The ABC Family sci-fi procedural drama Stitchers follows a young woman named Kirsten (Emma Ishta), who is recruited into a covert government agency to be stitched into the minds of the recently deceased, using their memories to investigate murders and decipher mysteries that will help solve crimes. Making up the rest of the team, headed by skilled covert operations veteran Maggie (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), is Cameron (Kyle Harris), a brilliant neuro-scientist, a socially immature bio-electrical engineer and communications technician named Linus (Ritesh Rajan) and Kirsten’s roommate, Camille (Allison Scagliotti), a gifted computer science grad student.
Collider was invited out to the ultra cool stitchers program lab set for an exclusive set visit and to chat with the ensemble cast of this fun new show. During our interviews, we talked about everything from the intriguing concept of stitching to the ensemble that makes up this team guest stars to what viewers can expect from the finale, and we’ve compiled a list of 20 things you should know about Stitchers.
When asked what attracted her to this show, actress Emma Ishta said, “I loved the concept. I’m a big fan of sci-fi. I love Star Wars. I love The Lord of the Rings, which is more on the fantasy side. And I definitely do fall more on the fantasy side than the sci-fi side, but I do love sci-fi. It’s really cool to be involved in something that has those elements to it, but is also set in a contemporary time, which I think is cool. A lot of sci-fi stuff is often futuristic, so to bring it into the here and now is awesome.”
- Actor Ritesh Rajan found the idea of stitching particularly compelling. “It was a really fresh, new idea, and the concept of stitching was a cool, esoteric, metaphysical, science fiction, magical idea. You read it and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, if we had this in real life, it would be so useful.’ It’s just a great and exciting idea, so I immediately latched onto it and Linus, specifically. It was just a no-brainer. It was really exciting and something that was new. I thought this fresh concept would speak to an audience.”
- This show marks the first outing into procedural territory for ABC Family. Said actor Kyle Harris, “I was immediately drawn to it because it was a sci-fi procedural, which is a hybrid of two worlds, and it also had a lot of action sequences. But then, at the same time, it was also a comedy. Every time that it became too much of a procedural or took itself too seriously, it would just immediately make a joke and bring the audience back into the heightened reality of these kids dealing with this technology used to solve everyday homicides. What was intriguing to me was that there was more than just the procedural aspect of it. And the banter between my character and Kirsten was something I was attracted to. We’re two geniuses that are forced to be together that otherwise wouldn’t be, that are now finding a way to work hand-in-hand, but they’re always one-upping each other and trying to outsmart each other.”
Actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield has done a few sci-fi projects in her career, but liked how this was a blend of genres. “It’s hard to find the new idea, and I think that they put enough different genres together that it works. And I like sci-fi. I seem to find myself on sci-fi shows a lot, or even shows that are kind of sci-fi, so I thought it was the perfect match for me, and it was intriguing.”
- Actress Allison Scagliotti said that she was immediately attracted to the idea of an unusual female protagonist at the center of this story, and with female friendships that were not just about guys or clothes. “I thought this show was sexy, and I thought it was a real departure from what we’ve come to expect from ABC Family, to say the least. I was immediately attracted to an unusual female protagonist, at the center of a sci-fi procedural, and the fact that the female relationship in it is not one that’s fighting over a guy or clothes ‘cause that’s absurd. They’re competitive academically and in their careers, but at the same time, even though they drive each other crazy because Kirsten and Camille are such radically different personalities, they have an undeniable mutual respect for each other’s intelligence, which is really cool and very realistic.”
- When it comes to female characters, Ishta said, “I’m a huge advocate for smart, strong women in TV and film. I think it’s really important for girls and women to see that representation of themselves in the media. It’s cool to be smart. I want young girls growing up to know that it’s cool to be smart. You should never dumb yourself down. It’s awesome to be able to have a character that’s strong and not ashamed and fierce.”
- In talking about why Emma so readily jumps into this program and allows herself to be stitched into the memories of various dead people, Ishta said, “Kirsten is able to jump easily into it because she has this condition, called Temporal Dysplasia, which affects her ability to process or comprehend the passage of time, and also her ability to process emotions. She’s very much a go-getter, and she’s really smart. She’s also coerced, in the beginning, into being in this position. She doesn’t necessarily want to be there, to begin with. She’s able to adapt to the environment and stitch so well because of her condition. That’s why no one else is as predisposed to being able to do it as she is. It’s traumatic being in someone else’s brain because you experience the emotions and the things that they experienced. That disconnect between herself and her emotions is helpful in not becoming overwhelming or causing brain damage.”
This is a very character-driven story. Emma doesn’t ever fit in with anyone, but everyone on the team is a bit of an oddball, in their own way. Cameron and Kirsten become the closest, but Camille and Kirsten’s relationship also develops, throughout the season. They have a strong female friendship.
- The chemistry that the cast has seems very natural, and it is, as they had time to get to know each other, shooting and then re-shooting the pilot. They did the original pilot back in June, and then shot it again in January, and they got to revisit old scenes with some new scenes added in. The network was drawn to the built-in chemistry between Emma and Kyle, that was already inherently there from the actors already having worked together.
