Manifest went on a wild ride with its third season, and not just because of the twists and turns of the story. No, just days after Season 3 ended on a finale that all but turned the show upside down with some bonkers cliffhangers and a major death to boot, Manifest was cancelled by NBC. At the same time, however, Manifest's first two seasons were blowing up on Netflix, and the efforts to rescue the show and give it a future over the last several weeks have left me looking back at some of what the stars said during Season 3. And what I see looking back just makes me want Season 4 even more.
I was fortunate enough to speak with several of the stars of Manifest for the third season, when it seemed like there was no way showrunner Jeff Rake's vision for a six-season story would be cut short with so many questions unanswered. So, as fans wait and hope for news that Manifest has been rescued – whether by NBC, Netflix, or another platform – check out some of what the stars had to say about the series this year, starting with the woman who brought Michaela Stone to life for three seasons.
Melissa Roxburgh - Michaela Stone
Melissa Roxburgh tackled one of Manifest's trickiest roles as a Flight 828 survivor with one foot in the world of law enforcement and the other in a new status quo where mysteries can't be solved with a badge and a gun. Throw in Michaela's complicated relationships with her family, friends, and loved ones, and the marriage that was supposed to be quite literally short-lived going strong into Season 3, and there was a lot on Mick's plate. Back ahead of Season 3, Roxburgh shared what she was most excited about fans getting to see:
The discovery of the tailfin was massive because it's a physical answer or a physical question, whatever way you look at it. But up until then, it's kind of all been like cerebral and following Callings. But this was the first little thing that we've been able to hold on to. So I think that was really exciting to go into Season 3 on. And then as far as what I think fans will freak out over is the finale of Season 3. It kind of rebirths the show in a way.
Season 3 of Manifest was nearly finished filming by the time the first episode aired, so Melissa Roxburgh definitely knew what she was talking about when she predicted fans freaking out over the finale. And with the death of Grace, Cal suddenly aging five years, baby Eden being kidnapped, the mysterious (and brief) return of Captain Daly, Ben and Saanvi's adventure at sea, and of course the bundle of complications between Michaela, Zeke, and Jared, I would agree that the finale rebirthed what should have been the second half of the series!
Matt Long - Zeke Landon
Matt Long is one Manifest star whose character previously seemed unlikely to even make it alive to Season 3, let alone play a pivotal role in it. Thanks to Zeke surviving his death date in the Season 2 finale, he had a new lease on life – and a wife – when Season 3 picked up. Ahead of the third season, Long was excited to show how Zeke was reborn after doing the impossible and surviving his death date, and it was hard not to be excited as well based on how he hyped it:
I was most looking forward to what Zeke's new life would be. He survived the death date at the end of Season 2. And I wanted to see how he came back. And he has really been reborn in almost every single way possible, except he still has the love of his life. And he's still involved in this story. And then I agree with Melissa [about] the finale. We also have a midseason finale that is huge. We got such a big piece of the puzzle at the end of Season 2 with Zeke surviving his death date. We thought we maybe understood how that was possible. But it's not as simple as that, as we find out in the midseason finale. It's a massive reveal that has implications for everyone in the show. It's not nearly as simple as we thought. And then the finale of the season is just explosive, unlike anything we've had, like Melissa said, and people are going to be absolutely shocked.
I think "shocked" is an understatement, although Matt Long couldn't spoil just what viewers would be in for at the time! Zeke's survival was a game-changer in the relationship department for several characters, as Michaela wasn't widowed shortly after getting married and Jared had to face a reality that Michaela tying the knot wasn't going to be untied quite as quickly as had seemed inevitable when Zeke was slowly freezing to death. Long shared his perspective heading into Zeke's post-survival state:
I think from Zeke's perspective, like I said he's reborn. But he also has this new outlook on life. And he is unbelievably grateful. He has 110% confidence and faith in the Callings. He thinks he has the answer for how Michaela is going to survive this. But we have Jared still in the picture. As far as he's still in the story. He's around a lot. And it's very complicated. And that story continues to play out through the entire season.
It sure did continue to play out through the entire season, and the finale proved that Jared is very much still in the picture, and quite possibly in Michaela's heart a lot more than Zeke would prefer. That said, Zeke had a role to play beyond his part in the love triangle of Manifest, as Matt Long had confirmed while previewing Season 3:
Zeke has this new outlook on life that is extremely positive and upbeat because he thinks that he, and not only him, I think all the characters think that we have the answer to this now. That we just have to follow the Callings and give of ourselves up to the very last moment, give ourselves over to these things. And we have no contrary evidence, everything else kind of points to like, well, when you don't, when you don't pay attention and follow the Callings, when you ignore them, or you try to use them for your own personal gain, you do die when your death date comes up.
