For the past three years, Colin Ferguson has been upholding law and order as Sheriff Jack Carter on The Syfy Channel’s hit series Eureka. When its cast and crew returned to work last fall after a brief hiatus to begin shooting the remaining 10 episodes of the show’s third season, the actor had the chance to put on a totally different hat, that of director. He stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct the year three story Your Face or Mine. In it, an unhappy and lovelorn scientist uses her newest invention to temporarily assume Deputy Jo Lupo’s identity. Unfortunately for Jo, the scientist enjoys herself a little bit too much and decides to switch places permanently. While not the ideal position for the deputy to be in, Ferguson had the time of his life in his directorial debut.
“The good news is I had [consulting producer] Matt Hastings and [producer] Robert Petrovicz to take me through the prep process,” says the actor. “They taught me an important lesson, which is it’s all about the prep. So during prep I slaved over the script – which was a terrific script written by [co-creator/executive producer] Jaime Paglia – and when it came time to shoot, we really didn’t have a problem at all. That’s one of the perks of being a regular on a show and directing it; I’m familiar with every set, every actor and every personality. So I know what works as well as what to do and what not to do, probably more what not to do because I’ve watched significantly more talented directors than myself come through here and seen how they’ve approached things. So this was a great opportunity for me to use a lot of those experiences.
“Of course, working with the cast was great,” he continues. “Everything went so smoothly. Everyone was so kind and rallied behind the cause. After all, we want other members of the cast to direct and have bigger episodes. So it was important on a number of different fronts that this went well, and it did. The story is all about Erica Cerra’s character [Deputy Jo Lupo] and like the film Face/Off in that it’s about identity theft, only on a much more literal scale. I knew the scene where Jo is facing off against herself was going to be a hugely important one, and the ball would be in Erica’s court more than anyone else’s. So we worked on that scene ahead of time and Erica knew that she had to deliver. Well, she knocked it out of the park and did an amazing job. You really buy the fact that there are two of her character in that scene the entire time.”
Although the actor spent plenty of time prepping for his directorial debut on Eureka, there were times when he had to tweak his way of doing things. “The biggest thing I learned throughout this entire process is that as much prep as you do and as much as you know exactly what you want, that on the day, sometimes the ‘language’ you use isn’t always right,” muses Ferguson. “By that I mean, yes, I know what I want, but I don’t always know the exact words that the other person needs to hear in order to achieve it. Is it, ‘We’re going in this direction first,’ or, ‘I’d like to do a two-shot then go into a single,’ or, ‘I need to start the scene from this point,’ etc. So you go through all the options until you get to the right one and then you’re like, ‘OK, excellent, let’s shoot it.’ I realized I can speak quickly, rattle off a bunch of subjects and eventually get to the right one,” jokes the actor. “Next time, though, I’ve got to make sure I’m able to speak quickly and express to everyone exactly what I want right off the bat.
“We ended the episode, I believe, under budget and on-time, so I think everyone was happy about that. We shot inside on the sets for most of the time, and when that happens you have to keep it even more interesting. So I made sure to plan a special shot every day so that I could put a spark into things. I was extremely pleased with how everything turned out and, again, above all else, I received a wonderful script. Had I been given a not-so-hot script or one that needed a ton of work and massaging, it would have been quite a different experience. I got really lucky and the entire thing was a perfect fit.”
There is an old adage that no good deed goes unpunished, and that was certainly true for Sheriff Carter midway through season three on Eureka. He was fired for letting Eva Thorne (Frances Fisher) go free at the end of the mid-season cliffhanger From Fear to Eternity. However, the town and its residents could not do without his unique style of policing, and Carter was back on the payroll by the end of the mid-year opener Welcome Back Carter. Since then, he has been kept busy personally and professionally, both of which have resulted in one or two new acting challenges for Ferguson.
