Inspired by the 2000 movie of the same name, Frequency follows the butterfly effect of Raimy Sullivan reconnecting with her father through ham radio. The catch? He’s in 1996, just days before his murder, while she’s in the present time, having lived twenty years without him. Their interactions will change both the past and present in ways neither of them could imagine.
We sat down with the cast and crew of the show at San Diego Comic-Con, where the pilot was screened for the first time on preview night and at the panel, to discuss the show and what fans can expect when the show debuts in October on The CW.
Riley Smith, who plays Frank Sullivan, explained that a leading role with a flawed hero drew him to the character. In the first episode, it’s explained that, “My father was a bad man.” Smith said he’s going to have a lot of fun showing the audience the layers in his character and getting them to understand where Frank is coming from. He loves the writing and finds that the role and lines flow from him easily.
He even got emotional when speaking about the character, visibly tearing up, when discussing how the show will explore whether the outcome becomes better or worse when Frank and Raimy begin interacting. The father-daughter relationship in the show also touched him. He revealed that when he has kids, he wants a daughter of his own (and a boy too!).
As far as acting through the radio with Peyton List, who plays his daughter Raimy Sullivan, Smith shares that they’ve been friends for well over ten years and he was the one who referred her for the show. That established friendship really lent itself to working together on such an emotionally vulnerable show. For the pilot, they even acted just off camera for each other when they were on the ham radio.
On the structure of the show, he says the second episode picks up right where the first left off. Throughout the show, the audience is caught up with flashbacks while going through the story in the present. It almost becomes a choose-your-own-adventure story for the writers, who can pick and choose which butterfly effects they want to follow.
Peyton List also got emotional when filming the pilot. She explained that the emotion hit at unpredictable times for her, while she was really trying to get into her character’s mindset and figuring out how she felt at a given moment. In her opinion, it’s hard to pin down the emotions of love and loss and the show really goes for those vulnerable and raw emotions. There was a lot of support and trust on the set between the cast and crew during filming.
She also spoke on Raimy and Frank’s relationship in the show, pointing out that the expectations of Frank being the dad with all the answers is a flawed one. He’s twenty-eight, the same age as her when they connect, and sometimes they don’t know how to react to each other. There were a lot of interesting ways in which they’ll relate to each other.
Frequency stood out to her because it was a show where the characters weren’t physically traveling through time themselves, it’s only the consciousness. She had to do her best to remember both timelines and go through each script a few times to peel back the layers of the story. Everyone involved in the show was very vocal about looking at the butterfly effect of what if.
One of a few characters to exist in both the 1996 timeline and the 2016 timeline, Mekhi Phifer poked fun at his make-up for the present. To age him up, they put crows feet around his eyes and extra skin along his forehead, both traits he hopes he doesn’t really develop when he hits his fifties.
In 1996, his character is a detective and Frank’s partner and by 2016, he’s a Lieutenant and Raimy’s boss. In the present, he imagines his character to have slowed and settled into the job. He thinks he’s seen it all and he’s jaded, but the connection between Raimy and Frank will start to uproot his mentality and his reality when he begins to notice them both with the knowledge they probably shouldn’t have.
He describes his character, Satch DeLeon, as the conduit between Frank and Raimy, since he exists in both times. He was Frank’s best friend and a “fun uncle” to Raimy before becoming her surrogate dad and mentor when Frank was murdered. He’s a part of the family who will become inquisitive and serves as an audience entry point into the story.
But he doesn’t want Satch to crack the case too early on, sharing that he hopes it takes him however long to figure it out in order to make the show as interesting as possible. With television, he finds that there is time to explore those questions and follow that journey for some time.
Executive producers Jennifer Gwartz and Jeremy Carver were also on hand to give some more insight into what the audience can expect from the show. Carver echoed cast sentiments that the show gets more emotional than people may be expecting. It’s that emotion that they hope to ground the show and make it relatable. They want Frequency to be seen as a slice-of-life show, with the character emotions propelling the story and for it to feel as if it could be happening in the audience’s’ own backyards.
It was the relationship between father and son in the movie that really drew them to the story. When the initially developed the show for television, it was a father-son relationship, but when asked if they would change anything, that relationship changed. In their opinion, the father-daughter relationship is more dynamic and gives them more freedom from the original movie.
Carver also reveals that they had prepared for the alternate realities and timelines to be confusing for the audience, but for the most part they’ve found that the pilot hasn’t been. They’ve developed a lot of built-in show rules but have decided to treat them as infrastructure and reveal them over time as the audience experiences them. He promises that there’s a mystery at the heart of the show and the audience has to pay attention to catch some of the subtleties, but they’re giving the audience a lot of credit.
They promise a lot of cliffhangers, emotional moments, and moral choices when the show debuts on The CW on October 5, 2016.