The death dates were of course more complicated than they seemed in previous seasons of Manifest, and Zeke's perspective was quite unique as a man who had survived his own, although not as an 828 survivor. It's easy to look back and connect some dots of what Matt Long was previewing at the time, and it just makes it all the more tragic that as of now, Manifest isn't getting a Season 4.
J.R. Ramirez - Jared Vasquez
One character who never had to face a death date or any Callings of his own was J.R. Ramirez's Jared Vasquez, but that didn't mean he wasn't mired in the mystery along with the rest of the characters, and he went through a complex journey starting with the return of Michaela back in the pilot. I spoke with Ramirez for Season 3 in March, and he shared his approach to Jared as an outsider who doesn't share the mysterious experiences but is still in the mix anyway:
I think at the end of the day – regardless of what people thought – I think Jared's arc, compared to Season 1 and compared to Season 2, was very very different. And I'm grateful and blessed that Jeff [Rake], our showrunner, has given me such a beautiful little playing field to kind of dive into. I find one of Jared's biggest traits is his loyalty. He's an extremely loyal human being. He's had to go through unimaginable circumstances just like Grace and Olive did. His loved ones come back out of nowhere. Five and a half years is a very long time. So, you know he's shown that Michaela, regardless of having to stand by and not be able to have that deep connection with the woman he loves. Not only that but he had to sit there and watch her get married to another man that just came out of nowhere. It just shows the loyalty that this man has, the compassion and heart that he has.
Even though J.R. Ramirez dropped these comments to hype Jared heading into Season 3, I think the events of the third season prove that the loyalty in Jared truly does run deeper than just about everything else. Kudos to Jared for lasting almost the entire season from beginning to end without coming out and admitting that the only reason he supported Mick marrying Zeke was because Zeke was supposed to die!
And honestly, kudos to J.R. Ramirez for delivering Jared's speech to Michaela in the finale without making Jared come across as the bad guy, but rather just a guy who lost the woman he loves because Zeke's death date didn't deliver what it was supposed to. When we spoke, Ramirez even previewed what was on the way in the finale, even though there was no way to know just how intense it would get:
At the end of the day, there's quite the arc between those three from beginning of Season 3 to the end of Season 3, so I'm curious to see what the audience is gonna think. We're just starting the last episode right now and I had to read it a couple times. This one really caught me off guard. I had no idea that all this stuff was gonna happen so it's a really interesting arc when it comes specifically to the storyline of those three together.
You know it's a twist when the actor who has been playing a character for three seasons is caught off-guard, and I for one was looking forward particularly to seeing how Manifest would explore the next stage of the Jared/Michaela/Zeke arc, back before the cancellation. Knowing that there was a six-season plan from showrunner Jeff Rake, I asked J.R. Ramirez how far ahead in his character's story he knew:
I am as far as Episode 13, which is our last episode of the season, that we're shooting right now. I have no idea. This season was the first season where I actually didn't even ask about my arc. I didn't know what was gonna happen. And I was okay with that, to be honest with you. The first year I was really intrigued and wanted to know exactly what was happening because I was so confused with everything, I just wanted to have like a little bit of a foundation. The second year he told me right away because of the whole undercover stuff, which I'm glad that I kind of knew going into it but this year, I don't know if it's because of COVID, I'm just happy to have a job or what it was, but I wanted the story to be told to me as it went, so I have no idea what is happening after this episode, I don't know what happened to these passengers. I know there's a six-year plan. And it's actually been really cool to kind of do it this way this year, especially, like I said, the last couple episodes have been such a massive shock to everybody on production because most of us didn't know what was happening or who was here, who's not going to be here, who's gonna make it, who's not gonna make it. I mean, there's a lot going on this year.
In hindsight, having seen the finale, I think it's safe to say that the final twists of Season 3 delivered a massive shock to viewers as well as everybody on production! And it's definitely easy to understand why the efforts to get more Manifest in some form or other haven't died off despite all the weeks that have passed since the initial cancellation by NBC. How are viewers not supposed to want to know what happens next?
