Thursday, April 1st
, created by Jeff Rake, returns to NBC with all new episodes for season three. The series follows the passengers of Flight 828, who after being presumed dead, return home and find it to be five-and-a-half-years in the future, though to them, no time has passed. The passengers not only have to learn to fit into a world where their family and friends have aged and some move on, but they start to experience voices and visions called “callings” that lead them into danger and mystery.
Rake and Parveen Kaur, who stars as Saanvi Bahl, recently talked to journalists during a junket promoting the series that SciFi Vision took part in about their work on the series and what fans can expect in season three and beyond.
Be sure to watch the season three premiere of Manifest
on NBC, and you can also read the full transcript following our portion of the interview.
…In the three years of crafting the show, Jeff, tell me a little bit about what you felt in the broadcast arena has really helped the broader mainstream audience, and some of the things that you feel that you need to do today in 2021 to really engage an audience that has a lot of options for their mysterious sci-fi, mythology related kind of shows.
So, I think that the success of this show in a network environment is basically connected to the fact that the show embraces a decidedly sci-fi or supernatural concept and then tells its story within the context of a relationship and family drama. I think that the reason we've been fortunate enough to stick it around for three years is that, for every sci-fi fan sitting on the couch watching the show, they often bring with them a spouse, a partner, a friend, a sibling, who might not be the sci-fi devotee that they are, but they find something else to latch on to in the show. Then, guess what? They might discover, “Oh, I guess I am a sci-fi fan” [or] “I just didn't know what that meant” or “I just didn't know what that looked like.” I think a lot of people who come to genre get there by accident, because they just had preconceived notions about what it means to watch a genre show. So, I think that the reason the show works in the network environment is because we kind of give a serving of mythology with a heaping tablespoon of relationships, family conflict, classics, suspense, procedural suspense.
Parveen is a perfect example, because the character of Saanvi is inherently a very kind of scientific character. She is kind of the keeper of so much of the show's mythology, and yet, her journey from [the] pilot to the end of season two, particularly throughout season two, was incredibly emotional and incredibly suspenseful. That's the needle thread that I think allows a show like this to succeed in a network environment.
Parveen, how would you say your journey in season three compares to the previous seasons for Saanvi? Is she more active? Is stuff really going on for her this time around?
Yep. What can I say? Oh, well, Saanvi does make a very big discovery, and I will tell you that I texted Jeff, and I said, “I started crying when I read it.”
When does that happen in the season, roughly?
Yeah, that's right...One of the things that's interesting about Saanvi's journey in season three is that, obviously, when we left her in the season two finale, she committed this crime. Was it murder?…Was it manslaughter? Whatever you call it, she's responsible for a death, and the aftermath of that and the onion peel on that plays out throughout the entire season, and there's kind of a cat and mouse game. Not a game, but there's kind of a cat and mouse back and forth between Saanvi and Vance (Daryl Edwards), and then, Jared (J.R. Ramirez), on the NYPD side, who in a surprising way stumbles onto this case. That unfolds in a really interesting fashion. It's a slow burn for really the entire season.
…Are we going to get any updates on Captain Daly (Frank Deal) and/or Fiona (Francesca Faridany)?
Captain Daly and Fiona are not directly part of the season three storytelling, but Captain Daly and all that he represents is a really big part of the season, and not to put words in his mouth, but some of Saanvi’s storytelling that takes place over in kind of like the scientific side of our investigation, ends up kind of stepping, tiptoeing into a theory that harkens back to everything that Captain Daly was theorizing back in the day. Is that fair, Parveen?
Yes, I have goosebumps, you talking about it.
Now that we know the government's trying to weaponize the callings, what does that mean for Saanvi’s research, and will she even be able to [move forward with her work] since she's having issues after killing The Major (Elizabeth Marvel)?
…Yeah, she's definitely been able to make huge advancements in her research while working with Vance and we definitely have a couple of hurdles that we come across in terms of how we advance it, in terms of how Saanvi from season one has always been, “I'm going for it; I don't care who gets in my way. I don't care what gets in my way.” I think now that Saanvi and Vance are working together, she's on a bit of a tighter - I don't want to say tighter leash, but she has to be a lot more mindful now that this bigger picture is involved. Hopefully that answered your question.
I'll piggyback on that. At the top of the season, there's sort of a “Dingdong the Witche is Dead” kind of kind of reaction with The Major out of the way. It initially frees up Saanvi to collaborate with Vance and others, because kind of the most nefarious person in Saanvi’s environment has been taken out of the way. So, there's a sense of safety at the outset that allows somebody to go all in, in association with Vance, who, of course, heads up the the NSA, but there are new adversaries, and there'll be one new adversary in particular, in the scientific realm, who presents new and different obstacles to Saanvi as she kind of gets deeper into the investigation.
…Jeff, just doing the planning of seasons like this, you always leave us on a great cliffhanger. You leave us with plenty to mull over as we're waiting for a new season to start, but from a planning standpoint for you and your writers...having a multi year plan for the show, you're always hoping, especially in broadcasts, that you get picked up as soon as possible. So, how have you kind of framed when you finish the season for Manifest
and start prepping for another one? Is it based on you having that outline, or have you come to a place where you really kind of [have] thrown it on the wall, and then you get picked up, and you come back, and you start from that point, from scratch, moving forward?
It's sort of somewhere in the middle. I would say, I was mentioning to someone else earlier, because I have the benefit of a roadmap that takes us all the way to to season six, there are certain fundamental things that I know we need to achieve each season. The same is so with season four.
So, as I sit here, we're about 80 to 90% of the way through filming season [three]. The writers are - one of my colleagues and I are in the middle of writing the finale. So, most of the writing is finished, and that gives us some bandwidth to start to start looking forward.
So, after we kind of catch our breath for a minute, before we wrap season [three] production, as I've done in the past, we'll kind of connect as a writing staff, and just kind of reassess [and] look back at kind of our global notes going forward and just start eyeballing what the next season wants to look like, kind of moving from a very macro that already exists and start trying to move down to the micro.
From a production standpoint, it's necessary to do that sooner rather than later, because there's questions like, “Well, which sets are still in play in the next season?” You have to figure things out. And “Are there any major new pieces of casting that have to become involved?” So, by necessity, you typically have to start thinking about that in advance. Luckily, two thirds of my writing staff has been with me from the beginning. They know the mythology and all of the characters as well, if not better, than I do. Many times during the week, I'll text our group thread, and I'll say, “Hey, somebody remind me of this. Remind me of that.” They just have an encyclopedic knowledge of the show, and we figure it out together.
Speaking of casting, speaking of the season three finale, will any of the major cast members not be joining us for season four?
Oh, I can't talk about that! But I think that the audience is going to feel satisfied in that it is a very eventful season. I know that at times along the way in season one or season two, the show was accused by some fans, with love, about not kind of moving the ball forward enough that it felt like the burn was too slow. I don't think season three is going to be accused. My guess, my strong suspicion is that season three will not be accused of that. I think that there's a lot of forward momentum, a lot of card turns, and a lot of big surprises. So, I think it's gonna be a very satisfying experience for people who are really anxious for stuff to happen.