As Dr. Cassandra Railly, Amanda Schull has seen her character of 12 Monkeys transform over the course of two seasons: into one of the toughest women on television. As the second season of Syfy’s cult hit reaches its climax, Cassie is barreling toward a showdown with the series’ big bad, The Witness. I got the chance to chat with Schull about the show, the upcoming confrontation, and what it’s like to play one of the best-written and best-acted female characters on TV.
Let’s start with something a little off kilter.
Okay, love it. Already very excited about this.
Cassandra Railly’s connection to the Cassandra of Greek Myth was clear in the pilot, but do you think it still applies?
I think so. It was very important in the first season, of course, but I think she’s still very much living the Cassandra Complex. She’s seen Titan and other people haven’t. She’s been inhabited by the Witness. Only she knows how that feels, which is why she has such a need for vengeance.
When it comes time to kick a little ass, Cassie has become the go-to character. What’s it like playing 12 Monkeys heavy?
Is it okay to say that it’s tons of fun? I think it had to happen. There are only so many times that Cole could come to Cassie’s rescue and save the day before it just gets tiresome. People are kind of over that, too, I think. We don’t need to always see a man running to a woman’s rescue.
I’m also a really active person, so on that side of things it’s been really enjoyable getting to learn these new fighting techniques. It’s been a lot of fun and it keeps me active.
In a previous interview, you said Cassie would be “unstoppable” in her attempts to take down the Witness. Can anyone talk her down?
Cassie knows the destruction she saw, and she’s the only one who’s seen it, and she believes that the Witness is the root cause. From her perspective, why wouldn’t we just cut the head off the snake? It doesn’t make sense to her why the other characters are messing around with any thing else.
The Witness used her physical body to carry out part of his plan. The disgusts she feels with herself because of that is something she can’t live with until she does something about it. And for someone to try and talk her out of it means they dont understand.
You’re very convincing when you say that.
Because it’s the truth!
You make a great point, Cassie does have experience that no one else on the team can relate to.
Can you imagine being possessed? Having someone use you as a vehicle and then when you come to you realize the horrible things you did? The despair she must feel, the self-loathing … I just can’t imagine she sleeps much.
Unlike every other member of the cast who wears their personal motivations on their sleeve, Cassie is the one doing it for humanity. Do you think there are secret, selfish reasons for why she does what she does?
I don’t think she considers it nobility. It just comes from who she is as a doctor, especially a doctor of virology. She’s chosen this profession that could potentially be very harmful to her. She’s used to sacrificing herself for others. And she still has that mindset in a lot of ways.
What kind of an impact do you think Deacon has had on a character, good or bad?
I don’t think they have a negative dynamic. They’re allies by necessity. He trained her and made her capable, and that’s invaluable. She, in turn, has given him a person with whom he can be vulnerable. Cassie is safe. She’ll never betray Deacon, and he knows that.
This season, the fans have set Deacon up as competition for Cole. Do you think there are actual romantic feelings there?
It’s interesting to me that some people have trouble seeing a man and a woman share camera time without trying to make a relationship out of it. Even last season, when [Aaron Stanford] and I started doing press, the first questions were, “When are you two going to kiss?” And I’m like, “We just had an entire season where the world ended, and the first questions are about a love story?”
There absolutely is a love story that’s interwoven, but for people to just say, “Oh, just kiss,” takes a lot of the tension out of the dynamic, doesn’t it? Guys, let’s try to let this breathe a little before we just smush two faces together.
I wanted to talk briefly about some comments you made a few days ago on Twitter.
Uh oh, what have I done?
On June 14, you wrote:
After last week’s episode aired, some people accused the 12 Monkeys writers of misogyny. I can’t just sit around and let someone bad-mouth my showrunner or my beautiful costars and their characters. I didn’t want to engage directly, so I just made my blanket statements about it, because it was kind of a head scratcher for me.
Anything you want to say to entice new viewers?
I think a lot of people have reservations about science fiction shows if they’re not genre fans. I can tell you that there are people who enjoy 12 Monkeys that don’t know the first thing about sci-fi. I take a ballet class and there some ladies who stand at my bar who are in their late seventies who are avid viewers of 12 Monkeys, and that is not the typical demographic for a show like ours.
The characters, the epic scope of the story, the way it’s depicted, not just the script, but cinematography. It’s visually breathtaking. People can just dive into the story and simply lose themselves.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.