Posts Tagged ‘Dollhouse’

Lie To Me’s Shawn Ryan Talks About Season Two

June 2, 2010

Kelli Williams (as Dr. Gillian Foster) and Tim Roth (as Dr. Cal Lightman) in Lie to Me. Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of Fox

IN Beat the Devil, the spring premiere of Lie to Me, Cal Lightman plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a brilliant, charming psychology graduate student whom Lightman identifies as a psychopath. When nobody believes him, he sets out to prove the doubters wrong and catch the psychopath before he kills again. Complicating matters is Lightman’s former mentor, a renowned psychologist who, also fooled by the charismatic young man, is protecting him for personal and professional reasons. Meanwhile, Loker and Torres travel to a small town to look into a UFO sighting. Lie to Me returns on Monday, June 7th @ 8:oo p.m. EST/PST. 

Last Wednesday, series executive producer Shawn Ryan spoke with myself along with other journalists on a conference call about the latter half of the show’s second season. The following is an edited version of our call. Enjoy!  

Shawn, could you philosophize a little bit on the role of lying on drama.  It seems like lying usually is the best thing for drama.  It worked wonders for The Shield, which was, essentially, always about the lies that the main character was acting on and so forth.  Is it an important part of drama, and is it kind of weird to be doing a show where one of the people can tell when you’re lying? 

SHAWN RYAN – Yes, I would say that lying goes hand-in-hand with secrets, and secrets are often times the key to drama. That was something we talked about a great deal on The Shield, which was about who knew what, who didn’t know that, and who was keeping secrets from who. In this case, to have a show that’s about secrets as well as lies and is really, really fun.  The initial instinct is, well, Jeez, if you’ve got a guy who can just tell when people are lying, doesn’t that make it simple?  But what we’ve tried to do on the show – and this was something that Sam Baum, who created the show, initiated right from the beginning – is that a lot of times it’s not enough to just know that someone is lying. You need to know why they’re lying, what they’re hiding, what’s the motivation behind their actions. That, often times, is what leads us to a full hour of television. I think I saw an ad for a movie within the last couple years where everyone had to tell the truth and I thought to myself, “Well, that’s going to be a tough one to tell.” It’s much more fun when you can have your characters deceive other people, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad. 

What was your reaction when they said you’re going to have new episodes during the summer?  What did you think of that? 

SR – My first reaction was grateful that they were picking us up for a back nine, because we were told at the same time, OK, we want nine more episodes but because our schedule is looking pretty full right now, we’re going to save them until summer. It’s mixed feelings because traditionally, in the past, that’s been a burn-off spot, but when I was told that they were pairing us up with The Good Guys, which I knew was an important element in their schedule, and they had been talking for a while about really making a true commitment to year-round programming, I chose to look at the glass half full and say, well I guess they want us to be pioneers for them in that regard and see if we can get an audience there.  

Also, it was a very tough time slot that we were in on Mondays at 9 p.m. in the fall. We had Dancing with the Stars along with Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory and Monday Night Football and we were holding our own and doing OK in the ratings. But now we have a chance to hopefully attract some audience attention and get some eyeballs that maybe were tuning into other things during the fall. So I’m definitely looking at it as an opportunity more than a punishment. 

I’m wondering with this back nine, were you able to map out a road towards any sort of a season finale cliffhanger that we’re going to get this summer? 

SR – Yes, is the short answer. A lot of episodes are standalone so I wouldn’t say that we crafted a nine-story serialized arc, but we did get to plan for some things, and it did allow us to look at the episodes after we finished them all and to decide in concert with the network and the studio what would be the best way to air them. And we think we’ve got some really strong last couple episodes that will launch the show into the third season fall schedule. 

There’s an episode coming up where Cal (Tim Roth) check himself into a psych ward; what can you tease us about that? 

SR – That is true, and it’s during our very special Shield reunion episode where I brought back six of our actors from The Shield and had them co-star in it. I don’t have the schedule in front of me but I have a feeling that’s like the fourth of fifth episode to air. It’s called Pied Piper, so if anyone else on the call has a schedule, they might be able to tell you the specific date (August 16th). I know it’s in the middle of the run. Yes, for a good reason, Cal has his motivations, but he does check himself into a psych ward and maybe fits in a little too well. 

Will the potential romance between Cal and Gillian (Kelli Williams) be explored further during the back nine? And the same question for Loker (Brendan Hines) and Torres (Monica Raymund). 

SR – What I would say on the Cal/Gillian front is that the relationship deepens and gets explored, but there is a character that comes in between them, played by Melissa George, for a few episodes. And we certainly leave – we have a back nine but it’s actually 12 episodes that we still have to air, that we’ve made, so in those 12 summer episodes, we’re going to learn a lot more about Cal and Gillian and how they came together. We’ve got an episode that shows in flashback how they first met and what they mean to each other, so I don’t necessarily want to label it “romance,” but their relationship deepens in a way that I think the audience will find satisfying. As for the Loker/Torres relationship, we definitely get some advancement on that front. 

Do you enjoy playing with the audience with these kinds of relationships?  Do you enjoy bringing the characters close and then ripping them apart again? 

SR – Well, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m some bemused God up in the skies toying with the audience, but we like thinking about what these characters would actually do in these situations if they were to occur. Certainly in the Torres/Loker case, you’ve got two attractive people working in close quarters, dealing with each other a lot. They have different styles and they get on each other’s nerves, but there’s also an attraction there. On the Cal/Gillian front, there’s just a really, really deep bond, and we were very interested in finding out where that came from. That’s something that was written from the beginning of the series but I also think it’s just something that naturally plays between Kelli Williams and Tim Roth. They really like each other a lot in real life and have a lot of respect for each other, and there’s something on-screen that plays. As a writer, when you see that playing in the editing room, it’s a great inspiration for stories going forward. It’s less to do with sort of playing with the audience, dangling it out and pulling it back, more than just trying to be realistic to the situations. 

Working with Tim Roth, I would think he has a very distinctive face, a very distinctive style and a very distinctive set of acting skills.  I’m wondering, are there paths that you have gone down, things that you can do, that you can say we’re doing this because of him, because you think he can handle this, because he can pull this off, because he looks this way, that maybe if you had another actor in this role, maybe you couldn’t do.  What is it specifically about Tim? 

SR – Yes. Tim is a real live wire, very, very smart actor, a very instinctual actor, and someone who really likes to be challenged on a scene-by-scene basis. I would say that his instincts fall in line with an audience. He doesn’t like to play just straight ahead procedural scenes. He likes to find a different new angle in the scenes, which is a real challenge to write, but it’s very satisfying once you meet that challenge.  

So Tim is someone who has a range that not a lot of other actors have so it’s an unspoken contest in the writers’ room. What kind of fun situation can we put Tim into, whether it’s role playing, whether it’s acting more outraged than he really is, whether it’s going to be spy in a certain scene trying to detect something while flying under someone’s radar, or as was previously mentioned, checking himself into a mental ward to get access to someone there but knowing exactly the right buttons to push with the doctor to get himself admitted. Those are the kinds of things that are our challenge. One thing I’ve found in all the shows I’ve worked on is the better you know your actors in real life, the better you’re able to write for them. So one of the keys to writing for Tim is just spending a lot of time with him, on-set, just hanging out, having meals, talking to him, getting that voice in your head, which is interesting because obviously I’m an American and obviously he’s English and so my natural speech rhythms are not the same as his, so that was a challenge for a lot of the writers to write him authentically British.  But I think we managed to do that and we also had a ringer British guy on staff that helped with that. 

