Posts Tagged ‘The 4400’

Eureka’s Jaime Paglia – Small Town Kinda Guy

July 22, 2009
Colin Ferguson (Sheriff Jack Carter), Joe Morton (Henry Deacon) and Salli Whitfield-Richardson (Dr. Allison Blake) in the season three Eureka episode "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Colin Ferguson (Sheriff Jack Carter), Joe Morton (Henry Deacon) and Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Dr. Allison Blake) in the season three Eureka episode "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

BELIEVE it or not, it was three years ago that Eureka co-creator and executive producer Jaime Paglia first invited audiences into the small Pacific Northwest town where, thanks to the local government-run think tank Global Dynamics, just about anything scientifically and technologically-speaking can happen. The brains behind Eureka may be working towards the betterment of humanity, but their results often end up endangering the town and its locals.

Midway through the show’s third season, Sheriff Jack Carter prevented a doomsday weapon from destroying Eureka. However, when he let Eva Thorne, one of the scientists involved in a pre-Eureka research project on atomic bombs, go free, he was fired. That was last summer. Earlier this month, Eureka returned to the Syfy Channel with 10 brand new episodes to finish out its third season, which was part of the plan all along according to Paglia.

“The reason that this order [for season three] got split the way it did was because once the writers’ strike [of 2007] resolved itself, it was a matter of, ‘OK, hurry up and catch up,'” explains the executive producer. “In order to stay on track for having episodes to air last summer in Eureka‘s regular time-slot, we were only able to physically shoot and complete eight episodes.

“So as opposed to doing the full 18-episode run all at once, we wrote and shot eight, then took a brief hiatus while the writers furiously caught up on scripts so that we’d have more material to shoot, and gave the cast and crew a little breather. Then we went back and shot the last 10 episodes. We’d hoped that they were going to air earlier this year, around February, but economics being what they are, the network elected to hold them until this summer.

“We planned to do a mini-arc with the Eva Thorne [Frances Fisher] character and that was something we wanted to resolve. We had discovered the challenges of sometimes doing a longer mythology arc that you then might not be able to explore in every episode the way we would want to. And I think we decided it was easier to focus on the active element of the first eight episodes of this [third] season and resolve things a bit quicker. That, in turn, allowed us to create a whole new mini-arc for the remaining 10 episodes, and it felt like a really nice, manageable way to approach the story breaking process.”

An unemployed Sheriff Carter happily lends a hand to help his friends out in "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

An unemployed Sheriff Carter happily lends a hand to help his friends out in "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

In the mid-season cliffhanger From Fear to Eternity, the lives of many of our favorite Eureka characters were turned upside-down. Besides Jack Carter’s (Colin Ferguson) dismissal by General Mansfield (Barclay Hope), the sheriff’s teenage daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) almost died as a result of her exposure to an aging compound that killed Eva Thorne’s colleagues. Dr. Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) also discovered that she was pregnant with her deceased husband Dr. Nathan Stark’s (Ed Quinn) child. All these developments, coupled with various behind-the-scenes goings-on, steered the show’s writers in a certain direction when it came to writing the rest of the season.

“There were some curve balls thrown at us midway through this season,” notes Paglia. “Some were production related, and others were just the types of things that happen with peoples’ personal lives that, in turn, can affect how you break stories. All those elements definitely had an impact on what we ended up doing with these back 10 episodes.

“We wanted to introduce a new love interest for Jack Carter and change the dynamic that we’ve traditionally had with him and Nathan Stark as these two Alpha males battling over the Alpha female. Also, with Stark’s passing, we wanted to bring in a new character, which we did in Dr. Tess Fontana, played by Jamie Ray Newman. Tess and Allison have a history. They’re old friends, but that also gets a little tense when Tess and Carter start to develop a romantic connection, which was, I think, really fun to play out.

“Something else we wanted to do was step up the relationship between Deputy Jo Lupo [Erica Cerra] and Zane Donovan [Niall Matter] and challenge it as far as if it’s a short-term thing or something more,” continues the executive producer. “Then there was Zoe and her boyfriend Lucas [Vanya Asher]. She’s coming to an age now where they’re talking about college and whether or not they’re planning to go to the same school and things of that nature. So I think it gave us a chance to really deepen the relationships and those connections and go to places that we haven’t before. That’s a challenge writing-wise and probably a lot more satisfying for our cast of actors to play as well.”

