"You don’t have to preach anything," actress Abigail Spencer said of how history comments on present day at the PEOPLE Presents NBC’s Timeless Premiere Event: Celebrating Women in History
Season 2 of Timeless almost didn’t happen.
“It was whiplash,” executive producer Marney Hochman told PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle Wednesday during the PEOPLE Presents NBC’s Timeless Premiere Event: Celebrating Women in History. “I mean, the writers were looking for other jobs. We thought it was done. It was about 48 hours and then we thought that maybe something was in the works. And the fans brought it back. It’s an amazing story. And I hope a story that charges people to watch the show more in season 2.”
NBC announced the cancellation of the time travel drama May 10, which caused vocal fans to express their immense disappointment on social media. So on May 13, the network announced it was giving Timeless another chance and greenlit the series for a second season. The next 10 episodes kick off Sunday, and fans can expect to learn about a new group of historical figures whose stories might not have been as widely covered in the history books.
“I think it was always the direction that our show was going,” Arika Lisanne Mittman, also an executive producer, said at New York City’s New York Historical Society. “The sweet spot for us is stories that, worlds that you’ve maybe heard of or people that you’ve heard of, but you don’t know the whole story. And I think that generally speaking you’ve heard a lot of stories of the white men in history. And so women, people of color, LGBT people in history are the stories that you haven’t heard all of.”
Added actress Abigail Spencer, “That’s all we’re exploring this season.”
The Timeless star teased that her favorite episode from season 2 focuses on 1940s actress Hedy Lamarr.
“We go to 1940s Hollywood and traipse around the backlot of the Paramount studios undercover as the new musical duo — with Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) as the writer,” Spencer explained of season 2’s second episode, titled “Hollywoodland.”
Another episode centers on the Salem witch trials, which Spencer realizes remains timely in today’s political climate, although the show will allow viewers to draw their own parallels. “You don’t have to preach anything,” she said. “You can just go explore it and whatever message you get out of it is the message that you get.”
The show journeys back in time as the Me Too movement continues off screen in present day, offering a glimpse at exactly how long the very culture the initiative is fighting to change has been going on.
“I think that’s what the danger of the show is: Will they get caught? Won’t they get caught? And I think being a modern day woman having to go back in time, holding all the history, trying not to blame the very sexist man — he doesn’t know any better at the time,” Spencer continued. “That was perfectly acceptable in the culture. It started I would say in our Vegas episode. She’s undercover as a cocktail waitress and one of the guys just slaps her on the bottom.”
Valerie Paley — the New York Historical Society’s Vice President, Chief Historian and Center for Women’s History Director — suggests the show advances another group, too, thanks to Spencer’s character Lucy, a history professor-turned-special agent.
“Women historians are pretty dumpy, not nearly as chic as Lucy,” Paley — who runs the nation’s first women’s history center — joked of how the profession is usually portrayed. “But we also find that it’s just nice to make history come alive like that. And it’s nice to have a historian alongside the soldier and a scientist. All of a sudden we see the importance of embedding ourselves in the past. And it’s great to see also women interacting with men and seeing the pushback of the present and the past.”
Timeless season 2 premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.