“The writers have brought in Allison’s [Salli Richardson-Whitfield] old school friend, Dr. Tess Fontana [Jaime Ray Newman], who Carter ends up in a relationship with, ” he notes. “Also, right now [early December 2008] Salli is eight-and-a-half months pregnant, so in the series her character is carrying Stark’s [Ed Quinn] child and, therefore, will be doing a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ as far as the tech talk during the latter part of the season. In fact, she and Tess are both doing that, which has provided me with an acting exercise when it comes to trying to keep my character fresh. Carter is in a number of scenes with not a lot to do, so for me it’s a matter of , OK, what can I focus on here, because he’s hearing all this information, but doesn’t impart much of it.
“So what I try to do is give myself lighter days. One way to keep it [your character] fresh is to stop yourself from burning out, so every now and then you don’t over-think it. You just literally show up and do the best you can and let the scene go where it wants to go. In doing that, you allow yourself to regenerate a bit, so when a moment comes up that you really feel like digging into, you can actually do that. Another way is to change the dialogue every so often. That’s obviously a tricky thing because you don’t want to become at odds with the producers and writers and make it appear as if you’re disrespecting what they do. However, it helps to talk with them occasionally about changing a line or two if you feel it will better service your character.
“Another thing is to take the work seriously. It’s fun to joke around and get through a scene that way, but too much of that and there’s the danger of phoning it [your performance] in. And that’s just boring for you and the viewers. So you’ve got to dig in and see what you can come up with, and I have to tell you that there have been some really neat scenes we’ve come up with this season,” enthuses Ferguson.
In the season three Eureka story Insane in the P-Brane, Carter is on his way to Global Dynamics when he discovers a car partially blocking the road. He has a rather prickly exchange with its owner, Dr. Tess Fontana, before allowing her to drive off. The sheriff later meets up with her again unexpectedly at Global, and has no idea that Tess will be helping him stop yet another experiment gone wrong from destroying Eureka. As Ferguson already mentioned, Tess and Jack become romantically involved as the latter half of this season continues to unfold. What did the actor think about a new love interest being introduced for his character?
“I was nervous out of the gate, because the initial meeting between Tess and Jack was a little ‘forced’ insofar as how they didn’t like one another,” he says. “Then, however, there was a nice little transition that they [the writers] did involving the two characters actually hooking up. And what’s neat about it is it’s not some tedious type of thing where their passion overflows as they lock lips in an embrace. It was more like a gradual emotional melting. Again, it started off with Jack and Tess not really liking each other, but having a begrudging respect, which leads to a friendship, and then to something romantic. It’s subtle, which I like, and not overdone, either. It’s not episode after episode of their relationship. It’s sprinkled into the plot, and hopefully the viewers will enjoy it.”
The actor has also enjoyed seeing his character’s relationship further develop with his daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) as well as with Henry Deacon (Joe Morton). “It’s always a pleasure to work with Jordan,” says Ferguson. “Her character of Zoe is a little lighter in these latter episodes, but the two of us have had some wonderful little scenes together, which I’m proud of. As for Henry, he’s going through something that I can’t talk about, but I’ve enjoyed him having this problem, if you know what I mean, because it throws something new into the relationship between him and Jack. Any time you have to redefine a relationship because of circumstance it’s a good thing in terms of storytelling.”
At the time of this interview, Ferguson and the rest of the Eureka cast and crew were shooting the season three story Shower the People, which guest-stars a very familiar face. “In this episode, people contract this infection and something really bad happens to them. Unfortunately, it’s December in Vancouver and we’re all soaking wet, which is all part of the story, but we’re having fun,” laughs the actor. “A good buddy of mine, Billy Campbell [Jordan Collier in The 4400] is doing a guest-spot in this episode and we’ve been having a ball working together. I’ve been in Vancouver for six of the last seven months and I definitely feel like it’s time to go home for a bit, so having an old buddy on-set makes a big difference.”
It was announced last weekend at Comic Con in San Diego that Eureka has been picked up for a fourth season, which means that everyone involved will be back in Vancouver at some point to start filming. In the meantime, Ferguson is currently working half a world away and enjoying every minute of it.
“I just finished shooting Lake Placid 3 as a actor and start prepping Fossils as a director on Monday [August 3rd],” he says. “So I”m busy, busy, busy and loving life in Bulgaria.”
As noted above, all photos by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!