We had the pleasure of speaking with Nicole Ari Parker, who plays Vanessa on Time After Time, and we asked her what we’re all thinking: What’s driving Vanessa?! Is it family or career? Find out!
One of the reasons to keep watching, honestly, is because of Vanessa Anders, played by Nicole Ari Parker. After the reveal of time travel, she brings the second most amount of intrigue, not because she’s an African-American playing H.G. Wells’ daughter (which is awesome) but because of how much she seems to know about Wells right off the bat.
We’re all curious: What’s motivating Vanessa? She had run into Wells as a college student and has spent her whole life consumed by that one experience. Her whole life has ultimately revolved around Wells and his time machine. Naturally, that was our first question.
Is her interest in Wells driven more by family, or rather the idea of him pushing her career forward?
That’s a great question! There’s a sincere longing in her that she’s been waiting for [him] for a very long time. A lot of people seem to have missed the moment where she said, “You came up to me in college on my campus.” She’s going around her college campus and this young Englishman comes up to her and says, “I’m H.G. Wells, take this letter. I’ll explain it later. There’s going to be a key and a woman in danger.”
Twenty years go by and she’s inherited her family business. [She] goes on this life mission with her philanthropy, and all her money, and she finds the time machine in a basement of his old house, and has now procured it at the museum. She’s dedicated her life to this notion of this one weird experience I had.
And [she’s] acknowledging the full possibility that it’s her imagination. She just had the money to make that mistake [laughs]. So then when he’s actually real and makes himself known to her, I think it’s the combination of dedication to him, protecting him and securing… yeah, that’s where the ambiguous part is. What exactly is the part she needs to secure?
Because when you’re a time traveler that means you can leave again. I think her loneliness is fueling a lot of it.
That’s a good point. You bring up her loneliness, but she is married. What does it say about her marriage that she doesn’t confide in her husband, the Senator, everything about Wells?
I think it’s kind of scary to say, “Honey, my great, great grandfather has appeared from the 1800s. I put the time machine in my ballroom,” because the house is so big he doesn’t know where the ballroom is [laughs]. There are just too many details she’s trying to cross. It’s less about the secret of it and more about the fact that she needs to get a handle on it.”
These circumstances are pretty crazy.
Vanessa is such a great character. What attracted you most to the role when you read the script?
Oh, everything about it! I loved time travel shows when I was a kid, and I loved that ABC had the vision to cast me as the great, great granddaughter as an African American. It’s such a brilliant idea and a real, actual possibility that all of our families look differently hundreds of years later. I think it’s such a beautiful detail, and I love that subtle choice.
I love that choice! And it’s interesting when you see the look on Wells’ face, kind of like how he’s so surprised.
And you know, we forget that it’s not like apples and oranges; it’s just people with different skin color. It’s not like an alien is saying, “You’re my great, great grandfather.” It’s another human. My husband is a perfect example that people still in 2017 are reacting like, “huh?!” They don’t expect the fact that his mother is white and German and his father is from Ghana. My husband is so German, speaks only German to the kids and is culturally German. His dad is from Ghana and we’ve traveled there, but it’s just two different types of cultures, not two different types of human beings.
And I love that! If one of my children grows up and marries a white person and then they have a kid who marries a white person I could end up being the great, great grandmother of someone who’s like Gwyneth Paltrow. Or vice versa, they could be Asian or Latino.
It’s such a beautiful detail and I love that they put light on it, and that it’s sparking conversation. I just thought it was great and real, you know, inside of a fantasy show.
It’s great! And it’s a shame that so many people think it’s a big deal, but we’re all human!
Exactly! All it takes is people having sex [laughs]. That’s how families are made!
Can you tell us about what your favorite scene was to shoot? And if we haven’t seen it so far, when can we expect it or what does it involve?
Hmm. There’s an episode coming where they actually travel in time. I didn’t shoot that one, but it’s so beautifully shot. And later in the season there’s a lot of action and double-crossing and kidnapping and I can’t say any more than that, but it’s just… it keeps you on your toes the whole episode. That was my favorite scene, the thriller themed episode, kind of.
And finally, if you can explain this next episode in one word, what would it be?