Archive for April, 2009

Robin Dunne – Where There’s A Will…

April 30, 2009
Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman in Sanctuary. Photo by Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Words cannot quite describe the look on forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman’s face as he follows Dr. Helen Magnus out of a dark passage and into the central hub of a place called the Sanctuary. The circular room extends hundreds of feet into the air and has multiple levels with numerous cubicles, each of which is home to a very special occupant. With a feeling of trepidation as well as curiosity, Will follows Magnus as she gives him a closer look at her guests. Could his mind be playing tricks on him? From a beautiful mermaid to a reptilian creature and even a man with two faces, Will is understandably overwhelmed by what he is seeing.

“How many…more are there?” he asks Magnus.

“Many,” she says, smiling, and leads Will away to continue his tour.

“Cut! That’s great,” enthuses director Martin Wood. “Let’s do it one more time, only from a different angle.”

Those who saw the Internet Sci-Fi series Sanctuary will remember the above exchange from the show’s two-hour web pilot. In May 2008, this sequence was among those that were re-shot for the TV version of the show, which completed airing its 13-episode first season back in January on the Sci Fi Channel. In it, actor Robin Dunne plays Dr. Will Zimmerman, who is chosen by the brilliant and beautiful Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) as her new protege. Together with Helen’s daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), they find, protect and offer refuge to the many strange, and sometimes dangerous, creatures walking this planet. As with the Internet version, the TV adaptation requires its cast to act against mostly virtual or “green screen” sets, which has taken some getting used to for Dunne.

“It’s great to work on green screen because the possibilities are endless,” says Dunne, taking a breather while the cameras are being repositioned for a new shot. “You can do anything, you can create any type of creature or setting, so it’s amazing. It’s also not difficult to act in this sort of environment because I have the privilege of working with such a talented company of actors. The thing that I did have to get the hang of was the dimensions of space. We do a lot of stuff where we’re running through the Sanctuary and turning corners, and every now and then while filming the Internet pilot, Martin [Wood] would call, ‘Cut,’ and then say, ‘Hey, Robin that was terrific, but you just ran through a wall.’ And I’d be like, ‘OK, what are the dimensions here?’ and they’d put green tape down on top of the green floor to mark off the boundaries. So there were things like that to get used to, but once I did, it was really exciting because with every new script that came out, you never knew where your character was going to end up and what we were going to do.”

A graduate of the Etibicoke School of The Arts High School in Toronto, Ontario, the Canadian-born Dunne was enamored of acting since childhood. In 1994, he made his professional debut playing Judith Light’s troubled son in the made-for-TV movie Against Their Will: Women in Prison, and since then has appeared in several other TV movies as well as guest-starred on such series as Dawson’s Creek, Dead Like Me and CSI: Miami. The actor has also worked on a number of feature films, including a very early one entitled Teenage Space Vampires. It was directed by Martin Wood, who, 10 years later, contacted Dunne about a role in a pilot for a new web-based series called Sanctuary.

“Martin sent me a copy of the script, which wasn’t really a full script but rather a few scenes,” recalls the actor. “I read it and really liked it. I had actually worked with Damian Kindler [Sanctuary creator/executive producer] a few years ago in Toronto on another TV show, so I knew him, too. He and Martin said, ‘Look, we’re putting this pilot together and we’d like you to play Will. There’s just one thing, we’re going to shoot everything using a green screen,’ And I was taken a little aback. I had worked with green screen before, but just in piecemeal. Martin told me, ‘Don’t worry. We’re onto something here and we really want you to be a part of it.”

A very happy, or extremely relieved, Will Zimmerman (Dunne). Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

A very happy, or an extremely amused, Will Zimmerman. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

 “So I came to Vancouver to do the pilot, and it was my first time working with Amanda Tapping, which was great. The cast and crew were both wonderful and the experiences unlike anything I’d ever had before. Once we finished shooting, I went back to Los Angeles and then a couple of months later, Damian called me and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come back up here and see what the [VFX] team have replaced the green [screen] with.’ So I did and I was completely floored. I couldn’t believe how amazing the graphics were. It was like watching a 3-D graphic novel. From there it was the ups and downs of these guys working for a very long time to put this whole thing together. Every now and then I have to remind myself that it’s really happening because I still can’t believe it.”

The bizarre deaths of two police officers at the hands of what appears to be a young boy is what initially draws Will Zimmerman into the world of Helen Magnus and the Sanctuary. He discovers that the creatures, otherwise known as abnormals, she and her associates are looking for are, in fact, missing links to the evolution of humankind. While some people might be afraid of crossing into such unfamiliar territory, Will has no such aversion. Of course, he has plenty of questions along the way, which is a big part of who the character is.

“It’s Will who brings us into this world, and the audience is experiencing everything as he does,” explains Dunne. “So he’s looking at the Sanctuary and all these monsters in cages and processing this information at the same time as the audience. The challenge for me is that I always try to be very honest with my acting and come across as believable as possible. I want to make sure that my character is having these truly amazing mind-boggling experiences, while at the same time never letting the viewers get too far behind and allowing them to experience the awe of it, too. So that’s the kind of thing I really try to keep in mind when doing this show.

“I also think that the character has this faulting curiosity. He’s the type of guy who goes, ‘I know this is crazy and a really radical choice I’m making.’ Basically, Will enters into a world where, once he makes the leap, he can never look back. Nothing will ever be the same, but he still does it because he has this curiosity and is searching for something. Regardless of the perils of what he’s getting into, he’s always going to make that [same] choice and err on the side of, ‘OK, let’s find out more.’ So I always want to keep that fire alight in his eyes and make sure it feels really scary, because it should be. Yes, it’s terrifying, but at the same time I want to make sure that he’s going forward into this world.

Dr. Zimmerman works to track down the whereabouts of an abnormal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Dr. Zimmerman works to track down the whereabouts of an abnormal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Of all the people who Helen could have chosen to help her, why does Dunne think she picked Will? “There’s a strange relationship between Magnus and Will,” he says, “While she is this worldly individual with all this experience, there is something that she saw in Will and a reason she brought him into her fold. It’s as if she needs his brain as well as insight and ability to connect with these abnormals. At the same time, Will isn’t quite sure whether or not he and Helen are equals. Are they on the same playing level or is she his superior?

