'Tomorrow People' EP on Paying Homage to the Original and Series' Big Questions (Q&A)

Phil Klemmer tells THR that The CW update "is something you can enjoy as hardcore sci-fi and an emotionally raw, honest coming-of-age story."
Barbara Nitke/The CW
"The Tomorrow People"

[Warning: Some spoilers ahead.]

The Tomorrow People heads back to the small screen.

Based on the original British children's program that aired from 1973-1979, The CW's latest freshman series centers on a group of young people, led by Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell), who possess powers as the result of human evolution.

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Executive producer Phil Klemmer, who co-runs Tomorrow People with Greg Berlanti, previews the U.S. adaptation in a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, touching on the series' biggest questions, Easter Eggs and premiere night nerves.

How has the show evolved since you began production a few months ago?

At the risk of sounding conceited, I feel like we've done what we set out to do, as far as the first half of the season is concerned -- in terms of character arcs and the mythology.

Was it a challenge booking original castmember Nicholas Young for the series?

He had reached out to [executive producer] Greg Berlanti to offer congratulations on the series, and Greg has been such a fan of the original series that we knew we wanted to have him come do a cameo. It's essentially 40 years to the day that he did his first turn as John [on the original 1970s series]. Our hair department couldn't stop talking about how excellent his hair was after all these years. He went from being a teen heartthrob to being a dignified British silver fox. He hasn't acted in the past 40 years, but he just dove back into it with pure joy and aplomb. It was cool to see how much fun the cast had working with a guy who was doing this generations ago.

Does he interact with Luke Mitchell (who plays John Young) at all?

He does. They share a scene together, and I think that anybody has to be flattered that they are portrayed by a guy who looks like Luke Mitchell. He comes in as Aldus Crick, an old friend of Stephen's father who begins to unlock some of the mysteries on what what happened to Stephen's dad and the possibility that he may still be out there in some form or another.

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What are some of the big questions we should be asking?

There are humans and the tomorrow people who are locked in a shadow war; you have Stephen and his uncle [Jedikiah Price, played by Mark Pellegrino,] on one side, and people like John on the other. The battle line won't always be clear. There will be plenty of times when our adversaries find themselves strangely on the same side of the battle line. There are times when Stephen will feel more closely lined to his uncle, who may be called the villain but can often make sense. It's a hall of mirrors episode by episode. Along with Stephen, you have to try to figure out which side you believe in because both sides make compelling arguments. I think this is the only show where the villain is trying to save the human race. When you tilt the normal morality scale, you are going to be disoriented and confused.

Will there be moments where there is a very clear distinction between what is right and wrong?

The premise of the show is that there has been a quantum leap in human evolution, so the essential question is: Do humans deserve to be replaced? Have humans forfeited their ownership of the planet by all the terrible shit we've done to ourselves and the planet? For these kids, who stand at the nexus between the two species, it's a really interesting question. Stephen's mom and his brother and his friends are essentially human. Does he stand up to protect humans or does he choose the tomorrow people or do the impossible: try to have two species get along?

What hints can you give in terms of Easter eggs to the original series?

You will see the character TIM (voiced by Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens) from the original. There is a spin on the original show -- instead of teleporting, the British referred to it as jaunting. We have our own incarnation of jaunting. We also have a character who is going to appear in episode nine who was in the original run. We think Jedikiah is the uber-baddie, but in that episode, we find out that he actually has a boss.

How are your nerves as the premiere nears?

They are in an oddly sort of placid state right now, which is inexplicable. But I'm not going to fight it. I'm just going to surrender to that.

Have anything special planned for premiere night?

We are fortunate enough -- since we share an executive producer [Greg Berlanti] with our sister show Arrow -- we are going to have a mixer with the Arrow folks. We are going to have a meeting of the shows at some sort of Hollywood night club venue, which is pretty exotic for my social taste. But it should be cool.

What do you hope viewers get out of the show?

I hope people are engaged on two levels. I hope it's exciting and action-packed. It's science fiction that I don't think you get to see on TV, or certainly not on network television. What I like about it is that it is something you can enjoy as hardcore sci-fi and an emotionally raw, honest coming-of-age story.

The Tomorrow People premieres on Wednesday at 9 p.m. on The CW.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
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