effects heavy just because we're 400 years in the future, we're talking about a couple of different alien species coming to play and manipulate us. You got to have all your requisite alien space ships and your floating drones and your this and your that. That's what we'll see in the finished product.
Stranger Than (Science) Fiction
CB: Did you guys film in Utah?
Collins: Yeah, we shot the whole thing in Utah. We were all over the state. Our home base was Provo, where BYU, the university is and the sound stages are, but we traveled all four corners of Utah, which is absolutely breathtaking for its nature. There's Ion National park and we were down in the Lava rocks of St. George, and we were up in five, six, seven thousand foot elevation mountains and lakes. We kind of covered it all. Snow, desert, sand 115 degrees below zero. The whole series will reflect our fun with the seasons.
CB: What does the show gain out of filming in Utah?
Collins: I had never been to Utah before I filmed there, so I was blown away by how beautiful that state is. Having grown up in upstate New York, I'm used to nature, I'm used to rolling hills and mountains and all the lakes and all the beauty of it, but Utah is a whole 'nother dimension as you know by living there. I think any time you have such beautiful landscapes it just adds to the production value so much. In the pilot episode, in episode one we started down in Southern Utah, St. George, so we were literally in 115 degree heat, we were in desert locales and then by the time we finished in February, March, we were covered in snow and soaking wet and freezing.
So I think any time you can take advantage of a natural beauty the production value is so much better in that way, and we're so happy to give the audience so many unique looks from the mountain to the forests, the lakes, the snow, to the deserts, to the red rock from the original Star Trek. We've got all that covered for the series.
CB: What excites you about Extinct?
Collins: I'm a huge sci-fi fan and I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation, I grew up with the X Files, I loved Battle Star Galactica, so for me sci-fi is always one of my favorite things because literally you get to create a world from scratch. We are playing on earth, but we're playing on earth 400 years in the future after the human race has been wiped out.
Again, Aaron Johnston's, our boots on the ground writer and Orson Scott Card came up with this scenario what happens if the human race is wiped out, but then humanity gets this second chance with humans being reborn into the future caught between this struggle between two alien races, not knowing who's the real good guy. Some people seem to help, the other race seems to have us running for our lives. It's really quite fun imagining a future earth without people and trying to survive with what's left over. Our costumes, our weaponry everything respects that hard scrabble life where we're trying to cobble together anything we can to survive against the harsh environment and the alien threat.
And there's also that beautiful mix of alien technology that we get to play with and is totally new to us as well that will be covered in all the BFX stuff. It's really really quite fun. We do a lot of flashback stuff. I don't know if you were a fan of Lost back in the day, but I was. They did such a great job with building character backstories through flashbacks and we have a lot of that too. So touches back to the modern day, the present day that we live in now and then you fast forward to the future and it's almost like a Mad Max meets the Game of Thrones look and feel to it.prevnext
The Family Life
CB: Tell me a little bit about your character Ezra.
Collins: Ezra is one of the three main we call them Reborns, human's reconstituted into the future by this benevolent seeming alien race. I'm the first one that's reborn, or so I think. I find two other strangers kind of reconstitute next to me and we become this little band of merry men trying to find our way. He becomes the de facto leader. He's former army ranger, it's revealed early on so he kind of has the survival skills he's a family man in his past life so he knows how to take care of a group.
He has the skills and the fighting skills to survive in this way so he is kind of on the quest for why am I here, there's got to be a reason is there any way that I can be reunited with my family that I lost during the alien invasion that wiped us all out. He becomes for better or worse the de facto leader of this group and kind of calls the shots, which sometimes work out and sometimes they don't and we bump heads. But yeah, Ezra's the family man, Ezra's the former military man, Ezra's the alpha so to speak. The alpha with a soft hand.
CB: Is that what the flashbacks play into with the time with your family?