“So there’s that sort of murky environment he must contend with. Then there’s Ashley, who’s like, ‘I’ve been here all along and I know what I’m doing.’ However, she’s kind of a loose cannon, and Will wants to reach out to her and say, listen, I’m here if you ever want to talk. Again, as with Helen, my character has to try to find his place with Ashley.”

Let’s look back now to last August and a second visit to the Sanctuary set. At the time, the show’s cast and crew were shooting one of the final season one episodes, Warriors, in which Will is given a very personal glimpse of what it is like to be an abnormal. “My character is injected, I guess you could say, with the abnormal ability to grow into this huge, hulking mass, and tomorrow I will literally be 200 pounds heavier thanks to prosthetics.

Behind-the-scenes during the filming of "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Behind-the-scenes during the filming of "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

“Story-wise, one of Will’s friends goes missing and he tracks him down to an illegal fight ring made up of all abnormals. Of course, my character is sucked into it and forcibly turned into an abnormal in order to fight. It’s been a really interesting and cool experience for me because I usually don’t get to do a lot of the physical stuff. Will is all about shrinking the problems of the mind, so to be in an episode where I’m working quite a bit with the stunt guys to choreograph the fights and wear a muscle suit is a lot of fun. I’ve yet to combine the suit and the prosthetics with the intricate ‘dance’ that we’re going to do tomorrow. That should be interesting. The [muscle] suit itself is a full torso and looks really scary. As big as it is, though, I believe it’s quite an intricate piece of equipment with ventilation and all sorts of neat things, so I think I’ll be alright. Of course, I’m saying that sitting here right now in a nice cool set. This time tomorrow I might just have a different opinion,” jokes the actor.

A pumped-up Will takes on Double Dome (John Desantis) in "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

A pumped-up Will takes on Double Dome (John Desantis) in "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Prior to Warriors, the actor worked on another physically demanding episode called Requiem in which Will and Helen answer a call for help in the Bermuda Triangle and end up trapped underwater. “That story was a great deal of fun to do,” says Dunne with a smile. “It was very much a character-driven piece and almost like doing a play. We shot it in sequence, which is really neat from an acting perspective. It was also an episode that was completely free of green screen, so it was a blast working on such a cool set. It was a challenge, too, because, first of all, it was an extremely emotional episode for Amanda and me. Again, as an actor, it’s a treat to be able to delve deep into a story and turn out some really solid work, particularly for me working opposite such an amazing actress like Amanda.

“Another challenge was the fact that we were meant to be in a sinking submarine. There were pipes bursting and everything was getting flooded. So it was days and days of being soaking wet, but, yet again, we were telling another neat story. We shot scenes where Amanda and I were underwater in a tank and had to wear breathing gear. Martin Wood [Sanctuary executive producer], who directed a number of our episodes, was down there as well. They had a speaker underwater, too, so he was giving us direction while we were submerged. Man, that was crazy,” laughs the actor. “I’d never done any type of scuba diving so I was curious about what it would be like, and I loved every minute of it.”

Will fights to save Helen Magnus and himself from a watery grave in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Taking on an especially nasty abnormal in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Will comes up for some air in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Will comes up for some air in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

As mentioned earlier, the use of green screen in Sanctuary allows its characters to travel to such faraway places as a crypt in Northern Scotland to catacombs beneath the city of Rome, and even the Himalayas where, in Kush, Will Zimmerman must relive an horrific childhood memory.

“In this story my character is dealing with his past and the loss of his mother when he was a child,” says Dunne. “On top of that is the fact that he thinks he saw something that, for his entire life, he’s been attributing to hallucination. However, when Magnus brought him into the Sanctuary, she told him, ‘Oh, by the way, what you saw that night when you were a child, it was real.’ So Will has been grappling with that for this entire season. My God, it was like a can of worms that opened up for him, and in this particular episode, Kush, there was a lot of stuff going on for Will. We were trapped out in the snow, there were tricks of the mind happening, and Will was having visions of his mother. That kind of stuff is challenging because it’s emotionally draining, but very much worth it.”

Although it had generated plenty of positive Internet buzz, there was no guarantee that Sanctuary would be a hit  when it moved over to the small screen. Well, it was, and before its first season finished airing, the Sci Fi Channel ordered a second, which is set to premiere later this year. That means more opportunities for Dunne to build upon his work in season one, which, for him, includes following a certain creative “regimen.”

“I’ve run a few marathons in my life and it’s not unlike making a TV show because it truly is a long race,” he muses. “You have to pace yourself in order to keep your energy level up as well as find the time to keep your character fresh and alive. I think it’s something I’ve been able to manage, but I haven’t been doing it for that long at all, especially if you look at Amanda, who worked on Stargate for 11 years. I kind of pull her aside every now and then and ask, ‘How do you do it?’ There is an art to conserving your energy while also bringing your game to the field every day and throwing strike after strike.

“We finished the submarine episode four or five days ago, and the night we wrapped filming I was almost in a little bit of a panic because I felt drained. I had nothing left, and we still had episodes left to shoot. So it’s been a challenge to really bring it to the table and make sure you’re not leaving it in your locker. My God, I’ve used every single sports metaphor I could think of. People reading this will be like, ‘Not another one,'” laughs Dunne.

Our favorite forensic psychiatrist finds himself in yet another life-and-death situation. Photo by and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects

Our favorite forensic psychiatrist finds himself in yet another life-and-death situation. Photo by Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

“Again, as tiring and draining as if sometimes is, the truth is this is such a fun job and we have such amazing people here on Sanctuary. It’s like coming to work with dozens and dozens of your good friends every day, and that makes a huge difference. This is the greatest job I’ve ever had and I get by with a little help from my friends. OK, that’s not a sports metaphor, but I’ll let you have it anyway,” chuckles the actor.

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos by Jeff Weddell or Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks! 

Poker Chips & Wedding Cake

April 29, 2009

THE team investigates a string of murders linked to a poker scam involving valuable chips from a closed casino in the ninth season finale of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Cynthia Watros (Lost) and Gerald McRaney (Jericho) guest star as two of the suspects involved in the poker scam. Airs on Thursday, May 14th on CBS-TV.

IN the fourth season cliffhanger finale of The New Adventures of Old Christine, feelings are reawakened between Christine and Papa Jeff at Richard’s and New Christine’s wedding, until Christine receives some shocking news. Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise and Quantum Leap), Constance Zimmer (Entourage, Boston Legal) and James Leisure (Las Vegas, Lipstick Jungle) guest-star. Airs on Wednesday, May 20th on CBS-TV.

