When we first talked with Luke Mitchell about his The Tomorrow People character of John Young, we didn't yet know about his big Ultra secret, so his quiet and somewhat brooding nature seemed more about the circumstances and situations that had recently happened to him. Mitchell admitted that John was a "reluctant" leader who stepped up to look after his underground motley gang of Tomorrow People when Roger (Jeffrey Pierce) disappeared. But what we have come to learn since is that there is a lot from John's past that he is holding in, as well-- previously working at Ultra may just be the tip of the iceberg. And it is those secrets that continue to haunt him and affect his attitude and decisions. John's back story episode "Kill or Be Killed" will explore the roots of these to see the young man John was before his Tomorrow People status had completely taken over his life or his family.
"John has really been put through the wringer. He didn't have the human life that Stephen had; he doesn't have the humanity that Stephen has. His love for Cara, I think, is his one kind of humanizing aspect to him. Otherwise he's kind of a hard-liner. There's not much else that he cares about in the world other than the cause. He's kind of like your classic revolutionary: he believes in ideas, but people are difficult for him," series executive producer Phil Klemmer said, noting his back story episode will show just why John is the "closed off, John Wayne-type figure" that he is.
John is certainly guarded, but he has reasons to be. And as much as he may be a reluctant or closed off or even "not necessarily right for the job" leader as Mitchell keeps titling him, John keeps finding himself in leadership positions, and if he was a weaker man, he would just walk away from them and selfishly only fend for himself. Instead, though, John helps others along with himself, a trait we will see from him years before he found the other Tomorrow People.
"I think John is a natural kind of nurturer in the sense that it's just in him to look after people and that is obviously set up in ["Kill or Be Killed"] when it flashes back to John as a teenager kind of fending for himself and his quote-unquote brothers," Mitchell said.
"[But] even though he was looking after people when he was a kid, he was also being looked down upon and beaten up by his father figure. So I guess he's definitely got a chip on his shoulder, and he definitely does not like being in a position where someone is bullying him or taking advantage of him. You get a glimpse of that when we come back to modern day and Killian comes back to the picture. All of a sudden John's not so little and John's not so weak, and so you see John be a man and face his past, which is kind of cool."
"Kill or Be Killed" introduces another former Ultra agent who "served his time" alongside John and went rogue only to go the opposite route from John. Rather than try to go through life unseen, not making waves, just surviving, Jason Dohring's Killian McCrane is using his insane amount of control over his abilities to send shock waves through the city.
"We delve into him being taken in by Jedikiah and Ultra and him being not so much the big brother anymore but the little guy. And we delve into his relationship with Killian, who is the older, stronger, faster, better [one[, and they become friends, but it's also [him] going from top dog to the little kid again," Mitchell said.
"I think John absolutely looked up to Killian and dare I say Jedikiah at a time-- until things went south for both of them, I guess."
The dichotomy between John and Killian and how they each individually use their training and their powers should not go unnoticed. They may have been exposed to the same influences, but they decided to go drastically different routes when they each ultimately left Ultra.
"The way we always look at Tomorrow People is exactly like regular people: powers don’t make you good to bad; it’s just whatever your underlying sort of person is that gets magnified. I think one of the reasons that so many of our breakouts 'break bad' is that they’ve been abused by the human world by being different and being sort of shat upon. When you do come into power and you’ve been crapped on, you sort of have a good reason to come back at the world— and certainly come back at the human world— with a lot of anger. It’s also important for us that every breakout of the week wasn’t ‘They’re always good so therefore Ultra is always bad.’ We really wanted it to be versions: losing the good breakout, losing the bad breakout, capturing the good breakout…so that there’d be episodes where Jedikiah is absolutely right and you’re kind of like ‘Yeah, that guy really deserves to be killed,'" Klemmer said.
John is one character who, because of his painful past, could have easily broken bad, so to speak, but something within him kept him on a better path. He may have had to compromise pieces of himself along the way, and he may have ended up doing some "morally questionable things," but he continues to protect those around him. Mitchell claims his ability to be a good guy is not a "black or white" thing, but the mere fact that he chose it at all certainly should cement his status as a worthy leader.
The Tomorrow People airs on The CW on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. "Kill or Be Killed" airs on October 30 2013.
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