Love triangles, death dates, and rebellious teens: The cast of Manifest previews season 2

Did you think season one of Manifest was a tad turbulent? Just wait until you see what season 2 has crammed in the cargo hold.

Prior to the NBC hit drama’s return on Monday, EW stopped by the New York set to peek at an episode from midway through the season (check back here for all that scoop when the episode drops!) and to hear from the cast about what’s to come when the show returns for its sophomore season. But before we take off on that adventure, a brief reminder of where we left things:

Well, basically it was a fight to the death. Kinda. After Jared (J.R.Ramirez) showed up at Michaela’s (Melissa Roxburgh) apartment looking for Zeke (Matt Long), they got into a scrap and ultimately a gun went off. Either of the boys could’ve been hit — or it could be Michaela, who ran onto the scene just as the shot fired. Guess we’ll never know! (J.K., you totally find out in the first few minutes of the season 2 premiere, just not in this spoiler-free post.)

Elsewhere, Ben (Josh Dallas) and fam had just pieced together that the passengers potentially have a death day that’ll occur the exact amount of time they were missing from when they arrived (so about 5 and a half years from now). Add to that, the fact that Grace (Athena Karkanis) had just revealed to Ben she’s pregnant but not sure if he or Danny (Daniel Sunjata) is the father, and yeah, like we mentioned, things are far from smooth sailing flying this season. Brimming with questions about what’s to come? Let’s see what the cast had to say.

“The first season was about survival; this one’s all about preservation for these guys,” says Dallas from a makeup room chair on set. “Particularly in the first part of the season, you see all the characters trying to figure out how to keep the things that they love and hold dear close to them. The death date is this looming shadow over them that is causing this need to protect the things that they love. They’re going to go forward and try to figure out if there’s an answer to it and how they can stop it.”

For Ben, that means stepping up and — as per usual — taking on responsibility for everyone on the plane while also keeping many of them in the dark about the likelihood of a death day occurring. “He’s trying to do the right thing by everybody,” says Dallas. “Is there a point in the season where it’s just like too much and he’s at breaking point? Absolutely. That feeling of responsibility for all the passengers is a self-inflicted thing but it’s a compulsion; not only does he want to know for himself, but he wants to know for everybody else. So he puts this enormous amount of pressure and burden on himself and we’ll come to a point within the season where that becomes too heavy. I think there’ll be a point where he releases and there’s a shift within his thinking — instead of fighting everything, he’s got to finally come to a point where he accepts what he can’t control or know.”

It’s not like he’ll be having a relaxing time back at home either, with his wife Grace pregnant with what’s potentially his third child. “I feel like the characters are on a very different path in season 2,” says Karkanis, who plays Ben’s wife, Grace. “Season 1 was all about the relationships and where these people were, picking up after this thing that’s happened to them and trying to figure out how to be together. And now, for the Stone family, we’re kind of past that. Now everyone’s working together to beat the clock and outrun the Grim Reaper.”

The guy in the black cloak isn’t the only one stirring up trouble. “Olive (Luna Blaise) gets into some doo-doo, but it actually kind of manifests itself more between Ben and Olive than with Grace,” says Karkanis. “They really come to heads in the second season for a few episodes in a row. There’s la lot of tension and Grace on the sidelines being like, ‘please take it easy.'” While Blaise won’t divulge exactly what kind of “doo-doo” she’s getting into this season, she does hint that her character is going through some major changes. “So much happens with Olive in particular,” she says. “It’s a story that I didn’t even think that I would do. Let’s just say, she’s not really living a teenage life at all.”

Still, Dallas believes so long as Ben and Grace can hold onto the secure footing they’ve found in their relationship — death date not withstanding — everything will be alright. “It’s such a beautiful portrait of a marriage going through crazy adversity,” he explains. “These two people found themselves again in the center of this hurricane and as long as they can stay there, holding onto each other, there’s a real hope within Manifest that everything might work out.”

But whether that means everything will work out in the Michaela/Jared/Zeke love triangle (/gun fight) is another story. “Michaela’s left in this middle ground with two men in her life, but also with herself as well,” says Roxburgh. “She came back to this new world where everything is different and tried to patch things up with the man she loved, Jared and then, at the same time, there’s this human being that’s come into her life who shares all of the experiences of disappearing and coming back and being confused that she does. She found a friend in Zeke and he’s been incredibly understanding through all of it. That’s not to say that he hasn’t come with his own set of problems, but I think that’s part of what Michaela likes about him; helping him distracted her from her own problems. As far as Jared goes, I mean that’ll never die. He was her first love and maybe the last, who knows.” Regardless of who that bullet hit “it’s definitely messy.”

Like Roxburgh points out, Michaela getting closer to Zeke does bring its own set of consequences as more of his mysterious past is revealed and — if the death date theory is correct — his imminent demise looms. “This season we see a ton of Zeke’s history,” says Long, who having just wrapped a scene, is sporting some pretty nasty prosthetics. “We see a lot of people from his past come back into his life.” According to Roxburgh, some of those are somewhat unsavory types. “Zeke went through a dark time in his life and Michaela is introduced to some of those people from that period and is put in the middle of a situation where she’s forced to confront a huge part of his past. She ends up having to put out a pretty big fire.” Luckily, that doesn’t seem to extinguish the spark between Michaela and Zeke, though. “There’s a lot of really disturbing and dark things that happen, but their relationship is this ray of light,” says Long. “Think about how perfect it is to have found the person you have that supernatural connection with. It seems so natural for it to progress to a romantic level.”

Zeke’s past isn’t the only backstory we’ll be getting into this season. Parveen Kaur who plays PTSD-stricken doctor Saanvi Bahl, promises we’ll see more of her background — as well as finally finding out who was supposed to be sitting next to her in seat 8B on flight 828. “Saanvi starts to really crumble this season. She’s always leaned on her work but she starts really grasping at straws in terms of what she starts doing there — it gets reckless,” says Kaur of her character, who we finally saw accept that she should see a therapist at the end of last season — only, unbeknownst to her, she was actually spilling all her secrets to a government agent who was trying to find out more about the passengers. “There’s a couple of different layers there because it already took so much trust for her to go seek help because in the medical field it can put your job in jeopardy. Then, to find out someone is taking complete advantage of that…it’s the catalyst of her starting to become really reckless.”

Like we said, a turbulent ride is on its way when Manifest returns Monday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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