The 90's Series Page!
Megabyte Madness: Some images of Christien Tessier before he became a TP
By Jane Killick
TV Zone Magazine Issue 50
Four girls are standing anxiously outside the wardrobe van parked on location for The Tomorrow People. They're waiting to see Kristian Schmid, who is still better known as an Australian soap star then one of the new generation of Tomorrow People.
The glamorous location is a side street in London, the home of several disused office blocks and factories being used by the film crew. This year they're making ten episodes of the children's sci-fi series, following on from the success of last years story. "It's got a really really good reaction," says Kristian Schmid who plays Adam. "Everyone that I spoke to who watched it really enjoyed it. It was mainly adults that watched it last year, it got really good figures, it went really well. So we're hoping that it does the same this year."
This year the creator of the show, Roger Price, is nowhere to be seen. He was the anchorman for the original 1970's series over its seven-year history, and was involved in updating it for the 1990's audience. Taking over from him are Lee Pressman and Grant Cathro, two writers who have written other children's dramas like Spatts and T-Bag. They were careful to consult Roger Price when putting pen to paper.
"First of all we didn't want to do anything Roger Price would disapprove of," Lee says, "There is a magazine that had a very in-depth article about the Tomorrow People, the seventies Tomorrow People, which we read avidly and tried to find out what the whole thing was about. We didn't know Roger Price; we'd never met him. So we got an idea of what the show was about."
There's also a change in the cast with Kevin (Adam Pearce) only appearing on a couple of episodes, and Lisa (Kristen Ariza) disappearing to be replaced by new Tomorrow Person, Ami (Naomi Harris) "Adam Pearce gets bitten by a mosquito in "The Culex Experiment," Lee explains, "he goes into a coma for a lot of the series and wakes up at the end, poor chap." Obviously we're always striving for a balance of characters that really work well and we weren't very keen on Kristian… It just seems the balance we've got now, the three of them, is quite sparky, with Adam and Megabyte having quite a lot of wisecracks at each other's expense."
Ami is played by British Actress Naomi Harris. And like The Tomorrow People of old she only realises she is changing into a Tomorrow Person when she starts to develop her special powers.
"She didn't know at the beginning and she's discovered as one of The Tomorrow People when she starts having dreams," Explains Naomi, "she starts seeing things during the day, like images of Kevin being taken away and things happening to him and so on. And she needs to relay this information, so then she goes to the Tomorrow People to tell them what's going on."
Ami's visions lead the Tomorrow People to discover a swarm of deadly mosquitoes in the first adventure of the new series. The mosquitoes have been genetically engineered by Dr. Culex, played by Jean Marsh. She wants to get hold of a replicating machine developed by a rival American scientist (Connie Booth) to mass-produce her mosquitoes. When Kevin is bitten by one the Tomorrow People are drawn into the adventure.
The story produced a memorable moment for Kristian Schmid. "I like Jean Marsh a lot, and we were filming in a location that had lots of high places and she gets virtigo which is quite amusing," He smiles. "We love Jean Marsh, I'm in love with Jean Marsh, I want to get married… she plays this mad, mad professor and she does all this laughing, mad laughing and stuff. It's brilliant, she's excellent, very, very funny."
Kristian steps onto the location for the days filming and is joined by the other two; 'Tp's' as the film crew have come to call them. It's the aftermath of an explosion outside the offices of a local newspaper, which has been caught up in the Tomorrow People's escapade. Broken sugar glass is scattered on the ground, and a couple of people from the props department are burning books in the corner to make it look more authentic.
The three actors rehearse the scene with the director. It's a complicated sequence made up of several elements. While telephone directories float down from a window in the newspaper offices, Adam and Megabyte cross the yard, and extras walk in the background. Then Ami teleports in and the three of them conclude the scene. They rehearse this several times, with somebody running up and down the stairs with telephone directories for props men to keep throwing out of the window. The teleporting is cheated by Kristian and Christian standing perfectly still as the director calls, 'freeze', and then Ami steps into the scene. Teleporting effects will be added in post- production. All these different things have to go smoothly before the director is satisfied. Technical things like telephone directories falling at the wrong time hamper the first few takes. And then as soon as things are coming together one of the actors forget his lines. The director decides to cheat and join the two takes together by sandwiching a close up of Megabyte in between them.
