Getting to know Amanda Schull
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Amanda Schull, better known as Dr. Cassandra Railly on SyFy’s 12 Monkeys. We talked about her work on the show and peeked just a little bit behind the curtain into the upcoming final season. Although she’s not able to share much about season 4, Amanda displayed an impressive knowledge of the show and of her character. Amanda gave me the impression that she cares deeply about Cassie and the show, and I think it comes across in her answers.
TIBS: Now that we’re at the end of 12 Monkeys, do you mind if we look back at the beginning for just a second?
Amanda Schull: I’d love to look back at the beginning.
TIBS: How did you get this job?
Amanda Schull: The old fashioned way – by auditioning for it. And really having to prove myself through quite a few auditions for it actually. They made me prove that I was worthy of stepping into Cassie’s shoes. I had quite a few auditions and passed. Interestingly though, I was somehow kind of sort of cast before anybody else. Although I hadn’t signed anything, I had the opportunity to read with all of the potential “Coles”, Aaron Stanford, being one of them. It was a really interesting process that probably in TV time took a lot longer than most auditions as casting processes go. About a month of it or so.
TIBS: …being called back in, reading lines with prospective Coles, waiting on pins and needles to see if you come back for a next one?
Amanda Schull: Yeah. And also, I don’t know that I resembled what some people thought of when they were considering Cassie. So, I had to win some people over in the process.
TIBS: Was that just the residue of the imprint of the movie?
Amanda Schull: No, I don’t think so. I think that they were, from the very beginning, very understanding and accepting that the original property was going to be different from where we were going with the show. Some people have an idea of what a character looks like and maybe I just didn’t check all the boxes right away.
TIBS: Well, I’m glad it worked out for you.
Amanda Schull: You and me both.
TIBS: Have there been many points along the way when you had to look at Terry (Matalas, showrunner) and say, “You want me to do what?”
Amanda Schull: No, for the most part it was looking at Terry and being like, “Yes! Please give me more.” I can’t think of another show with so many opportunities for every single character. All of the different emotional storylines for literally every single character. Not just the core five or six of us, but also other guest characters had incredible arcs as well. If anything, I was constantly flattered that he had the faith in me to do the things that he wrote and thought of. So it wasn’t, “You want me to do what?” It was, “You think I can do what? Thank you. I will do my best to honor your vision.”
TIBS: Can you tell me all the time when you might have filmed something early on that made zero sense contextually to the episode that paid off later in a season or two?
Amanda Schull: The scene with two Coles at the start of season three. Cassie comes in and says, “You told him there was hope.” We didn’t shoot the rest of that scene or the context for that until season 4, so months and months later. Terry’s pretty good at explaining some of it. Enough of it that we got it.
Something that came together in editing was the dream sequences. For instance, I think it’s season two when the blood is raining down onto Cassie’s face and the Pallid Man and Olivia. At one point, Cassie’s walking through a field, holding the hand of a small child, who turns out to be the Witness… That I didn’t necessarily know what all of it meant and how it was going to be put together and used going forward.
TIBS: Yeah, that Red Forest stuff is kind of weird.
Amanda Schull: Yeah, it is kind of weird with the house being built and falling apart, and built and falling apart. Because you don’t get to see any of that. It’s done later with visual effects and so we don’t always know what it’s going to turn into.
TIBS: Cassie, as a character has evolved from season to season. In season one, she was pretty wide-eyed and new to the whole time travel thing as, as you would be, right?
Amanda Schull: Right.
TIBS: Season two, I think she found her inner bad-ass.
Amanda Schull: And her outer badass, too.
TIBS: Yeah, I’ll agree with that.
Amanda Schull: [Laughs]
TIBS: But in season three, she became the mother and that really put a different framework to where she needed focus her bad-assery. Going into season four, can you characterize the Cassie we can expect to see?
Amanda Schull: Well, she’s the combination of all of those things and then she’s also the side effects of all of those things. She has a lot of scar tissue built up from seasons past.
TIBS: She’s been through a lot.
Amanda Schull: She’s been through a lot and she carries those burdens with her in every single mission going forward. Sometimes her empathy gets the better of her and other times she reacts violently, where it’s sort of unexpected. She lives with all of those experiences every single day of her life. But you also have to think about all the things that happened to her, and all of the things that people have done to her as well. That’s something sometimes that’s frustrating with this show – when people cast judgment on any of the characters going forward, every single one of these characters has their reason for behaving the way that they’re behaving. None of them are reacting out of left field, every single person has had these built up traumas that have led them to behave, how they’re behaving in that moment. Everyone’s a sum of all their parts.
TIBS: I have to admit that Cassie and Cole really worked for me on the screen.
Amanda Schull: [Laughs]
TIBS: They built a really good story around the whole, “will they or won’t they” dynamic that I feel didn’t overstay its welcome.
Amanda Schull: Right.
TIBS: Season three shows you coming together to try and save Athan. Can you say how their relationship will change in season four?
Amanda Schull: I don’t want to give away too many things. They’re a team going forward, but teams don’t always agree on how to go forward. They are very much in love, but with that passion also comes intense disagreements on how to proceed. They are also comfortable with allowing one another to proceed the way they need to proceed. “Do what you need to do” kind of a thing.
TIBS: It’s a very powerful stage to reach.
