Frequency was a time travel movie with a twist. Instead of a time machine, it was a radio that could talk into the past, so a modern day cop got to speak with his father again, and save his life. CW has reinvented Frequency as a TV series, and this time the story revolves around a father and daughter.
Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List) is a modern day cop who discovers her old HAM radio can speak with her father Frank (Riley Smith) in 1996. Like in the movie, she gives Frank vital information that saves his life, but inadvertently leads to her mother falling victim to the Nightingale Killer. If the show makes it, it will take longer than two hours to save her mom too. We spoke with Peyton List at a CW party before their presentation to the Television Critics Association. Frequency premieres Wednesday, October 5 on The CW.
Does Frequency have double the backstory of a normal job because you have two timelines to remember and they keep changing?
Yeah, it’s a lot to remember simply because it’s not just point A to point B to point C. You have to remember what happened in each one. Not like you have to be crazy on top of every single detail. We don’t want to overload the audience but it’s important to remember certain bits of information that sometimes are planted and then reveal why they were planted a few episodes down the line. It’s really smart writing but in a rewarding way for the audience. I feel rewarded as a reader when I get the scripts, so I hope it comes across in the execution.
Once you establish how the radio works and the events of the Nightingale Killer in the pilot, what’s the next step in the case?
Well, the most immediate problem is the mom, Julie’s disappearance. They know what day she goes missing. They know what day she doesn’t show up for work anymore. They know when she is taken. It’s just a matter of figuring out who takes her, what they did that made the Nightingale Killer still active, finding who he is, track him down and get him. That is the most immediate problem. It has the most consequences but then you also have the other smaller things that are important to her, like the loss of her boyfriend/fiance who was her life. The mom relationship is suddenly torn away from her life and her identity is taken because her loved ones around her are no longer there. She’s struggling with that while trying to be a detective and trying to solve the case of her mom. So it’s watching her deal with that and then you have the flip side of Frank’s character dealing with the fact that he got to come home. He gets to be with his wife and he wants to enjoy those moments. He wants to have that time. You get Frank and Raimy trying to figure out a way to work together when they’re people that don’t really know each other very well. It’s a lot of interesting personality character elements.
Is it like they’re meeting for the first time even though they’re father and daughter?
They’re meeting for the first time as adults with fully formed personalities and character traits. There’s times where they’re oil and water and they’re blood, but they don’t have tons of shared experience together and memories and stuff. So it’s forging that relationship. It’s an interesting thing when you’re not doing it sitting across from each other. You’re doing it just talking to somebody like on a phone. It’s like building a relationship just on a phone. It’s a really particular kind of relationship and at times it’s even more intimate. I think they’re trying to find their way in what their roles are, if it’s father/daughter, if it’s partners in this case that they need to solve and also with Raimy it’s getting over the hangups that she had about growing up without him.
Is Riley there when you do the radio scenes?
Riley is sitting off camera when I’m doing the radio stuff and I’m going up first thing Friday morning, the day after the panel. We’re doing Riley’s side of the HAM radio so I’ll be sitting off camera.
Do you think you can keep that up for 22 episodes?
At first, I was a little bit concerned about the logistics of it. I was like, “Oh, it’d be awesome if we can try but eventually one thing will happen and it’ll fall by the wayside.” Production has actually been really great about making the extra effort to make sure it happens. It’s so important to this show. Everything hinges, both storylines hinge on the relationship that is forged through those HAM conversations. So I think we’re going to keep it up as long as we’re on the air.
Is Raimy trying to get her fiance back?
Raimy is starting to toy with the idea of how could I do that. How would I get someone back who doesn’t remember me? When you stop and think about it, I don’t even know how I would start to go about it without coming off like a totally insane person.
How do you recreate a courtship when one of you knows how it went before?
