TIMELESS Scoop From The Set: Interview With Goran Visnjic

A ruthless villain steals a time-machine and the government quickly sends a team of a soldier, a scientist and a historian after him to eliminate him before he does irreparable damage to the existing timeline. In NBC’s new adventure series TIMELESS, the action starts and does not stop leaving little time to peel back the layers on the characters that are immediately introduced. In order to get a better sense of who our heroes and villain are, we made a trip to the set of TIMELESS to get the answers fans will want to know.

Star Goran Visnjic reveals what drives his character Flynn Garcia to ruthless steal a government-created time machine and rush back into the past to change history, as we know it, regardless of the consequences:

Your character Flynn is supposed to be our villain while the heroes are supposed to chase him to all these different time periods. But we find out fairly quickly that Flynn has some sort of mysterious agenda. How are those puzzle pieces coming together as far as what we learn about him and whatever he is trying to accomplish?
GORAN: [Laughs] I’m asking those same questions that I don’t know the answers for. It’s the first season of a completely new show and we just still don’t know where we’re going to go. It depends on many things. It depends how the audience is going to react. It depends on how we see the show looks actually on screen because we have it on a paper and once you put it on a screen, it’s like sometimes, “Wait a second. Why don’t we actually do this or that?” It is also one of those shows that has unlimited potential and possibilities dealing with the time-travel and everything. We have literally can explore one event from so many different angles. We can play with that. Although we made a couple of barriers for ourselves. We are not actually allowed to break certain rules, at least for now. For example, you’re not allowed to go to the time that you already existed. That way, if my character is for example, his wife and kids were killed and everybody thinks he did it and he’s saying he didn’t do that, but we blocked him from actually from being able to go there and fix that event. Basically he needs to go further down to the past and find a way how to fix the event by, basically, I don’t know, killing the father of the person who killed his family or something like that. It presents interesting opportunities and interesting dilemmas for the show. I think that’s what’s going to make it really stand out from everything you see today on TV.

The pilot episode sets up that Flynn does have this plan that he’s working to execute. But it doesn’t sound like you necessarily know what his plan is, what his full agenda is. Is that hard for you or do you enjoy that freedom to figure it out as you go along?
GORAN: The thing is, everything is okay until you get a script where there’s something that it’s ultimately going against your belief. Then you have to pick up a phone and talk to the guys and say, “Guys, look my character, and I thought I would never say this, but my character shouldn’t do this or shouldn’t do that.” But sometimes there are things that maybe you just need to be aware of before you start doing a job, and talk to the guys and say, “Okay, this is how far he’s going to go to accomplish certain things. That’s what we know. That’s what we established, and that’s how we run the character.” Now, about the things that are going to be happening in the future, like I said, it’s just the beginning of the show. We don’t even know are we going to [to be received]. We all hope. We know how good they are and we hope that the show is going to really continue to have a life past the first season, but you all know in today’s day and age, that’s very difficult to promise. It’s almost difficult to promise to the audience because a lot of them lately are saying,”I don’t want to watch the show because we think it might be cancelled” or something like that. We are all just doing as best as we can and we’re really trying hard. Like I said, this is one of those rare shows. Normally, the pilot episode is really good and then the second episode is immediately way below the pilot. But we have two episodes and I don’t know which one is better: pilot or the second episode. We continue that way and we’re able to accomplish it because of the idea of the show and the way the show was set up. Like I said, it helps if the budget is decent. But I think we’re going to be able to continue on this scope for the whole season and not disappoint the audience.

There are so many time-travel shows coming out this fall. What makes yours stand out from the rest of them?
GORAN: A couple of things, I already mentioned. I don’t know about the other ones. I don’t know what they are. I know what we are doing and being a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan all my life, reading and watching everything on TV and films and reading books, I have never seen a show like this. I can assure you that I would like to watch it and many other shows out there, I kind of watch and I’m like, “Okay!” I’m just being bluntly honest. That’s all. I’ve been on some shows that I liked and I didn’t like. [Laughs] This one, I would actually like to have more work to do on this show. I’m like, “I want to be in that scene!”

