Inside one of autumn’s buzziest new shows.
when we reach her in Vancouver, Abigail Spencer is in the year of our Lord 1865... sartorially, at least. “I’m in a hoop skirt, a corset, pantaloons and about 12 layers over that,” the 35-year-old shares as if it were the most natural thing in the world—which it is when one is between takes on a set for a TV show that’s all about time travel.
Spencer, whom you’ll know for her work on Suits and Rectify, is in the middle of filming episode three of NBC’s Timeless. She plays a history professor tapped by the FBI for a most unusual mission: Someone has stolen a time machine and gone back in time to commit historical terrorism, and Spencer is part of a trio sent back through the years to stop them before they irrevocably change the course of human history. “It’s fun and adventurous, but it’s serious on a broader level,” says Spencer of the show, premiering October 3. “It’s a bit like early Steven Spielberg, in that you can totally believe it but it’s a true escape while you’re watching it.”
Spencer’s character is pulled out of a very ordinary life by a knock on the door. When asked what her own version of that “Harry Potter, you’re a wizard!” moment would be like, she has an unexpected answer: “For me, that knock on the door would be someone saying ‘Abigail, there’s the biggest wave in the world, and you’re the only person who can surf it. You’re the only one who can save surfing!’” This fantasy makes a little more sense with some background: Spencer’s father is a world-renowned surfer, but her mother put three-yearold Abigail in dance class so she’d do something indoors and “not get skin cancer.”
“Our show is all about people waking up to a different reality because one piece of history changes,” she says. “I often wonder what would have happened if I had never started dance class; what if I had just gone on surfing? Maybe I would have fulfilled my dad’s dreams of me being the first female champion!” n