Cal can be kind of a jerk a lot of the time. He’s abrasive and arrogant, and yet we still like him somehow. How do you walk that line between having somebody who’s actually quite irritating on a day-to-day basis, and yet we’re still in his corner. 

SR – I think, ultimately, honesty can be the ultimate pain killer. Oftentimes, while being a jerk, Cal is also being honest and that’s something that we can appreciate because a lot of us feel we don’t get enough honesty in our lives, and feel like people are hiding things in disguise and things from us. There’s a scene in an upcoming episode that’s, once again, in this highly-touted Pied Piper episode, I believe, where he makes a very strong accusation towards someone, the actor Benito Martinez in this case, and coming on very strong and very much like a jerk because he has an instinct that Benito is hiding something. And then Cal learns pretty quickly that he’s not hiding something and immediately reverts to a very apologetic state, which is a pretty comedic scene, I think. Cal has self-awareness of when he’s being a jerk, and will acknowledge it, and then in this case, apologize for it.  I think that buys you some interesting behavior if you know that A) his motives are pure, he’s trying to get to the bottom of these various mysteries that he’s assigned to, B) he ultimately wants the right thing by people, and C) a lot of times his jerkiness is because he’s interacting with an outside world that is not being honest.  Now is that to say that he still doesn’t occasionally act like a jerk?  He can, but those major things, I think, buy a lot back from the audience. 

Jason Dohring is going to be guest starring in an upcoming episode as a psychopathic grad student; can you talk a little bit about him and his character and also some of the other upcoming guest-stars that you have for the rest of the season? 

SR – OK, I’m going to have to go off memory so you’ll have to be a little patient with me, but that character is evolved in story where Cal Lightman believes, through his research and through his instinct, that he may be a very, very bad person. And yet, the other people in his life feel like he’s reaching, like there may be an ulterior motive for Lightman’s feelings, and he may be off base. So it becomes an episode about Cal trying to prove his theory, either right or wrong, and obtaining a great nemesis in the process. That’s about all I’d want to say about that character in that episode. 

In terms of other guest-stars in the season, I know I’m going to space on some names, but we have in that very same episode, Howard Hesseman as a teacher who’s gotten himself into a jam because he claims to have seen a UFO. He’s a teacher in the school and the school certainly doesn’t want a crazy, delusional person teaching their children. The firm is employed to try to figure out if he’s telling the truth about this.  

I mentioned that we have Melissa George for a few episodes and she did great for us. Jennifer Beals is back for a couple more episodes before I hijack her to my new Fox show. Max Martini, who was a series regular for us on The Unit, plays a recurring role as someone who, in the same way that Melissa George comes in between Cal and Gillian, on Cal’s side, Max Martini plays someone who comes a little bit between Cal and Gillian on Gillian’s side. And he’s in three or four episodes, I believe. 

I think we did a pretty good job guest casting the show.  Enver Gjokaj, who was on Dollhouse, also has a really, really great guest performance, in an episode about an Iraq war soldier who comes back and is having some mental problems from that experience that threatens his family, and Cal takes it upon himself to try to solve these problems. Those are the ones that are off the top of my head, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple of big ones. But that’s one of the fun things to do on this show that I didn’t always get to do on The Shield or The Unit was to really bring in a guest star and just give them some really meaty, fun stuff to do in just one episode. 

Since you’ve steered Season 2 of Lie to Me, and then you’re going off to your other projects, how does it feel to pass the show off to somebody else?  Is there any kind of parental feeling that you might have about that? 

SR – Yes. When I came in, Sam Baum who created the show, asked me to join up and try to help with some internal leaks on the ship and get the ship righted, and I feel that I, with a lot of help, did my part in doing that. At the time, I had some things in development but nothing was a go, and as you all know, it’s very difficult to get something on the air. After we started working on the show, I was unlucky enough to get two shows on the air.  The show Terriers for FX that’s going to premiere in the fall that we’ve been making episodes for, and then just recently my pilot, Ride Along, got picked up, first the pilot and then the series.  

So it became obvious in the last couple months that it was going to be too much work for me and I really do care a lot about Lie to Me and its future and its success. I realized that it would be better if I went to the studio and said I can’t finish this but let’s work out a transition together. We had developed what I thought was a very good team and a team that really picked up a lot of slack for me when I was in Chicago making my pilot. They proved to me that they were ready to accept a lot more responsibility. So there are a few writers from last year that are staying on and taking over the reins of the show. I really have complete faith in them. I’m in the position that I’m in now because Kevin Reilly and Peter Liguori… had a lot of faith in me to make The Shield when I had no experience to indicate that really I was capable of it. 

So I feel like it’s a situation where there are a couple of writers, Alex Cary and David Graziano on the show, who certainly have more experience that I had when I started The Shield, who I think have a really great grasp of the show, who have a lot of fantastic ideas for Season 3. They went and pitched the network on how they saw Season 3 and it was an impressive enough meeting that I think it had an impact on the show getting picked up for a third season. I’ve been trying to help them, sort of grandfatherly-advice style along the way. They drop in my office two or three times each week and update me on what’s going on with the transition and what’s going on with staffing and hiring and ask me some questions and I give them some advice, some of which they take and other of which they ignore. It’s really nice to see guys I like who I think are really talented writers getting this opportunity. I think they’re going to do a really, really great job.

As noted above, photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of Fox Television, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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Dollhouse’s Eliza Duska Celebrates Memorial Day On Syfy

May 16, 2010

THE Syfy Channel kicks off the official start of summer with a four-day Memorial Day weekend marathon of nearly 40 movies, highlighted by the premiere of Wrong Turn, starring Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, Tru Calling, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), on Saturday, May 29th @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST.

The festival begins on Friday, May 28th with “Cold as Ice” films, featuring Ice Spiders (Patrick Muldoon and Vanessa Williams) @ 5:00 p.m., Wyvern (Nick Chinlund) @ 7:00 p.m. and Yeti (Peter DeLuise) @ 9:oo p.m. On Saturday, May 29th, Syfy unleashes horror movies such as Open Graves (Mike Vogal) @ 3:00 p.m., and Wrong Turn 2 (Erica Leerhsen) @ 7:00 p.m., leading into Wrong Turn @ 9:00 p.m.

The “Don’t Go in the Water” marathon on Sunday, May 30th showcases fan favorites from Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus (Debbie Gibson) @ 3:00 p.m., Lake Placid 2 (John Schneider, Cloris Leachman) @ 7:00 p.m. and Mega Piranha (Barry Williams, Tiffany, Paul Logan) @ 9:00 p.m. to Supergator (Kelly McGillis) @ 11:oo p.m.

The holiday gala concludes on Memorial Day, May 31st, with a Stephen King movie marathon. Patricia Wetting and Dean Stockwell star in the two-part The Langoilers @ 11:oo a.m., followed by Rob Lowe, Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald in the four-part The Stand @ 3:00 p.m.

Riverworld’s Tahmoh Penikett – Serious Heroics

April 18, 2010

Tahmoh Penikett as Matt Ellman in Riverworld. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

He has battled the criminal element in Cold Squad, fallen in love with a humanoid robot in Battlestar Galactica, and doggedly pursued those in charge of a mysterious organization capable of creating the ideal human being for any situation in Dollhouse – such roles have allowed Tahmoh Penikett to exercise a wide range of his acting talents. In the Syfy Channel miniseries Riverworld, (Sunday, April 18th from 7-11:oo p.m. EST) the actor once again reached deep down into his bag of thespian tricks to bring the character of Matt Ellman to life. It is a role that he admits to having an instant connection with.