Were there any particular eras you wish you got to spend more time in?
GORAN: Oh my God. What I wish is one thing. What we can accomplish is another. It also depends how far back in the past you go in order to change the events in today’s world. The further down the line you go and you make certain changes, the bigger impact you have on today. Imagine, you go back 500 years and you’re down in Brazil and let’s say you accidentally kill one of the native people over there. 500 years later, it can be that you are talking about thousands and thousands of people disappear. The thing is what we do is, if you leave with the time machine now and you make a change in the past and you come back, the people you left there, they’re going to completely unaware of the event. They see it differently from what we remember from our history. But the objects you carry with you stay unchanged because they were in their own timeline. For example, if you have a brother and sister and you have a photo of them in your wallet and you go back and something changed and you come back and your brother doesn’t exist. People never knew him. Your mother never knew him, but you still have his picture because you took it with you. I haven’t seen that done very much. You can play with that thing a lot. Trust me we do. We’re going to be asking some questions that are really tough. We had just recently, for example in Episode 2, you were there sitting in the Ford theater next to Abraham Lincoln and you have the choice to tell the dude, “This guy is coming to shoot you.” Would you do that? Okay, I would do that. But then what? Slavery is going to be completely banished there. There’s not going to be any issues. It’s going to move on in a beautiful direction, social liberties and all that. Or let’s say America in that moment in WWII that it decides “we don’t want to invest all this money into nuclear program — to develop the Manhattan Project.” Then Hitler wins the war. Boom. I mean, God knows. It’s like one tiny move in the past, no matter how in that moment it looks like a brilliant idea, like “we should save this person or change that or do this.” In today’s day and age it could wreak complete havoc, even if it looks brilliant idea in the moment. Specifically, in that episode, we have a lot of like: “Are we going to save Abraham Lincoln or not?” This and that and it’s tricky. You can really see the dilemma. After that episode, you’re going to be asking yourself, “What would I do?” It’s almost every episode that you are going to have things like that. It’s not just going to be the TV show that you can just sit back and kind of enjoy. It’s a lot of action. It’s a lot fun. It’s even like humorous. But the bottom line is you’re going to be like, “Oh shit!” [Laughs] Anyway.

You mentioned you were a fan of the sci-fi genre. Were you looking to do an hour long series like this?
GORAN: Let me tell you, sci-fi is a tricky business. I love to read. I love to watch. But to be a part of it, there are rarely projects that come along that are really good. It’s very difficult to know the quality and the scope of those projects. You have to have a certain assurance that in our business it’s really difficult. I’ve been in some shows that I felt so good about it: THE RED WIDOW, for example, I loved that show. It was from Melissa Rosenberg. It worked so well. Everything was so smooth on set. We had so much fun doing it. I thought, “It looks good.” I thought it’s like we did everything right. It just didn’t work out. You just can’t know what’s going on. In this one, there was something that attracted me to it. It’s like you have these two people: Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, coming from these two completely opposite worlds. I thought, “Oh, a show that Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke have put together. How would that look?” Just that is worth exploring. Imagine THE SHIELD, then imagine all the shows Eric did, and you put them together. You give these guys a decent budget and put a couple of smart people in a room and you don’t want two people who think alike, either. That’s probably why it works. I think we see exactly that. What you see in this show is exactly these two people coming together and fulfilling each other. That’s why we’re having what we’re having right now.

Were you wanting to play a bad guy for a change?
GORAN: I didn’t do it in awhile now, but it is more fun. Look, can I tell you this: like we’re doing this scene and it’s written as my character comes in and does something, and they are like, “No, no he’s a bad guy.” Or I want him to have this semi-automatic pistol and they are like, “How about we give him an Uzi in this scene?” I’m like, “It’s 1972 and I’m like wielding and Uzi around Russia?” And they are like, “It’s the 1970s. Yeah, it’s cool idea.” So I’m going to stand there all day, playing like we are kids. It is kind of more fun, I guess. You can always come to them and say, “Can I do this bigger?” And they are like, “Yeah, sure of course. What a minute. No, that might be too much.”

Do you want Flynn to be a “black hat” villain?
GORAN: No. Again, it’s one of those shows where nothing’s going to be black-and-white. We have to give audience something to really bite onto. So, in the beginning, his reasoning is not going to be known. He’s doing what he’s doing. I have to tell you he is a lot more than just carpet-bombing. He doesn’t know what he needs to accomplish exactly, but further down the line it is like: Does he have these delusions or is he right? And are we going to find out through the course of this season?I’m telling you, he believes in the things he does, definitely. We’ll see.

Why does the government hate and fear him? I mean they go after him, not with just an order to capture, it is an order to kill. That’s pretty intense.
GORAN: [Laughs] If you have somebody who has the power to go in 15 minutes and wipe out history as we know it, what would you do?

I’d take away his machine! Instead they’re just want to kill the guy.
GORAN: Yeah, that’s a good one, but it would be very difficult to accomplish. They can’t track the machine yet. Through the course of the first season, they start developing the tracking device that they’re getting better and better, and closer and closer, to get to him and stuff like that. And he’s developing things to get further away.

But he obviously pissed somebody off to be shot on sight.
GORAN: That’s exactly the point. He pissed off some people even — no, I can’t tell you this. [Laughs] You know what? Let’s just leave it there. Just watch the show.

Since he is such a mysterious character, what do you think is most important for people to understand about him as a person?
GORAN: Honestly, there’s nothing to understand about him once you start watching the show. You’re going to start watching the show and you’re going to progress with all these characters and you’re going to be getting pieces of information. In the pilot, he’s just this person who says, “Look, this is why I’m doing that. I can’t explain to you all the details, but this is why I’m doing it.” Of course, Abigail [Spencer], her character Lucy doesn’t believe him. It’s just that she heard from the government that this guy killed his own family and blamed some imaginary characters for that and he’s just a psycho who stole this time machine. Then you’re going: “How could you steal the time machine if you don’t know a little bit more than that?” You kind of start asking the questions. He’s there basically for the audience to be, “Wait a second. This is not as we’ve been told.” [Laughs] In order for me to tell you more, I need to kind of uncover all these things that are actually the biggest secrets that we have on our show. We should know more as the show progresses. If you say, on the episode 2, “Yeah, you know what? Whatever. I’m not interested anymore.” Then be that way. My presumption is you’re going to be, “Okay. Cool. Yeah. I got it. I got it.” That’s our hope.

