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Television has a hit or miss relationship with the movies. Shows like MASH are remembered far more than their movie counterparts, and the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer series allowed its creators to correct the shortcomings of the movie. However, television history is littered with forgotten adaptations like Ferris Bueller, Timecop and Robocop.

Anyone involved with a franchise as beloved as The Terminator knows better than to deliver a half-assed effort. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles answers many of the fans' complaints about the theatrical sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and delivers a worthy follow-up to Terminator 2.

The important factor is Sarah Connor herself. The character originated by Linda Hamilton did not appear in T3 because Hamilton herself did not wish to reprise the role. They explained that she had died between sequels, but something was missing. Now, Lena Headey plays television's Sarah Connor, determined to stop an army of machines that keeps stalking her and her son from the future.

"I take from the movies what is undeniable, which is a strength and an instinct, and just an absolute sort of sense of wrong and right that’s engrained in her," said Headey. "On top of that, you throw in an unusual circumstance she’s in, so I think it’s a very potent mix of emotion and depth. Also, I get to be more emotional. You see more of a relationship with John and other human beings, so it’s different in that way. We just come in a different physical wrapping."

Linda Hamilton probably never had her name dropped as often as it has been in discussions of the TV show. Everyone wants to know how Headey will be different, but just give the actress a chance to show you.

"Yes, I’m a little tired of that question. I think it’s a very simple thing. It’s a long time apart, also these roles. We’re bringing everyone up to speed, and it’s a new kind of generation. Linda Hamilton will always be the original Sarah Connor, and it’s a very strong mark that she left, but hopefully, people will embrace what I bring to Sarah and see it with fresh eyes."

Already in the first few episodes, Headey has roughed it up with the terminators chasing her. "I think even when it’s not physical, I feel that Sarah has so much going on. There’s so much adrenaline in her body constantly. I love the physicality of the show and I think it only serves to feed the emotional intensity of it all. I like it. I get quite high."

After a breakthrough role in 300, choosing a TV series based on an existing character might seem like a career risk. Not to Headey. "Production value in television, especially in this country, is very high. In terms of being a 33-year-old woman who chooses to act, I really think there's no greater role right now. It encompasses every emotional story you're going to find. You're talking about a single mom who's bringing up her son who just happens to be the leader of the free world in the future. It's just very exciting to me. I don't really draw a line between television or movies. It's the role. It doesn't matter where it is."

Also, the actress got married last year and wants some more stability in her life, even if it is in a foreign country. "We grabbed the honeymoon and then we moved here, so everything's moving very quickly. My husband's Irish so we got married in Northern Ireland on the coast. He's Northern Irish and also I have a leg of me that's Irish, so I was let in. I think life is just a journey. Anything that's awkward is an experience. I truly believe that. Maybe I'm going to be here two or three years. It's a different place, that's all."

Even the fame of 300 has not impacted her private life, so hopefully the Terminator fans will be just as respectful. "I think you can keep it under control. I keep my head down and I live my life because that keeps me sane and keeps me very happy. So I take a very different line. This is my work and my job and I deal with it in a logical way."

There's more girl power in The Sarah Connor Chronicles than just the title character. The machine sent back through time to protect the Connors is a female model. Named Cameron after the films' creator James Cameron, Summer Glau plays the most advanced terminator yet, blending in with other high school girls.

"I feel so excited," said Glau. "I just couldn't believe that I was even seriously considered for this role, to be honest. I guess I have it in mind what I think a supergirl is like. What I loved so much about this story is that she's supposed to be just a normal girl. She's supposed to blend in and then out of nowhere she saves the day. That's why I fell in love with the role."

Glau got noticed in the short-lived TV series Firefly and its follow-up movie Serenity. In the film version, her character, River, became a martial arts maven. Terminator fighting is a little bit different.

