'The Event': Blair Underwood and Zeljko Ivanek on big changes and long layoffs

event-underwood-ivanek.jpg"The Event" returns to NBC Monday (March 7) after a long hiatus, and judging by the ads the network has been running, it's picking up the pace quite a bit.

For one thing, the show has dispensed with the flashback structure, which served to fill in some back story for the characters but also bugged some viewers. Blair Underwood, who plays President Elias Martinez, says the flashbacks were "our Achilles' heel" in the first half of the season.

"One of the complaints I heard a lot of, and I think most of us heard a lot of, was the fact that people were saying, 'I love the show but the time jumps and the flashbacks are confusing me.' It's important, I think, for people to know ... that we're no longer doing that," he says. "It doesn't change the quality of the show. It doesn't change the intensity and the integrity of the storytelling, but the way in which we tell the story in linear from beginning to end, so it's much easier to follow."

Underwood and co-star Zeljko Ivanek (intelligence director Blake Sterling) also talked about what fans can expect in Monday's two-hour episode and shared their thoughts on the three-month layoff. Some highlights:

Coming up ...

Ivanek: "Most of what's coming is just one surprise after another ... and I think that's exactly what they don't want us to be discussing. But I would say what's coming up very soon is a major shift in the relationship between Sophia [ Laura Innes] and the president. ...

"This double episode that's coming up [is] a real action-adventure episode, at least for my character. ... But it ends with a real moment of having to kind of reassess his view of this whole situation and his view of the aliens, and it just comes out of the events that happen that lead him to that. And it suddenly puts him in a place that ... you never kind of expect him to be in and gives him a shift in perspective. ... I think there's a real moment of clarity for Sterling that he didn't see coming."

Bromance alert!
Underwood and Ivanek were asked about some of their favorite scenes thus far.

"To me [Sterling and Martinez] has been the most interesting relationship. Obviously, there's an enormous amount of story swirling around us, but that really has been the crux of the season to me so far, the deepening of that relationship. We start in a very clear, antagonistic place at the start of the season and as things happen, you know, we're both forced to kind of re-examine where we are and who's right."

Underwood: "Zeljko's character, Blake Sterling, is especially in the later episodes -- he's the only person that the president can really trust right now. And, of course, at the beginning of the season, you would have never thought that would be the case, but it's very interesting."

Returning after the long layoff

Underwood: When I first heard [about the hiatus] -- yes, I was frustrated and concerned, just because momentum is always a good thing and people need to be -- you know, to become more and more engaged and care about something. ... For that reason I was frustrated, but I understand why we were taken off for three months -- so when we come back ... we'll be on for two hours initially starting at 8 o'clock on March 7, and then we can be on the air for 11 weeks straight. So we'll have a chance to have momentum."

Ivanek: "It's difficult. You obviously want to build an audience, and this doesn't make it easier. The people who liked you have to come back, and you have to try to [get more] people to come in. So obviously the hope is that starting with an episode like this double episode, we'll get people hooked back in."

Photo/Video credit: NBC