Season 2 of “La Brea” has now started, but the events of last year’s pilot episode of NBC’s hit drama series — about a time portal sinkhole that appears in the middle of Los Angeles — could have taken up an entire season of the show. Eve Harris (Natalie Zea) and her son, Josh (Jack Martin), are separated from the rest of their family when they fall in, and appear in Los Angeles circa 10,000 B.C., alongside a cast of characters also trying to find their way back to the present.
The twists that follow are too numerous to name: Josh’s father, Gavin (Eoin Macken), learns the visions that plagued his career as a pilot were actually memories of that primeval land; a team of shady scientists has been running experiments on the sinkhole(s) for years; and multiple portals open and close throughout Season 1, with Josh and others being transported to 1988 Los Angeles in the finale episode. That’s not to mention the endless slew of prehistoric predators and the mysterious modern skyscraper that was revealed at the end of the last season.
Now, the second season promises even more unpredictable twists and turns, from a new sinkhole opening up in 1988 to Eve being kidnapped by an army of mysterious medieval guards. Zea and Martin, currently finishing up shooting the second season in Australia, spoke to Variety about the show’s latest revelations. They discuss the response from fans, Zea’s moodboard of inspirational characters and Martin’s unexpected real-life connection to the series.
What was different for you coming into Season 2?
JACK MARTIN: What was really different for me this year is my character is in 1988. It’s a whole new storyline for him and his love interest, Riley [Veronica St. Clair]. Because of that, the scenes are much more focused and the settings are very different. We’re in ‘80s L.A. Last season, I tended to be in these big group dynamics that were more about driving the plot forward and were shooting in these wild outdoor locations that we still use, but it’s less of a focus for Josh here.
NATALIE ZEA: Jack and Veronica St. Clair, they’ve probably had the biggest shift. They’ve traveled literally tens of thousands of years. I got to change my sweater. That was a big deal. My story, in addition to a lot of the people who were left in the clearing, it’s really just a continuation of exactly where we left off because the name of the episode is “The Next Day.”
Do you guys know how much time has passed in the series so far?
ZEA: It was originally three weeks total, and then it shifted to two weeks because we shortened the length of time between the finale and the opening episode that you see today.
MARTIN: My understanding is every episode in Season 1 was a day. And since 201 is called “The Next Day,” it’d be 11 days.
Your characters were on a rocky road last season, and then you got split up. What does it mean for your characters to have lost one another at this point in the story?
ZEA: When we open this episode, Eve is pretty unraveled. She is dealing with the loss of not only her son but she still has no idea where her daughter is. Now she’s feeling incredibly vulnerable and incredibly lost. She’s not handling it well. She’s been the hero that rises above it all and tries to set an example for this group of people, and she’s sort of out of gas at this point because she’s feeling as though hope may be lost.
MARTIN: After Episode 7, when I so to speak voted her off the island, I got so many messages of people saying, “You’re so rude to your mom.” I was like, “That’s acting! That’s the character!” I love Natalie, so we’re all good. Josh is 17, and I know when I was 17 I was definitely annoying. So sometimes people can be hormonal and temperamental and not saying that fully is motivation, but he’s a character that’s driven heavily by instinct and often acts and then thinks later. That definitely led to some conflict. And the other thing is, there was a massive revelation about his dad, Gavin, that his visions were real the whole time which is a total groundbreaking shift for the family. Josh is really hard on himself and takes that all personally, and that is something that also affected his relationship with his mom, because he had totally gone to her during that crisis.
Now we’re in the ‘80s. He doesn’t even know what’s happened. He’s under the impression that he may never get to see his family ever again, and because of that, he carries a lot of guilt from those events that I just mentioned. That’s a huge motivating factor for him that’s going to come into play.
Natalie, right now everyone’s looking at you and Captain Levi Delgado (Nicholas Gonzalez), the man you had an affair with who flew a failed rescue mission through the sinkhole. At the end of Episode 1, he’s being abducted alongside you, and the viewers know your husband Gavin is somewhere in 10,000 BC. What do you have to say for Eve and the situation she’s in right now?