“This has only happened to me a few times, including with my character of Helo on Battlestar, which is when I first read the [audition] sides for the character of Matt in Riverworld I thought, ‘I understand this guy; I know where he’s coming from,'” says Penikett. “When the pieces fall together like that, you’ve got to trust your instincts, so I was really eager to get into the audition room.

“I met with [Riverworld director] Stuart Gillard and, honestly, I was a bit rusty as far as the audition process goes. You can be a professional actor who has been working all year long, which I’d been, but if it’s been a while since your last audition it can feel a little weird. So in this instance I had a couple of rough starts, but I subsequently worked on three scenes with Stuart and he seemed pleased with what I’d done.

Matt (Penikett) doesn't quite know what to make of his new surroundings. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“A week later my manager phoned to tell me that we were in negotiations to get me the part. At that point I still hadn’t read the entire script. When I auditioned it was last minute; I got the sides and just had to go in and do it. So when I began reading the script and realized that Matt was the lead in the piece, it was kind of an extra bonus.”

Based on the series of popular award-winning novels by Philip Jose Farmer, Riverworld follows the adventures of daredevil war correspondent Matt Ellman (Penikett). When he and his fiancée Jessie (Laura Vandervoort) meet an untimely demise, they are reborn on a strange world where billions of other deceased humans have been reborn as well. Ironically, it is Matt’s almost obsessive desire to do some good in the world that has landed him and Jessie in this predicament.

“Matt is a young man who has been tempted and put himself in a number of very dangerous situations,” explains Penikett. “There’s a part of him that gets off on that, and there’s also a bit of a sadistic side of him that likes punishing himself. My character has a lot of guilt because of past experiences that’s he’s been through, and one, in particular, that we touch upon in our story. It haunts Matt every day and is part of the reason he constantly takes on jobs as a war correspondent that most other people would turn down. Matt is forever putting himself and his cameraman in danger, but not out of selfishness. I think he feels in some ways that this is his attempt at redemption. Either that or he’s literally just punishing himself for mistakes he believes he’s made in the past.

Matt (Penikett) shares his thoughts with Tomoe (Jeananne Goossen). Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“My character is excellent at what he does, but he’s also a little bit careless. Matt is an incredibly ambitious man when he starts out as a war correspondent and he’s a brave man, too. Well-educated and raised by loving parents, he goes into this job with a great deal of drive and determination to make a difference because he believes he can. And then this one event takes place that changes him. It’s something that he cannot forgive himself for and he continues to put himself in harm’s way, probably even more so than he did in the past, in an effort to redeem himself.

“I think it’s clear right off the bat about what kind of bond Matt has with his best friend Simon [Arnold Pinnock]. They’ve been through so much together and literally saved each other’s lives multiple times. Through their relationship, you get a sense of what an incredibly loyal guy Matt is. He doesn’t have a lot of people left in his life, and when the story opens, you find that Matt and Simon have just been through yet another hairy situation. And my back story on this incident is that once again Matt sees how fragile life is. He realizes how quickly it can be taken away from you and how important it is to move on. That’s when my character decides to marry this incredible woman who he’s fallen in love with and only known for two months.”

Sadly, Matt and Jessie are victims of a cruel twist of fate, which is how they end up on Riverworld. One of the early scenes in the miniseries is of Matt being reborn. This was among those filmed on the first day of the production and one that sticks out in Penikett’s mind for several reasons.

Our hero emerges from the banks of the mysterious river. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“My number one memory of that day is the location that we shot at, Britannia Beach, which is just outside of Squamish in British Columbia,” he says. “This is God’s country and the geography is incredible in that you can have whatever type of look you want. Drive four hours away and you’ve got desert-like conditions, while in and around Vancouver you have gorgeous rainforests, beautiful oceans and majestic mountains, and this location was beautiful. We were blessed with terrific weather, too, and we had an excellent DOP [director of photography, Thomas Burstyn] as well, so all the shots are outstanding.

“The very first thing we filmed on-location is the scene where my character wakes up in Riverworld and literally comes out of the water. So within an hour-and-a-half of getting a little haircut and having make-up put on, they threw me in the ocean. Man, was it ever cold. I froze my ass off for a couple of hours doing that,” says the actor with a chuckle. “It was early April and not exactly warm for that time of year up in B.C., but, again, it was a gorgeous day.

“I also had one of my first scenes that day with Jeananne Goossen [Tomoe], and funnily enough it’s one of the last scenes in the miniseries. It was an interesting test as actors to film what essentially was an integral beginning scene, and then jump right into one of the end scenes. It was good, though, and everything felt right. I really liked the crew straightaway; everyone seemed to be on point and Stuart and I had already established a little bit of a relationship beforehand just discussing the Matt character and his back story. I immediately had a good feeling about him and he proved to me on day one that he was going to be an excellent director. Stuart was an actor, and I often find that some of the best directors are actors, were actors or at least tried it. They know how to talk to actors and understand us. Their dedication to do that is just incredible to me, and I can’t tell you how much it means to an actor, too.

Who is this mysterious blue individual and what is he or she saying to Matt (Tahmoh Penikett)? Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“Actors need to be communicated to. We’re here to serve the story. We make strong choices and as you become more experienced and confident in your craft, you’re going to bring a lot to the table. But a good director can always bring out the best in you, and Stuart spoke my language. He was completely open to any suggestions I had to try to better the script or anything I could offer up that might allow us to touch on a different angle or aspect of a scene. For my first leading role, to have that kind of relationship with a director who is so open and so intelligent was, for me, a real confidence builder as well as inspiring and I learned a great deal from Stuart.”

Although Matt has known Jessie for only a relatively short period of time, there is no doubt in his heart that this is the woman for him. “If you’ve done any traveling in your life and spent a week with someone else, that’s like knowing that person back home for four or five months,” says Penikett. “Oftentimes when you’re travelling you’re not bothered or distracted by responsibilities. You’re completely present and focused on the individual you’re with, and in my character’s back story that was the case with Matt and Jessie.

“He saw her helping an old lady in the street and couldn’t resist introducing himself to her because it truly was love at first sight. Matt had never experienced that before. This is someone who has had a lot of loss in his life. In the back story I came up with for Matt, he lost his older brother as well as his parents. The only family member he has left is his sister, so in a lot of ways he’s very guarded and closed off to true love. So when he sees this girl he just can’t believe it. Jessie is the most beautiful girl Matt has ever laid eyes on, and then the two of them share eight passionate weeks together and they just click. They’re soul mates, and Jessi is one of the few people who can break through all the pain that Matt carries with him and help him deal with it. That’s why when he finished his last assignment with Simon, he realizes, ‘I have to go for this. You only get this chance once in your life, and this is the woman I want to be with.'”

Jessie (Laura Vandervoort) and Matt, destined to be together forever...or are they? Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

They may have died together, but when Matt and Jessie get to Riverworld they are separated. Penikett’s character sets out to find her with the help of a few others, including a 12th century Samurai warrior named Tomoe.

