When Aaron Stanford talks about 12 Monkeys, a new time-travel drama on Syfy, it’s easy to forget he’s an actor discussing a role.
He has done so much research, he tends to sound more like a lecturing theoretical physicist.
“Of course, none of the books I’ve read proved to be very helpful,” Stanford admits. “Our version of time travel is our own, one that’s more conducive to storytelling.”
Now who’d’ve thunk it? A sci-fi series guilty of playing fast and loose with the science!
Heck, 12 Monkeys, which premieres at 8 p.m. Friday, isn’t even especially faithful to the classic 1995 movie of the same title.
Stanford plays Cole, a time traveler from a dystopian future who comes to 2015, hoping to stop a plague that will wipe out almost all of humanity. Beyond that, the TV series and the movie, which was directed by Terry Gilliam and starred Bruce Willis, follow decidedly different paths.
“I’m a huge fan of the original movie, and I was excited to get involved for that reason,” says Stanford, formerly of the CW’s Nikita (2010-2013). “What I like about this is it’s a chance to expand and explore the universe of 12 Monkeys and turn it into a much more epic story.
“The film 12 Monkeys was based on a short film called La Jetee (The Jetty), by a filmmaker named Chris Marker in 1962. Basically the same plotline but a very different execution. It was a small bite-sized chunk, and then 12 Monkeys took that and expanded it and made it their own.
“Now we’ve done the same thing. 12 Monkeys is the inspiration and the source material, and we turned it into something different.”
Even the theories about time travel have been rewritten for the TV version. This is where Stanford demonstrates that he has read a few too many books on the subject.
“In the film, time was fixed,” he explains. “There was absolutely no way they could change it. Cole’s mission was only to go back and observe and bring back information. That holds with the current theory of time travel that comes from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, that you can travel through time but you cannot change it.
“For the series, in order to tell the story they wanted to tell, our writers needed there to be a possibility of change. So they went a different route. There are alternate theories of time travel that do allow things to be changed. That’s quantum theory.
“The movie goes with relative theory; the TV show goes with quantum theory.”
But this brainiac actor is making it all more complicated than it has to be. The show is really just an action-packed adventure and potentially a love story for Cole and a CDC doctor from 2015 (played by Amanda Schull). The crackpot science exists merely as a backdrop.
And just to prove that Stanford can have a little fun when he discusses the ins and outs of time travel, we asked him where he’d like to visit if he had a time machine for personal use.
“The difficult thing is all these different periods in history — they’re fascinating, but would you really want to go there?” he says. “Because we’re all comfortable in the here and now. Do you want to give up hot showers? Do you want to give up indoor plumbing? Do you want to give up all your conveniences?
“I think if I could go anywhere in time, I would go to a future where they’ve created a Holodeck like on Star Trek. Then you could use their technology to visit anyplace you want throughout history and still have all of the modern conveniences.”
▪ 8 p.m. Friday