- The cast loves how functional the set is and that it really helps get them into the headspace to play these character. Said Richardson-Whitfield, “It’s such a great set. It’s always good when you can just be in the place and you don’t have to use your imagination and pretend so much. This is a really cool set, with the [stitching] tank. It just puts you into the show. Green screen can drive you crazy.”
- The stitch scenes are really tedious to shoot, but everyone has a function. Said Rajan, “They’ve done a wonderful job of creating an atmosphere and a specific tone, especially during the stitching, with all of the lighting effects and camera angles. It really does make it look like we’re a thousand feet underground, below a Chinese restaurant.”
- When asked if she had been prepared for just how much time she’d be spending in a water tank for the stitching scenes, Ishta said, “I was prepared, being Australian. I swim quite well and am comfortable in the water, so I’m good. From the original pilot, we’ve gone from having one stitch per episode to having as many as three stitches per episode, which takes a whole lot longer than one does. So, it was unanticipated, but welcome.”
Kirsten goes into the stitch and sees what happens, and then she takes her knowledge to the streets and fights the crime. She wants to do everything while Cameron is the more practical one who wants to keep the information in the lab, and then pass it on to the powers that be to solve those crimes. Cameron is not the one to kick down doors, but he has to keep Kirsten safe, so he has no choice but to go with her. Throughout the season, he grows into more of an action hero guy because of his need to protect Kirsten.
- Even though Maggie is the head of the program, she clearly keeps secrets and information from the rest of the team, making her motives questionable. Richardson-Whitfield said, “As the episodes go on, you find out more and more of my past with Kirsten and her family, why I picked her, and why there’s such a connection. That information definitely starts coming out slowly. And you don’t know if Maggie is a good guy or a bad guy, or if her motives are genuine or not. I usually play the good guy, and am strong and have integrity. This character is like that, but there are definitely sides to that where you wonder where she’s coming from. And that gives me nice little moments to play, where you don’t know if I’m evil or not.”
- Experiencing other people’s emotions really helps Kirsten reconnect with her own emotions. It’s a whole emotional journey that she goes on, throughout the season. She’s not happy about it, and she doesn’t like it because there are happy emotions, but there are also a lot of really difficult things to deal with, like in real life. It’s not what she’s used to and it’s a little bit overwhelming.
- Because the show is exploring new ideas and technology, there is a lot of technical and science jargon for the characters. Said Harris, “It’s definitely wordy and it’s definitely got a lot of science jargon, but a lot of it is these terms that we’re making up, so if I stumble, they don’t know the difference because we’re just making it up.” Added Richardson-Whitfield, “I sound good saying the dialogue, but half the time, I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. I can say a whole paragraph of stuff where I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it will sound like I’m a scientist or doctor. I don’t know why it works well for me. That’s obviously why I keep getting jobs like this. Sometimes you may have to look up a few words because you need to be very clear about what you’re saying. But on a TV show, you’re moving so quickly, you’re getting dialogue every week and every night, and you don’t have time to look up every word you don’t know. You’ve just gotta go quickly.”
In talking about whether she’d, personally, want to know about whether there were covert government programs going on, Ishta said, “That’s a really interesting question. Especially right now, it’s relevant because there’s been Edward Snowden, and all of that stuff. I think I would rather know. I think it’s important for the everyday person to be informed and that we all know what’s going on. It holds the people in the positions of power accountable for their actions. If everything is secret, all the time, than people will be able to do really damaging things.”
- Before the season is over, Henry Rollins will guest star. Said Scagliotti, “When I found out we had Henry Rollins [coming on to guest star], I had a meltdown. I screamed. I’m such a fan, and he’s just the nicest. I don’t fangirl out very often, but the whole cast can vouch for the fact that I was a mewling mess before Henry Rollins, which was unnecessary ‘cause he’s a sweetheart.”
- Everything over the course of the season builds up to what happens in the finale. Said Harris, “The finale is, by far, my favorite episode. It’s such a great cliffhanger. The whole season amounts to that. It really takes the idea of stitching and just flips it on its head. It takes you into a whole new level with the characters, and what Kirsten finds out through some of the stitches and memories, and what she uncovers through those memories. It really leaves the audiences like, ‘Oh, my god!’ The possibilities are endless, by that point, for what stitching can do and how it will affect the team.” Adds Rajan, “Where we are in Episode 1 is completely different from where we end up in Episode 10. It was quite a journey, and it ends off in a bang.”
- Scagliotti said that, while the finale will provide some answers, they’ve also set up a lot of things that don’t get fully answered by the end of the season. “You’ll get some answers, sure. You’ll come to learn how Kirsten became the way she is and ended up with Temporal Dysplasia, and you’ll learn a bit more about her parents’ involvement in the stitchers program. But there’s not just a main cliffhanger, at the end of these 10 episodes. We’ve set up a lot of things that we have not addressed yet. So, we better be getting renewed.”
Stitchers airs on Tuesday nights on ABC Family.