Irish actor Jason O’Mara is back on network television in “Terra Nova,” Fox’s massive, Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi series about humans from a burned-out future colonizing the distant past in a parallel universe. In it, O’Mara stars as Jim Shannon, a cop and family man making a new life in a jungle overrun with dinosaurs. His last TV gig, “Life on Mars,” was also about a time-traveling cop, coincidentally, but O’Mara insists he’s not trying to make that his niche.
After “Life on Mars” and this, are you secretly thinking about the next time travel-based role you’ll take on?
No. (laughs) It was a fluke, really. I didn’t do it because it was another cop traveling through time — I did it in spite of that. It’s an exciting premise and I thought an exciting world, and the idea of a future civilization wrestling with a Cretaceous one was fascinating to me and something that isn’t really on TV, so I couldn’t say no because of that. But they didn’t think I was going to do it because it was another cop traveling through time. I did it in spite of that, and I think the next things I do, whether I’m a cop or not, will be more in the real world.
Were you wary of going back into a network show after “Life on Mars”?
Yeah, I was. I was quite wary — and quite gun-shy of playing a lead in a prime-time network series again because “Life on Mars” exhausted me. But this had a world around it. It wasn’t just about one man’s journey, it was about him and his family, and then you meet this other character who’s just as interesting if not more so. There’s a lot of characters’ journeys around you, so I knew I wasn’t going to be working every scene every day, which is what gets you down when you’re doing TV.
So what can you reveal about what’s coming up for the rest of the season?
We just recently revealed a few things, like one of the beloved characters is going to be dying by the end of season one, and that a dinosaur would die by the end of season one, and that the season finale was going to be pretty spectacular, that there was going to be a lot of explosive events. You know, I got into trouble from a lot of these people. A lot of my Twitter followers were like, “Don’t spoil it! What are you doing? You’re killing us, we want to be surprised.” But I don’t know, sometimes it’s good to tease, but people don’t like to be spoiled.
Given the long production time, are you expecting an early notice for a second season?
Well, yeah everyone wants to be told early. But it’s been quite difficult because Fox had the World Series this year. We were preempted in favor of the baseball one week, two weeks before that the baseball ran over so that our show started 52 minutes late, which is never good. Even DVRs weren’t able to cope with that. It’s frustrating, but I think the cream always floats to the top, and if we’re meant to have a second season, we’ll get one. I think we were pretty lucky that we were able to film 13 episodes before it started airing, so we were making the show we wanted to make without critics getting involved, without fans getting involved. Creatively, it was nice to be able to make it in a bubble.
How involved is Steven Spielberg with the show?
He’s not involved in the day-to-day running of the show. That’s down to the show-runners themselves. But everybody hears him loud and clear, and he chimes in every time, so he’s very much a part of the creative process, but he’s not on the ground. I don’t think he possibly could be, to be quite honest. He’s just done “Tintin,” he just directed “War Horse,” he’s executive-producing many other projects, and we’re one of them and happy to be one of them. Of course I’d love to meet him. But it was the same on “Band of Brothers.” Just to be associated with a project he’s involved in is a great honor, as far as I’m concerned.
So would I qualify for Terra Nova?
For the 11th pilgrimage? You don’t want to be on the 11th pilgrimage. That thing is going to bring hellfire and damnation.