Travelers Creator and Showrunner Brad Wright Talks Casting and Storytelling

Travelers wraps up its second season on Showcase Monday night, before dropping on Netflix in the U.S. next Tuesday. Earlier this week, I talked exclusively with series creator and showrunner Brad Wright in a wide-ranging discussion that I’ll share over a few pieces in the coming days. First up — we talked about assembling the terrific cast who are adeptly portraying the inherent duality of a Traveler personality and the human being who was overwritten by that Traveler in the 21st, and balancing serial and episodic storytelling.

The idea for the series originated from the current prominence of social media as more and more people document their everyday minutiae. “It was born out of the notion of social media being out there not just now, but in the future. What we put down about ourselves now is a permanent record in history going forward for hundreds of years, provided humanity survives that long. And the things we put out there that aren’t necessarily true, [will be] there forever,” he explains.

“That made me think about the future’s perception of present day and also the accuracy, with computers, of being able to tell when an event happened. That led to traveling back to somewhere specific, and the Marcy character basically being a mistake as a social exercise with her and David creating a fake profile and it took off from there.”

When Wright was casting the show, he had a specific plan in place, and admittedly lucked out on all fronts. “I’m the luckiest writer-producer in the world. They’re unbelievable. Two things happened. I wanted to construct a show that would allow me to build a young cast. It struck me that if you are going to the past, you’d want to pick a young person for their capabilities and they’d’ [live a long life]. They needed a leader at their core and I though the FBI would be a fabulous cornerstone because it would give them access and information and open some doors,” he explains.

“I always thought about building a cast around a lead, like we did on Stargate SG-1 with Richard Dean Anderson. Because I’m Canadian, I look here first. I wrote MacLaren with Eric [McCormack] in mind never thinking for a second I’d get him. I did an episode of The Outer Limits with him [in 1997] and thought I had to do a series with him, and then Will & Grace happened and this was my next opportunity. He read the material and we met up and remembered that we were like-minded people, and it turns out we grew up a couple of block from each other. When he said yes, I was over the moon.”

Travelers 17 Minutes

“Unequivocally, I wrote the David character for Patrick Gilmore, who I had worked with on SGU. I can hear his voice in my head and I knew he could play it. You’ve got to be a window [into that] world without being a Traveler. We all love writing his phone messages. The one that we wrote for him in 209 about winning the lottery is one of my favorites of the series.”

When Wright was casting the rest of the core team, he was thrilled with the caliber of Canadian talent coming in. “We just kept getting blown away. These young people were getting offered pilots left and right but they went with our show,” he shares.

Travelers 17 Minutes

“Peoples in their 20s are rarely offered roles as smart as these, because these people are from the future. They love being able to sink their teeth into [them]. We got so fortunate to find most of the cast at our back door. They’re all going to take off after this. 100% guarantee it.”

“I was asked how we were going to find someone to be able to play someone as old as Trevor really is. I said, ‘Listen to [Jared Abrahamson’s] voice, his gravitas.’ I’m so lucky, right across the board. They’re playing multiple characters. The nuances in MacKenzie [Porter]‘s performance between the various Marcys is just amazing to me. I saw [her] audition and she was amazing and I had to have her. I offered her the role off her tape [without meeting her first].”

Wright cut his teeth as a writer and producer on series like Stargate and The Outer Limits, which did 20+ episodes a season, so he’s adapting to the new season model, which has him doing 12 a year for Travelers. “12 is nice. It’s great. One of the beauties is that at 20 a year you get 100 episodes. In terms of the [the financials] of lasting and becoming strippable [in syndication, it’s harder and takes more time with shorter seasons].”

Travelers Showcase Netflix

Wright works hard to find a balance for the casual and hard core viewers. “I have always embraced the hybrid, so someone tuning into an episode isn’t going to wonder what the hell is going on. There’s a story there to watch and follow,” he explains.

“They won’t get all the nuances because they won’t know what the overall arc is, necessarily, but it is not a barrier to entry to someone who says, ‘I think I’ll check this out.’ There’s a story to watch.”

“The constant viewer needs to be rewarded with growth and character and story and arc. I find, for myself, that’s the way I think, anyway, so it’s kind of a natural approach to a 12-episode season. You’ve got an overall season story to tell and then the stories within that hopefully contribute.”

“I like each character to have a certain arc and their own stories. Because it’s ensemble-ish, somebody will take a secondary role and it’ll be someone else’s turn to shine. I have a classy problem with the cast. I have to make sure that they all have their moments to shine.”

Travelers wraps up Season 2 in Canada Monday at 9pm ET/PT on Showcase. You can catch up on the first ten episodes of this season on Showcase’s website. Season 1 is running now in the U.S. on Netflix, with Season 2 arriving on 12/26. We’ll be back tomorrow with a full preview, and another section of our interview with Brad Wright.

Photos Courtesy of Jeff Weddell/Showcase and IMDb

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