The second half of Eureka‘s third season opens with Welcome Back Carter. In it, Carter and Zoe contemplate leaving Eureka as the ex-sheriff looks for a new job. Meanwhile, everyone in town is surprised when Carter is replaced with Fargo’s (Neil Grayston) latest invention, a robotic sheriff named Andy (Ty Olsson). Unfortunately, the congenial and civic-minded robot is targeted by powerful gravity wells, which repeatedly crush him. Carter investigates and ultimately teams up with Andy to help save the day. Realizing that Jack is better suited to uphold law and order in Eureka. Andy helps Henry (Joe Morton) get him reinstated.

Sheriff Carter and Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston). Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Sheriff Carter and Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston). Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“I’d like to have Sheriff Andy make a return to the show,” says Paglia. “He nearly did in this season’s finale, but I would say looking forward optimistically to season four, I think it would be great to have him back on some kind of recurring basis.

Welcome Back Carter is probably the most challenging episode we did in these back 10. There’s a sort of constant push and pull that goes on when you’re making a show like ours because you’re obviously tied to a certain budget. You do everything you can with that budget, and with that in mind, the [visual effects] guys who put the show together kill themselves to give us more than we’re even paying for. I mean, they really extend themselves and I think they’re more critical than any of us when it comes to saying, ‘You know what, if we did just one more thing it would be better.’

“One example of that is the final action sequence in this episode where Jack and Andy are in the barn. Probably two-thirds of those [VFX] shots were not originally budgeted, but creatively everyone agreed that they really needed to be there. So the networks and the studio came through with the extra money and the guys did everything in their power to get it done.”

Following Welcome Back Carter is the episode Your Face or Mine, in which Erica Cerra plays two very different versions of her Deputy Lupo character. Paglia is quite complimentary of her work as well as Colin Ferguson’s, who made his Eureka directorial debut with this episode.

“This was an opportunity where we really wanted to allow some of our other cast members to be the focus of the story, and Erica really stepped up to the task,” says the executive producer. “And Colin might be a little biased, but I think it’s probably one of our favorite episodes of these back 10.

“Colin did a terrific job of directing and he’ll be doing it again. This was actually the first episode that we shot of these back 10, and we specifically did that so that Colin would be able to prep his episode as a director without having to worry about acting in the previous one. This presented some interesting challenges for the writers, but we welcomed that as it gave us a chance to write a script that wasn’t Carter-driven in every scene. That said, he’s absolutely a presence through the episode. Colin got to be a fun comedic runner without having to be ferried from one set to another, which would have really impacted his work as a director.

Deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra) and Allison try to figure out who's who in "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra) and Allison try to figure out who's who in "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“So it all really worked, and I think it proves that we have an amazing supporting cast who we can put in the center of a story and still have it feel like our show.”

Paglia previously spoke of the introduction of  Tess Fontana as a new romantic interest for Carter in these upcoming Eureka episodes. How will this impact the sheriff’s and Allison’s relationship in the future? “We want them to truly ‘earn’ what they have relationship-wise,” he muses. “Most of us have had those unrequited relationships in our lives – those missed opportunities where the timing just wasn’t right or things went in a different direction. And you always wonder what if you had managed to work things out.

“As you know, we forced Carter and Allison apart in season two. She was taking over Global Dynamics and Stark was getting much closer to her and trying to help [her son] Kevin [Meshach Peters]. That was a very deliberate choice on our part to put Carter in a place of not trusting Allison for the first time because she was making some choices that were guided much more by her own personal interests and love for her child. And with the proposal from Stark at the end of the season, it really put a cap on the fact that she was going to go down that road.

“Of course, all that changed when Nathan died in what was a very noble way. Then there’s this pregnancy that’s left over and how is that going to affect Carter’s and Allison’s relationship. You’ll see as the rest of this season unfolds that their friendship has developed. It’s interesting when another woman comes into the mix and one who Allison had a previous relationship with. She sees that Tess could potentially make Carter happy and has to make the unselfish, or selfish, choice about whether or not to be supportive of that. Salli, Colin and Jamie Ray really play that dynamic nicely.