“There’s an immediate connection and attraction between Matt and Tomoe,” notes the actor. “Yes, Matt is madly in love with Jessie and his first and foremost goal is to find her, but he and Tomoe are thrust into this situation and they form a bond with and love for each other. They go to amazing lengths for one another, and it’s a neat parallel to Matt’s and Jessie’s relationship in that as that story goes on, the respect and friendship that Matt and Tomoe share continues to grow. So there’s a lot of potential there with them too, you know? I also think that it’s confusing to both of them, but Tomoe’s loyalty and bravery is obvious.”

Matt and friends travel up the mysterious river in search of Jessie on a riverboat, courtesy of Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens (Mark Deklin). “I was very excited about the paddlewheeler because I’m from the Yukon and they’re historical up there,” says Penikett. “Most of them were burnt down, but the S.S. Klondike is probably the most famous one that’s still in the City of Whitehorse. I grew up with that being an historcial site. These boats were from the Gold Rush days when everyone was coming up from Skagway and trying to head up to Dawson City to make their fortune.

Matt (Penikett), Simon (Arnold Pinnock), Sam Clemens (Mark Deklin) and Youseff (Kwesi Ameyaw). Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“So I couldn’t believe it when I found out we would be shooting on an actual paddlewheeler. We did a ton of scenes in and out of it, and it’s very much another character in the miniseries. Within days of us being on it, Mark Deklin was saying, ‘This boat is an integral and important character in the story,’ and we all adamantly agreed Some of the most important scenes in this four-hour miniseries play out on that boat.”

Our heroes eventually cross paths with British explorer/adventurer Sir Richard Burton (Peter Wingfield), who claims he can lead them to Jessie. Matt, however, is less-than pleased when the arrogant and duplicitous Brit admits that he has developed an affection for her, and vice versa.

“That really throws my character off,” says Penikett. “The Powers That Be in Riverworld let Matt know that he and Burton have a connection that needs to be dealt with, and possibly only one of them will survive. It’s a strange experience for Matt, but all the signs keep on showing him that there’s this truth out there and he doesn’t have a choice in the matter. So he ponders carefully and moves forward as he tries to deal with it.You’ve got to understand that Matt and everyone else in this place want to know, ‘Is this a nightmare? Are we in heaven, or hell? What are the rules? Are we here to atone for the mistakes we’ve made?’ There’s a total sense of loss and confusion there, which really messes with Matt and most of the relationships he has in Riverworld.”

Could this be it for Matt (Penikett)? Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Matt and Burton eventually come to blows, literally, towards the end of the miniseries, and Penikett enjoyed the physical challenges associated with putting together as well as executing this fight. “Our head stunt coordinator, Marshall Virtue, was excellent,” he praises. “His family is a legendary stunt family from here in B.C. They’ve worked on a lot of projects and Stuart has worked with Marshall’s father Danny for 25 years.

“Marshall is a smart kid and for this project he brought in one of the best martial arts fight coordinators in the business, Larry Lamb, and to get to work with someone of his caliber is just exceptional. I’m a martial artist myself, and Larry and I connected right away. Having done a great deal of this [type of fighting], too, I tend to pick up the fight choreography fairly quickly. With Riverworld, we were constantly changing things, and that’s just the nature of filming.

“Oftentimes you’ll choreograph an incredible fight, but due to time and delays in shooting, parts of it will usually be cut out. When we went to shoot our big fight, we actually ended up cutting out a couple of little chunks. No matter what, though, it’s really important to always be safe with the fighting. If you take a wrong swing or use the wrong hand, there’s a chance that someone is going to get hurt. I have to give a shout out to our stunt guys because they were amazing. On the day of filming there was a point where I jumped off the stairs and straight-kicked one of them. I’ve got a big foot and I didn’t actually hit him, but because I was above him, I did hit his stomach pad. He went flying off the stairs, but he took it like a champ.

Matt (Penikett) and Tomoe (Jeananne Goossen), a dynamic fighting duo. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“I also had this one final scene between Matt and Burton, and once again I was fighting with a stuntman. We rehearsed it numerous times and I was supposed to throw a roundhouse kick at him. Well, my pants were so loose that they kept slipping down, which, of course, is going to impede how high you can kick. Right before the roundhouse kick, I did a bunch of other kicks. Well, my pants came down, but I didn’t realize it and I went for the roundhouse kick, which was probably a good two inches lower than it should have been. Luckily, the stunt guy ducked right under it.

“Fortunately, we all walked away pretty much unscathed. I love that sort of stuff, though, and the more I do it, the better I’m getting at the whole fight choreography thing.”

Who will live, who will die? Who will win Jessie’s heart, Matt or Burton? You will have to tune in to Riverworld to find out, and Penikett is confident that audiences will enjoy the ride. “Every actor in this miniseries really invested himself or herself in their character and I think the bar was set high right from the start,” enthuses the actor. “I worked my ass off and so did the rest of the cast as well as the crew. Everyone was very focused, ambitious and present. Ultimately, we did everything we could to make the best story possible.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos by James Dittiger and copyright of the Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Riverworld Comes To Syfy In April

March 17, 2010

THE Syfy Channel sets sail this spring with the 4-hour Sunday night television movie Riverworld, premiering Sunday, April 18th from 7-11:oo p.m. EST. Starring Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica/Dollhouse), Laura Vandervoort (V/Smallville) and Alan Cumming (Tin Man), Riverworld is an epic adventure featuring familiar characters in an unfamiliar world and is based on the popular award-winning series of novels by Philip Jose Farmer. The TV miniseries is produced by Reunion Pictures and will be distributed internationally by RHI Entertainment, who teamed up to also bring TV audiences two other Syfy Channel TV events, Tin Man and Earthsea.

Matt Ellman (Penikett) is an American war zone reporter who has witnessed the worst of humanity first-hand, yet still grasps on to an optimistic spirit. When a suicide bomber kills both Matt and his fiance Jessie (Vandervoort), they awaken separated in a mysterious world where everyone who has ever lived on Earth seems to have been “reborn” along the banks of a seemingly endless river. Determined to locate Jessie, Matt joins forces with a 13th century female samurai warrior named Tomoe (Jeanne Goossen) and American novelist Sam “Mark Twain” Clemens (Mark Deklin). Together they sail upriver in search of its source, and to discover where they are and who put them there. Alan Cumming guest-stars as the mysterious “Caretaker.”

Dollhouse’s Eliza Dushku – A Not-So-Distant Echo

October 28, 2009
Jamie Bamber and Eliza Dushku (Echo) in the seasn two Dollhouse premiere "Vows." Photo copyright of Fox Television

Jamie Bamber (Martin Klar) and Eliza Dushku (Echo) in the season two Dollhouse premiere "Vows." Photo copyright of Fox Television

What would you give to have the perfect man or woman to perform everything from a daring heist to a kinky sexual act? That is the premise behind Fox TV’s Dollhouse, which stars Eliza Dushku as Caroline Farrell, a former college activist who, against her will, has her personality and memory wiped and becames an “Active” or “Doll” for a worldwide organization called  The Dollhouse. As Echo, she is programmed with various personalities depending on the needs of the person or persons who hire her. At the end of the show’s first year, our heroine had started to regain snippets of who she once was, and this (second) season, Echo is fighting to regain her true self while fighting The Dollhouse from within. 

The daughter of an Albanian-American administrator father and Danish-American professor mother, Eliza Dushku was raised with ambition in her blood. At the early age of 10, she was discovered by casting agents for the lead role of Alice in the feature film That Night.