Emmanuelle Vaugier – Angell On My Shoulder

April 27, 2009
Actress Emmanuelle Vaugier - photo by and copyright of Beiron Andersson and courtesy of The Promotion People

Actress Emmanuelle Vaugier - photo by and copyright of Beiron Andersson and courtesy of The Promotion People

In 2006, a photo of the beautiful and talented Emmanuelle Vaugier graced the cover of Maxim magazine with a caption that read, “Don’t miss this girl, she’s gonna be huge.” True words were never spoken. Since getting her start in the acting industry over 14 years ago, this Canadian native has appeared in several feature films as well as such popular TV series as Two and a Half Man, Charmed, Monk and CSI: NY, where she can currently be seen helping uphold law and order in the recurring role of Police Detective Jessica Angell. While you may be familiar with her face, you might not know that Vaugier once considered pursuing a very different line of work.

“I’ve always loved animals and I briefly thought about going to school to become a veterinarian,” says the actress. “However, I don’t like seeing animals hurt or even thinking about one dying or being put down, so I probably wouldn’t make a very stable vet as far as my emotional state in that profession.”

Having taken acting classes and studied in Vancouver with British acting teacher Shea Hampton, Vaugier made her professional debut in the 1995 make-for-TV movie A Family Divided starring Faye Dunaway, Stephen Collins and Cameron Bancroft. “I was terrified and excited at the same time,” she recalls. “I only have a few scenes at the beginning of the film and then my character is raped and murdered. I remember being so thrilled that my first job was working with Faye Dunaway and all these other great people. I was like, wow, what a neat way to start out. One thing led to another and I’ve been very lucky to have kept on acting.”

While most of us were enjoying parades and barbecues, Vaugier spent one July 4th a few years back reading for her role of Jessica Angell on CSI: NY. “They [the casting people] had business to take care of, so they held auditions that day,” says the actress. “I went in to read for them and was then told that I had been placed on hold while my audition tape was sent to the producers in New York for final approval. The following day I found out the job was mine.

“Originally it was only supposed to be for two or three episodes, but they weren’t sure, and it has since turned into three seasons, which has been terrific. On my first day we were shooting downtown and I had to deliver some technical dialogue. I thought, ‘You’re a guest-star, so you can’t screw it up. You don’t get the leeway that the show’s stars get,’ or at last that’s what goes through your mind. Of course it’s not at all like that, but on your first day you want to do your best.

“So I was a bit nervous about making sure I had the dialogue down pat. It’s material that can sometimes be a little harder to memorize because it’s not anything that you really speak about in your normal day-to-day life. It was like the first day of school. You’re the new kid so to speak, which is always daunting and awkward, but the CSI cast and crew were very friendly and inviting, so everything went quite smoothly.”

Jessica Angell first arrived on the crime scene in the CSI: NY season three opener People With Money, in which Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) and his people investigate the death of a man on the Brooklyn Bridge as well as a socialite who is found dead in a penthouse with another person’s blood on her body and LSD in her system. The youngest of five siblings, all brothers, and the daughter of a detective sergeant, part of Jessica Angell’s job is to brief the CSI team at various crime scenes.

“My character is a strong woman who’s very good at her job,” explains Vaugier. “She’s brought into this team of experts and not only fits in as one of the guys, but is also able to relate to the other females on the show. The biggest challenge on a program like this is trying to bring as much personality as possible to your character. Many times the [onscreen] relationships you have are business ones; your character is working with his or her partner and that sort of stuff.

“So there’s not a great deal of time for exploring personal relationships between characters other than what you see at the crime scenes. As such, you try to keep the person you’re playing interesting without infusing things falsely into a scene that don’t belong there.  It’s always exciting when you have a scene where you get to be a regular human being and talk about normal things as opposed to discussing the crime scene.”

Detective Don Flack (Eddie Cahill) and Detective Jessica Angell (Vaugier) in a scene from the CSI: NY episode "Dead Inside." Photo by David M. Russell and copyright of CBS/Paramount TV

Detective Don Flack (Eddie Cahill) and Detective Jessica Angell (Vaugier) in a scene from the CSI: NY episode "Dead Inside." Photo by David M. Russell and copyright of CBS/Paramount TV

Happily for Vaugier, CSI: NY writers have been developing a romantic relationship with Eddie Cahill’s character of Detective Don Flack Jr., and, in fact, at the end of the season five episode Dead Inside, the two finally share a kiss. “It started out slowly with a few quick lines between Jessica and Don,” notes the actress. “Then in one of the [fourth season] stories, the two characters were in a car together and chatting a bit and Eddie’s character made an attempt at flirting, which led to some flirty banter between him and Jessica. That was a great deal of fun,” she says with a laugh.

“Again, whenever it’s about the characters’ relationships and interacting in that way, I feel like that’s more of where the acting comes in, do you know what I mean? Yes, everything else involves acting, too, but it’s a bit more disconnected and about, say, the crime scene as opposed to anything else. One of my favorite scenes is in the episode [season four’s Happily Ever After] where a girl is killed after being caught between a taxicab and a school bus. There’s a scene with me and Danny Messner [Detective Carmine Giovinazzo] inside the bus where, for a moment, we actually focus on something real that is going on in his life. I thought that was just great.”

For those fans of Vaugier whose TV tastes lean more towards Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the actress has dipped her toe more than once into that genre, with, for example, a recurring role as Lex Luthor’s (Michael Rosenbaum) wife, Dr. Helen Bryce, on Smallville and a guest-spot playing Maura in the two-part Andromeda episode The Heart of the Journey.

Smallville was one of those situations where I was actually in Vancouver filming something else, and before I flew back to Los Angeles I got a call asking if I would like to come in that day to read with Michael Rosenbaum for the recurring role of his new girlfriend on the show,” she says. “So I went in and Michael came over from the set during his lunch break to read with me. They put my audition on tape and sent it down to Los Angeles for the producers there to look at, and in the meantime I flew back down there and home, too. A couple of days later I was offered the role and went back up to Vancouver. See, you move to L.A. from Canada and they just keep bringing you back,” jokes Vaugier, “which I have no problem with. Sure I’ll come back and see my family and friends in Vancouver.

