What Manifest's Athena Karkanis Really Loves About The Show's Twins Storyline

manifest twins

Of all the TV mysteries out there right now, Manifest's Flight 828 offers up some of the most interesting angles for speculative conversations. One particularly unique concept is the relationship between siblings Cal and Olive Stone, who are now five years apart despite being twins. Star Athene Karkanis recently spoke with CinemaBlend about the first season's success so far, and she was in agreement about the twin situation being one of the show's coolest enigmas. In her words:

Even just yesterday on set, Luna [Blaise] was saying, 'Which one of us do think is older? Like which when we came out first?' because that's never been, like, written in. So she was like, 'Wouldn't it be crazy if it was if it was Cal?' And it is kind of cool. I feel like the writers, they bring up that image a lot. I'm about to shoot a scene where it's just, you know, it's kind of like a really small thing -- this is not a spoiler or anything -- where Grace is kind of just observing her children sleeping, and they kind of fell asleep side-by-side, and it's just a mismatched tiny little Cal and teenaged Olive, and yet they're twins. You know, I love that. I love that she made them twins and that they were, you know, it was a very poignant moment in the pilot when they get their first look at each other.

I was so happy that Athena Karkanis was equally on board in being fascinated with Olive and Cal's situation. It's been one of those Manifest curiosities that exists in the margins without taking away from the main relationship drama, or Michaela and Ben's "Calling" mysteries. In some ways, the lack of direct attention makes it all the more intriguing to wonder about.

It's pretty interesting to consider Cal and Olive's age gap from various characters' perspectives, but especially Olive's. Given how ridiculously tumultuous the life of a teenager can be, Olive already had a distinct mindset beyond being someone whose brother and father disappeared. When they returned, Olive was thrown for an even bigger loop, having to re-face her brother's diagnosis with a completely different set of emotional skills. And even without any overt paranormal tangents, the age change presumably affects the twins' natural connection in some way.

All of that is to say nothing about how Olive must be feeling about her mother's bananas-awkward love triangle. We're just talking about twin stuff now.

For Grace, just having her two children again has to be the most amazing feeling, regardless of any age changes and other differences. Once that initial shock of having Cal and Ben home again has settled a bit, though, then her mind can presumably start to consider some of the more personal ramifications of Cal and Olive no longer being the same age.

During our talk, Athena Karkanis spoke directly to this particular time in the Stone twins' lives is such a key point for the five-year gap to come into play.

I think it's cool, and they're constantly sort of like putting in little reminders to the audience about this crazy thing, because [the age gap is] such a huge difference: 10 to 16, or 10 to 15. In real life, they're 11 and 17. That's a big difference. You know, like a 21-year-old and 27-year-old don't look that different. But at that age, there's so much changing, not just physically, but also those are sort of your formative years. And yet they still have this really strong twin connection. I like that. I like that dichotomy.

I mean, seriously, Manifest didn't take long before delving into one of the most uncomfortable Cal and Olive moments possible. I still get shivers thinking about when Cal reconnected with his former best friend Kevin, only to find out Kevin and Olive were dating. No, it wasn't the most complicated story point to focus on, but that didn't make it any less effective at making me cringe my way behind the couch.

Not to get into spoilers here, but now that we know Cal is tapping into certain other plane passengers who are involved in certain dire situations, it makes his relationship with Olive even more of a standout narrative point. She may very well end up being a lynchpin to this whole shebang, if she's able to tap into Cal's headspace in some way. For now, though, that's all still just a mystery.

Speaking of the mystery element, I'd asked Manifest's Athene Karkanis what the response for the show had been like for her, and what she thought fans had been digging the most from the early episodes. Here's how she put it.

Probably the mystery, I would say, because that's kind of the most intriguing part of it. I think the show has a great premise, and then it follows up by delivering a good story to go with the premise. I think that mystery is pretty intriguing, and that really pulled a lot of people in. But then, I think the show kind of holds people, because it's not just like, 'Oh, mystery show,' you know. There's also real life family dramas that people can relate to. Like, no one can relate to a disappearing plane, because that [usually doesn't happen] in real life, but other things do. And you know, there's complex relationships, and people have complex feelings, and they're struggling, and they are things that we can all relate to. Maybe not in the exact same capacity, but we all have struggles and relationships and ups and downs.

Indeed, Manifest managed to do what many shows fail to do: attract people with a mystery and then hook them in for the long haul by keeping things plausibly humane and grounded. Having a bunch of layered characters always helps, too.

Manifest has a couple of episodes to go before reaching its winter hiatus, after which it will return for the back half of Season 1 after the holidays. Will we be able to hold our excitement for all that time? I suppose we could find a mysterious flight that takes us five years into the future, where we can read all about how Manifest ended its first season, but that seems like slightly more trouble.

Find Manifest airing Monday nights on NBC at 10:00 p.m. ET. For those in need of more mysteries and dramas to get hooked on, our fall TV schedule and midseason premiere schedule will definitely suit anyone's desires.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.