Most recently, Dushku co-starred with Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman in Bottle Shock, a drama about the birth of the Napa Valley wine country. In 1993, the actress landed the role of Pearl alongside Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in This Boy’s Life. The following year, she starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, opposite Paul Reiser in Bye Bye, Love and alongside Halle Berry in Race the Sun.

After high school, Dushku returned to acting with the role of Faith Lehane in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Though initially planned as a five-episode arc, the character became so popular that the actress stayed on for the entire third season and returned for a two-part appearance the following season. The remainder of her original story arc was played out in the first season of the spin-off Angel. Repentant and rededicated, Faith returned as a heroine in a number of later episodes of Angel and the last five episodes of Buffy.

A few weeks ago, Dushku graciously spent part of her day off speaking with me and other journalists on a conference call about season two of Dollhouse. Here is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy!

How do you feel the direction of this (second) season differs from the last one?

ELIZA DUSHKU – Well, there’s so much being cracked open and explored, especially with Echo having this new place that she’s in, in terms of what we picked up from last year. She had all these personalities downloaded into her in one swift punch, and they’re not going away. This year, Echo is still tapping into these personalities. Sometimes it’s of her control, other times it’s not. Overall, she’s absorbing things from her engagements as well as The Dollhouse and she’s really becoming self-aware. However, it’s not necessarily as Caroline, but as Echo, as her own person, so she’s definitely more complicated. This season it’s a little darker all around. We’ll explore things such as the origins of some of the other Dolls as well as other characters. We’re also bringing in a number of guest-stars and other fabulous people, so there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening this year.

What trouble will Echo run into during her attempts to save everyone?

ED – I’m sure every kind and all kinds because it’s a Joss Whedon show. We’re starting episode seven and there are so many directions as well as layers. It’s all over the map. Of course, one of the main storylines is Agent Paul Ballard’s [Tahmoh Penikett], who spent last season trying to get into The Dollhouse. Now that he’s in and Echo’s handler, he’s working with her and they may possibly be trying to bring The Dollhouse down from the inside. We also get some backstory involving Dell [Olivia Williams] and her superiors along with other Dollhouses around the country and the world. We get an idea of just how big the Rossum Corporation is, and Summer Glau [Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles] will be joining us as well. She’ll play a programmer from the D.C. Dollhouse, and we’ll get an idea of the way the other houses are being run.

How does a Watertown (Massachusetts) girl become Joss Whedon’s muse?

ED – That’s such a funny and good question, and I have no idea. When I made my audition tape for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I went to the Arsenal Mall [in Watertown, Massachusetts] and bought my outfit at Contempo Casuals. I remember telling the clerk that I was making a tape for Buffy and they were so excited. And then I was actually emancipated by a Boston judge, who was also a Buffy fan. Obviously it’s a show that dealt with vampires who come out at night, and I was still technically a minor, so I had a great judge who emancipated me so that I could go out to Los Angeles and do the show. Fortunately, I was already out of high school at that time. I guess I’ve always gotten by with a little help from my friends, in Boston and everywhere else.

What do you like about working with Joss and doing his shows?

ED – First and foremost, I love the guy as a friend. Joss has been a friend, a brother, a teacher, a mentor, but the other obvious thing is just his talent. Joss’ skill is so beautiful to me, and he’s just wildly creative as well as smart, a feminist,  funny, dark, scary and twisted. Joss combines all that and more into such a sweet little package, and he gets me every time.

As great as the show is, as talented as the cast is, and as clever as Joss and his team are, obviously you want people to watch the show, and I’m just wondering, do you think Fox has put the show in a position for that to happen, airing you on Friday night after a comedy?

ED – Well, I think they realized last year that people who wanted to find the show did, and, obviously, there has been a lot of talk about DVR and TiVo and how we really are alive for a second season because of that in a major way. I can see how they would say that people found the show last year, so we’re just going to leave it where it is and hope that that continues.

Ratings are obviously important, but, you know, having a professor for a mother, she always taught us about qualitative versus quantitative research. I know we’re making a quality show and that we have quality fans and people who tune in experience something different and out of the ordinary. There are so many shows on TV that are instant hits; we’re not that, but we have a core following, and I think that people check the show out and aren’t intimidated by it. In fact, they find themselves being sucked in pretty easily. It’s sharp, intelligent fun. Sometimes it’s off-the-wall TV, too, and I know that when I’m spending an hour of my life sitting down to watch the boob tube, I love getting a rich experience out of it. And I’ve always found that to be true with Joss, in particular, as well as his shows. Having been given a second season, we’re just so grateful to the fans and to Fox for giving us another chance, and we’re making the most of it.

You and Summer Glau shot a promo last year, and back then your two shows kind of were fighting for the last spot in the line-up. Now that she’s part of your show, what’s the dynamic like between you and her?

ED – Summer is great. I love her. We’ve had such a good time during the past two episodes. She has come in with her A-game and is such a sweet, positive and fun actress. Summer is great to play off of. Our characters have some backstory that we have to fight out, and so that’s a lot of fun. Also, anyone who’s from Joss’ past and who he’s bringing back to work with, I assume he had a great working relationship with them. He wouldn’t bring any bad eggs into our house, so I can always pretty much safely know that we’re going to have the cream of the crop coming back and coming in.

You mentioned that Echo was kind of all over the place this year as a character; as an actor, how do you approach that?

ED – It’s easier this year because we don’t have as much of that sort of ‘dumb down Doll’ with Echo. She has all these personalities and is the sum of all these parts, including Caroline. At the same time, she’s not really any of these personalities, but is, in fact, Echo. There’s something grounding in that, and there’s a strength in the personality that she’s forming through that. Echo is picking and pulling information from all these different people that she’s been, and as a result she’s coming to understand and form her own ethics and morals. This character is constantly absorbing, thinking and processing, whereas last year she was switching from this dumb down Doll to a singular personality imprint, and it was always a different one. This season, there’s something going on inside Echo that’s not just what you’re seeing on the surface and it’s fun for me to play.

It seemed that you guys had such a strong fan base even before the show premiered. Do you guys pay attention to the blog sites and what the fans are saying when you’re coming up with how to shape the episodes and the series as a whole?

ED – I know that Joss and I have always paid attention to the fan love, and we love the fans right back, absolutely. I don’t know how much he takes tips from the fans when it comes to storylines. On the contrary, from what I’ve seen, when he sees someone falling in love with a character, he’s been known to assassinate that character or do something else terrible to him or her. Maybe that’s a blessing in itself, but Joss definitely has a mind of his own. Within the group of writers, they aren’t really conformists, I can confidently say. So whether it’s fans or critics or studios for that matter, they do their best work when they’re sort of left alone and they reveal things as and when they feel they should be revealed. And that goes for me and the other actors as well.

Sometimes it’s really exciting for me. I don’t want to necessarily know what’s going to happen three episodes down the road because it may affect the way I’m playing Echo today. I enjoy the thrill, the adrenaline that comes from reading the next new chapter, and the next layer that Joss reveals is one of the most exhilarating things that I’ve experienced as an actress.

Is there a particular role or character in an upcoming episode that you’re going to play that was hard for you to get into, and if so, why?

ED – Well, I’ll tell you, playing a mother was certainly something I hadn’t expected. I’m an aunt, and I’ve always loved other peoples’ children and babies, but playing a mother and trying to tap into that maternal instinct was a challenge, but also a thrill, and a beautiful thing, too.

