In Syfy’s ‘Hunters’, Humans Become the Prey
Sci Fi queens Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Natalie Chaidez (12 Monkees, Heroes), have teamed to adapt Whitley Strieber’s 2013 novel Alien Hunters for Syfy. A blend of police procedural and alien thriller, Hunters follows FBI agent Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips, Wolf Creek) whose search for his missing wife Abby (Laura Gordon) leads him to a covert government task force that hunts extraterrestrial criminals. Things get uber-creepy from there.
Chaidez explains it all to TV Insider.
With a few detours (In Plain Sight), the bulk of your career has been science fiction. What draws you the genre?
I grew up in Los Angeles as a biracial Mexican-American. I always felt a little like an outsider. Science fiction has always spoken to outsiders and my girlhood was steeped in fantasy and science fiction. I then had a rediscovering of the genre through my son who is a PhD candidate at UC-Berkeley.\
What’s the major conceit here?
It’s an allegory for terrorism. These are a group of desperate aliens that have resorted to awful means to get what they want. One of the things that science fiction and horror does so well is to look at our fears and our monsters and confront them. Gale has said that in The Walking Dead, the monsters are outside coming after you. On Hunters, the monster is right next to you or even inside of you. That really speaks to the zeitgeist of “is he that teenager in my bedroom contacting someone halfway across the world?” I think all of those fears are super relevant and we deal with them head-on in Hunters.
Where are we when the series opens?
The U.S. government has uncovered a group of non-human terrorists operating amongst us. They call them Hunters and they’re involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and bombings. Flynn Carroll, who has PTSD from his tour in Iraq, is our window into this world. After his wife goes missing, he joins ETU, the Extra Terrestrial Unit whose job is to kill the terrorists. His quest in Season 1 is how does he get back his wife, but also—who was she, really?
Pretty quickly, Flynn begins to suspect his wife could really be one of them!
Once he finds out Hunters are in human form, he’d be a fool not to suspect that that’s a possibility. It’s the ultimate expression of not knowing the person you love. The search for Abby will definitely take him through the first part of the season until he eventually gets some really shocking answers.
So he gets recruited into the ETU, and he must work with Regan (Britne Oldford, American Horror Story: Asylum) who’s a Hunter, a member of the species that took his wife and is endangering the world. What?
Regan is a member of the terrorist species, but she’s been recruited into the ETU to fight against her own kind. For her, Season 1 is a journey of self-discovery. “Where do I belong? Am I human? Am I Hunter? Am I good? Am I bad? Am I doing the right thing?” Even she doesn’t know the extent of the Hunters conspiracy.
What kind of ET powers do Hunters possess?
They’re slightly stronger than humans but their main power is their sense of hearing. They rely on hearing that way bats or dolphins do. Their language is an echolocation one, which allows them to both see and hear at the same time.
Early on, the aliens, who’ve figured out how to look like humans, bomb a pedestrian mall. These monsters are hitting awfully close to terrorism reality, aren’t they?
The show has been in development two or three years , by the way. Will it scare people off because it’s too much of what they’re dealing with now or will people want to watch because it’s another way to deal with it? I don’t know. One of the issues we deal with, is should we “do whatever it takes” and if we do, do we become just like the terrorists. It is a dark show and a brave show. We’ll see what happens.
There are some X-Files similarities here in the idea of secret government unit that tracks aliens, aren’t there.
Yes. It’s a sci fi thriller. I watched a lot of 70’s thrillers like The Conversation when I was developing Hunters—the idea of paranoia, of something being around the corner we can’t quite see that will try and hurt us.
When do we discover what Hunters really look like?
The third episode—Regan’s origins episode. They didn’t come to Earth looking like humans and how that transformation happens is hinted at over the course of Season 1. Native-form Hunters are really cool. We designed the creature from the inside out starting with anatomical drawings and really built a magnificent looking creature.
A video at your New York Comic Con panel showed some impressive prosthetic work on the Hunters from special effects supervisor Justin Dix.
Justin is amazing. We show a Hunter birth from the back in the fourth episode that made every man on the set wince! It was shot on set live in one incredible take where the back of the Hunter rips open and a baby comes out.
Julian McMahon’s (Nip/Tuck, Childhood’s End) character Lionel McCarthy, is one crazily menacing Hunter.
McCarthy is a cell leader. He’s also a working DJ who goes by the name Simatic Society. He has a page on Spotify, which is going to be an actual page! He is sexual and powerful, a student of pop culture, a junkie and a bit unhinged. Julian was actually a suggestion by the studio (Universal Cable Productions). He was just a dream in the role.
There’s an eerie-sounding song that McCarthy plays constantly. What is it?
“Maid of Orleans, by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), off one of their older albums. Our composer Andy Gray decided that if Hunters would embed a clip of music—it would be New Age because of the frequencies.
How did you get involved with the Strieber book?
Gale has been a fan of Whitley’s and they’ve known each other for many, many years going back to Wolfen She had acquired the book about four years ago, was looking for a writer and that’s when Gale and I met. The books are really a jumping off point. I depart from the book’s mythology quite a bit, but it stays true to the idea of a hidden world.
Is Strieber involved with the show?
He flew down to Melbourne and visited the set and has a cameo in the season finale. It was really a delight to have him down there.
He’s a believer in alien abductions, isn’t he? Is Hunters a reality show of sorts for him?
That’s a question for Whitley. But he’s had experiences that I haven’t. I will say that he started hearing a bit of the clicks (a way of communicating among the show’s aliens) when we were in Melbourne. That kind of freaked us out. But so far—no appearances off screen.
Since these creatures look like us, have they infiltrated the government, media, the church…
As a character says early on, “We’re everywhere. We’re coming to get you.” And they really do.
Hunters, Series Premiere, Monday, April 11, 10/9c, Syfy