Exclusive Interview: John Cho and Sonya Walger

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ABC was kind enough to invite me to their FlashForward press junket to promote its return on Thursday, March 18th. I was able to speak with John Cho (Star Trek), who plays Demetri Noh, and Sonya Walger (Lost), who plays Dr. Olivia Benford, on the phone to discuss what’s coming next for their characters.

Will the show be picking up where it left off last fall? Or is it starting up again in the present day?

Walger: It picks up exactly where we left off. It’s the next day… or no, it’s hours later. It’s the aftermath of Lloyd being abducted, and all of the implications of that.

Can you give us a glimpse of what’s coming up for your characters?

Walger: Olivia has a lot going on. She starts helping the FBI out with their investigation. And Mark starts working harder and harder and starts disappearing down the rabbit hole of the Mosaic Board and the investigation. And that puts a real strain on their marriage. So there’s all of that. And Lloyd being abducted means that Olivia has a moment where she realizes she may have feelings for this man. So there’s lots of juicy emotional stuff for Olivia.

Cho: Demetri is dealing with… In fact that we find out this season if he dies on March 15th or not. There’s the relationship between himself and Mark, because he’s the one that’s supposed to kill Demetri. And that obviously puts a crimp in their relationship. Working together isn’t as positive as it used to be. So that’s primarily it. Then there’s the home life with Zoey. She wants him to run away from the problem. And he is committed to staying and seeing it through. It’s a difference of opinion.

What’s the camaraderie like onset? Do you all get along well?

Walger: I think it’s a really nice set. I really like days like this, because I actually get to see people like John, Courtney [B. Vance], and Christine [Woods]. The storylines are so separate, and the strands are so discreet that you can go for weeks without setting eyes on half my cast. So, I can speak for my side of the cast. It’s really fun working with Joe [Fiennes] and Jack Davenport, who’s hilarious. And Zach [Knighton] who plays Bryce. I have lovely people to work with. I really do. It’s a really easy going, nice atmosphere on set. It’s fun. It’s also, I have to say, one of the best crews I have ever, ever worked with. I have never heard a raised voice, lost temper…

Cho: You haven’t worked with me.

Walger: That’s my point. There’s my point.

Cho: The camaraderie is really good. I can speak to my side of the storyline. The FBI office has really been better than I expected. I have heard monster stories about Courtney B. Vance [Walger laughs.] And Joe Fiennes… wasn’t a fan of, so was a pleasant surprise. [Paused for more laughter.]

How did you both come by your roles on FlashForward? What was the casting process like for you?

Walger: I had to sleep with all of the producers.

Cho: Wow.

Walger: I auditioned, and I think David [Goyer] knew my work from Lost and also this HBO show I did called Tell Me You Love Me. Apparently, so the story goes, they didn’t believe I was the same girl on both shows. And I think he and Jessika [Borsiczky] had a fight, because I played an American on the one and Penny is English. And the fight was only resolved by So that’s the legend.

Cho: I met with David [Goyer], Jessika [Borsiczky], and Brannon [Braga]. And then I didn’t hear from them in a while. I think the role might have been offered to somebody else at some point. And then it came back to me. The script was really interesting, and the premise. Even though I didn’t really know, obviously, how long I would last; it was that meeting with the creators that hooked me in. And the quality of the work. And after I met them, I decided, well, I can give myself to this process and trust the storytellers to use me whatever way they want.

What did you think about your characters when you were first introduced to the roles? And has that perception now changed?

Walger: I loved Olivia for the same reasons I love her now. I like playing anyone who’s complicated. And she is nothing if not complicated and in a really conflicting situation. And that conflict has only gotten more intense since she found out more things about the future, more things about Mark, and more about her feelings for Lloyd. So I would say, yes, it’s the same things about her then that I do now. If not more so.

Cho: I was drawn to that it seemed like Demetri said what he was thinking. You know, I really like that about him. Maybe it’s because I have trouble doing that in real life. So I admired that about him. And then there was a period of time when I was convinced he was the villain of the show. And then I was hooked on that.

Walger: Really?

Cho: Somebody put that in my head. You know, he didn’t have a vision. That he might have been lying about it. And now, I’m thinking… he’s not… that. [Laughter] So, I’m back to liking him. I’m acting just like him, myself. [More laughter.]

You’ve both been in other science fiction shows: Star Trek, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Lost. Have you encountered the “fandom” yet? If so, how has the experience been?

Cho: A little bit.

Walger: Not enough, right?

Cho: Not enough! I’m going to give out my home address…

Cho: I’ve been out in public mostly for events. So, of course, it’s understandably been tense then. But by design I lead a fairly private life. Mainly because I had a kid, and designed it that way. So it hasn’t been at all intrusive really.

And the people I have met tend to be very understanding, and just want to say that they enjoy what your doing really.

Walger: Yeah, that’s been my experience too. I have to say with Lost, I’m just starting to realize how global it is. I was astonished to be in the deepest, darkest part of Patagonia, in the southern most tip of Argentina and Chile. And have a Chilean bus driver turn around and say “Hola, Penny! Que tal?!”

But then, like John, I would say it’s honestly only nice to have people recognize your work and want to congratulate you for it. It’s never been weird or unpleasant.

Cho: I was in Marcos San Pedro a couple weekends ago. And had a guy stumble out of a bar, drunk at 2 am and say “Ole, FlashForward!” [Laughter] Similar… but different.

So, I have to ask… Is Penny going to be back for the end of Lost?

Walger: Yes. I have already gone back and shot one episode. And then, I’m going back for the finale. Which will be interesting, because we will be shooting our finale at the same time. So we’re going to have to find time to send me out to Hawaii and back. And still keep shooting this.

Cho: And you will have to find a piece of luggage large enough for me to stowaway in.

What do you both think of the comparison of FlashForward to Lost?

Walger: I think it’s deeply flattering, to be put in the same breath as that show. I do, honestly, think they’re both very different shows. And I think the more you get into FlashForward, the more you see… I mean there are obvious similarities. You have the big cast. There’s one big cataclysmic event that brings us all together. But I think we’re investigating different things, different people, the setups are very different. And I think the tone of the show is a very different tone, to be honest. It would be disingenuous to pretend they weren’t similar. But I would resist the urge to spend too much time comparing and contrasting.

Cho: It seems to me, we’re simpler. A simpler setup. We’re also… and I don’t mean this to put down our show. But I think our show is more conventional. And our show is more straightforward.

Walger: Let me put it this way. It gave you the end in the pilot. You know where we’re headed. Now, the big question is how do we do that for Season 2? What’s the setup then like for Season 2? If Season 1 ends on the day of the FlashFoward. Lost never gave you that. Lost just pointed the ship and set sail 5 years ago, and we’ve been trailing in its wake ever since.

One final question for you. If you had the chance, would you want to see a FlashForward of your own future?

Walger: No. I’d like to see a FlashForward of John Cho’s future. Not mine. [Laughter]

Cho: Yes, I would. Why not? Yeah. I want to see if I have a mustache in the future.

Walger: You don’t. I checked.

Cho: Oh. [Laughter]

Walger: Uh, I have a mustache. So there’s that.

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