"The thing that's different about Cameron is she fights like a machine. River was all about finesse and it was all martial arts. This is not martial arts at all. She just has brute force. So I'm always using guns, I'm running people over with cars, I'm throwing people around. It's much more brutish, which has been fun."

Getting physical comes naturally to Glau, so such action sequences are no problem. "I always work out for all my roles, but particularly for this one. I practice with my BB gun in my house. Our stunt coordinator for the pilot, Joel Kramer, took me to the shooting range all the time and I've practiced a lot with different kinds of guns. That's fun for me. I've done a lot of action. I love it. It's really fun. Being a ballet dancer, I'm already very physical in the way that I act so it's been a really good fit for me."

Somehow, Glau grew up without ever seeing a Terminator film. She only rented them when she got the role. "I was more intimidated than ever. What struck me the most about the movie is I knew the action. I knew the image of Terminator and more or less what it was about. It's this huge action movie, but what I was most impressed with was the humanity and the relationships in the movie and how touching it was, how vulnerable Linda was and how human Arnold was at times. He made me cry."

The Sarah Connor Chronicles are also the John Connor chronicles. John grows up to lead mankind's survivors in the war against the machines. Today, however, he is still a teenager, played by Thomas Dekker.

"At this point I don't feel he's accepted or wants to even think about the fact that he has this destiny ahead of him," said Dekker. "I'm excited to play the point where he realizes that he doesn't have a choice and that he has to accept it with all strength and no fear. I think at this point he's very afraid, so I'm excited to play that transition."

Dekker had a recurring role on the popular series Heroes as Zach, cheerleader Claire's best friend. However, when Terminator came around, he gladly accepted a contracted job rather than wait for more guest appearances on Heroes.

"I grew up watching both films and really knew John very, very well. I think I first discovered it when I was about 11 or 12 and he was always kind of a hero to me, kind of an icon obviously. So what I tried to do is, I tried to keep the character that I knew from the films, sort of lionhearted, wild, kind of doesn't think before he speaks. He's in a very different place in our show than he is in the films. He's hiding, he has his head down, he's scared, he's aware of his fate. So I'm trying to keep the essence of John while still reinventing it at the same time. It just made sense in the take of our show."

The Terminator films were rated R, but Mr. and Mrs. Dekker knew better than to deny their son such a pop cultural experience. "There was no censorship in my house. My parents were all about discussion over censorship."

So far, John and Sarah seem to get along as well as any mother and son can. John may not like being told what to do, but he hasn't rebelled too destructively. In real life, Headey is anything but a mother to Dekker. "I have to say I do not bond normally with the actors I work with. I'm a very solitary guy. Lena and I have become virtually best friends. We absolutely adore each other and I couldn't think of anyone I would rather go to work with every day. I don't know why, but for some reason she's my favorite person I've ever worked with. No bullsh*t. I honestly am thankful every day. It's the truth though. It's good, I'm very grateful."

The popularity of Heroes has already gotten Dekker more notice, but his experience as a child actor keeps him grounded. "I've been acting since I was five and I was on a show for three years when I was nine, so I have had a lot of childhood bits. This is my first time dealing with it as an adult.

Even the actors playing terminators have a lot to live up to. Arnold Schwarzenegger was always the archetype. David Nutter, director of the first two TV episodes, put his actors at ease.

"I brought in a guy, a movement specialist, to work with the actors and learn how terminators would react and do things from a machine point of view," said Nutter. "Of course, as a terminator, you're not emotionally driven. You're information driven and data driven from the head. So your reactions to things are done really from the eye rather than the feeling sensibility. I think that's kind of a simple way to play it. But I think really utilizing that as a bedrock, and going from that position of knowing that they're being driven from this part of psyche and not this part of the psyche, or physicality is something to really react to. And also have them just do some movements, just very minor things and how you want to do that is something that we studied quite a lot and did a lot of movement work on that."

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles airs Monday nights at 9:00 on FOX. / Issue 77 - September 2018
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