“I had a lot of fun on Smallville,” continues the actress. “I always loved doing scenes with Michael and the two of us worked really well together. He had some interesting ideas about our characters’ relationship and it was wonderful to work with him on that level as well. Our storyline began to get really interesting when Helen tried to kill Lex and then the two of them reconciled and decided to have a second go at their marriage. That’s when the plot began to thicken so to speak. Their relationship could have gone in so many different directions, and acting-wise, I had a blast playing someone who kind of turned ‘evil’ all of a sudden.

The beautiful and talented Emmanuelle Vaugier - photo courtesy of The Promotion People

The beautiful and talented Emmanuelle Vaugier - photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“As for Andromeda, that was a number of early mornings in the make-up chair. Mental note:  don’t do a TV show that requires prosthetics. Your life will be over as of day one. I should correct myself on that – in this case it was face paint, extensive hand-painted face painting as opposed to prosthetics. So it took three-and-a-half hours in the make-up chair and then a hour having my hair made up. The end process, including the costume, was absolutely beautiful.

“The actors on that show were amazing, too. Some of them also had to endure hours of make-up, but on a consistent basis, so I had a lot of respect for them for that. I’ve actually worked behind prosthetics as well and it can be pretty challenging depending on the process. I had this job where one of my eyes was covered. I had a splitting headache, and by the end of the day my other eye was strained because you’re not used to using just one eye. The make-up takes forever to remove, too. The paint wasn’t bad, but any type of latex takes a couple of hours to take off, again, depending on how much you have on. So it’s a difficult process, but necessary in certain instances.”

Along with her work on CSI:NY, Vaugier recently finished shooting the upcoming movie Dolan’s Cadillac, which is based on a short story by Stephen King and also stars Christian Slater and Wes Bentley. “This is basically a tale of revenge,” says the actress. “My character meets an untimely death and then her husband [Slater] plots his revenge against her killer [Bentley]. In the end, though, who really is the villain? The entire movie is sort of a twisted mental trip. It’s also more of a thriller than it is a horror story in the true sense of Stephen King. I feel the performances are really strong, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of it.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos copyright of Beiron Andersson, David M. Russell and/or CBS/Paramount TV and courtesy of The Promotion People, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!

The Summer of Sci-Fi (and Syfy)

April 25, 2009

This summer, the Sci Fi Channel (which becomes Syfy on July 7th), will be airing all-new original programing sure to satisfy even the more discerning Sci-Fi lover out there.

Following a Memorial Day Land of the Lost marathon is the 13-part Warehouse 13, which debuts with a two-hour pilot on July 7th @ 9-11pm EST/PST. As described in an earlier blog entry at this site, the series follows the adventures of two Secret Service agents who find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in South Dakota which is a scientific treasure trove filled with every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The caretaker of the warehouse, Artie (Saul Rubinek), charges Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to add to the warehouse, not to mention helping him control the warehouse itself. CCH Pounder guest-stars as Artie’s boss Mrs. Federic, along with Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan, a young, hip, brilliant techno-whiz.

The much-loved Eureka returns with 10 new episodes starting Friday, July 10th @ 9pm EST/PST. When we last saw Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), he had been removed by the government from his job as the town’s sheriff, and Allison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) announcing that she is expecting her recently-deceased husband’s baby. At home, Carter faces some challenging decisions regarding his relationship with his daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson), while he is also given a new love interest when Dr. Tess Fontana (Jaime Rae Newman) arrives in Eureka to supervise the re-opening of Global Dynamics’ infamous Section 5.

On July 8th @ 9pm EST/PST, Sci Fi’s hit fledgling reality series Ghost Hunters International makes its second season debut with six new episodes that take its team of investigators to Austria, Ireland, Italy, Chile, Argentina and the Czech Republic in search of paranormal activity. And in August, the channel’s original “ghostbusters,” Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, return with their Ghost Hunters team to check out ghostly happenings on this side of the pond.

Sandwiched between all the above will not only be Sci Fi’s traditional Independence Day Twilight Zone marathon (running from Thursday, July 2nd through Saturday, July 4th), but also the original movies Malibu Shark Attack (starring Peta Wilson from La Femme Nikita), High Plains Invaders (starring James Marsters of Torchwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), Hellhounds (directed by Rick Schroeder) and Sand Serpents (starring Jason Gedrick from Desperate Housewives).

Creature Feature

April 24, 2009
Dealing with all things prehistoric, cuddly as well as deadly, is the cast of Primeval. Left to right: Hannah Spearritt (as Abby Maitland), Andrew Lee Potts (as Connor Temple), Lucy Brown (as Jenny Lewis), Douglas Henshall (as Prof. Nick Cutter), Ben Mansfield (as Captain Becker) and Laila Rouass (as Sarah Page). Photo courtesy of and copyright of BBC America

Dealing with all things prehistoric, cuddly as well as deadly, is the cast of Primeval. Left to right: Hannah Spearritt (as Abby Maitland), Andrew Lee Potts (as Connor Temple), Lucy Brown (as Jenny Lewis), Douglas Henshall (as Prof. Nick Cutter), Ben Mansfield (as Captain Becker) and Laila Rouass (as Sarah Page). Photo courtesy of BBC America and copyright Impossible Pictures Limited 2008

When was the last time you arrived at work and had to deal with, let’s say, a gigantic aquatic creature with a huge appetite, a family of raptors who have made the local shopping mall their new home sweet home, or a sabertooth tiger getting his kicks at an amusement park. All this and more is just another day on the job for Primeval’s Professor Nick Cutter and his team of  experts who are recruited by the British government to handle threats by prehistoric creatures that are appearing through rifts, or anomalies, in time.

On May 16 @ 9:00pm EST/PST, season three of Primeval makes its U.S. debut on the BBC America. According to the network, fans can look forward to new cast members, horrifying monsters, stunning special effects and a rare location shoot in London’s British Museum as well as a U.S. feature film in the works for 2010. Joining the regular cast are Jason Flemying (Doctor Finlay, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as D.C. Danny Vernon and Laila Rouass (Hollyoaks, Footballers Wives) as archeologist Sarah Page. The season also brings to the small screen an unusual new monster designed entirely by a Primeval fan.

