It used to be the norm that movies had a leg up over TV when it came to special effects. But now, on every channel and streaming site, TV shows have become more and more realistic in the CG work being presented. Be it superheroes flying through the air to building all-new fantasy worlds out of nothing but a green screen, we’ve reached a point where TV special effects technology rivals that of the film industry. What a time to be alive!
One TV show that is doing its part to further push the boundaries in what a series can accomplish on a weekly basis is that of Freeform’s sci-fi show Beyond. Centered on Holden Matthews (Burkely Duffiend) when he miraculously wakes up from a devastating coma—to the wonderment of his family. But the world has changed since Holden went to sleep 12 years prior, and he now has to navigate being an adult when all he remembers is being a child. At the same time, Holden is experiencing abilities and memories he can’t explain, and a mysterious woman named Willa (Dilan Gwyn) warns him not to trust those around him. When a sinister stranger attacks Holden and claims he knows about his new powers, Holden is faced with uncovering just what happened to him while he was in a coma.
The show is part family drama, part sci-fi adventure, and according to executive producer David Eick, the amount that they’re using the CG technology to bolster the sci-fi story is groundbreaking.
“Having done a lot of green screen shows, one of the things that is the difference maker between whether or not a CG environment is relatable and tactile and a genuine environment is how the actor reacts to it,” Eick told the room full of reporters at the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association press tour. “This show, Beyond, is implementing a level of 3D CG effects that has never been done at this level of consistency on an episodic basis before. I mean, it’s never been done.”
But that doesn’t mean the show is relying only on the technology and CG effects.
“The onus is on the actors, on the performance, to sell it,” Eick said. “It’s not the digital shots, it’s not the CG. It is the actor. It normally takes a couple years, a couple seasons frankly, to get an actor acclimated to that kind of performance and for Burkely to have hit it on day one, and not just Burkely but Dilan and everyone who has been involved with it has embraced it and I think it’s the big difference maker in how the show comes across in a very realistic, engaging fashion.”
According to Duffield, who spends much of time acting opposite just a green screen to create the realms seen on the series—while approaching that kind of acting was daunting at first—it was also exciting for him.
“A lot of the realms are green screen with a lot of fabricated stuff that’s put in in our post production. We don’t have a sort of immediate environment that we interact with, but it’s a lot of fun,” Duffield said. “It’s the coolest state of acting. It’s a lot about imagination and creating. To be able to interact with really just yourself and imagination and a director and a producer and a writers room and create something that is put in after, it’s fun. It’s a cool opportunity. I look forward to doing green screen.”
Duffield’s ability to act believably opposite just the green screen and the dramatic elements of Holden’s life right away was a big draw for the showrunners when it came time to casting his main role.
“The idea that buying the fact that someone has come out of a 12-year coma all this time, we had to see the innocence in his eyes, a kind of openness that Burkely has,” executive producer Tim Kring said. “You can’t really fake that. Burkely is not a very jaded guy and that comes through on camera.”
Executive producer Adam Nussdorf agreed, adding, “He had to be so many things. His comedic timing had to be there, which it is thankfully. Luckily he’s very good looking. And he had to be able to emote without speaking. He could convey so much with just a little subtle movement of his eyes or something very nonverbal. It allowed the audience to really identify with him. First and foremost, the audience had to feel empathy to Holden. They had to feel like he was a real person with these real struggles. At no point did it seem like Burkely was an actor portraying a role. It seemed like I was watching Holden.”
And it seems as if the casting choice paid off: during the middle of Beyond‘s presentation, Freeform President Tom Ascheim crashed the panel mid-question to announce to the unsuspecting cast and showrunners that the network officially picked up the series for season two. The surprise on all their faces was very apparent — they clearly had no idea this announcement was coming, so it was hugs and smiles all around. That was definitely a fun, unique moment to be a part of.
Are you looking forward to a second season of Beyond? What do you think of what they’re accomplishing on a weekly basis with their 3D CD special effects technology? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum!
The entire first season of Beyond is now streaming here.