Collins: Exactly, yeah. It flashes back to happier days with me and my wife and our young daughter and my wild card troubled brother that I'm always trying to babysit you know stylist. The flashback's kind of look at that. The flashbacks take a look of like I said before when our family was together, the best of times, and then it looks also at the worst of times, when we were running for our lives and trying to shoot alien spaceships out of the sky while we're being slowly whittled away as a human race.
CB: So, like Lost, do the flashbacks play into the present day struggles and the kind of obstacles that they have to deal with in the present day and how it might have reflected it in the past?
Collins: Yeah, that's the interesting thing that I think Aaron Johnston and Orson Scott Card did, was not only were we reborn 400 years into the future, but we're totally reborn with our memories intact. We remember being decimated by the aliens. We remember our loved ones, and the ones that we lost. We have all those painful memories and of course there's the beautiful memories of our past lives, which only adds to our confusion of why are we here and why do we remember this? We're all kind of reborn into the prime of our lives.
So my co-star, Yorke Fryer for example, he plays a character named Abraham and Abraham at the time of the invasion at the time of his death he was a 67 year old grandfather from Chicago, and he's reborn into his mid 20's early 30's kind of in his physical prime to give us the best chance to restore humanity. The flashbacks are fantastic in that way, in that it really paints a picture of what we do remember of who we were in these past lives, which just adds to the mystery of why we were reborn at this time in these bodies at this age, yet we still have a memory of a life fully lived.prevnext
Caught In The Struggle
CB: Can you tell me a little bit about the core conflict between the Originators who revive you and the Karik.
Collins: We come to discover that the Karik were the alien invaders and they were the ones that wiped out, decimated humanity and we don't know very much about our benefactors. The alien race, a different alien race that comes and reconstitutes us, revives us. We don't know very much about them, we also don't know very much about the Karik in the way that they just came down, destroyed everything, there was very little interaction with them and we're caught in the middle of this struggle where we don't really know who the good guys are, the bad guys are what the reasons are for all of this.
So we're kind of caught in this tug of war. If an alien race comes down and is nice enough to reconstitute us, we got to think they're the good guys, right? But they also are very very poker faced with their answers, they don't answer anything directly, we don't really know what's going on, and we know little and less about our enemies.
The whole thing is a big mystery and as the series unfolds more and more gets revealed into who these alien species are, what their intentions were, and we try to figure that out as we survive and we also try to answer the questions of what do we do with this second chance? What is the purpose of it all? Why are we all here? Are we here for redemption? Are we hare to reunite with loved ones? Are we here literally just for biological evolutionary purposes to just reconstitute the species? A lot of questions and great sci-fi always does this, it leaves you with more questions at the end of an episode than are answered, which is frustrating, but it's why we go along for the ride.
CB: How did you prepare for this role?
Collins: The role was great, I remember getting the script and reading it, I'm such a nerd for sci-fi that I was instantly hooked. Luckily I play a lot of military characters, I've been really fortunate to be one of those actors who loves this type. I've always been that all American soldier type. I do an action move franchise for Sony called Sniper that I play the lead in, so I'm dong a lot of military stuff, so when this character was revealed to me to be an army ranger has that kind of bearing about him, that resourcefulness that survivability, for me it was kind of like oh I know what's going on.
Even from the script, the character of Ezra reminded me kind of like Rick Grimes from the Walking Dead. A guy with a moral compass, a guy with a sense of justice, a protector, a family man and we're doing a PG version of the Walking Dead for sure, but he's kind of like Rick Grimes like, and I think that that just speaks to me as a person, that speaks to me as an actor and what I do well. There wasn't a ton of prep, prep that went into it. It kind of felt familiar already.
CB: Can you tease me some things that might happen in this first season?
Collins: Yeah, let me see, what can I say without getting in trouble? I think that what you're going to see, and I think I try to reveal as much as I can, each character has such a unique back story and you start to see that. I think that's one of the best part of our series, is Victoria Atkin who plays my co star Feena, she's a former hacker and that's revealed in episode two. She got in trouble for committing crimes and then was on a path to redemption when the aliens came. The back stories are so varied in this way. Abraham, the loving grandfather who was reborn as a 26, 27 year old person in the future. I think this is kind of what you're going to see.