Jason Flemying as D.C. Danny Vernon. Photo courtesy of and copyright of BBC America

Jason Flemying as D.C. Danny Vernon. Photo courtesy of BBC America and copyright Impossible Pictures Limited 2008

As season three opens, Nick Cutter is still trying to cope with the death of his former colleague Stephen Hart (James Murray) and the aftermath of his wife Helen’s (Juliet Aubrey) betrayal. At the same time, he must continue to work with his team as more and more anomalies pave the way for prehistoric creatures, as well as those from the future, to come into our present-day world. Among the more dangerous predators that our heroes face is the Giganotosarus, or G-Rex,  which is even bigger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex, a deadly flesh-eating fungus, and a Megopteran, a giant carnivorous insect. 

Other creatures linked to ancient folklore also begin to appear through the anomalies, including a Pristichampus, which bares a striking resemblance to the ancient Egyptian crocodile demon Ammut, and a Dracorex, which is being hunted by a deranged Knight who is convinced that it is a dragon he must slay. As Cutter and his people continue to risk their lives to protect the world from such dangers, their work is threatened by a growing conspiracy that could mean the end of the team, not to mention the human race.

Abby (Hannah Spearritt) and Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) on the hunt for yet another dangerous creature. Photo courtesy of and copyright of BBC America

Abby (Hannah Spearritt) and Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) on the hunt for yet another dangerous creature. Photo courtesy of BBC America and copyright Impossible Pictures Limited 2008

Created by the same talented individuals behind the riveting documentary-style TV series Walking With Dinosaurs and its sequels, Walking With Beasts and Walking With Monsters, season three of Primeval continues to boast big screen-quality CGI (computer-generated image) effects that have become a hallmark of the series. “It’s always been our ambition on Primeval to deliver an exciting, character-driven, action-adventure show that feels in every way like a mini-feature film each week,” notes series co-creator/executive produce/writer Adrian Hodges in a recent BBC America press release. “We truly believe this third season matches that ambition as never before.

“This is the biggest and most thrilling series we’ve done, and Tim [Haines, co-creator/executive producer/writer] and I are convinced that there are many more stories to tell yet. Primeval is still growing and our goal each time is to surprise ourselves by what we can come up with. If we can do that, the audience will be surprised and gripped as well.”

Keep checking back with this blog for more Primeval coverage. As noted above, all photos courtesy of BBC America and copyright of Impossible Pictures Limited 2008, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

The Guest-List

April 23, 2009

On the fifth season finale of Numb3rs (Friday, May 15th on CBS), Amita is abducted and the team’s frantic search zeroes in on a sociopath as the suspect.  James Callis (Battlestar Galactica) guest-stars as Mason Duryea, the prime suspect in Amita’s disappearance, and Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe) returns as Agent Ian Edgerton.

During the aftermath of Dinozzo’s confrontation with Michael Rivkin in the season finale of NCIS (Tuesday, May 19th on CBS), the team flies to Israel for a final showdown. Michael Nouri (Damages, The O.C.) reprises his role as Ziva’s father, Mossad Director Eli David, and Arnold Vosloo (24, The Mummy) guest-stars as Mossad Officer Amit Hadar.

In the seventh season finale of Without A Trace (Tuesday, May 19th on CBS) the team searches for a man who disappears after a late night dive. Martin Landau (Space:1999, Ed Wood ) reprises his role as Frank Malone, Jack’s father.

Ron Moore & Kate Vernon – The Fifth Element

April 22, 2009
Re-imagined Battlestar Galactica creator/executive producer Ron Moore. Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Re-imagined Battlestar Galactica creator/executive producer Ron Moore. Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Actress Kate Vernon - Battlestar Galactica's Ellen Tigh. Photo by Randee St. Nicholas and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Actress Kate Vernon - Battlestar Galactica's Ellen Tigh. Photo by Randee St. Nicholas and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

After the faces of four of the final five humanoid Cylons, or “skinjobs,” were revealed at the end of Battlestar Galactica‘s third season, fans longed to discover the identity of the fifth Cylon. Re-imagined series creator/executive producer Ron Moore kept them waiting until the second half of the show’s fourth year when, in the episode Sometimes a Great Notion, Colonel Saul Tigh, a humanoid Cylon, experiences a flashback of his past life on Earth, and realizes that his wife Ellen is the fifth Cylon.

“I’m not quite sure exactly when I picked Ellen,” said Moore during a conference call earlier this year with journalists. “It was some time in the third season. I think the option of presenting her as one of the final Cylons was kicking around for a while, but we really didn’t intend on revealing four of the five final Cylons in the season finale [Crossroads: Part 2] until we were breaking that actual episode. That’s when the identity of the fifth Cylon became a more pressing question. In-between the two seasons we went on a writers’ retreat and talked about everything in detail, and Ellen was the primary candidate to be the fifth Cylon. We discussed other possibilities but none of them really held water, so we stuck with Ellen.

“And I would say it worked primarily because of her relationship with Tigh [Michael Hogan]. It really sort of anchored that couple as something very special. Also, as a character, Ellen had been an off-camera presence right from the beginning of the show in the [2003] miniseries. We began hearing about Tigh’s wife and it was one of his key defining characteristics, so we knew she was important in the mythology of the show. I also liked the idea of saying that this couple had been together a very long time. Theirs had been this sort of eternal romance and love, which I thought was cool. It completed the framework of the final five and just fit. It also made the fact that Tigh had killed his wife back on New Caprica even richer and further complicated as well as filled with irony and more conflicted feelings.

“I liked Tigh and Ellen because they were both flawed and noble characters who tended to get in their own way, and I liked the bad choices they made as much as I enjoyed their good choices. I loved watching them claw at each other and the fact that they couldn’t bear to be apart from one another. Usually the two lovers who transcend time are people who long for each other and are such good and noble individuals that you hate them. Ellen and Tigh just feel like a legitimate twosome. They’re a married couple who have to go at it periodically as well as have major issues and this and that, but their bond was one that literally could not be broken. And I thought that that was a really interesting and, ultimately, positive thing to say.”

Saul and Ellen Tigh are among those colonists on New Caprica when, in season three of Galactica, the planet ends up under Cylon occupation. After her husband is imprisoned by the enemy, Ellen begins having sexual relations with the humanoid Cylon Cavil (Dean Stockwell) in order to secure Saul’s release. Cavil, in return, uses Ellen to gain information about the human insurgency. Her betrayal is eventually uncovered, and although Saul realizes that his wife’s actions were out of love for him, her collaboration with the enemy is punishable by death. Rather than have his fellow resistance fighters kill Ellen, he gives her a poisoned drink and she dies in his arms. Given her character’s demise, actress Kate Vernon, who plays Ellen, was surprised to subsequently be asked by Ron Moore to once again return to the show.

