Pandora Star Noah Huntley Talks Sci-Fi, The CW’s Draw With Teens & Working With Rising Stars
Noah Huntley has been around the block. The veteran actor has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters and on culty British soap operas, but now he’s being catapulted into a whole new world, literally, on the new CW show Pandora. The show aims to be the most recent CW success story. Hits like Riverdale and Supernatural have made the network the current hot spot for teen TV.
Pandora puts a sci-fi twist on the trusty formula of a tight-knit group of teens solving a mystery and saving the world. Set in the year 2199, the show follows the adventures of a young woman named Jax as she picks up the pieces of her life at Earth’s Space Training Academy following a devastating tragedy. Secrets about Jax’s true nature begin to surface, raising questions about whether she can be humanity’s salvation or its destruction. There’s also lots of good romance brewing, too. This is the CW we’re talking about here, after all. What use is a CW show without some steamy romance?
As the Uncle Osborn to Priscilla Quintana’s Jax, Noah Huntley might know more than he’s letting on about the secret that surrounds the show’s protagonist. His character’s day job might be as a professor at the Earth’s Space Training Academy, but he’s got his fingers in the intelligence world as well.
“Personally, professionally, I’m kind of really excited about it.” Noah said of the show, which is currently wrapping up filming its first season in Bulgaria. When we spoke to the actor via phone, he’d only just arrived back in the country, which he described as a fitting place to film Pandora’s off-planet visuals. “[Bulgaria] is its own alien environment.”
Noah talked to us about sci-fi, his rising co-stars, and what it was like to enter the “glamorous” world of the CW. “What I love about [sci-fi shows] is that they kind of encourage and develop the imagination along sort of rational scientific reasonable lines,” the 44-year-old actor said of Pandora, which draws heavily from sci-fi giants Star Trek and Star Wars. Noah described Mark Altman, the series creator, as “a massive Star Trek nerd.” Mark’s even co-written a book on the subject, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years.
The influence is readily apparent. Pandora’s Earth’s Space Training Academy could be a sister school to Starfleet Academy. Noah says that the show shares Star Trek’s optimistic DNA. “I also see a moral conscience that comes through things like Star Trek and our show too,” he described. “I think it’s kind of timely in these crazy times we live in where people in power are clearly just complete morons.”
For Noah, who’s modeled for L’Oreal and Stella Artois, and played a king in the Kristen Stewart film Snow White and The Huntsman, Pandora enables him to do something he’s always wanted to do. “I mean I got to go on a spaceship. I’ve always wanted to do that.” Noah thinks the trappings of sci-fi are cool. He’s excited for the show to explore the aspects of portal technology it first introduces.
The physics of melting black holes might be the key to Jax’s mysterious identity, but Noah said he was just as excited for the non-sci-fi aspects of the show. It’s the dynamics between the characters that will propel the show forward (hopefully into a second season), according to the actor. “I would say it’s really the characters that are being evolved in this that I’m really excited about,” he mentioned. “I think all the other stuff — great portals and spaceships and alien races and conflict and all that — it’s going to be exciting and cool and compelling. But I think it’s the characters that are being evolved and developed that really give it the legs to go forward.”
On-set, it’s the camaraderie amongst the cast that makes the project special. “There’s a cohesion… and generosity and maturity and enlightenment in a way amongst the cast that, you know … is rare and is cherished,” Noah says. Like on most CW shows, there’s a bit of a division between those that play the adults and those that play the younger characters. (Just look at Riverdale and Gossip Girl, for example.) Priscilla Quintana and her costars Raechelle Banno and Ben Radcliffe are all still fresh faces in Hollywood.
Noah, on the other hand, has been acting since he was young. “When I was growing up at their age I felt like adult actors were kind of going, ‘You know you need to fall into line and realize that you know you’re a young puppy and we’re the establishment.'” he recalled. But things have changed since he was younger. “We’re in a very different world now and I’m really happy to inhabit it and feel like I’m there to encourage and nurture and support.”
When asked about the CW’s dominance in teen TV, he cited the network’s playful approach to its shows. “Westworld and House of Cards and shows that I’ve been watching plenty going, ‘Wow, this is amazing’ and they are.” But Pandora, he thinks, has something that more serious-seeming TV shows lack. “We’re not trying to be so intellectually clever … It’s being heartfelt and imaginative that’s more how younger minds relate [to The CW]. It’s more of a heart connection than a cerebral head one, you know?”
At home in Sussex, England, Noah spends his time tending to his garden plot. It’s a hobby that doesn’t mind when he’s gone for long periods of time working on a project. “I go off and I inhabit these different worlds and these different characters and there’s something sort of reliable about the idea that you come home to something and even if you completely neglect a vegetable patch or a flower bed or a garden that actually in some ways that’s it sort of makes it better … the stronger elements come through as a result.”
Though he’s content putzing around his patch of earth in real life, he doesn’t want it to stay that way on Pandora. He hopes it’s not the young stars who get to have all the fun. “I don’t want to be just stuck on Earth. I’m excited to get off-planet, fast.”
Pandora airs on the CW Tuesdays, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST.