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SPOILER ALERT: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for Extant Season 1.
When CBS’s Halle Berry sci-fi drama Extant returns on July 1, some faces will remain the same, some Season 1 players will soon exit, and some major new characters will join the fray as Berry’s astronaut, Molly Woods, tries to save the world from the threat she inadvertently unleashed on it — her alien son.
“I think Season 2 is a little sexier, a little soapier,” new executive producer Liz Kruger, who will share showrunning duties with fellow EP (and real-life husband) Craig Shapiro, tells Yahoo TV. “It’s a substantial reboot, in that we’re going to come in, in this time and place, several months [after the Season 1 finale], and that puts Molly in a completely different head space. Her mental stability is potentially in question, and we’re going to find out how that happens. There is a significant amount of new casting that changes the landscape of what we’re doing, and it’s less about Molly as mom, and more about Molly as warrior. Molly as a sexy warrior.”
Her co-warrior? Grey’s Anatomy and Supernatural alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who will play J.D. Richter, a cop who meets Molly in a “very unlikely way” Kruger says. And, despite the fact that they’re at cross-purposes, sparks do fly.
“[Morgan] plays, essentially, the cop of the future, and we’re approaching policing in the future a little bit like Uber approaches taxi driving,” says Shapiro. “It’s been privatized to some degree, and you work by the piece… You can accept or decline different crimes, and they pay different amounts. He and Molly cross paths in the first episode. They are classic opposites: Molly is an astronaut, a scientist, she’s been to space, she has a dual PhD in things that most people can’t pronounce. He’s your everyman. It’s something that I think a lot of us thought the show was sort of missing last year, the audience perspective, the audience everyman in the situation, who is looking at these extraordinary events and saying, ‘”Holy hell, there are aliens!’”
And what about that robotics engineer husband of Molly’s, the one who created their humanoid robot son, Ethan (Pierce Gagnon, who will return for Season 2)? Goran Visnjic’s John Woods will appear in the beginning of Season 2, and then will exit the series, under circumstances the producers don’t want to spoil. Ditto Camryn Manheim as Molly’s doctor pal, Sam.
But another new face — one very familiar to fans of The Walking Dead — will step in as another Molly cohort. David Morrissey, who recently returned for a guest appearance as The Governor on TWD, will play Tobias Shepherd, head of the Global Security Commission.
“He’s going to wear a patch on his other eye,” jokes Kruger. “He and Molly actually do know each other. They’re old friends. He and John are old friends.”
Adds executive producer Mickey Fisher, “[Shepherd] is a former general, a Marine general, and in some ways he is the polar opposite of Jeffrey Dean’s character, because Jeffery Dean is the consummate outsider, a guy who lives outside the system and is not fond of the system. Shepherd is totally a man of the system… You don’t get to be a general without being a man of the system, and those two world views are completely different approaches to everything and cause a lot of conflict. It puts Molly in the middle.”
Ah, the soapiness Kruger promised.
“We took a page out of the Battlestar Galactica book in the sense that the things we loved so much about that show was… the fate of the human race hangs in the balance, and they look at the moral and ethical issues that arise in that context,” says Kruger, who, with Shapiro, was most recently an executive producer and writer on Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. “And it’s about exploring love in desperate times. That’s kind of the nature of what’s happening in the backdrop, but we’re getting into the reality of: What would life really be like under these circumstances? How do you go about your daily life of living and loving? Those relationships in desperate times take on a whole new level of urgency.”
With these new characters joining the storyline, and so many Season 1 characters MIA in Season 2 — Michael O’Neill as Molly’s old boss, Alan Sparks, and Hiroyuki Sanada as Yasumoto Corporation owner Hideki Yasumoto will not appear in the sophomore season at all — will viewers feel like they’re watching a different series? And can new viewers easily jump into the action?
“There’s definitely a shift in the tone,” Fisher says. “And the pacing, the individuals, all of it kind of speaks to: The world is changing, and so the tone of the show is changing. It’s a little more soapy, but it’s a little more pulpy and fun, too. The stakes were so high with the themes we were dealing with last season… It was about this pregnant woman, and she had her baby taken from her, and this year the characters have little left to lose, and in going for it, there’s a little more fun. A little more gallows humor, too.
“When we were coming to the end of Season 1, we weren’t sure if we were getting picked up again, and we really just wanted to go for broke and give it a big ending, something that felt like a satisfying conclusion,” Fisher continues. “I think we’ve calibrated it really well for people who are fans of the first season. It’s going to pick up and escalate, and they’re going to see a lot more of the things that they loved. And for [new viewers], they’re going to be able to strap in and go along for the ride, too.”
Extant Season 2 premieres July 1 at 10 p.m. on CBS.