“Ron called me one day and he sounded really sad and kind of morose,” recalls Vernon. “He said to me, ‘I spoke with the [NBC] network and I’m sorry to say that they agreed to green light this project. It’s unfortunate, but you’re going to have to come back to work for us.’ Ron messed with my head right up to the very minute of actually letting me know that I was coming back.

“At that point I didn’t know what that meant. I was just elated that I was coming back, and then the conversation evolved into Ellen being the fifth Cylon. I wasn’t sure he was talking to the right person or teasing me again. My jaw fell open and I was waiting for Ron to say, ‘Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, I’m kidding.’ I had been invited back for a few episodes and was hoping to be invited back again, but I was not expecting this, so I was stunned.”

Once the actress was told about her character’s resurrection and true identity, was it difficult for Vernon to keep it a secret? “Oh, gosh, yes. There were waves of intense agony and frustration, and then I would completely forget about it,” she says. “I mean, it was quite a while before I was back on the [Galactica] set, so I actually did forget about it for a bit. For the most part, though, this was something I desperately wanted to talk about just because it was such an honor to be given this role.

“When Ron killed Ellen off, I went up to him, looked him straight in the eye and asked, ‘Isn’t there any way I can come back?’ He looked at me very gently and assuredly said, ‘No,’ so in Ron’s eyes I was done. However, in my heart I personally had a love affair with Ellen as an actress and this show, so I never let go of it. Ron can attest to that because I called him many times, and, bless you, Ron, for taking all my phone calls.”

Continues Moore, “I have to say that, creatively, killing off Ellen was a great move. It was one of those big sort of, ‘Wow, what an ending. Man, that’s going to be powerful.’ There was great excitement about what it was, but, you know, it was hard to let go of that character and know that Ellen wouldn’t be in the program any more. Honestly, probably my most difficult experience on the series was calling Kate Vernon and saying, ‘We’re killing off your character.’ It was really emotional as well as heartbreaking, and I think that on some level I carried that with me a lot. It certainly gave me the impetus to want to bring her back.”

Says Vernon, “I thank you for that, Ron. That’s a wonderful compliment.”

Adds Moore, “When it comes to keeping the secret, I know that a number of fan sites out there as well as several of the on-line communities fervently follow the series. Sometimes things slip out, and this one was really well-suppressed. However, we didn’t have to do too much to keep the secret because there’s so much bad information out there about the show in general. There was all this speculation posing as fact where people were saying, ‘I know who the fifth Cylon is.’ Occasionally one of them would say Ellen and we’d all be like, ‘Oh, crap, it’s out.’ Then on the same website or a site that it’s linked to, someone was saying it’s Boxy [a character from the original 1979 Battlestar Galactica series], and we’re definitely bringing him back. Again, because there was so much bad information out there, our hope was that the few nuggets of truth would be hard to sift out of the rest of it, and that’s what happened.”

In the fourth season Galactica episode No Exit, Ellen Tigh wakes in a fright, covered in goop and sitting in a Cylon re-birthing tank. The time line is 18 months ago and she has been reborn after her death on New Caprica. Ellen is on-board a Cylon base ship and being held there by Cavil, whose disdain of her and the four other Cylons who created him and the other seven existing humanoid models has only grown worse. When the Cylon resurrection ship is destroyed, Cavil orders Ellen to tell him how to reconstruct the technology, but she refuses, so he plans to cut her open and extract the necessary information from her brain. Ellen is in a very different place than any we have ever seen her in before, which provided Vernon with new challenges when it came to her performance.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to do,” notes the actress. “I needed the material, though, to see what direction Ellen was going in, and because the writers on this program are so brilliant and their imaginations so incredible, I just really had to open up and trust these words and this concept. I also had a couple of talks with Ron as well as the directors about where we were headed, but I’m a feeling actress. I didn’t necessarily go in there and intellectually just break it down on a mental level. I know who Ellen is and I took this new information, which was so rich and profound, and just let it guide me through the change that Ellen experiences.”

During the final moments of No Exit, one of the Boomer (Grace Park) models double-crosses Cavil and uses a Raptor to fly Ellen to safety on-board the Galactica. No one is more surprised to see her than Tigh, and the two of them waste no time in becoming reacquainted. Ellen is later shocked to discover that Saul and Number Six (Tricia Helfer) are involved and the Cylon is pregnant with their child. Reconnecting with her onscreen hubby Michael Hogan was a joy for Vernon.

“Michael Hogan has always been extremely encouraging,” she says. “At one point before I began shooting I was still a little worried and walked into his trailer. I was coming back as the fifth Cylon and felt a tremendous responsibility, which included quite a bit of dialogue. Michael looked at me and said, ‘Just know that you are Ellen and everything will be fine.’ Basically what he was saying was that I was already Ellen; I didn’t need to do anything more, but, again, just let the words guide me. It was the kindest and most supportive thing an actor or anybody could have said because I was quite concerned whether or not I’d be able to creatively answer what Ron and the other writers intended to reveal.”

There is no doubt that Ellen Tigh’s return to the Cylon fold causes further unheaval in what has been an extremely volatile period in their history. Although Ron Moore will be working on the Galactica prequel, Caprica, he promises that fans will not have to wait for the new series to learn what the future holds for the Cylons and humankind.

Caprica will explore how the people on the [12]colonies developed the Cylons and how all that came about,” explains the executive producer. “However, as far as the larger mysteries as well as mythologies along with the hows and whys and how everything plays out on Galactica, we set out to answer as many questions as we could by the end of the show, and that’s what we did. We didn’t hold anything in reserve and say, ‘Oh, well, we’ll deal with this on Caprica.”

With Galactica‘s fourth season also being its final one, that means the show’s actors have said goodbye to their alter egos. While sad to leave Ellen behind, Vernon will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to portray such a sexy, playful and intelligent character.

“Ellen is the best role I’ve had in my career,” says the actress. “I had no expectations when I auditioned for the part. I was told there might be two or three episodes, but they kept bringing me back, and with each new story I couldn’t wait to crack open the script because the writers seemed to really indulge the character’s naughtiness, feistiness, trouble-making, the complicated relations she had with her husband, etc.

