TORONTO — The first episode of the new sci-fi series Travelers is unlike most pilots you see on TV these days, teases Canadian star Eric McCormack.
The Toronto native plays one of several time travellers who go back to the 21st century via their consciousness and infiltrate the bodies of people in an effort to save humanity from a terrible future.
The show debuts Monday on Showcase in Canada, but will be available on Netflix internationally starting in December. The partnership with the streaming service meant writers could slowly tease out the story rather than being pressured to cram it all into the pilot episode.
“This speaks to the way television is being written nowadays,” says McCormack, who splits his time between Vancouver and Los Angeles.
“You do a pilot and the network says: ‘You’ve got to tell them everything. What if they don’t show up next week? They have to know everything.’
“And now we’re meting this stuff out little by little. Our first episode is fantastic, I’m really excited about it, but it’s only going to give away so much.”
The first episode of the Vancouver-shot Canadian series is a dark one, showing the deaths of several people who are immediately resuscitated and inhabited by the conscious minds of the travellers.
The host body of McCormack’s time-travelling character looks similar to the former Will & Grace star himself, but we never get to see what he looks like in the future.
“In 300 years, I could be played by Brad Pitt, but you’ll never see that because we can’t afford it,” quips McCormack.
The travellers are working together to prevent certain events from happening, while also trying to figure out the lives of the people they’ve inhabited.
“We never quite know the details of our mission, we just have our piece, your little mission and it’s a piece of a greater thing,” says McCormack.
“But the fun thing is that we also get to, we have to, live the lives of the people whose bodies we basically infiltrate. So we are like spies but we’re also fish out of water, all of us.”
The cast members are essentially playing two characters at once, a duality McCormack says is “really fun.”
“That’s the part that feels to me like espionage, like The Americans. We, as an audience, know that they’re this instead of this, but they cannot blow their cover. No one can know.”
While we won’t see what McCormack’s traveller character looks like, he does reveal he had a love affair with a fellow traveller.
“But when we land here in these new roles, I’ve landed in the body of someone a little bit older than her and when we’re not on a mission together, we can’t be seen together,” he says.
“We have to live these people’s lives. They can’t fraternize. So suddenly they’re separated in this past world they’ve come to. They also don’t look like they used to look like.
“Imagine, it’s like putting on a whole other personality.”