Parveen Kaur - Saanvi Bahl
Saanvi had an intense season from start to finish, which was pretty inevitable considering the Season 2 finale twist that saw Saanvi accidentally killing The Major. Parveen Kaur portrayed a different side to Saanvi's character in Season 3, and in fact she seemed like she was in danger of being killed off in the third season finale, although she ultimately survived and was presumably going to continue having Callings again. Whether that's for better or worse remains to be seen... if the story continues, anyway. When I spoke with Kaur before Season 3, she shared how far ahead in the six-year vision she knew what was planned for Saanvi:
I know what you know. Well, I know what you will know once we air. [laughs] I don't know any more... I go by, you know, I like to just do it scene-by-scene. That's how I just take everything. I'm just a one-day-at-a-time, one-step-at-a-time kind of person because if I know everything, I find it so overwhelming. And so for me it's like I don't want to know. I want to get it piece by piece. One step at a time, one scene at a time. That's just how I like to work. I think if I knew I'd be like, 'What the hell?' Like it would take me away from being in the moment.
Viewers are now all caught up with where Parveen Kaur was when production was wrapping on Season 3, and it's hard not to wonder if any of the stars found out about what was planned for their characters in Season 4 before the news came down that there would be no Season 4. A fourth season is a possibility again now thanks to Manifest continuing to crush in streaming numbers, so who knows? Maybe more of Saanvi's future will be revealed in good time, even if only in a TV movie.
Athena Karkanis - Grace Stone
Unfortunately, there is one character whose story did come to an end in Season 3 even before the cancellation: Grace Stone, played by Athena Karkanis. She was murdered toward the end of the finale when Angelina came to kidnap baby Eden and Grace got in the way, but she at least lived long enough to see Cal one last time. Cal had aged five years somehow, but she recognized him, so there was a little bit of sweetness to the tragedy.
I spoke with Athena Karkanis toward the middle of Season 3 when another tragedy rocked the Stone family: the death of Grace's brother, Tarik. While she of course didn't spoil what was on the way for Grace, she shared her own perspective on the six-year plan that leaves me all the more hopeful to find out what Jeff Rake had planned. The actress said:
I only know to the end of this season. And that's how it's always been. And even then, like, I only know that because we've shot the whole season. Like while we were shooting, I would only know up to the next script. We would get the scripts not that far ahead of time. So he keeps his cards pretty close to his chest. Which I think is – I mean, I'm dying to know, but I also think it's great that we don't know because it's sort of wonderful to get the surprises along with the audience. Or, you know, a little before.
Unfortunately, now that Season 3 has ended, anybody who kept up with the show knows that Grace's journey has ended on Manifest after her sudden murder in the finale when baby Eden was kidnapped. Assuming that Angelina and Eden weren't going to just disappear from the show forever however Season 4 would have picked up, the baby presumably would have been back. Athena Karkanis had already told a fun story about how Manifest pulls off filming certain scenes requiring Eden, as some scenes are just too action-packed for a real baby, and sometimes real babies just aren't cooperating with a filming schedule. Karkanis shared the Manifest solution:
So we have this fake baby that was kind of the stuff of myth, because it was very expensive doll, basically, that looks extremely realistic. Like I think it cost thousands of dollars, I don't even know. Like eight [thousand] or ten [thousand] or something exorbitant, and it's extremely realistic. And it's weighted so it feels like a real baby. But when they got the baby, the skin color was wrong. So they tried to fix it. And it ruined it. And so the baby was hideous. It became a joke on set about our very scary – we joked that it was like a zombie baby. [laughs] It was just like really ugly. I was always like, 'It's like a Day 3 zombie. It hasn't been decaying for that long, but like, it's not looking good.' And so we used our beautiful fake baby. Face only a mother could love.
I can't speak for anybody else, but the prospect of Eden the zombie baby just adds another reason why I want to see Manifest return for Season 4 and beyond! The show always managed to show real babies on screen whenever the camera lingered on little Eden, but I know I'm curious to see what the doll was like. Come on, Season 4!
So, after looking back at all these comments from the Manifest cast during Season 3 that make me want to see more, what are the odds of the show actually receiving a Season 4? Well, one star has already landed a new show, and there was a time when all hope seemed dead when even Netflix had passed and there were no signs that NBC was reconsidering the decision to cancel. That changed more recently, with reports stating that both NBC and Netflix entered talks again about bringing Manifest back thanks to its strong streaming numbers, and showrunner Jeff Rake hasn't given up hope.
For now, as we wait and hope for news that Manifest will be back for Season 4 – or at least a TV movie to tie off the loose ends – you can always rewatch the first two seasons streaming on Netflix, and find the third streaming on Peacock.