“I found Ellen more and more fascinating as well as dark, delicious and misunderstood. So as an actress it was pure discovery, and I never expected to continue on as much as I wanted to. So it was just a wild ride.”

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos are courtesy of and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Soul Man

April 21, 2009

EARLIER today, the Sci Fi Channel announced that it was teaming up with James Lassiter, Will Smith and Ken Stovitz through their company Overbrook Entertainment for a two-hour backdoor pilot entitled Unfinished Business. Written by Emmy-nominated Sally Robinson (Iron Jawed Angels), the pilot will be produced by Universal Cable Productions and Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers, The Andromeda Strain) is attached to direct. Unfinished Business is the story of an ex-cop who, after a brain injury, finds himself experiencing flashes of memories from the recently deceased. The experiences compel him to help those lost souls resolve their unfinished business. No casting information as of yet, or when and where the pilot will be shot.

Pascal Verschooris & Philip Spink – A Knight’s Tale

April 20, 2009
David James Elliott as John Serragoth in Knights of Bloodsteel. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

David James Elliott as John Serragoth in Knights of Bloodsteel. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

When it comes to directing, Philip Spink likes to be hands-on. On this particular Tuesday in August (2008), he is on-location with the cast and crew of the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Knights of Bloodsteel. They are at a working quarry in Abbotsford, British Columbia, a small area of which has been transformed into a mining village thanks to several imaginative and talented individuals. This set is where some of the action sequences for the film are being shot, including an adrenaline-rushing sword-fight. At the moment, Spink is on-set discussing specifics of the fight with various actors and stunt people.

“With this scene I knew it needed some immediate jeopardy,” says the director, sitting back down behind the camera. “One of the bad guys breaches the wall and attacks our heroine, Perfidia [Natassia Malthe]. Meanwhile,Klegg [Ian A. Wallace] is trying to get away and all this other action is happening around them. I’ll work with the fight choreographer, who then works with the actors and the swordsman, and together we make it a good scene.

“So it’s very much a collaborative process. With some of the [action] stuff I’m really specific, and other times I’ll say, ‘Just go for it and let’s get some basic hacks and slashes.’ Fight swordsmanship is somewhat different from basic action like explosions or a car going over a hill because there are certain techniques using knives and swords that take years and years to learn. With this movie we’re fortunate to have Dan Rizzuto as our stunt coordinator because he’s extremely experienced at both – he’s a great fight/stunt coordinator. We also have Dave Barkes as special effects [SPFX] coordinator. He and Dan get along very well and together they give us what we need.”

Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) takes on the bad guys. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) takes on the bad guys. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Knights of Bloodsteel brings together a diverse foursome – vigilante John Serragoth (David James Elliott), con man Adric Thane (Christopher Jacot), the warrior elf Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) and a goblin, Ber-Lak (Dru Viergever). They accept a quest by the sorcerer elf Tesselink (Christopher Lloyd) to find the last of the bloodsteel, a magical ore that can save their mytical land of Mirabilis from being dominated by the evil Dragon Eye (Mark Gibbon). Also helping tell this tale is producer Pascal Verschooris. Having worked on other Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy projects such as Flash Gordon and Dead Like Me as well as HBO’s Masters of Horror, he knew what basic elements were needed to get Knights of Bloodsteel off the ground.

“The biggest challenge was creating a new world,” notes Verschooris, who is on-location today as well. “What is Mirabilis? What does it look like? What brings our heroes together and what is their quest? What does Dragon Eye look like? When you read the script, is he The Devil in a way that you’ve always imagined him to be, or do want to take a chance and take the character in another direction? Along with the evil, is there also a human aspect to him?

“Looking at all the Sci-Fi projects on TV, we wanted to make sure that if someone is flipping channels and they find Knights of Bloodsteel, that it’s obvious to them that they’re watching something really different. Every frame of this miniseries will remind you that you’re not exactly on Earth, but somewhere else. That’s been a tough hill to climb, but I think we’re doing quite well in creating this world. We’ve found some locations in Vancouver that haven’t been used before, or if they have, very rarely. We’ve also build some amazing sets from scratch, including a medieval town. So we’re using all our assets, resources and experience and I think this is turning out to be a neat project.”

Christopher Lloyd as Tesselink. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Christopher Lloyd as Tesselink. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Earlier today, director Spink shot a complex scene involving a number of VFX (visual effects) that will be added in during post-production. “It was a scene where the evil goblins unleash a flying machine that shoots missiles at our mining commune,” he explains. “So what we had to do is shoot all the background plates so that later on our VFX department can put in the flying machine, or what they’re calling the war machine. Because there is a little interaction between what people are seeing and the actual machine that is going to be added in, we had to make sure we filmed the sequences at the correct angles in the amount of time that we had. Luckily, we had a storyboard all laid out for this,” says Spink, pointing out a large board with various drawings on it, “so we pretty much knew what was going to happen in those scenes.

“Because we wanted to get an early start on the VFX, we did what is probably one of the more compelling and visually challenging sequences on our first day of filming, and that was a big dragon attack. It was kind of a scary thing to do right out of the gate, but it was a smart thing, too, because everyone was fresh and ready to work. It also alotted us extra time to plan out the scene, so in the long run I think we ended up with a better product.”

Adds Verschooris, “The cliffs where we shot that scene are on the same road leading to the 2010 Olympic site [Whistler], so we had to take that into consideration because the highway is being slowed down right now by all the big construction. Today, we’re in a quarry and surrounded by trucks doing work, so we’re trying to shoot in-between so we won’t have too much [dialogue] looping by the time we wrap. However, the end result is that we have this feature-film like place that we’re filming in.

Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) and John Serragoth (David James Elliott) - comrades in arms. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) and John Serragoth (David James Elliott) - comrades in arms. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

“There was another part of our script that takes place in marshland, and for that we went to an area in Squamish. It’s somewhere that most people would probably avoid because you arrive in the morning and the tide is at 13 feet or so, which means you’re on the edge of the water. As you film, the tide goes low and you’re in the mud, which is where we wanted to be. You then have three hours to shoot before the tide comes back in and you’re forced to finish. You have to be very organized with your continuity because it’s something that you have to do over two or three days. As a result, though, when you watch the dailies you have this tall beautiful grass wafting in the breeze and colors that you don’t often see on the screen,” enthuses the producer.

