‘Under the Dome’ actors talk season 3 ahead of premiere

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'Under the Dome' crew films Dean Norris, foreground, in a scene from the CBS show's third season. Photos by Hilary Snow.
‘Under the Dome’ crew films Dean Norris, foreground, in a scene from the CBS show’s third season. Photos by Hilary Snow.

It’s a muggy Monday afternoon, and Dean Norris finds himself thick in Southern pines, crouching behind some bushes to spy on some action in the foreground.

No spoilers here–fans of “Under the Dome” and Norris (Big Jim) will have to tune in to season three, which gets underway with a two-hour premiere later this month, to see what unfolds.

Norris, cast and crew were on location behind Screen Gems Studios this week as filming on the next installment of the popular CBS series based on the novel by Stephen King, who serves as the show’s executive producer.

Without giving too much away, “Under the Dome” actors say viewers can expect a more character-driven season out of the gate, with the show’s more fantastical elements serving as a backdrop to real human interaction.

“Which is something we’ve all been clamoring for,” Mike Vogel, who plays the complicated ex-Special Forces operator, Barbie, said. “I think what people really respond to in a show is just two people having a scene together. I’ve admittedly said I’m not a massive sci-fi freak but I love sci-fi characters that are strong. If you care about the characters, then all this [sci-fi] becomes candy coating.”

Season two ended with characters finding a way out of the dome that encircles the small town of Chester’s Mill, and Vogel said season three will pick right up from that spot, with some characters living away from the mysterious enclosure for up to a year.

For some, like Junior (played by Alex Koch), the upcoming season marks a personal evolution, of sorts.

“Junior is finally letting go of things that have held him down in past seasons…Last year was tough because he lost the love of his life and he lost his mother and thought she had committed suicide, and that turned out not to be true. And he has been manipulated and controlled by so many people, and this year he’s really trying to get away from all that,” Koch noted.

For others, like Sam (Eddie Cahill), it’s time for reflection and atonement.

The set for a popular diner on 'Under the Dome.'
The set for a popular diner on ‘Under the Dome.’

“What I like about how the third season jumps off is we immediately get into Sam’s desire to make amends for what he did last season, namely killing Angie McAlister,” Cahill said. “And I think each of our characters have our own version of a personal story that jumps off at the beginning of the year and it grounds some of what follows.

“I think this year, the characters get slightly more defined in their unique approaches to dealing with this. Whereas I think, thematically, if you wanted to look over the course of the last seasons, the characters are struggling with how am I going to deal with this thing? Is it about science? Is it about faith? That was a thing that came up. This year, it’s hinging more on being an individual or being a part of the larger group.”

And the group is slightly larger this time around with two new additions to the core cast–Marg Helgenberger of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” fame and Kylie Bunbury, who starred opposite Jonah Hill in “The Sitter.”

“Marg Helgenberger…she’s done a few things. She’s a good rookie actress,” Vogel joked.

All jokes aside, he said Helgenberger’s character, Christine, plays an integral character this season–and a “very divisive” one.

As for Bunbury’s Ava, Vogel said she is there to put a little pressure on Barbie’s relationship with Julia.

But never fear, “Dome” fans–Cahill says the show will continue the “no one is safe” approach it has maintained in its first two seasons.

“We don’t lose that element,” he said. “I won’t paint it to an episode but, yes, that definitely is always a part of the show. It has to be, I think.”

Season three of “Under the Dome” kicks off on its new night at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 25, on CBS.

Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.