ZEA: It’s tough, isn’t it? Because she is in a very much life-and-death situation, where obviously the primary goal has to be survival. And then there are these peripheral emotional states that are happening concurrently. For Eve, it’s a matter of compartmentalizing just for the sake of her life and the lives of the people around her. Also there’s a bit of denial there. There’s a bit of like, you know, “I’ll deal with my feelings later, as soon as we make sure that everybody is alive and breathing.”
That’s going to be a theme for her throughout the season. We can’t be at an 11 all the time or our adrenal glands would explode and we would die of a heart attack. There has to be moments where she takes a breath and she becomes vulnerable. It’s just a part of the experience that she’s going through right now.
Coming into Season 2, you have a fan base that has been watching the show. What do you hear from fans?
MARTIN: I mean, it’s cool to see how excited people are. People really love the show.
I noticed fan theories all the time. People think that I am Silas, I get a lot of that, which I can’t speak to, but other theories like that. The outpouring of love for the show is pretty amazing.
ZEA: The only comment that I’ve gotten is I was informed yesterday that my husband said something to my seven-year-old daughter, “Something something La Brea,” and she rolled her eyes and she was like, “God if you knew how many times I have to say that word in a day.” And he was like, “What are you talking about?” and she said, “All I get is people at school asking me, ‘What show is your mom on?’” So she’s a fan.
What do you see coming from the second season that people will be most excited about?
ZEA: We’re able to explore personal relationships a lot more than we were able to do when we were busy trying to survive, which we’re still doing.
MARTIN: Yeah, I totally agree with that. There’s going to be some reunions, there’s going to be some character interactions that people have been waiting to see. Definitely new animals, although I’m not going to say which ones. One thing that the show does really well is it answers questions before it poses new ones. It’s not one of those where there’s constant unending, unsolved mysteries. So there’s gonna be a lot of answers as to what’s going on here.
Working on a show of this genre, do you guys look anywhere for style inspiration?
ZEA: When I start a job, I start outside-in. So I put together inspiration for the way the character looks and the way the character feels. I have Naomi Watts in “The Impossible,” Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place,” Carrie-Anne Moss in “The Matrix.” Those sorts of very strong, very troubled women in peril. Very dirty, focused and forceful. From there, I just tried to embody the feeling of those characters. And if I ever get lost, that’s the touchstone that I go back to.
MARTIN: I’ve been a fan of this genre for a while, you know, I’ve seen “Lost,” I’ve seen “The Walking Dead.” Something that was fun is that the new season of “Stranger Things” was coming out while we were shooting this, and they also go to L.A. in the ‘80s. Joe Keery’s character in that show — there’s differences, for sure — but I would say is probably the closest character to Josh that’s on TV right now.
The biggest mystery right now is this random skyscraper in the middle of 10,000 BC Los Angeles. What were your reactions when you first saw that element come into the script?
ZEA: A lot of us knew about it fairly far in advance. It just felt like the inevitable next step.
That there’s another community there.
MARTIN: I agree. It’s the natural progression and follows logically. What’s great about it is it’s the kind of thing that in other shows I’ve been a fan of might have left open ended as a mystery or not really fully explained what was going on with it. But what’s good is we really dive into it and really make it clear what’s going on and fully explore it, and it’s really interesting.
Are you guys able to go to the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire anymore? Can you even look at that area of Los Angeles after seeing it swallowed up in a sinkhole?
MARTIN: You want to know something funny? I live there. It’s kind of absurd. My building would be in the sinkhole. I see that corner every day.
Did you live there before you booked the show?
MARTIN: No, but it was not why I moved. It had nothing to do with the show. I looked at a bunch of apartments all over L.A. and I just happened to pick that one. And honestly, it wasn’t even until after I was moving in, I looked out and I was like, “Oh my God. I’m in the sinkhole.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.