Recently I spoke with Mark A. Altman who is the Showrunner for Pandora. The Show is gearing up for season two who will premiere in the U.S. on The CW Network on
Sunday, October 4, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
New episodes will stream the following day on the CW App. Viewers can enjoy all season one
episodes anytime on the CW App, iTunes, and Amazon.
Pandora can be seen in Canada on CTV’s Sci-Fi Channel. The show is also
running on channels in the U.K. and around the world.
What drew you into the Entertainment Industry?
I’d always wanted to pursue a career in TV and film since I was a young.
It was the double-pump of both Star Trek and Star Wars that inspired my
love of genre and desire to produce sci-fi. The original Star Trek wasn’t
just brilliantly prescient but was a story about family and loyalty and
that was something that was very important to me to bring to Pandora.
How did you get into directing/producing/writing, and which do you mind
most challenging and most rewarding?
I was very fortunate that my career as an entertainment journalist was
like film school for me and so when I did my first movie, Free Enterprise,
with William Shatner and Eric McCormack, I was incredibly prepared to make
the transition. Literally, my professors in producing for TV were people
like Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Dean Devlin, J. Michael Straczynski, and
others although they didn’t know it at the time.
All three things are different sides of the same coin, or 16-sided die
in this case. Writing, producer, directing all are satisfying in different
ways, but together they form the complete package.
Where did the idea for the series arise as it is a very interesting idea?
I knew I wanted to do a sci-fi series set in space although most of my
career had been procedurals, thrillers, and comedies. So I decided to write
the show on spec which I hadn’t done in a long time. Most of the pilots we
did we sold off pitches, but I knew this was unique. I was really inspired
by movies like The Paper Chase in which we see how formative a great
teacher can be on a young person’s life and I applied that to a space show.
Ultimately, as the series went on, I realized the show really wanted to be
more of a space adventure than “future college,” but that’s what helped
sell it and was the initial idea behind Pandora. And like TOS, Pandora
provides a metaphor for looking at contemporary social issues in a really
fresh and exciting way.
How did you go about casting and what did each of the leads bring to their
roles that made them ideal for their parts?
Casting was challenging as we didn’t have a lot of time. We were
greenlit in February and shooting in April for a July airdate so first
season was tight.
But we were very lucky with casting to discover the
amazing Priscilla Quintana and Oliver Dench and Ben Radcliffe. The movie
gods smiled on us as they say. First season we cast some really great guest
stars like Buck Rogers’ Erin Gray and Living Daylights’ Maryam D’Abo and
Arrow’s Manu Bennett, and of course the incomparable Jeffrey Combs, which
due to the pandemic we couldn’t do as much this year, but I think we have a
remarkable guest cast this season as well.
With the current world situation and lack of conventions; has it been
harder to publicize the show and has that changed any of your plans going
That’s a great question. It’s super challenging We had plans to do a big
roll out of season two at San Diego Comic-Con, but of course, the pandemic
put an end to that so it’s much harder to create buzz for the new season
given the lack of genre events happening and it has definitely affected our
ability to promote the show so it’s more important than ever that the
Boxers, our devoted fans, help spread the word.
And that’s why people like you writing about the show really mean so much so that people know it’s
coming and check us out on the CW on Sunday, October 4th at 8PM eastern and
How will filming change under the new Covid rules and has it changed your
story plans for the season?
It was incredibly challenging to film during the pandemic, but we were
testing multiple times a week and put very serious mitigation plans in
place so it was very hard, but if you take it seriously and listen to the
advice of doctors and scientists than you just hope you can get through
without anyone getting affected. We did adjust to having less location days
and extras to avoid the risk of COVID exposure as well.
Since you film in Eastern Europe; Are the cast forced to be in a bubble and
just go from work to home and if so; how do you keep up morale with the new
The plan had been to get a big D&D campaign going since Oliver is a big
D&D fan, but it ended up that in Sofia where we film, things aren’t nearly
as bad as in America so we were able to be out and about a little more in
terms of restaurants outside and hiking and bicycling.
It was definitely a concern, but I think the cast actually preferred to be over in Europe right
now than home as it was a very pleasant few months. Last year, we all went
to the premiere of Infinity War together. This year clearly we weren’t
doing movies or things like that though.
Anything you can share about what is to come in season 2?
We pick up six months after the end of season two and Jax is a much
bigger part of the Earth Intelligence Serivices (CIS), working with Xander.
They’re chasing the fugitive Tierney and Jax is still wrestling with her
discovery of who and what she is. Xander and Jax are in a good place and he
is now in command of a prototype spaceship, the Dauntless, which is an
exciting new set we have.