Teleporting and the children's ability to telepathically communicate has always been a main feature of The Tomorrow People. But even these have gone through some changes this year. "The Tomorrow people's powers are really a big problem for us," confesses Lee Pressman. "Roger Price had given them the brief to do anything and on of our briefs was to make it exciting and full of jeopardy. We said 'but in the last series that you did, these people can teleport, can read people's minds, they can sure people when they die even, and they're not allowed to harm anybody and we can't see how you can do a series of cliff hangers and people being tied to railway lines and things'." And so it was agreed to quickly forget about their healing powers.
"We went into more mental powers that they have," continues Lee. "They meet a girl called Ami, who's just developing into a Tomorrow Person, and she's witnessed a kidnapping and she can't remember the number plate of the van or the motorbike. They do this mind merge together and form a holographic image of the scene and then freeze-frame it. So we've gone into some new areas, we've limited others that we found very very difficult. I don't think you can do a series featuring three people that are superhuman."
As the afternoon draws on there is just one scene to be filmed outside. This involves the TP's and quite a few extras dressed as policemen and firemen. The director doesn't know the name of the person playing the policeman, so one of the film crews tells him his name is Bobby.
They have filmed only half the scenes when the British weather intervenes and it starts raining - heavily. All camera equipment is covered up and the crew take a tea break-in one of the empty buildings in the hope that it is only a shower.
But it continues raining and it's getting darker. So they decide to try and film the last bit of the scene in the rain. Getting wet is obviously a problem, but the soundman has a harder time recording dialogue without the sound of dripping water. Despite putting telephone directories under drips to dampen the noise, it appears to be an impossible task. They try filming it a couple of times, knowing it might have to be re-filmed on a drier day.
The weather is an occupational hazard when filming on location, which poses extra problems when they are pretending some of the series is set in America. Everything has been filmed in or around London as that's as far as the budget will stretch.
"We're also having to cheat Florida," says Lee. "We had to cheat the NASA space centre, God knows how they did that! Filmed at night very close up! I mean obviously we would like to have more money. But it's pretty spectacular I must say for children's television."
But for newcomer Naomi it's the central premise of The Tomorrow People that attracts her. "It's like every kids dream to have special powers," she says, "I know sometimes when we're here and have to wait around hours and hours for filming, I wish I could teleport home and back, that kind of thing. It's every child's dream to have powers like that, to know what other people are thinking, to see into the future."
The young actress has to travel home in a more conventional way, by car. Rain may have stopped play outside, but the others venture inside to film a scene that doesn't involve her character or rely on the weather.
To be continued…
By Jane Killick
TV Zone Magazine Issue 64
It was a sleepy English village in the heart of Surrey where ducks swam undisturbed on the pond Until The Tomorrow People film crew arrived. Make-up, costume and catering vans had taken over the pub car park, and many cottages in the picturesque village of Hascombe are being used for filming. One of them is the setting for the first scene of the day. This is where newcomer, Jade (Alexander Milman) lives. "They call me a trainee TP," says Alex who joins the teenagers with the special powers for their second adventure this year. "It's really good," she enthuses. "Everyone's been really nice. It's quite a fun prospect being a Tomorrow Person."
Everything changes for Jade when she witnesses a meteor from her
bedroom window. Shooting stars land in the woods nearby and Jade goes
out to investigate. She discovers that everyone in the village is being
taken over by mysterious extraterrestrial pods. "I think it
A Dog's Life
The film crew have set up in the back garden where Jade comes to the rescue of her dog Jessie, who's been tied up in the yard. It barks and whines, frightened to go inside where it saw Jade's mum get 'podded'. The dog is a perfectly behaved actor, taking its cues form the animal handler standing just out of shot.
"He's very good," says Alex who has several scenes with Jessie. "He found it quite difficult to do the scene where he had to sleep with me on the bed and then jump to the window, but the scene he did today was very good where he had to bark and whine, he did that quite naturally."
"Jess, is actually a boy!" reveals fellow actor Kristian Schmid, who plays Adam. "I think it's a girl in the story, but if you look closely you'll see that it's all a lie!"
