'12 Monkeys' Producer on Syfy Series: 'It's a Complete Reimagining'

Aaron Stanford 12 Monkeys - H 2014
Courtesy of Syfy

Aaron Stanford 12 Monkeys - H 2014

Don’t expect Syfy’s 12 Monkeys to be a replica of Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie.

“It’s a complete reimagining,” co-executive producer Terry Matalas told reporters Monday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “We were all big fans of the original film and had a deep love and respect for the material. We didn’t want to just redo what the movie does.”

“This isn’t a cover band of the film,” added star Amanda Schull. Co-executive producer Travis Fickett echoed that sentiment: “It doesn’t make sense to tell the same story again.”

STORY Syfy's '12 Monkeys' Lands Series Order

12 Monkeys centers on a time traveler, Cole (Aaron Stanford), from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in the present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race.

The team behind the 13-episode series, scheduled for a January 2015 launch, intentionally switched up the rules to freshen things up and differentiate the universe. “Everything from the top down changed,” Matalas said, citing character tweaks like Cole and Dr. Whaley. Having said that, there will be clear homages to characters from the movie, such as Jones. Another change was the lack of ambiguity over the series' treatment of time travel. The time-traveling visual effects, in fact, were largely inspired by Rian Johnson’s 2012 film Looper.

Executive producer Richard Suckle, who helped produce the Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis film, said discussions about bringing 12 Monkeys to TV took place soon after the original movie was released. But things got in the way.

At the end of the day, the producers were itching to do “a gritty time-traveling show,” said Matalas, and felt audiences were ready to dive into a show with a rich mythology as 12 Monkeys. “We wanted it to be grounded and closer to a thriller but that’s not to say we wont play with tone."

There will be trips to various time periods, including World War I and the 1980s. “We will definitely travel around [time],” showrunner/executive producer Natalie Chaidez said.