Do you sit down with a script and break it down insofar as how aware Echo is of what’s going on with her, or do you just sort of do a scene and see what feels right in how to play it?

ED – We’re absolutely breaking it down more this year because those realized moments with my character are much stronger. It’s actually been deeper work for me, but, again, it makes the character more interesting and challenging for me to play. I have to say it’s been a blessing this year to also be shooting in HD [high-definition] because we have more time,which means i get to spend a lot more time with the material and these characters and their glitches, etc. I feel like that’s paying off for me a lot this year, and that my performance has gotten stronger and more honest.

In the season opener with Jamie Bamber there’s that scene in the office where he catches me, then bashes my head off the table, and then I end up in that sort of tailspin. I sort of famously now burst into tears in the middle of that scene because it was so emotional, and I now feel this real connection to the character that came from the inception of the show. Joss and I have tried to make this character a little bit based on me where it’s this struggle, this battle of who I  am. Even with all the pressures of society and things pouring in on me, where does that break and where is my authentic self, and how it feels to stand and live in that. So it’s very personal as well as exciting, terrifying and gratifying.

Do you feel like Dollhouse is really about the experience of being an actor living and working, in particular, in Los Angeles, and people expecting you to kind of fulfill their fantasies and the dark side of that? Is that something you feel when playing Echo?

ED – Yes, I absolutely think there’s a layer or more of that. When Joss and I had our infamous lunch, that was one of the threads and one of the themes, but I think it also translates to young women all over the world. I was the only girl in a family with three boys, and I remember my mother reading this book called Reviving Ophelia about adolescent girls and the way young women are broken down starting in their teens, where they’re starting to get hit from all sides by images in the media and how things start to change in their lives, especially when it comes to their fathers as well as their peers. It’s like the spirit of a young woman is so fragile and can be so toyed with and broken. My mother was always aware of that and really tried to fight against it and to teach me how to be comfortable in my own skin and all of that. So when I sat talking about that stuff with Joss, it’s so extraordinary that, as a man, he tapped into that in such a profound and intelligent way. I can’t think of anyone else that gets that and can create a fantasy show that encompasses such a universal and serious thing in our society. So it’s definitely parallel to me and, I feel, to women all over the world.

How much closer will Echo get to rediscovering her true self this season?

ED – Every single episode it’s been a little bit more. Again, we’re on episode seven now, and in this one we’ve been building to a real extreme. I’m scared to say too much because I don’t want to ruin it for the viewers, but Echo really is becoming an entirely different character in many ways. She’s getting further away from Caroline, even though she is Echo’s original self. Caroline is there, but Echo is discovering things about her that are unsavory or that are not Echo.

The development of my character has been so exciting and fascinating because of the way Joss and the writers pick pieces from each of her experiences and weave them into this new character. So you’ll be seeing a whole new Echo this season who is the sum of all the parts that she’s been.

They just released a film you did called Open Graves that kind of flew in under the radar. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

ED – I shot Open Graves in Spain about two-and-a-half years ago, and as is sometimes the case in this business, there are times that movies don’t come together at the pace or with the expectation that was initially intended. I actually haven’t seen the movie. It premiered on TV when I was in Italy, but I have yet to even watch it on my TiVo. The movie was a cool experience. I was interested in working with the director [Alvaro de Arminan], who had worked very closely with [producer/writer/director] Pedro Almodovar, and I thought the script had some interesting and different Sci-Fi/Horror twists to it. I enjoy working in that genre but it never quite gelled into the movie that I had anticipated, but, again, it happens, but you keep going. You don’t quit, and I certainly won’t quit that genre.

How much of a factor does (the Dollhouse episode ) Epitaph One play into season two, because it wasn’t originally broadcast but is part of the DVD set. Joss Whedon was saying that he’d like to revisit that in the future. Could you tell us a bit about that, please.

ED Epitaph was so well done and it brought me to tears. Truly, when Joss told me about it, I wondered how the hell he was going to do it, but I was just so impressed and proud of him and everyone involved. It was such a beautiful episode and I think it’s a shame that it didn’t air here [in the States]. But also the fact that it didn’t air was sort of the reason we came back, because they didn’t end the story. Getting picked up for a second season, the network probably wanted to pick up where we left off.

I know that in the first episode of this season, Joss originally planned on weaving some of that [Epitaph] into it, but there was already so much to cover. We had Amy Acker [Dr. Claire Saunders], who we’re not going to be able to have with us for the entire season, so we had her character’s storyline and we had to have a big, fierce engagement. So we took anything to do with it [Epitaph] out, but I do know Joss wants to slice in some stuff into future episodes. I loved the way the future looked, so dark and terrifying, and I hope we see more of it.

As noted above, photo is copyright of Fox Television, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Take Echo Out Of The Dollhouse

October 2, 2009

BEGINNING today, Dollhouse fans can have Echo (Eliza Dushku) come alive on their computer desktops with “Virtual Echo,” a new application based on the fan-favorite series that airs Fridays (9 p.m. – 10 p.m. EST/PST) on Fox. “Virtual Echo,” a new free augmented-reality desktop application built by integrated marketing agency BLITZ using the Adobe Flash Platform, is available for download only at www.fox.com/virtualecho. Powered by Adobe AIR, “Virtual Echo” brings the Dollhouse‘s most requested Active (or Doll) to life on computers in two unique ways.

Desktop Echo turns any computer screen into Echo’s playground. Watch Echo walk onto your desktop as she switches between her different personas, including dream date, hostage negotiator and assassin. Fans may leave the application running to be surprised as Echo displays her many special talents.

Augmented Reality Echo allows users to expand the Echo experience using augmented reality (AR) technology. Simply print out the AR card at the website address above with the special Dollhouse symbol or “glyph,” aim it at the computer’s webcam and bring Echo to life by moving the card. Then use the arrow keys to choose between her different avatars. Get more information on the “Virtual Echo” experience by watching a brief video online at http://bit.ly/VirtualEchoDemo.

Viewers will also get a closer look at the secrets of the Dollhouse as well as instant access to full episodes, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, cast and crew interviews and online photo galleries.

The Dollhouse application was developed by BLITZ, a leading integrated marketing agency focused on developing immersive, entertaining and imaginative experiences. Known for creating revolutionary consumer campaigns, BLITZ worked closely with the team from gskinner.com in order to create an extended experience that tied the intrigue of the TV series to online content, real-world promotions and now viewers’ desktops.

Dollhouse’s Tahmoh Penikett – In The House

October 1, 2009
Tahmoh Penikett is Dollhouse's Paul Ballard. Photo copyright of Fox TV

Tahmoh Penikett is Dollhouse's Paul Ballard. Photo copyright of Fox TV

There is an old saying that nice guys finish last. Fortunately, that is not always true, especially for Tahmoh Penikett. Good-looking, congenial and, most importantly, talented, this Canadian-born actor has made quite an impression on TV audiences with appearances on such shows as Cold Squad, Smallville, The L Word and Stargate SG-1. Earlier this year, he not only finished a four-season stint playing Captain Karl “Helo” Agathon on Battlestar Galactica, but also made his debut as ex-FBI Special Agent Paul Ballard in Joss Whedon’s new series Dollhouse, season two of which premiered last Friday night on Fox. Having seen Penikett in Galactica, Whedon already knew who he wanted to fill Paul Ballard’s shoes.

