NBC held an intimate press brunch at Universal Studios Hollywood. You already know The Knockturnal was present and we got to mingle and chat with members of the cast of Timeless, This Is Us, The Good Place, Midnight Texas, and more. Those involved in upcoming 2019 shows like The Titan Games and The In-Between were present as well all while bites and drinks were served.
We caught up with Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barrett to talk all about the two-hour season finale of Timeless, which by the way premieres Thursday, Dec. 20th at 8/7c.
Abigail Spencer plays Lucy Preston on NBC’s Timeless. She also co-starred in the critically acclaimed series Rectify and has had recurring roles in Grey’s Anatomy, Suits and True Detective.
The Knockturnal: With your fans, do you think it’s hard for them to separate all of your different characters. They probably feel like they fall in love with you on one show.
Abigail Spencer: So many people fall in love with me all the time it’s hard to keep track of all of those people. Just kidding! That’s the dream of being an actor. You don’t want to be just one thing, and I’ve been very fortunate to get this windfall of television work. Mad Men was the first thing, it was the game changer. I’d worked for 10 years as an actor before, but getting cast on that show, and getting part of that windswell of the golden age of television. I’ve gotten to play a lot of important, and prescient, and smart women. I feel very grateful that I’ve gotten to play so many and that people seem to enjoy all the various facets. But you never want to repeat yourself and just be one thing. I didn’t become an actor to just become one thing. I have a new project called Reprisal that I just did with Hulu, and it’s completely different. No one would be able to recognize me in the piece. That’s the hope and the joy.
The Knockturnal: I love that people of color are represented so well because of course we’ve been oppressed in previous, past lives, but also women in general have been marginalized often. In this role, how do you feel about a woman traveling through time periods where we may not have been respected or been able to be leaders. But in this show, it kind of recreates history.
Abigail Spencer: Well, we’re still fighting it. It’s 2018 and it still hasn’t happened. Women are still considered second class citizens and we have to be a part of that change. Every single person. And I think it is very vital for my role that I do choose characters that I think young women can look up to. And that was a huge part of the decision in choosing Timeless. Because Lucy led with her brain. That was her superpower, her smarts, and her intellect, and that was what was pitched to me. And it was one of my requests that she not be sexualized, overly sexualized on the show. That she doesn’t lead with that, that she isn’t the wife or the sister or the girlfriend or the this, that she is her own fully realized person. Also that she’s a teacher and that she’s a historian because I think those are grossly underrepresented people on television. That the historian teacher goofball is the hero, the hero-ess is so vital. Those were all intentional decisions. And I’m very thoughtful about it in each role that I choose. So hopefully that reflects itself in just the body of work.
The Knockturnal: I was going to ask what attracted you to the project but you just said that all of those things.
Abigail Spencer: And also not being bored. I like to play a lot of different roles. If I’m going to do a network television show at least one where I look different every episode, and I get to tell a different story in every episode. I love theater and film, that’s really where I come from. And I felt that this reflected my interest in the best way. My interest in education, my interest in history. I designed all my own clothes growing up. My mother made them. So this is kind of like my own version of paper dolls. As Mari-An Ceo, our costume designer, likes to say, that I’m her living paper doll. I got to have a hand in creating those looks. So not only do we tell 30 different stories, but I also got to help co-create 30 different looks and that’s very satisfying as an artist.
The Knockturnal: The 2-hour season finale–how excited are you for that?
Abigail Spencer: We just wrapped this week and we had so much fun. It’s for the fans. I hope they love it. It felt like stolen, borrowed time. It’s very rare that you have a Lazarus moment where you raise from the dead twice.
The Knockturnal: How do you think they’re going to react?
Abigail Spencer: Hopefully favorably. Hopefully it’s just enough and satisfying that they maybe want to see more. At the end of the day, if a ton of people watch it, who knows what will happen.
The Knockturnal: And the fact that it’s happening during Christmas categorizes it as a Christmas movie. Is that special to you? Are you cool with that?
Abigail Spencer: I’m cool with all of it. We’re on borrowed stolen time. The fact that Matt and Malcolm and I get to be at the forefront is just something that people love. I think Christmas movies go into this category as something that you can watch over and over again.
The Knockturnal: They turn into a legacy. They turn into things like A Christmas Story or Elf. There’s so many Christmas movies out there that are rewatched years down the line when that time comes around. There’s a potential that your kids or grandkids or whoever they’re going to be like hey let’s put it on.