It’s 1972. Do you get to smoke? Do you wear bell bottoms? Do you drive one of those great cars?
GORAN: Yeah, I don’t think my character ever smoked, because: why would you? For example, Shawn said, our producer, we’re talking one day about the costume and this and that and I said, “It needs to be a proper costume.” We were going to 1865. “I don’t want to stick out.” And Shawn said, “God, you didn’t have a costume designer for Christ’s sake. He took something that looks similar to that. He doesn’t know how people in 1865 dress. What he would do, he would go to Wikipedia, and he would Google the picture from the period or a painting and he would dress approximately.” Another example, I’m using my 21st Century watch and I’ll have my phone with me all the time. So the fact that I’m having my semi-automatic in 1865 — when you see those things — remember the famous “Ben-Hur” with Charleton Heston and his Rolex? Now, we actually do that intentionally. Because my character actually brings these things. Lucy’s all crazy about “you can’t change the history.” She’s a history professor. She’s like, “If you bring a semi-automatic pistol around the Hindenburg, which is operated by Nazis, and these guys actually come to get one of those Glocks. They’re going to be, ‘Wait a second, we did this 70 years in the future. How does this thing work?’ Oh my God. You can develop all kind of technologies just from one Glock. You don’t want to do that.” But Flynn is kind of like, “I have a bigger agenda. Of course, he wouldn’t give his pistol to Nazis.”

Why would Flynn bring a phone? He wouldn’t have cell service.
GORAN: Well, how many things you can do on your iPhone? What are you doing right now? Do you need cell service for that? There you go. We carry them regardless. Then me, being the villain, I’m kind of like, “Uh oh, Shawn, you know what? I need my watch. I need it for my heart rate. I have a little heart condition. Can I actually have it on the show, as a character?” He’s like, “Yeah, cool. That’s a good idea.” I have my iPhone just to pair it with. Sure, you don’t see it, but we can. It’s fun. It makes sense. Imagine if you’re actually able to do those things and if you can help these things as things unfolds with some voice recording or if you’re bored you’re going to play video games. You can imagine how many things you can use without a Wifi. You do have a battery power all the way up to — well, the plugs are all the same where you can actually charge it easily [in the time-machine].

What does a villain pack to take on a trip when he steals a time machine?
GORAN: [Laughs] A lot of beans. Normally, the trips are very short because we have a problem. We know that they can track us down and where we go in which time, but they aren’t able at the beginning to locate exactly where we are. That’s why they have Lucy, right? They know that Flynn went to 1865. She presumes, “Why would you go to 1865? What’s the big event, the biggest event that happened in 1865?” That’s how they know. In one episode, Flynn is going back to Nazi Germany and they are kind of like able to pinpoint the year and even location and she’s clueless. She’s like, “There’s nothing going on here. Why would he go there?” It’s a big mystery. When they go and chase him, they need to figure out why he’s even there. What is he trying to accomplish? What is he trying to change? Apparently, there’s nothing there to be changed. Then in about 17 minutes into the show, you’re like, “Holy Beep. This is really big.” It’s like, “Whoa, we have to stop it.” He knows they’re chasing him so he is planning everything to be accomplished in a short period of time. Because, again, once he visits that time, he can’t go back to that same time because he was there. A lot of tricks and rules.

That’s what the cell phone is for. It’s for calendar to sync track your dates, where you’ve been, as you know you can’t go back there.
GORAN: Hey, I bet you if you if you talk to give Google or Apple app designers about the show and they can come up with certain apps you can use specifically for time-travel, you do not have to have wifi and network. What apps would you be able to use before the Internet? I bet they would come up with some nasty stuff.

Did you get any sort of time-travel bible? You’ve already mentioned two specific rules, you can’t go back to some place that you specifically have been if something changes in the past and you have an object on you, it doesn’t change in the present. Did they outline to you these are the rules of time-travel within your genre?
GORAN: No. You know what, you don’t want to do that. Once you set up certain rules, of course you want to maintain them, but then if something presents like a really interesting idea or interesting agenda, you want to be able to play around with it. It’s kind of like, so many technical problems in the past were presumed impossible to prove, like the sound barrier. How many people died? How many planes crashed before that could even be achieved? Now, it’s kind of like of course military jets are flying Mach 2 or 3, or whatever. We’re kind of taking it and saying technical challenges like, you’re not able to go back to the time you already existed. Yet I was born in 1972, so I’m not allowed to go to 1973, but what if?

To find out just what secret motivates Flynn to steal a time machine and become the most wanted man in history, be sure to tune in for the premiere of TIMELESS on Monday, October 3rd at 10:00 p.m. on NBC — and watch for those moments when Flynn asks: “What if?” and where that ends up taking both him and our heroes.

For those curious to know more, here is our video interview with Goran Visnjic from San Diego Comic-Con: