Travelers: Eric McCormack on a New Kind of Time Travel Series

Dork Shelf had a chance to sit down with Eric McCormack to talk about the new sci-fi thriller Travelers and his new action packed role, “There were no helicopters in Will and Grace,” he quips.

In the world of Travelers, the future is grim. There are tight lips surrounding the specifics of this dreary time, but apparently living above ground is no longer an option. The show’s premise is these travelers are send into the past — which is our present — with missions, like soldiers, to take preventative action to avoid catastrophe. They inhabit the bodies of persons living in our world: everything from an FBI Agent to a heroin-addicted teenager.

Eric McCormack leads the mostly Canadian cast (and crew!) and during the Corus Entertainment Upfront Event a few months ago, the first question raised from the crowd was inevitably what McCormack would go back and change if he had the power of time travel, “I would go back and take better wedding photos,” was his cheerful answer.

Dork Shelf had the chance to sit down with McCormack and press him just a little but more on this particular topic. “The honest answer, the not-jokey answer is that once you have kids you kind of stop thinking about that, it doesn’t matter. It just makes all that go away. Here this is philosophical: you know that line from ‘My Way’ it’s like, ‘Regrets I’ve had a few’? I’ve got lots of regrets and if I could fix them – and I knew it was going to change who my kids are – then I wouldn’t. So that’s why I think they become fewer.”

From the sounds of the show, these travelers are sent back to the past to do good — or at least that’s what we’re being told. Without giving too much away, are there any of these agents who don’t have the best of intentions?

Eric McCormack: I think the safe answer would be that all travelers are sent here to do something that is a piece of something that is good. BUT you remember in Apocalypse Now where there were those American soldiers and they just had fully gone off the track right? They couldn’t remember why they were still there. We’re gonna see some of that.

Technically 2016 is a better life than they ever had in the – well we’re not specific about what year it is in the future yet – but lots of things go wrong here. People get turned and there are variations of that. Not all travelers are angels. We all have a tough job to do and we’re all our own personalities, but in the bodies of some that are expected to behave in certain ways. Everyone, they all have a duality that is sometimes complicated, comic, and sometimes dangerous.

Time travel is one of those topics that has been touched on by other science fiction shows, novels, and films. What’s one thing that you think makes Travelers stand out from the crowd?

EM: One thing I love about the show – and what I think sci-fi fans are going to enjoy – is that we know that exact time, elevation, latitude, and longitude of anyone’s death. Like, what we call “the tell” and the tell can be calculated and so that’s how we know how to “land” in a particular persons body. So if the powers that be in future need three soldiers to land on this particular day in Toronto, they know who dies today.

If it’s a 98-year-old butcher it might not be much use, and if it’s a 12-year-old girl then that may not be as much use either. They’re just looking at when they die if what they’re dying of and we catch it will it be okay and if they’re dying of heart disease, not much point of going into that body either. Like stealing a car that’s going to blow up. It’s all that kind of shit that forms the real minutia of the show.

So they take over in the moment of death?

EM: Yeah, and the way they film it is really great […] because of that whatever was left of the person’s consciousness is gone and what I’m armed with is what little they know. I mean, if I was taking over the body of Barack Obama, I would know a lot. But if I were taking over a guy from Etobicoke… [The Scarborough native is quick to qualify he means no offense by this] all I’d know is what you put out there in the world.

So is there a time that maybe you would just want to go back to, maybe just to visit?

EM: I don’t have highfalutin I’d go back and kill Hitler answers, nor do I have the happy-go-lucky “I’d like to be a knight at the Round Table” ‘cause that was a shitty, shitty time. Anytime before flush toilets I don’t want to go back. I would go back to 1975 and see Queen.

This choice makes sense given that McCormack just finished performing his one man show The Concert I Never Gave…(except for, like2000 times in my bedroom), a tale of his boyhood obsession with rock stars.

Travelers is written, created, and produced by WGC and Gemini Award winner Brad Wright, co-creator of the Emmy Award-nominated Stargate SG-1 and creator of related franchises Stargate: Atlantis and SGU. It premieres on October 17th at 9:00 ET on Showcase and will premiere on Netflix outside of Canada.