“There has been a recurring theme that we’ve tried to weave into the episodes over the past few seasons, which is do they [Carter and Allison] or don’t they have ‘a thing.’ You just have to have a little faith. It may take a long time to get there, and it’s not going to be the same road that was traveled down in the alternate time-line at the end of season one. We’ve seen different characters end up getting married and different characters being the parents of the kids. When Allison was pregnant at the end of year one it was with Carter, and last season it was actually with Stark. Those changes are part of the show. But as for Allison and Carter ending up together, well, there’s still the potential. After all, you never know what the future holds, but if you believe strongly enough and maintain those connections, anything is possible.

Dr. Allison Blake in "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Dr. Allison Blake in "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Sadly, Eureka fans hoping to see the return of Dr. Stark this year will be disappointed as that is not in the cards. However, there are some other familiar faces that will be making a comeback. “I don’t want to and can’t spoil it, but I can tell you that there are two characters that have been a major part of our series and will be making a reappearance,” teases Paglia. “Along with that, Lexi Carter, who is played by Ever Carradine, will be back for a few episodes and she’s great. We also have Billy Campbell [The 4400] coming in for an episode. But, yes, we do have two favorites who will be returning.”

And what about the show’s “big bad?” At the very end of Welcome Back Carter, an alien object is detected to be heading straight for Eureka. Can Paglia shed any light on how it may manifest itself? “We wanted to have another big bad,” says the executive producer, “but we wanted it to be something different as well as have it sort of tie into the historical aspect of our characters and the town on a personal level.

“So instead of it necessarily being a person, it’s a thing, and we don’t know what it is. The question is, is it from out there? Is it man-made? It’s coming towards Eureka and we have to deal with it, and that has, again, allowed us to introduce some new characters and bring back some old ones who we haven’t seen in a while.”

When it comes to a “wish list” Eureka episode, Paglia definitely as one. “There’s the concept that we’ve had for a really long time that focuses on Carter’s smart house, S.A.R.A.H. [Self-Actuated Residential Automated Habitat] and her desire to not just be literally a housewife to Carter, but to get out there, find a job and experience the world,” he says. “There was an episode in season two called Duck, Duck, Goose where S.A.R.A.H. was downloaded in a smart car for a while and was able to get out and feel the wind in her hair so to speak. However, she hasn’t managed to become personified yet, and I have an idea who I would like to play that character if we ever get a chance to do it. And I’ll just say that the actress happens to be on Battlestar Galactica.”

Having occupied a Tuesday night time-slot on the Syfy Channel since its premiere, Eureka has been moved to Friday nights for the remained of its third season. With the shift, the series has continued to go from strength to strength, much to Paglia’s delight.

Carter and Dr. Tess Fontana (Jamie Ray Newman) try to save the day in the season three episode "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

Carter and Dr. Tess Fontana (Jamie Ray Newman) try to save the day in the season three episode "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel

“I’m happy that Syfy has sort of staked out a hold on Syfy Friday’s for the channel,” says the executive producer. “Naturally, when you’ve got a time-slot that seems to be working for you, there’s always that little trepidation about throwing any curve balls into the mix. However, we premiered to record numbers and have managed to hold onto our number one status on the channel.

“We’ve actually built our audience even more and we want to see those numbers continue to grow. I’m hoping that we can maintain that on Friday nights. The network has always been very supportive of the series and I don’t think they would have moved us if they didn’t believe we could not hold our own. Hopefully, that will prove to be the case.”

Steve Eramo

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

Jody Thompson – Role Play

June 18, 2009
Actress/writer/director and filmmaker Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Actress, writer, director and filmmaker Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

When I was younger I used to look forward to Saturday afternoons when certain local TV stations would run those sometimes cheesy but always entertaining black-and-white Horror and Science Fiction B-movies from the 50s. The recently released feature film Alien Trespass, which made its debut at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, pays homage to those classic movies that many of us grew up with. One of the film’s heroines is Lana Lewis, played by Canadian actress and Leo Award nominee Jody Thompson. Having previously appeared in a number of Sci-Fi/Fantasy-based TV shows, she was already familiar with what the genre called for insofar as performance. However, the actress needed to tweak some of her acting muscles in order to step into Lana’s shoes.

“During the audition I had the chance to meet [one of the film’s producers and its director] Bob Goodwin of X-Files fame, which was really exciting,” recalls Thompson, “and in our first read-through he knew precisely what he wanted to do with each of our characters. Bob is a legend when it comes to the genre and he knows what he’s talking about. He was really specific about wanting me to watch movies such as War of the Worlds, It Came From Outer Space and a bunch of others. The thing is, you don’t often get to do a sort of ‘period piece’ like Alien Trespass. I consider my acting in the film to be a heightened form of realism. It’s not your regular, more contemporary way of communicating that you and I would use, but rather a more elevated approach, if you know what I mean.