You're going to see us literally reborn in the water and you're going to see us traipsing around this harsh environment. You're going to see our first encounter right away with the invading aliens and all the confusion that leads to, and then you're going to learn more about these benevolent aliens that are here very cryptically trying to support us and yet not answer our questions.
That's what you see a lot of. You're going to see the alien space ships, you're going to see the desert like I said before. You're going to see the beautiful snowfall and mountains that are so captive. Beautiful lakes and forests. You're going to see us fight with each other and you're going to see us demand answers and mostly not get them. It kind of covers all the bases in terms of your really fun sci-fi series. A lot of fights, a lot of action, a lot of adventure.
You're not going to see a lot of gore, you're not going to see Walking Dead head splitting with a machete, you're not going to see Game of Thrones brothels, but you are going to see something an entire family can watch that's got its fair share of bows and then hoes and fisticuffs and running and jumping and flying through the mud and all of that sort of fun stuff.prevnext
Prepare For Extinction
CB: How was it working with Orson Scott Card?
Collins: I didn't get to see Orson. I think he came to set once or twice. I think him and Aaron went off, Aaron Johnston's been his New York Times best selling writing partner on a lot of these Ender's Game sagas and some of the other books and novels they created. They kind of created this thing off on their own. Aaron was our main guy, writing each and every script and our touchstone for stuff. I know that Orson had a huge hand in creating and outlining this universe, but he wasn't as on the ground as Aaron was.
Aaron was on set with us every single day. Aaron was writing all the scripts himself. Aaron was answering all our questions and one of the executive producers on this as Orson is as well, but I didn't get a chance to meet and play with him so much, but in interacting with him and emailing of him he's incredibly supportive, he's loved what he's seeing, and I know that he has not had I know there's an Ender's Game movie, but I don't know that a lot of his stuff has been made for TV or film, so I think he's just as excited as we are to see this thing out and to see what the audience reaction is.
CB: So Aaron was the person that was kind of the go to, whenever you had a question about character motives or back story or anything like that?
Collins: Exactly. Aaron is an extremely accomplished writer, not just with the novels in sci-fi, but he's written comic books, so he's run the gamut of that nerd creative, which I love. He was an incredible resource for us.
CB: How did working on the Sniper series and then all the guest star roles for TV shows like CSI Miami and NCIS and Once Upon A Time prepare you for this?
Collins: You know, I think the biggest way that I felt prepared to step into the Extinct universe is because I've always done action stuff. Even the TV shows. I played a cage fighter on CSI Miami. I've done four of these Sniper films where I'm running across Bulgarian mountain tops or Black Sea sea cliffs, or through the desert landscapes of Istanbul or Santorini Island. I always seem to find my way into action roles and military roles and that stuff just comes with the territory and I think that most of our theory was shot on location.
It's tough work for an actor and a lot of my co-stars their first experience having to do an action adventure series. It's tough, 14 hour days in eight degree weather and it starts to snow and you're all soaking wet. I've had all those experiences. I shot in Bulgaria in February, I shot all over the place south Africa when it's 110 degrees for an entire month for one of the Sniper movies. I felt really prepared. There's nothing that Utah was going to do that was not going to feel like my second or third rodeo.
I felt really really really prepared and able to handle it and giving little bits of advice here and there. I'm like put your feet in plastic bags, because these shoes are not meant for the wet snow. I'm just offering little ways that I learned the hard way through my costars to try and help them focus on what they're able to do. Say their lines and not chatter their teeth out there in those brutal winter months.
I was good to go and I loved it. It's fun. I don't mind a little pain with my pleasure of acting.
Extinct premieres October 1 on BYUtv.0comments
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