Abigail Spencer: We weren’t even supposed to be here. So, It’s all bonus after that.
The Knockturnal: I love that attitude, that perspective, taking it day by day.
Abigail Spencer: It’s a time travel show. We’ve gotten to go back and change history in real life as well. It’s such a symbiosis between the fan engagement and the actual stories that we’re telling on the show.
Malcolm Barrett plays Rufus Carlin. His other appearances include The Office, Better Off Ted, Key and Peele and Southland.
The Knockturnal: What do you love about being on the show?
Malcolm Barrett: I love the freedom that the show gives me. It hits just about every highlight I want to hit as an actor. As mentioned, being vocal about being black in time periods where it’s been difficult and marginalized. Getting to be the pilot and co-creator of a time machine, constantly being the smartest person in the room, getting the girl, killing a guy, being the hero, and riding horses. I’ve gotten to run the gambit on what I’ve been able to do on this show. Doing this show every week is like having a different movie career every week. So honestly, it’s been one of the biggest experiences, and one of the most gratifying experiences simply playing a character in the world that the writers have set up.
The Knockturnal: I know the 2-hour series finale is coming up in December. How do you feel about that? How do you think the fans are going react? Are you excited? Are you sad?
Malcolm Barrett: It’s a bittersweet moment. I’m very excited, particularly for the fans. I think they’re really going to dig it. I think this is a love letter to them. It’s great to be in the pantheon of holiday movies now. We can officially say we’re a holiday movie, we’re like officially a Christmas movie. And that’s one of those cool, checkboxes you’ve checked off that I didn’t know I wanted to check off. Now I’m there with Christmas Story or the Christmas episode of The Office and all these things being to live in its own sort of time is great. We’ve essentially done the British version of The Office in terms of the length of season and having a holiday special and having a life after the fact.
The Knockturnal: What are you most excited about?
Malcolm Barrett: I’m excited to see the story continue to be told. I’m excited that we’ll bring another chapter into American history that is not known about people … Timeless is really good about showing people you haven’t seen represented or uncovering the identities of the real heroes behind particular stories. I think it does that. It stays current in ways that you never expected to. We had an episode talking about JFK. With all the issues, no matter where you feel about our President. The fact that we had that about Ben Franklin, and all these sort of history lessons, Benedict Arnold, and then now we get to see these things you can’t necessarily mention, but we get to talk about the state of the world and about humanity and what humanity means no matter what country you’re from and what era you’re in and how many things you have to deal with as a result of what the government has put the people through. And what we lose track of when we make enemies out of countries are the people who are involved and the citizens and civilians who are caught in those crosshairs and I think the Christmas episode of Timeless does a good job of reminding you about the humanity of people.
The Knockturnal: There’s always a legacy that occurs with Christmas movies and shows . Are you excited that there’s a potential that 20 years down the line, this might turn into a classic? Maybe years down the line people are gonna be like, let’s put on Timeless!
Malcolm Barrett: I really am. I try not to put the cart before the horse. But hopefully we will be better than the Star Wars Ewok Christmas special which is known as one of the worst specials ever. Hopefully we’ll be doing better than that. I never wanted a Christmas Movie and suddenly I have one and that is really awesome to see happen. That will be a legacy for my family, for my neighborhood, for people from my neighborhood.
I grew up a poor black kid from Brooklyn. To have a Christmas movie with a brother who has created a time machine and is now going around saving people and falling in love is a beautiful thing for me. It’s a legacy I never knew I wanted because I come from sort of playing the edges and pushing the envelope and so to come at it at a completely different way to talk about race, to talk about humanity, to talk about country, in a completely different way in a way that’s filled with revelry is amazing to me.
The Knockturnal: We’re in a time where representation matters. And so many things–Crazy Rich Asians as an example–we’re not there yet, but we’re inching forward, we’re slowly getting up there and it’s great.
Malcolm Barrett: When we can make crap is when we know we’ll have made it. When we can make 100 million dollars pieces of crap starring all colored folk, and no one blinks an eye, we know we’ve made it. Now that’s got to be the greatest thing ever, 100 million dollars to justify your brown ass having a movie. When we get there, I’ll be alright. When we can make Tree of Life where there’s just dinosaurs in the movie but the movie’s not about dinosaurs, that’s where I want to be.