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March 12, 2010

'FlashForward'

Paleyfest flashforward vance davenport monaghan By Philiana Ng

Remember when ABC doled out a little show in 2009 about a universal blackout? Well, come March 18, "FlashForward" returns to its Thursday night home. Will viewers stay for the ride?

With the majority of the cast present at the PaleyFest event spotlighting the high-concept drama (which has had its share of problems), the evening was either going to be a massive failure or an informative, fun-filled night. Thankfully, it was the latter. However, a few tough questions were asked and acknowledged, but not to the extent that industry types were hoping for.

With numerous showrunner changes since its September series debut, there were concerns regarding the show's heavy-handed storytelling and its steady ratings decline -- and more importantly, if a second season was a possibility. So when an audience member asked the producers just that, executive producer Jessica Borsiczky and co-creator Brannon Braga went on the defensive.

"You can't really force anyone to watch or turn on the TV," Borsiczky said.

"Or maybe we can," Braga joked.

Paleyfest flashforward fiennes ealy"There's a satisfying ending [to Season 1]," Borsiczky added. "We're anticipating getting to do this for a long time, but [we have great stories that are told this season]."

Perhaps part of the problem came with ABC's large promotional campaign prior to the show's premiere. "It's a double-edged sword. It's amazing to have ABC [behind us]," Borsiczky said of the broadcast net's high expectations. "On the other hand, it's better to be the 'come-from-behind underdog.' "

Even with its share of conflicts, it wasn't difficult to see that the show still had a loyal audience with the number of people who showed up at the Saban Theatre on Thursday. Thus, the three-month break served as a chance for the producers to retool the show creatively and logistically.

"We stuck to the overall plan, but we had to adjust," Borsiczky said about the last half of the season. "[There will be] big answers in every show [and] things are going to move a little faster." During the first 20 minutes of next Thursday's episode, Borsiczky's statement rings true, though it may already be too late for many viewers who have dropped the show even before its winter finale.

Aside from these probing questions, the panel was pretty tame -- except for the mention of poo, butt-grabbing and character porn names. And the amusing fact that one of the actors didn't know "FlashForward" was based on a novel.

After sharing that many people believed his character was lying about not having a flash forward, actor John Cho (Demetri) mentioned that co-star Courtney B. Vance (Stanford) grabbed his ass while on-set one day. "It was a forceful dinosaur grab," Cho elaborated. "We're a close family. Family grabs ass!," Vance said.

"Does kangaroo poo bounce after the [kangaroo] for like a week?," "Lost" star Dominic Monaghan (Simon) asked the crowd, after some of the panelists discussed working with the animal in some of last year's episodes. "Michael Ealy (Vogel) just asked me if there was a kangaroo in the book!," Sonya Walger (Olivia) laughed, referring to the book by Robert J. Sawyer.

"We all have porn names," Joseph Fiennes (Mark) shared during the panel. "Mine is Mark Bangfoot."

Paleyfest flashforward union cho The show may be serious and dark, but the cast keeps it light and fluffy when the cameras are off. "You have to keep it light, at least what I do -- gravitas-filled acting," Cho joked. "You have to balance it out."

So why did the writers choose April 29, the date of D-Day? "It sounded good. That's the only reason," Braga said. "In the novel, the flash forwards were 20 years later." The gap between the present and future wasn't exactly beneficial for a television series, the producers realized, since rarely do shows last that long.

When the 18th rolls around, viewers will have another chance to ultimately decide if "FlashForward" is worth their time. Until then, the cast and producers can only hope that there won't be a universal blackout on their show.

Here are the night's most notable mini-blackouts:

On if the cast is kept in the dark: "They only read their own parts," Borsiczky joked. "Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, me. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, me," Jack Davenport (Lloyd) said in jest. But Zachary Knighton (Bryce) had a different take on each script. "I just want to know if I'll be around next episode," he said.

On Davenport's shirtless scenes: "Shirtless to you is two syllables. Shirtless to me is like 9,000 sit-ups with no breaks," he said. "Jack suffers from a fat back," Monaghan interjected.

On their characters: "Zoe's a bad episode of 'Bridezillas!,' " Gabrielle Union (Zoe) analyzed. "He (Demetri) puts people in good or bad categories, and you have to learn other categories," Cho said. "Lighten up and have a drink!," Fiennes said, noting the irony because his character was drinking in his flash forward. Ealy said to laughter, "Vogel's therapist would want to be more like Vogel." When it came to Knighton's turn, he took a different route. "You've got problems because your name is Bryce Varley," he said, emphasizing the last name.

On the kangaroo: "What do they keep in the pouch?," Monaghan wondered. "Little fun size Snickers?"

On casting the roles: "We were the first pilot of the season to cast," Borsiczky said. "Every person we cast was our first choice." Braga interjected, "Except two." "Well, really one [looking at Monaghan]," Borsiczky teased. "We had to beg Dominic to do the show," Braga said jokingly.

On the flash forwards: "Each flash forward is filmed differently ... but in the language of the show," Borsiczky said. For instance, Fiennes' flash forwards were filmed using a hand-crank camera to give it the gritty, untethered feel. For Walger's, the crew used handmade lens flares so parts of the shot would be in soft focus.

On a (potential) new name for the show: After Vance discussed his character's flash forward, which featured him sitting on a toilet in a bathroom stall, a panelist shouted out a name for the "future-backs," "We should call this 'Flush Forward'!"

Additional panelists included: Peyton List (Nicole).

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