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Timeless Premiere Postmortem: Will We Ever See the Future?

And can we trust Rufus?

Kaitlin Thomas

This fall NBC is jumping on the time travel bandwagon with its new drama Timeless, from series creators Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield).

Monday's series premiere moved swiftly as it quickly assembled the show's core trio of Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a history professor trying to live up to the legacy of her ailing mother, Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a trained soldier grieving the loss of his wife, and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), an engineer who helped to build the time machine that transported them all back to 1937, where they attempted to stop the mysterious Flynn (Goran Višnjić) from altering the events of the Hindenburg disaster.

Got all that? Okay.

Each week the show's heroes will hop in their own time machine and fight to maintain the status quo throughout various points in American history, but they won't necessarily be wholly successful. At the end of the premiere, Lucy returned home to discover that not only was her mother no longer dying, but her sister didn't exist. It's these kinds of minute differences that the series will explore.

"The end of the pilot was Shawn's idea, but I thought what was so brilliant about it was it's this seismic change in history, but it's completely personal, and it's completely emotional," co-creator Eric Kripke told reporters earlier this summer at the Television Critics Association summer previews.

"If you were to go outside that house, you would have no idea that history is different. And that's a really good model as to how the present will change in our show, because it's always better to go deep than to go big and to make things personal and painful to your heroes. So I think the changes that they're in danger of making aren't going to be necessarily, you know, a T.Rex with swastika armbands goose-stepping down Fifth Avenue."

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To find out more about their characters, how things will change moving forward and whether we'll ever see the show's version of the future, stars Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter and Malcolm Barrett sat down for an interview with TVguide.com.

Okay, my first question: Can they travel to the future? We've already seen them travel to the Hindenburg disaster, but is it possible that later this season that we'll get to see Timeless' version of the future?

Malcolm Barrett: I think [traveling to the future is] possible, but right now there's so much to mine in the past. Right now we're more interested in that than coming up with some sort of conceit for the future.

We see how much their first trip affects the present day. What's going to happen as the show goes on? Are we going to see altered versions of the present each week?

Abigail Spencer: What we're going to see is that when we do go back, we do -- on a general level -- keep things somewhat the same because Flynn, [who is] this kind of enigma, is going back in time to try and change the past, which could catastrophically change the future. So we're trying to keep it the same as much as possible but little tiny butterfly effects shifts happen along the way. And that's part of the developing story: to see what keeps changing, if anything changes, outside of our main time traveler's world. Specifically for Lucy, things really affect her. [With] those little shifts, we see [the] effect through her and through that character.

Do you have trouble keeping track of these different timelines?

Matt Lanter: Things do change around us, but we remain constant so our stories and our drive and our motions are actually constant. Of course they are adjusted by things that happen around us, but for the most part we are the same throughout.

Spencer: And our creators and showrunners, Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, are really clear about what they're creating, and I feel like as we educate the audience, it will be very clear to them. Because it can get a little confusing, but they feel very clear about the world that they're creating.

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Malcolm, your character is on some sort of secret mission. We don't know what's going on with that. Should viewers trust him? Should we trust anyone besides Lucy?

Lanter: I don't trust Lucy. I don't think we should. [laughs]

Barret: Yeah!

Spencer: Geez, guys.

Barrett: What's interesting is that every character has a secret. Everybody's hiding something from someone. It's kind of almost the reason why we balk at the idea of Flynn being the villain. I always call him the antagonist as opposed to the villain. I think all of us are working behind the scenes at something else. I think it would be a mistake to call it wholly bad or wholly good. You'll find out what he's up to in different ways, and we'll see how much we can trust each other along the way.

We've seen how much Wyatt's grief for his wife affects his judgment and his character. How will that evolve as the season goes on?

Lanter: Pretty immediately -- even into Episode 2, and definitely into three - you're going to see Wyatt wrestling with his conscience. Does he follow the mission that he's given or does he stray and do what he feels like he wants to do and save his wife and make right on some of the wrongs that he's done in the past. That will definitely [come into] play.

Spencer: And that's a big source of conflict for Wyatt and Lucy. He really wants to go back and change this terrible thing that happened, and Lucy's trying to keep everything the same because, as you see, she comes back to a different reality. Her sister is missing. It presents the question 'Why is your sister missing any more important than me going back and trying to bring back my wife?' because that was a horrible accident that happened. That's kind of the bigger meta thing that we're going to be exploring on the show is how time travel affects [us]. As humans, should we have that much power if we were given it?

Lastly, what other big historical moments are we going to see in the coming weeks?

Barrett: The assassination of Abraham Lincoln. We've got the Alamo. We're going to Vegas during the Rat Pack era. Space Race. These are not small tasks. We're hitting some major events

Timeless airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.

(Additional reporting by Sadie Gennis.)