“My manager called me in late February or early March [2008] to say that Joss Whedon [Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel] wanted to speak with me, and without hesitating I said, ‘Give him my number,'” chuckles Penikett. “So Joss and I met and had a great conversation. After telling me that he was a Battlestar fan, Joss began to talk about a new project [Dollhouse] that Eliza Dushku was going to be the lead in, and a character named Paul Ballard that he had written with me in mind, which was incredibly flattering.

“Joss and I really clicked during that first meeting. After he talked about the premise of the series, I told him about a book that I had read and found very similar in tone and sadness to this particular piece. Joss had also read the same book and agreed with me. He then told me, ‘You’re my choice for the role of Ballard, but, ultimately, you have to read for the network,’ and I said, ‘No problem.’

“The people at Battlestar released me from work for a few days so I could fly down to Los Angeles and do the network test. Eliza was nice enough to come all the way back from Peru, where I believe she was traveling with her brother, to read with me, and then the rest was out of my hands. When I heard I got the part, the people at Battlestar, being the incredible people they were, released me last April [2008] in the middle of shooting our last three or four episodes to go back down to LA and film the original Dollhouse pilot.”

In Dollhouse, Penikett’s character of Paul Ballard is assigned the task of investigating the Dollhouse, a mysterious organization that is home to a group of individuals called “Actives” or “Dolls.” These operatives, including Echo (Dushku), have had their personalities and existences wiped clean for the purpose of being reprogrammed with a new persona, sometimes multiple ones. Depending on who hires them, these “Dolls” can be used to do everything from commit crimes to fulfilling the ultimate fantasy. While most of his fellow agents treat the Dollhouse as a joke, Paul is determined to find it and rescue Echo. Like all new acting jobs, it took Penikett a little time to settle into his role.

“When you’re playing a new character you have to make some strong acting choices,” he explains. “Starting out, it was somewhat of a hectic shoot at times because of the rewrites as well as the hype that the producers and writers had to deal with as far as what it [the series] was going to be and what it had to be. As a result, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk at length with Joss about our characters and the direction that they’d be taking. I mean, yes, he did provide me with some essential information, and, thankfully, Joss and his writing staff are extremely talented, but there were times where I had to do some guessing and choosing on my own. That’s why it’s often somewhat easier with a miniseries or even a feature film because you’ve got a beginning, middle and end. So there’s something you can work towards in terms of choices and direction with regard to where your character is going to end up.

“So it was a challenge in the beginning with Dollhouse, but once we got into it and everyone got over their nerves and began to find their characters, it really started coming together,” enthuses Penikett. “I feel the second half of our first season was especially strong and everyone should be proud of it. Now that all those initial jitters are out of the way, I’m even more excited about the second season.”

Nearly halfway through Dollhouse‘s first season, Paul Ballard’s efforts to prove that the Dollhouse does, in fact, exist, are rewarded when he comes face-to-face with Echo in Man on the Street. “That was my first big episode of the show and one that pretty much concentrated on my character,” notes Penikett. “I thoroughly enjoyed shooting it; there was a lot of martial arts involved and I had a number of scenes with Eliza as well as several of my castmates.

“There’s another episode where Paul discovers that Mellie [Miracle Laurie], who’s this woman he’s fallen in love with and has been having an affair with for a while is, in fact, a Doll [codenamed November]. It’s almost too much for Paul and he can’t believe it. My character is devastated and absolutely shocked, and in this episode there’s a scene where Mellie takes him into the bedroom where they’re about to make love. Paul is taking his shirt off when suddenly she witches personalities, and my character thinks she’s just messing with him at first. That was such a well-written scene and a lot of fun to play. I just love Miracle. I think she’s a very, very talented actress and an angel. I really enjoyed working with her.”

In Dollhouse‘s year one finale, Omega, Paul is suspended from the FBI and subsequently captured by two Dollhouse operatives, Boyd Langton (Harry J. Lennix) and Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams). With limited options, he agrees to help the group find Alpha (Alan Tudyk), a rogue Active, in exchange for Mellie’s freedom. With Paul Ballard facing an entirely new set of personal as well as professional hurdles in the show’s second season, Penikett has one or two things on his “wish list” when it comes to his character’s on-going development.

“I’m hoping we’ll get to reveal a bit more of Paul’s past, because I think it would help audiences come to grips with his somewhat brooding, darker side,” says the actor. “He’s got some demons and has been thorough a lot. Paul is somewhat of a lone wolf, but he chooses to be one. Why is that? What happened in Paul’s past that has made him so averse to getting help from other people? Why is he so self-righteous? I think we should explore that a little more in season two, but not too much. After all, we want to leave something for season three,” he jokes. “Again, if we explore that side of my character a bit more, it might help the viewer, maybe not empathize or even sympathize with Paul, but perhaps better understand him because I think he’s confusing to some people.”

Prior to Dollhouse, Penikett became a familiar face the world over for his performance in the aforementioned Peabody Award-winning drama Battlestar Galactica. The actor first appeared as Helo in the 2003 miniseries, which at the time looked like it would be the character’s swan song as well when he gave up his place on a rescue ship to Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and remained behind on the enemy-occupied Caprica. Luckily, the show’s producers recognized Helo’s, and Penikett’s, potential and decided to keep them both around.

“Helo’s story arc became a more integral and important part of the overall Battlestar story as each season went on, and I’m truly honored that that was the case,” says the actor. “There were a lot of opportunities with that and the writers took what I was giving them and went with it. That’s a testament to how talented they were, because a lot of the stuff was just subtle choices that Grace Park [who played Penikett’s on-screen wife Sharon “Boomer” Valerii] and I were making regarding our characters’ story and giving it more backstory. The writers realized this and wrote for us.

“My character starts out as a young man at the beginning of the series. He has a lot of good qualities but he’s still a very young man, like most of the people in the miniseries and before the surprise attack by the Cylons. However, after war breaks out once again between man and machine, Helo has to grow up very fast and he proves that he doesn’t like being a loner. He has a true and extremely real ethical and moral sense like no one else has. Helo is obviously a leader and not afraid to fight for what he believes in. He’ll stop at nothing to save his wife and child and express his feelings when he disagrees with a decision that those in command are making.”

After five years of conflict and animosity, the surviving humans and humanoid Cylons come together on a new Earth-like planet to establish a brand new civilization in Galactica‘s two-part finale Daybreak. Not surprisingly, these remaining episodes were bittersweet ones for the show’s cast and crew to shoot.

“Being the finale, we knew that there were going to be some huge as well as scary and jaw-dropping moments,” recalls Penikett. “Ultimately, the work that everyone did in the final episodes of Galactica was incredible. Everyone shines. I had the opportunity to do an amazing scene with Edward James Olmos [Admiral William Adama] again, along with some incredible scenes with Grace, which I always loved. I also got to act with some of my fellow cast that I hadn’t really had the chance to do before.

“That’s what stands out for me about those final episodes of Galactica; the beautiful and truthful work and the pride we had about being part of a show that completely broke the mold of the stereotypical Sci-Fi TV series. We reinvented it, so when shooting the finale I focused on just being there every day and enjoying every moment that I was having with these people who I probably wouldn’t work with again for a very long time. Grace Park and I were totally on the same page. Even during those 16-hour days, we’d be sitting there looking at each other and smile, tease one another and laugh. Our last day and the last scene I shot was a very emotional one. We all had a good cry. It was a fulfilling and sad moment at the same time.”