Given how much more time we spend in space, it’s
great to be on the bridge of a powerful starship that traverses the Galaxy
with Xander large and in charge. We also introduce some new characters
including the return of Jett, played wonderfully by Akshay Kumar, from last
season, who has a lot to prove if he’s going to be accepted into the group
and, of course, Roxanne McKee, from Game of Thrones, who plays a person
very close to Jax who we never thought we’d see again. It was very
important for us to make the show accessible to new viewers this year who
may not be familiar with the first season so I think in a way our premiere
is almost a re-pilot and gives viewers a new point of entry. I couldn’t be
happier with the way the second season turned out. It’s really a quantum
leap forward in terms of storytelling, performances, look, and everything
else from last year and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
How would you compare the FX on Pandora with your past work such as The
Librarians and what have been the biggest challenges?
They’re very different. I loved working on The Librarians, but those
effects are very much based in fantasy and the real world so it’s different
than our show which is much more space-based; spaceships and lasers and
planets. The people that worked on Librarians were all extraordinary and it
was the ultimate family show and I think could have gone a lot more
seasons. I’m so grateful to Dean Devlin for inviting me to be a part of the
show because it allowed me to meet the wonderful John Harlan Kim who has
now become a big part of the Pandora universe as well.
How have you been handling this time of Isolation?
For a writer, self-quarantine isn’t very different than any other time
to be honest. And we were able to use the extra months to spend more time
prepping and rewriting scripts which in the long run benefit the show
enormously strangely enough.
Although I must say it was very nice to be
around other people again on set and eating out again although when I
wasn’t on set, I did spend most of my time at my apartment.
Mark A. Altman’s Bio:
*BIO: MARK A. ALTMAN is a television and motion picture
writer/producer/director who is the Showrunner, Creator and Executive
Producer of Pandora, the hit new sci-fi action-adventure series for The CW
which Programming Insider lauded as “Stranger Things meets Riverdale.” He
most recently served as Co-Executive Producer of TNT’s hit series, The
Librarians, as well as such shows as Agent X (TNT), Castle (ABC) and
Necessary Roughness (USA) among others and has sold numerous pilots. *
*In addition to directing the comedy special, Aries Spears: Comedy
Blueprint for NBC/Univer- sal, Altman produced the $30 million film
adaptation of the bestselling video game, DOA: Dead Or Alive, which was
released by Dimension Films. His first film was the award winning, Free
Enterprise, starring William Shatner and Eric McCormack, which he wrote and
produced and for which he won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best
New Writer at the AFI Los Angeles Film Festival prior to its theatrical
release. He was also a producer of the House of the Dead series, based on
the videogame from Sega, released by Lionsgate. In addition, he produced
the Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)
comedy, The Specials. *
*His bestselling two-volume book, The 50 Year Mission: The Complete
Uncensored, Oral History of Star Trek, was released by St. Martin’s Press
in 2016 in hardcover to unanimous critical ac- claim including raves in The
Wall Street Journal, Booklist and Publishers Weekly. His follow- up on
Battlestar Galactica, So Say We All, was released in August 2018 and his
latest oral his- tory, Nobody Does It Better, chronicling the history of
the James Bond franchise, will be re- leased in hardcover in February
*Altman is a former journalist and has contributed to such newspapers and
magazines as The Boston Globe, Written By, L’Cinefage, Geek, The Guardian,
and many others, including Cine- fantastique for which he launched their
independent film division, CFQ Films. He has also written numerous comic
books for DC and Malibu Comics. *
*In 2018, Altman launched the Electric Surge Video Podcast Network with
producer Dean Devlin (Independence Day, Stargate) and in addition to
producing numerous weekly podcasts for the network, they recently rolled
out video versions of their popular series on the Electric Now streaming
service. In addition to producing, Altman also co-hosts The 4:30 Movie, in
which a band of experts curate dream movie theme weeks as well as the
immensely popular Inglorious Treksperts, the only podcast for Star Trek
fans with a life, featuring numerous high profile guests from across the
Star Trek universe. *
*Altman has spoken at numerous industry events and conventions, including
ShowBiz Expo as well as the Variety/Final Draft Screenwriters Panel at the
Cannes Film Festival. He was a juror at the prestigious Sitges Film
Festival in Barcelona, Spain. He has been a frequent guest and panelist at
Comic-Con held annually in San Diego, CA and a two-time juror for the
Comic-Con Film Festival.He is also a graduate of the Writers Guild of
America Showrunners Training Pro- gram and a member of the Television
season two of Pandora premieres in the U.S. on The CW Network onSunday, October 4, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. New episodes willstream the following day on the CW App. Viewers can enjoy all season one episodes anytime on the CW App, iTunes, and Amazon.