“So Bob gave me these DVDs, I went home and watched them and the next time we met, I figured when he said it [her character rendition] was right, it was right, and I went from there. Again, because Bob knows what he’s talking about and is really specific with his direction, I felt very much at ease exploring the range of something that was somewhat out of my comfort zone at the time. I guess all us actors are afraid of being what we call over-the-top, and yet this role called for a bit of over-the-top acting. That’s why Bob was so incredible; he made us feel totally safe in the [acting] choices we made. Looking back now I think, my goodness, I was really gutsy taking this [role] on because it could have really backfired, but happily that wasn’t the case at all.”

Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

In Alien Trespass, noted astronomer Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) is preparing for a special wedding anniversary dinner with his beautiful wife Lana (Thompson). Unfortunately, their plans are interrupted when a spaceship crash-lands across town and a dangerous creature known as the Ghota emerges. It is intent on destroying the entire human race unless a benevolent alien called Urp can stop it. In order to do so, however, he must temporarily commandeer Ted’s body. With the help of Tammi (Jenni Baird), a local waitress, Urp sets out on his self-appointed task. When asked about her favorite scene in the film, Thompson is hard-pressed to choose between two.

“I loved working with Dan Lauria [Chief Dawson],” she says. “As an actor, he genuinely surprised me every time we did the scene. My character of Lana is supposed to act surprised, and sometimes a scene can get a little tired after you’ve done it a dozen times, but Dan always responded in such a way that kept it interesting, so it was wonderful to work with him.

“At the same time, there’s the scene in the kitchen where Eric’s character of Ted is taken over by Urp, and Eric was just so funny to play off of. It’s too bad you haven’t seen the outtakes, but the improv stuff he did was hilarious. The film is a serious one in a lot of respects, but when we were filming it, it was hard not to laugh. The chemistry with Eric was just effortless. Besides being super cute in real life, he’s also very easy-going and so friendly. Eric doesn’t have any Hollywood airs at all. The dialogue felt, not clunky, but, again, elevated, so I was worried about how it was going to come across because you usually play off the other actor. I needn’t have worried, though, because Eric has the best timing. He just delivers the line like it’s no big deal and you listen and respond and it comes out just right.

Jody Thompson (as Lana Lewis) and Eric McCormack (as Ted Lewis) in Alien Trespass. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Jody Thompson (as Lana Lewis) and Eric McCormack (as Ted Lewis) in Alien Trespass. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“And Bob Goodwin was there was our guide to bring us back if we got too big or if we were playing it too melodramatic. We were supposed to be earnest but not parodying the work of the period. This wasn’t a Naked Gun 33 1/3-type thing. We were trying to do an accurate re-creation of something that would have been done in the 50s. So Eric and I just did our thing and, on occasion, it was way too much and other times it was far too contemporary, and Bob did a terrific job of keeping our performances on the straight and narrow as well as flowing from scene to scene.

“Sometimes when you’re on TV and not the star of a show, you end up sort of directing yourself in a sense because the director doesn’t always have time to worry about every day player every day. So it was nice to have a director who was really dedicated to his actors and focused on keeping our performances in line so we didn’t have to worry about them. That’s a big part of what made our time on Alien Trespass so enjoyable and fun.”

An avid horse loved, Thompson originally thought she was going to be a veterinarian and planned to study veterinary medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. However, she ran out of money just before finishing her Bachelor of Science degree, so someone suggested that she try booking some TV commercial work in order to raise the necessary funds. Instead, Thompson ended up booking the lead in a made-for-TV movie.

To help pay for her schooling, Jody Thompson tried her hand at acting, and then never looked back. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

To help pay for her schooling, Jody Thompson tried her hand at acting, and then never looked back. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“That’s when I thought, ‘OK, I’d better take some acting classes,” notes the actress, “and wow, there was just something so cool about using your mind and body in such a way and I was bitten by the acting bug. After that, there was no going back for me. Much to my surprise, my parents weren’t even that disappointed when I decided to become an actor instead of a vet. Now I get to play dress-up for a living. How can you beat that? I have my very scientific, linear side and my creative side, and I guess the latter won out.”

