It’s important to listen to your fans.
Last year, Kyle Gallner and Christina Jackson debuted the relationship of their characters, Hasil and Sally-Ann, as a small part of WGN’s coal country drama “Outsiders.”
But after an outpouring of fan support and interest — plus a quick education on the phenomenon of “shipping” — Gallner and Jackson have found themselves with a lot more to do during Season Two, they told CBS News.
What did you think about people’s responses to the developments of Season One? Do you think it had any sway over the writers for where to take things this year?
Gallner: I didn’t know what to expect because the show is kind of a strange show. But once it aired and people seemed to really start latching onto it, it was pretty cool to watch it grow. People have made an impact on what the writers and the producers have thought. The response to me and Christina’s characters was a lot bigger than I think any of us expected, so because of that Hasil and Sally-Ann’s storyline has grown significantly.
Sally-Ann and Hasil got quite a response online as well. How did that feel from an actor’s perspective?
Gallner: It was cool, it was surprising. I’ve never been part of that, I’ve never been part of something where a relationship took off and people started … it’s called “shipping,” right? The response was a lot bigger than any of us thought. I would text Christina and we would talk about how surprised we were that people were as into the characters as they were — especially with how little screen time there was. It’s nice that it did that just because now we get to play more, we get to have a bigger storyline and hopefully people like what they see.
Jackson: Very quickly, once learning that we were a “ship,” I see that it happens very often. Especially with interracial couples [on TV]. There were a lot of “Sleepy Hollow” comparisons, a lot of “The Walking Dead,” a lot of “The Flash,” “How To Get Away With Murder,” “Scandal” — which was interesting because all of those relationships are very distinctively different.
You’ve both been on successful TV series in the past. How does the making of this show compare?
Jackson: I think Kyle has been on more TV shows than I have. For me, I’ve pretty much been on the first season of a lot of shows — with the exception of “Boardwalk Empire” — but I will say that for me, the making of this show is a lot more involved and a lot more intense because we all came to Pittsburgh not really knowing what this is. I think it’s a little easier for me because I’m a part of the town and we know what a town is like. So it was a little easier for me.
Gallner: It’s actually extremely different. I’ve done a lot of television, but never in this capacity where it’s like I’ve been a main character for more than one season and can kind of have some say. I did “Veronica Mars” for a season, but they were really kind of on their way and I was so new, it was a very different experience. Because of who the Farrells are — because of the world of the Farrells — coming into the show initially we had some of that down on paper, but we still all weren’t really sure what it meant. I think this experience was probably much more hands-on than a lot of other television shows would be because the cast is actively a part of the creative process.
What sort of input have each of you been able to have in that regard?
Gallner: We’ve worked really, really hard on creating this relationship between Hasil and Sally-Ann, fleshing it out and trying to make it as believable as possible. We’ll get the scripts and we’ll discuss things to add in to make the relationship feel a bit more authentic. They’re really open to discussing it and to changing things around to make the scenes as good as they can possibly be.
Jackson: There are little things that you’ll read and you’ll question yourself, especially in relation to Hasil and Sally-Ann. I remember at some point this season there was a comment that Hasil makes about bleach, and we had to go back to the writers and say, “Would he know what bleach is?” Not even trying to make him stupid or dumb, but would he know? Would they have that up there. And then just little things. I had control of my hair for a season and what I wanted Sally-Ann to look like.
The show takes place in coal country, which has become a major topic of political discussion since the election. Have you thought at all about any political commentary the show could be making?
Jackson: I would say when we have our table, reads it’s definitely a conversation that we have with our creator, Peter Mattei. How much of that stuff trickles down into our scripts? I would say some, but I think they’re in ways where it’s not so blatant. In season two, my storyline has to do with healthcare and it’s something that’s very relatable and it’s something that people will be able to look at and go, “OK, I know somebody who’s gone through that before.” I think as a show — as artists, as writers — we have a responsibility to be able to speak about these issues. You don’t have to. But I think if you’re going to take those issues on, there needs to be clarity. You don’t have to take a side, but you need to be able to be aware. And to be on a show that has awareness about these topics and have them actually be in the show is cool. It’s a great place for me.
“Outsiders” airs Tuesdays at 8pm on WGN.