Prosthetics/SPFX make-up artist guru Todd Masters and his company, MastersFX, were involved in sculpting the looks for some of Mirabilis’ more unusual creatures, and the miniseries’ Powers That Be have been suitably impressed by their efforts. “Working with Todd is very cool,” says Verschooris. “He’s extremely communicative and creative. We’ve had many meetings with Todd and he always brings all his experience with him. You’ll talk with him about how you see a character, Ber-Lak, for example, or another one of our goblins or elves, and he gets it really quickly. It’s one thing to create a prosthetic of a character, but it also then has to match the personality of the person playing the part. Thanks to Todd, it was actually quite easy to realize the characters that we wanted. We’re fortunate to have him on a project of this size.”

Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) and Tesselink (Christopher Lloyd) confer. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright by The Sci Fi Channel

Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) and Tesselink (Christopher Lloyd) confer. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright by The Sci Fi Channel

Listening to Verschooris and Spink, it is easy to understand why they are excited to be involved in bringing Knights of Bloodsteel to the small screen. “I was just saying recently that I’m not sure if I would know how to do a cop show because I’ve done so much Sci-Fi,” says Verschooris. “However, the more you do in this genre, the more risks you take because it has to be different from the last time. It’s hard to invent things nowadays because so much has been done, but I think we’ve done some things here that people might not have necessarily seen before on TV. So it should be fascinating for the eye.”

Adds Spink, “I was a commercial illustrator for 15 years before becoming a director, and I got into this industry doing storyboards. When I did TV commercials I was hired for the heavily art-directed ones. I have a very active imagination and with something like that you can do some major [creative] ‘damage,’ all in a good way, of course,” chuckles the director.

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Dru Viergever – It’s Goblin’ Time

April 20, 2009
Dru Viergever was at work very, very early this morning, and by looking at him it is easy to tell why. It takes quite a bit of behind-the-scenes magic to transform him into Ber-Lak, the gruesome-looking yet good-natured goblin in the latest Sci Fi Channel movie event Knights of Bloodsteel.

“I go into make-up around 5 or 5:30 in the morning and sit through a two-and-a-half hour procedure,” says the actor. “There are a lot of chemicals involved and that I’m not aware of, but I trust the team. They’re amazing. Using plenty of glue they apply a couple of layers of prosthetics and paint, and then finish the process with the intricate elements, such as veins as well as the eyes and ears. Again, the [make-up] artists, who are from the award-winning MastersFX company, are top-notch, incredibly creative and make a fantastic team. Every morning I look in the mirror when they’re done with me and I still scare myself,” jokes Viergever.

“Initially, it was difficult enunciating through the teeth and utilizing the eyebrows, but the prosthetics are actually quite liberating because there’s so much room for facial intricacies. As I mentioned, there was a bit of a learning curve and it took me a while to grow into it, but now, six weeks into filming, it’s pretty much become second nature, not to mention great fun.”

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and raised in Burlington, Viergever became enamored of acting as well as music at an early age. During his high school years, the actor performed in such theatrical productions as Oklahoma and My Fair Lady at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto in Cinema Studios and Music, he appeared in several national TV adverts, and later spent three seasons playing Stew Kubiak in the NBC series Strange Days at Blake Holsey High. An accomplished musician as well, Viergever was on the road with his band when he received a callback after his first audition for Knights of Bloodsteel.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the callback, so I just assumed I was out of the running,” recalls the actor. “However, two weeks later I got another call telling me the job was mine and I was off and running. Talk about a thrilling moment.

“Before I knew it, I was on the set with Natassia Malthe, David James Elliott and Christopher Lloyd [who plays the sorcerer Tesselink]. I’m a fan of movies and TV in general, so it was very cool to be whisked onto this amazingly expensive set. It’s just a mind-blowing project for me. I was immediately impressed by the scope and scale of it, and there was also the sheer excitement of realizing what an awesome role this is.”

In Knights of Bloodsteel, Ber-Lak becomes part of a magical quest to help two humans, John Serragoth (Elliott) and Adric Thane (Christopher Jacot), along with a warrior elf, Perfidia (Malthe), save the island of Mirabilis from becoming the playing of the evil Dragon Eye (Mark Gibbon). According to Viergever, his character has more layers to it than is first apparent, but assures viewers that there is nothing sinister behind the goblin’s motives.

“Ber-Lak is an enigmatic figure and the journey’s guardian, if you will,” he explains. “There are some very somber undertones to the character, but overall he’s pretty hopeful. We initially play Ber-Lak as being a little bit naive, but there’s some wisdom behind his eyes. He’s not too sure what to think about these elves and humans. Goblins are a funny bunch and rather antisocial when it comes to the rest of the inhabitants of this fantasy world. They’re watchful and very knowing, but hesitant to become involved in other peoples’ business. In this case, though, we’re all in this together. That’s what it’s all about, and interrelationship-wise, we learn a great deal about one another and what it takes to coexist. So while Ber-Lak starts out keeping his new-found friends at arm’s length, he eventually comes to care about them.”

Even behind all his make-up, you can see the actor’s eyes light up when talking about a favorite scene in Knights of Bloodsteel. “My character is going to be known as a curve ball pitcher, in that once in a while he’ll surprise you and keep you on your toes,” says Viergever. “There was a transitional point in the script that read, ‘Ber-Lak’s eyes flutter,’ and I don’t know quite how it happened, but I just opened up when we did this shot. I didn’t think I’d get to do something like this as Ber-Lak, but I got to flex emotional muscles that I didn’t know were there. It was such an amazing discovery and when you watch the final product you’ll know what scene I’m talking about. I’m hoping everyone will dig it.”

Despite an early morning start and what looks like several hours of work still ahead of him, Viergever has no complaints. “This is playtime,” he enthuses. “Come on, this isn’t ‘work.’ We get to inhabit this magical world and everyone loves being here. It’s remarkable the things you get to do in this industry. You’re a kid in a candy store. Growing up, I was the kid reciting lines from movies, so this is a dream come true for me. Every day I can’t believe I’m here, and it just gets bigger, better and bolder. No day is like the one before it. This job is truly a privilege and an incredible ride that I hope keeps going for a long time to come.”

Steve Eramo