Amanda Schull: Yes. Yes it is. And I think they understand that they need to do that because of their past, because of everything that’s happened. Otherwise they won’t be able to be a team going forward. There will always be intense resentment if they don’t allow each other what they need to do because, who’s to say what mission will be the mission that figures out how to stop all of the mess created by the army of the 12 monkeys? So, in a certain sense, it’s also negligent to not allow somebody to pursue a particular lead because that might be the lead.
TIBS: Last year I was on one of the conference calls that SyFy put together, so I’ve heard you and Aaron interact just a little bit off camera. For a couple of that really works on screen, it was really interesting to hear that it sounded a lot like a brother and sister, kind of teasing each other. Is it kinda like that?
Amanda Schull: [laughs] Yeah, it’s funny. We do have very much have a sibling dynamic. I think we only had one scene in season four, hopefully that came across as steamy, and it’s comfortable doing that kind of thing with him because I am comfortable with him. But yeah, 99 percent of our dynamic is making fun of each other and teasing one another and singing and dancing and showing each other animal videos on youtube and having more fun than anybody would think Cassie and Cole have trying to save the world.
TIBS: During that interview, Aaron teased you a little bit about something having to do with a romantic scene, and you replied to him, “So many barfs,” and I thought that was so funny.
Amanda Schull: [laughs]
TIBS: I have in fact stolen your “so many barfs” and use it because it really matches my own dry sense of humor.
Amanda Schull: [laughs]
TIBS: So thanks for, “So many barfs.”
Amanda Schull: You’re welcome! I don’t think I’ve ever said that before or after saying that the one time. So I’m glad that one time made an impact.
TIBS: Has there ever been any times on set when things just got too silly?
Amanda Schull: Aaron and I, aside from having this silly dynamic, we became very, very good friends. He’s a very good listener also. So if anything were upsetting me or I needed to talk about something relating to character or related to the show or just in life in general, he was always there to talk with me and try to figure things out with me. And so there were a few times when we would get talking about something or I would tell him a story, ridiculous or serious, but we always knew when we needed to focus ourselves, getting back into character. I never got sick of spending 16 hours a day in a dungeon with that guy. I had a good, good day of work every day I worked with him.
TIBS: Do you have a favorite episode? The classic nerd question.
Amanda Schull: That’s really hard because there are different episodes that came out really well in post, then there are episodes that were really fun to do. I think an episode that was really, really challenging for me was episode 405 (upcoming, season 4) because it was emotionally challenging. But then there were episodes in season three that were also really emotionally challenging. Working with Christopher Lloyd in the third season… I’m talking with him in the cemetery in the 1960s. That was –
TIBS: … Your own geek out moment?
Amanda Schull: Yeah. It wasn’t even a geek out moment though because I went on a journey with that man. He had a whole monologue that didn’t make it to the final cut and he delivered it so wonderfully that I didn’t have an opportunity to geek out because I just went on the journey with him in every single take, so that was a really neat episode to shoot.
Life Past 12 Monkeys
TIBS: What are you working on now?
Amanda Schull: I am a series regular now on Suits (USA Network). So, I’m out of the apocalypse and into the law firm and tomorrow I’ll be back at work, saving the corporate legal world.
TIBS: Last year the Suits crew all went to this TV festival here in Texas called ATX and did a table read. I was there and I saw it and they took a few questions. There was a moment when someone said, name your favorite guest stars. And they kind of went around and said different names then someone said “Amanda”. And another person was like, “Oh yeah, Amanda Schull” and of course everyone starts nodding their head and agreeing that Amanda was her favorite. They all agreed. They like having you around.
Amanda Schull: So, who said that I was their favorite and why didn’t the other ones think of me first?
Amanda Schull: That’s the real question.
TIBS: One last question. Just for my kids, so this is going to be totally off the wall.
Amanda Schull: Ok.
TIBS: My kids love Grease. And you have worked with John Travolta. What was that like?
Amanda Schull: John Travolta surpassed any preconceived idea I had of working with him. I learned a lot from watching that man work. The first day of work with him was an education and then on top of that he is so gentle and kind and complimentary and present for work. I played his daughter. And he was truly a wonderful father for my character and just a real joy to work with.
TIBS: Was there any dancing on set?
Amanda Schull: No. It’s funny because we were doing a scene and I had a bit of a captive audience. He was in a hospital bed and he couldn’t get up between takes because of where the camera was placed. So, I just sat with him for an entire day and it just so happened that the day that we’re shooting that, in the morning I had been sent via tweet, a little mash-up video of a bunch of dance movies, cut together. Of course Grease was in that, Pulp Fiction was in that, and then Center Stage was in that, a dance movie that I did. And so he and I were in the pieces of us dancing were in this in this short music video that had been edited together. I showed it to him and he was loving it and afterwards he turned, he looked at me and he said, “So, I guess you could say we’ve danced together, haven’t we, Amanda?” It was like my kind of nerd-dom. I was like, [in a fan-girl voice] “Oh yes, we sure have!”
TIBS: That’s pretty awesome.
Amanda Schull: It was. It was.
Read Past Reviews:
Check out Daley Review on their own website: www.DaleyReview.com.
Like us on Facebook or Subscribe for instant notice of new posts.
Share this article using our Social Share buttons above.