When we last saw Christopher Chance (played by Mark Valley) in the season one finale of FOX's action-packed series "Human Target," Chance's partner Winston (Chi McBride) was being held hostage and Chance was trying desperately to figure out how to save his buddy. As the second season kicks off tonight, the mission to save Winston is first on the agenda for Chance and hired gun Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) before new showrunner Matt Miller swiftly steers the show in a newer and sharper direction with new characters and more breathtaking stunts.
We sent our Jim Halterman to Vancouver to the "Human Target" set to see what returning cast members Valley, Haley and McBride had to say about newcomers Indira Varma and Janet Montgomery (the ladies shared their thoughts on joining the testosterone-laden environment, too) as well as chat with Miller about taking the reigns of the action-packed season.
Valley, for one, sees the new characters played by Varma and Montgomery as a positive for the series. "It feels like a bigger show. There are more directions that we can go because there are more characters. A lot with this show is that it seems that the stories seem to be a little more attached to the characters as opposed to just an interesting plot line. Things seem to be coming from a personal interest for each of the characters." He added with a chuckle, "There are more people on set and I don't have to look at Chi and Jackie all day."
Another point of enthusiasm came from McBride, who talked about having Miller take over as show runner this year. "There's always a little bit of trepidation about a show taking a different trajectory or getting a new showrunner but I think Matt has done a really great job. Our show was driven more by mythology last year and now it's going to be driven more by character. Any character-driven show has an opportunity to be successful and Matt has given us a really great opportunity by given us two very talented actresses - Indira Varma and Janet Montgomery - and they're doing a really good job."
The fact that the second season premiere is titled "Ilsa Pucci" makes a strong statement that Varma's new character is going to be more than just another helpless woman who needs to be saved by Christopher Chance and, as has often been the case on the show thus far, falls in love with him. "What Indira brings to the part and what Ilsa is supposed to be," Miller shared, "is a woman who is not easily swayed romantically by [Chance] or his enormous amount of charm so while there is a romantic underpinning to the whole thing we're not trying to hit it on the nose just yet. We'd like it to be a bit of a slower burn that plays through the course of the season and beyond that. It's not really a David-Maddie 'I hate you/I hate you/I find you strangely attractive' thing. It's just two people who come from completely different worlds. Chance, of course, is an assassin who is sort of reformed but Ilsa is someone who has spent her life helping people."
For Varma, recently seen here on U.S. television in the BBC America crime series "Luther," the British actress feels the show needed to balance out the male cast from last season. In joking about why she and Montgomery needed to come on board with the show, she said, "Boys on their own are pretty boring. They smell... they fight... they talk about sex, drugs and rock and roll. They need girls to tell them what to do. They don't express anything! They're all so silent, aren't they? They don't share their feelings. The girls come along, they nag them a bit, they try to control them."
Since the cast and Miller all touched upon how character is king in season two of "Human Target,' Montgomery, who joins the cast as young thief Ames, said that this will be accomplished for the men through the presence of these new women. The actress, also a Brit though using an American accent in the series, explained, "I think it just brings out a different side in the characters in the sense that there's kind of a paternal thing with the guys and [Ames] and taking me under their wing and taking me beyond the life I had before. So there's that seeing-a-different-side-of-them that comes out and the way they are with me and then with Ilsa. It's interesting to see how they have to answer to a woman. With me it's more like they're telling me what to do."
Speaking of accents, how did Miller decide to have Varma use her British accent and Montgomery use an American accent? "We actually thought about it a lot. From very early on in the auditioning and casting process of the two women, these were the two people that we wanted for the roles; it was very clear early on. But it became this 'How are we going to juggle this accent issue?' and then it just felt creatively that it was more interesting that Ilsa came from the more rarefied air and aristocracy."
For Miller, he sees Ames as a character that clearly reflects directly back on Chance and Guerrero. "These two guys, by the time that this series has started, have been reformed - Guerrero not as much - but you've seen them come from a life of crime or the dark side into some version of a commitment to be a good person. The Ames character, when she's first introduced to the show, is still firmly in that world so you're watching her go through the process and it goes through a few episodes. She doesn't just jump in and say 'I'm a good guy.' We see her dip her toe back into a life of crime in the third episode."
Flashbacks were used in the first season to show the past lives of our regulars but, as Valley explained, Miller has brought a new strategy to reveal back story in a more present fashion. "We don't really do like some shows where they talk about their relationships and talk about their past. We have opportunities to kind of relive it and just show it which is what we do. It's a lot more fun because [actor] Lennie James, who in past episodes has played my arch nemesis, is in [an upcoming] episode and we're actually working together reluctantly so you get to see what kind of relationship they have. In doing so, you understand a little more about Chance's past."
The most mysterious of the cast is Guerrero and it suits Haley just fine to keep it that way. "It's really tricky how you examine Guerrero," he said of the character who really isn't an official part of Chance's company but is always a part of the goings-on. "I think every time we learn something about him it should come with a few more questions than answers. I think we're going to discover some stuff about him that we didn't know and hopefully is just as perplexing as it is rewarding." Haley also said that he's learning more than expected in working on the show since it's such a different animal than making movies. "It's taken me a little time to understand TV. It's a bit backwards for me. I'm used to getting a screenplay and that's everything. You kind of work on it, it's all up front and the development process and conversations and then all of that boils down into this one screenplay, you do it and you're kind of done. I think early on I kind of had this rigid sense of what Guerrero was... and it's kind of handcuffing and I've really learned this on-going defining of this character is more humanesque in that as we get to know people you get to know their layers more and more."
As a former assassin, Chance has clearly moved from the bad side to the good side but there are many unanswered questions, which Miller intends to address in this second season. "We learned about how he became a good guy but we didn't learn about how he became a bad guy and that's some of the stuff we're going to start to get into later in the season is the origins of Chance into being a bad guy. There's a moment in the second episode where you get to see him as an assassin before he became reformed. The story of that episode is that Chance has to protect a woman who seven years earlier he killed her husband when he was an assassin."
The second season of "Human Target" commences tonight on FOX at 8:00/7:00c.