Penikett spent most of this past May and part of June shooting The Syfy Channel miniseries Riverworld, in which he plays the starring role of Matt Ellman. Prior to moving back down to Los Angeles to begin work on season two of Dollhouse, he filmed an independent short film called Hostage, written by Brent Cote. “This is a piece that Brent pretty much wrote for me and Aleks Paunovic,” says the actor. “Aleks is an excellent actor and one of my best friends in the world. We’d been looking to do something together for a while and Brent wrote an amazing script that I got to produce as well as star in with Aleks. So I was pleased to have the chance to do that before trying to get organized for LA.”

Later this year I’ll be running a detailed interview with Tahmoh about his work on Riverworld to coincide with the airing of the miniseries on The Syfy Channel.

Steve Eramo

As noted above, the photo is copyright of Fox TV, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Summer Glau Moves Into Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse

August 27, 2009

SUMMER Glau (Firely, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) reunites with Joss Whedon when the actress joins the cast of Dollhouse this fall in a recurring role as Bennett, a Dollhouse employee who shares a past with Echo (Eliza Dushku). The second season of Dollhouse premieres Friday, September 25th @ 9 p.m. EST/PST on Fox.

Additional guest-stars appearing throughout the upcoming second season include Alexis Denisof (Angel), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica) and Keith Carradine (Dexter). Daniel Perrin (Denisof) is a U.S. senator leading a witch hunt to track down the underground organization. Mysterious, charismatic businessman Martin Klar (Bamber) is Echo’s new husband. Bradley Karrens (Hogan) comes to the Dollhouse hoping to stop a psychotic family member’s killing spree, while Matthew Harding (Carradine), a nemesis of Dollhouse leader Adelle Dewitt (Olivia Williams), stirs up trouble. Additionally, Dr. Claire Saunders/Whiskey (Amy Acker) and Madeline/November (Miracle Laurie) return this season in multiple-episode arcs.

Dollhouse is produced by 20th Century Fox Television. The series was created by Joss Whedon, who also serves as executive producer, writer and director. Tim Minear and David Solomon are executive producers, while Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas are co-executive producers. Additionally, series star Eliza Dushku serves as a producer.

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse Returns In September

July 8, 2009

THE second season of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse will premiere on Friday, September 25th @ 9 p.m. EST/PST on FOX. Series creator and executive producer Joss Whedon will write and direct the episode that will set the stage for season two.

In Dollhouse, Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, an “Active” in a highly illegal and underground group of individuals whose personalities have been wiped clean so that they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Confined between missions to a secret facility known as the “Dollhouse,” the Actives are hired by the wealthy, powerful and connected to wholly become – with mind, personality and physiology – whomever the client wants or needs them to be. Whether imprinted to be a lover, an assassin, a corporate negotiator or a best friend, the Actives know no other life than the specific engagements they are in at the time – or do they?

Dollhouse is produced by 20th Century Fox Television. The series was created by Joss Whedon, who also serves as executive producer, writer and director. Tim Minear is an executive producer, while Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas and David Solomon are co-executive producers. Additionally, series star Eliza Dushku serves as a producer. The show also stars Tahmoh Penikett, Olivia Williams, Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj.

Casting Call and The Envelope Please…

April 8, 2009

Earlier today the Sci Fi Channel announced the casting of the lead roles in two of their four-hour back-door movie pilots. Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse) and Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) star in Riverworld, which is based on the popular award-winning series of novels by Philip Jose Farmer. Penikett plays Matt Ellman, an American war zone reporter who, together with his fiancee Jessie (Vandervoort), is killed by a suicide bomber. The two wake in a strange world where anyone who has ever died on Earth has been “reborn” along the banks of a seemingly endless river. Matt and Jessie team up with a female Samurai warrior named Tomoe (Jeananne Goossen) and American novelist Sam Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain (Mark Deklin). The foursome set sail on the river in an effort to find its source as well as more about this world and why they have been brought there. Alan Cumming (who played Glitch in the 2007 Sci Fi Channel miniseries Tin Man) guest-stars as the enigmatic Caretaker.

Stepping into the title role of The Phantom and his alter ego Chris Walker is Ryan Carnes,  whose credits include Doctor Who, Desperate Housewives and the daytime TV soap opera General Hospital. Carnes plays a re-imagined version of this classic comic strip superhero whose battle with the criminal element continues in the present day. His heroic alter ego matches wits with the villainous Lithia, played by Isabella Rossellini (High Priestess Thar in the 2004 Sci Fi Channel miniseries Earthsea). Rounding out the cast is Cameron Goodman (Mad Men, The Closer) as Chris Walker’s love interest Renny, and Sandrine Holt (24, The L Word) as The Phantom’s trusted advisor Guran.

Riverworld has begun production in Vancouver, B.C., while The Phantom is shooting in Montreal. Both TV movies are slated for a 2010 broadcast.

On Monday, the nominees for the 2009 Canadian Leo Awards were announced on the Leo’s official site. A Celebration Awards Ceremony will take place in Vancouver, B.C. on Friday, May 8th, with a Gala Awards Ceremony following on Saturday, May 9th. Among the nominees are a number of familiar names in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre including:

Best Direction in a Feature Length Drama – Martin Wood (Stargate Continuum)

Best Screenwriting in a Feature Length Drama – Brad Wright (Stargate Continuum)

Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Feature Length Drama – Sebastian Spence (Ice Blues: A Donald Strachey Mystery)

Lead Performance by a Male in a Feature Length Drama – Dan Payne (Mulligans), Roger Cross (Playing for Keeps), Michael Shanks (Stargate Continuum)

Lead Performance by a Female in a Feature Length Drama – Amanda Tapping (Stargate Continuum)

Best Dramatic Series Reaper, Smallville, Stargate Atlantis

Best Screenwriting in a Dramatic Series – Sam Egan (Sanctuary – “Edward”), Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie (Stargate Atlantis – “Remnants”), Brad Wright (Stargate Atlantis – “The Shrine”), Alan McCullough (Stargate Atlantis – “The Queen”)

Best Production Design in a Dramatic Series – James Robbins (Stargate Atlantis – “Search and Rescue”)

Best Costume Design in a Dramatic Series – Valerie Halverson (Stargate Atlantis – “The Queen”)

Best Make-Up in a Dramatic Series – Todd Masters, Nicholas Podbrey, Sarah Pickersgill, Harlow MacFarlane (Sanctuary – “Warriors”), Todd Masters, Holland Millar, Kyla-Rose Tremblay, Nicholas Podbrey, Brad Proctor (Stargate Atlantis – “Vegas”)

Best VFX in a Dramatic Series  – Lee Wilson, Lisa Sepp-Wilson, Sebastian Bergeron, Les Quinn, Matthew Belbin (Sanctuary – “Sanctuary For All”), Mark Savela, Shannon Gurney, Kodie MacKenzie, Vivian Jim, Dan Wier (Stargate Atlantis – “First Contact”)

Best Guest Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series – Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary – “Edward”)

Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series – Christine Willes (Reaper – “The Leak”), Teryl Rothery (The Guard – “Sound of Loneliness”)

Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series – Tyler Labine (Reaper – “Coming to Grips”), Steve Bacic (The Guard – “At Sea”)

Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series – Missy Peregrym (Reaper – “Coming to Grips”), Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary – “Requiem”), Jewel Staite (Stargate Atlantis – “Tracker”)

For a complete list of catagories and nominees check out www.leoawards.com