The three youngsters team up for the biggest scene of the day around the duck pond. It's surrounded by security men under the command of General Damon, Megabytes Dad. They're fishing pods out of the water and are wearing facemasks and special suits to protect themselves. One of the extras arrives at the location proclaiming, "Hi, I'm in pest control." And adds: "The good thing about this costume is that you can't tell if I've got bad breath!"
It's a wonderful late-summer day for filming with the sunny spells highlighting the picturesque surroundings of the English village. "The locations are always brilliant," says Lee Pressman who's standing in the background watching his story being filmed. "Asking in the page for a beautiful village green with a church and a pond and lovely cottages, you don't really expect you'll get exactly that. But walking down here today is exactly like I described it. I'm delighted."
The village may have been invaded by the film crew, but still life goes on as usual in Hascombe. People and cars who want to go along the path where filming is taking place wait politely for the scene to end. Sometimes the crew wait for the villagers to pass, which is the case for a couple of people on horseback. They trot by on the path, pausing only to deposit a pile of dung on the stop where the TP's are supposed to walk! It's left to an unfortunate member of the crew to clear up the mess with a shovel.
Fans and Fame
During one of the frequent breaks in filming g, ex-neighbours star Kristian Schmid is spotted by a village schoolgirl who asks for his autograph. According to Christian Tessier, he's not the only one who's experiencing a modicum of fame. "While I've been here I've had a few people come up and say 'that's Megabyte!" which is really cool," he says. "It's nice to be recognised in a foreign country. I'm just a normal person where I live and every once on a while somebody will come up to me here. It's kinda nice."
We asked what has been the best part of filming The Living Stones, both Christians have to think for a second. "We've done some stuff in the space-ship where we got to spin around," says Kristian, thinking back a couple of weeks in the filming schedule. "You know in the space-ship there's that see-saw thing? We got to sit in that and they spun us around quickly which was good. We were 'mind-trawling' which is a new power we've just discovered. It means we can go over everything that's happened in the story."
Adam and Megabyte use the mind trawl when they keep seeing the image of a statue in their minds and need to remember where they've seen it before. The answer is it features in a pop video by Byron Lucifer (Danny John-Jules). Byron is one of the many characters who got 'podded' by the mysterious aliens. The pods only need to come into contact with one of their intended victims to pop open and take over the human body in a display of lights and green smoke.
Writer Lee Pressman was keen not to have aliens who look like men in rubber suits. "The idea is the aliens being some kind of smoky nebulous beings that could actually inhabit the body like parasites was quite exciting," he says. "The one image that we quite liked was that these things were like extra-terrestrial joy riders and they sort of took over people's bodies, raced around, used up people's energy then dumped them."
One of the podded villagers is played by Patricia Hayes who watched
Damon's men from the safety of the churchyard. The actress, who is over
80, is helped into position by members of the crew. The grass under
her feet is quite unsteady and the wardrobe department suggest swapping
her character's shoes for Patricia's own trainers. They disguise her
white trainers with bits of black gaffa tape and hope no one notices!
In fact she's back in action shortly after when her character, Jade, follows Pat Hayes's character, Felicity, into the woods carrying an alien pod. The scene is set with one of the pods placed on the grass on top of some dry ice, which sends up wispy strands of smoke when hot water is poured over it. Felicity picks up the pod, hides it under her scarf and runs for the cover of the trees, with Jade in pursuit.
The last few shots are finished off quickly before the sun goes down. Then it's inside the cottage to film the final scene of the story- three of the TP's watching rock star Byron Lucifer on tv. It's more troublesome than any other scene during the day. Jade's mum, played by Sharon Duce, has to take in a tray of refreshments, but she seems to have a run of bad luck. First she trips over the camera cables and nearly throws pizza all over the other actors! Then the pizza nearly slips off the tray onto the floor. Finally the sequence is completed with the help of a bit of sticky tape to keep the run away pizza in its place.
When it's finished the three children who live in the cottage bring out their autograph books. The young stars sit in a corner scribbling their names as the rest of the crew pack up. Within minutes, the tv crew have shipped out of the cottage and it is returned to being an ordinary house in the sleepy village of Hascombe.