No, it reminds me a little bit of that movie with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, The Vow. It reminds me a little bit of that where it’s how do you make someone fall in love with you when you know that they did at first organically. How do you recreate that natural thing that you had? When you know we can be great together, we actually have already done it, how do you get there. It totally reminded me of that.
You were on another show with a lot of mythology, Flash Forward. Are there any similarities between everything you had to deal with and remember for that and what Frequency entails?
With Flash Forward, I would say the similarities are this shared ticking clock of an end date. One of our biggest storylines and threads throughout the season is finding Julie. We know what day she’s taken. We know that we’ve got X number of weeks. We’ve got 11 weeks until she’s taken and we’ve got to solve this mystery by then. With Flash Forward, it was the same thing. Everybody catches up to that date six months later down the road. So it has that element of urgency and high stakes but on Flash Forward, it was just a slice of so many different people’s experience and so many different people’s lives. Where this is so centered around Raimy and Frank and then the ripple effect outward from there and all the people in their lives and how it affects those people, and how their relationships are different with those people because of changing the past. Like not having a fiance anymore.
Is there any 1996 equivalent stock tip Raimy can give Frank? In the movie he says Yahoo.
That is one of my favorite parts of the movie. “Repeat it: Yahoo. Yahoo.” I love that because I saw the movie way later and I remember Yahoo. Oh my God, that’s so funny. I don’t know. To be fair, I was not really up on the stock market back in 1996. I suppose you would say Google. I don’t know.
Twitter or Facebook maybe.
Yeah, yeah. I am embarrassingly poorly informed about the stock market.
So it hasn’t come up yet.
It hasn’t come up yet but I don’t put anything past JeRaimy [Carver]. I’m sure he’ll find a way to sneak in those homages to the movie. Especially the treats that I go, “Oh my God, that was my favorite part of the movie.” I’m sure he’ll get those in.
I saw it after I read the script [for the show]. I saw the movie the second time I read the pilot. I was kind of blown away and I was blown away that I hadn’t seen it before. I don’t know how I missed it. I thought it was awesome. It was great. There were so many things about it that just reminded me of movies I used to watch in the ‘90s and early 2000s. There’s just that certain feel to it where the explosions are really big and the music comes in and it pulls at your heartstrings. Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid were wonderful. Elizabeth Mitchell was just warm and just magnetic. It was a great movie, start to finish.
Is Raimy a badass cop?
Yeah, yeah. If I had any question before about it, it was solved in episode 103. She’s a badass, yeah. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Do you ever think about what Flash Forward could have been had it continued?
I don’t know where Flash Forward would have gone in season two. I know they set up this entirely open premise for a season two and I was devastated when that show ended. I don’t think I’d really been part of something on that large of a scope before, where it was exciting to get every script because you’re just going, “What’s going to happen to my character? Does my character die? Does my character live? Why is she in this place when she’s in that place? How does she cope with this relationship not working out and how does she move forward and put value on other things?” And then it ended and you’re like, “Well, I’ll never know.” So I don’t know where they would have gone with it. I think it would’ve been great. I love the show so much that I have no doubt that it would’ve been awesome and fun.
It changed a lot from the pilot, didn’t it?
Yeah, it changed a lot. I don’t know what the plan was initially. I only knew what the pilot script was then. I didn’t know what they were going to do with my character so I would just wait for the next script to come out. I know a lot of the storylines they did, I had no idea what was coming but I liked how global it was. They were constantly sending characters all over the world to deal with a humanity problem as opposed to something that’s happening in Los Angeles or in America or in North America. They’re going to every continent and I really liked that about that show.
That was one of your first roles. Are you a much different actor now?
I feel like that was sort of my first, I had done guest stars here and there with sci-fi, but that was my first time spending a long time with sci-fi. Like spending a whole year just in that genre. I don’t know if it made me a different actor. I was kind of used to ensemble casts and being a part of something larger. I think I’ve changed more in the years since where I’ve done shows that are slightly smaller in cast and they focus on more intimate relationships. I think that’s definitely different.