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Noah Wyle takes charge on screen and off in ‘Falling Skies’

Noah Wyle is back for second seasas Tom Masprofessor whose shas been abducted “Falling Skies.”

Noah Wyle is back for a second season as Tom Mason, a professor whose son has been abducted, in “Falling Skies.”

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Updated: July 30, 2012 6:12AM

LOS ANGELES — It’s a tough business saving the world from an onslaught of aliens. That’s why in Noah Wyle’s trailer, there’s typically a John Ford movie playing.

“I’m obsessed with John Ford movies,” says Wyle, 41. “Particularly the relationship that Ford had with John Wayne and vice versa. I came in the trailer in the morning, and I put the movie on while I got dressed. It got me in a good head space for it all.”

“It all” entailed playing Tom Mason, a beleaguered history professor turned tactical leader of 2nd Massachusetts regiment, a band of humans left alive after a decimating alien invasion on “Falling Skies” (8 p.m. Sundays on TNT).

In the first season, aliens shut down the power grid and hunted humans in the dark. “With no modern technology at their disposal, they’re thrown back into this 18th- to 19th-century form of existence where for good reason man has to fear the night again,” says Wyle. “With the exception of a flashlight that’s battery operated, you really don’t know what’s out there. It’s fun.”

In the new season of the Steven Spielberg-backed show, “there are some new creatures,” says Wyle. “There’s a new threat.” Plus, Mason emerges after three months of being interrogated on the alien motherboard. Once released, he no longer trusts himself — even with his three sons, who have grown stronger. And the aliens, known as Skitters, “won’t be seen so one-dimensional.”

After the fame he achieved on “ER” (“or as my kids refer to it, ‘that doctor show you did once’,” he says wryly), Wyle, who also is a producer on “Falling Skies,” says it has felt good to take ownership on the sci-fi show.

“‘ER,’ in a lot of ways, I inherited,” he says. “I started off fairly low on the totem pole. As other characters left, I rose up, so by the end of it, I was No. 1 on the call sheet. But it never really felt like I was leading that show or that it was my show. (‘Falling Skies’) was starting at No. 1. I was very comfortable working in the body of an ensemble and really curious to know whether or not I’d have the stamina or patience to be the anchor.”

The verdict?

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he says over a cheeseburger and fries, noting the long, winding drive he took from the set in Vancouver to L.A. with his girlfriend of over a year. “It’s a blessing because you have a creative sense of ownership in what you’re doing and you can direct things when you feel like they’re getting off track. And it’s a curse because you deal with everything, from ‘Why is there no smoked salmon on the craft service table?’ to ... ‘We can’t afford this digital effect, how are we going to work around it?’ So you feel engaged on a lot of different levels.”

Between “Falling Skies” and upcoming projects like the indie biopic “Snake and Mongoose,” Wyle lives “a fairly quiet life” on his Santa Ynez Valley ranch, sharing custody of his son, Owen, 9, and daughter Auden, 6, with his ex-wife Tracy Warbin.

“Divorce is not easy,” says Wyle, who split from Warbin in 2010. “It’s a breakup where instead of saying have a nice life, you say don’t forget we have a parent-teacher conference on Tuesday. But Tracy and I are mature enough to be able put the kids’ best interests first, and that’s what it was ultimately all about.”

Gannett News Service

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