Having played a variety of characters in a wide range of  TV and film projects, the actress is especially well-known to TV Sci-Fi audiences. Perhaps her most recognizable role is that of Devon Moore, an employee at the 4400 center and one of Jordan Collier’s (Billy Campbell) lovers in The 4400.

“Devon was actually never intended to be a recurring character,” says Thompson. “After my first appearance, I got a call from the producers asking if I would like to bring her back for another small bit in the next episode, and I said, ‘Yes, I’d love it.’ A few episodes later I had some discussions with the writers as far as her back-story and what could possibly be motivating Devon. She always secretly had a thing for Shawn [Patrick Flueger], even though she worshipped Jordan. My character originally went to the 4400 center because she was looking for a father figure. As the series went on, I feel like Devon came into her own in that she developed a bit more confidence in her own decisions. They weren’t necessarily the right ones – injecting yourself with a strange toxin is probably not a good idea – but she became more confident and went from being a vulnerable child to a naive teenager, I guess you could say.

Jody Thompson's character of Devon Moore on The 4400 was, sadly, looking for love in all the wrong places. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Jody Thompson's character of Devon Moore on The 4400 was, sadly, looking for love in all the wrong places. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“Having this character become a recurring one on The 4400 was one of the nicest surprises I’ve had so far in my career,” continues the actress. “A lot of times when you know a part is going to be recurring you have big expectations, which are not always met. Here, however, the writers never told me what was going to happen with Devon, so I was always surprised to read from script to script what was happening to her. The scene where she has the aneurysm [after injecting herself with promicin in the hopes of acquiring a 4400 ability] was challenging as well as memorable for me. Had that scene gone into Devon’s life flashing before her eyes, that’s the moment when she would have realized that she was looking for a father figure in Jordan and trying to find acceptance by gaining a power rather than trusting in herself. Had Devon just followed her true gut instinct, she would have known that she was OK as she was and that she actually cared for Shawn. So it was an unexpected joy to find out that a small character like this was going to be reinvented and taken along on a journey for a few seasons.”

Thompson’s other Sci-Fi credits include the warrior queen Azura in Flash Gordon, a sexy and toothy vampire named Glynnis in Blade: The Series and a bounty hunter in Stargate SG-1. “In Flash Gordon I was blue, really blue,” she says with a laugh. “I was painted blue with an airbrush from head to toe, while the top of my outfit was a pair of coconuts and some string, and my character wore a small dog’s skull on her head. The make-up artist and I had a good relationship by the end of the filming because I’d spend about four hours in make-up every day before filming began. All that really helped me get into that creepy witch mindset, which I think it would have for most people. I had fun with the role and it was a blast to have a whole bunch of extras cheer every time you said something.

Blade was awesome because I got to do all my own stunts. I was on wires, hanging from the ceiling and flipping off the walls. They had a stunt person there as well as we spent two days learning the fight. It was a lot like a dance routine in the way they taught it to us, and then we got to rehearse with the wires before putting it all together on the set. In the final cut they used my stunt-person a couple of times, but otherwise it’s me, even for the roundhouse kick. I was like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m a bad-ass vampire.’ The teeth were a lot of fun, too. I still have them and I wear them on Halloween and scare the kids when the come to the door,” chuckles Thompson. “They’re not the cheesy plastic ones either, but beautiful porcelain. So I got a nice pair of fangs out of the deal as well.

The beautiful Jody Thompson gives us a striking pose. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

The beautiful Jody Thompson gives us a striking pose. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“With Stargate SG-1 I especially enjoyed working with Michael Shanks [Dr. Daniel Jackson]. I’d known him for a while but had never gotten to act with him. The scene where my character is hit by a bus was interesting to do. They had a stunt coordinator there, and when I finished my line, he would push me and I’d fall onto a crash pad. The bus was then [digitally] put in later [during post-production]. The first time we did it I wasn’t ready and landed on my face. Fortunately, there were no broken bones thanks to a nice squishy pillow.”

Along with her acting credentials, Thompson is also an accomplished filmmaker and president of The International Filmmakers Institute, a production company dedicated to the creation of movie and video artworks that endeavor to relieve social injustice and promote a message of hope, mercy and reconciliation. She made her debut as a documentary filmmaker with the 40-minute Montana de Luz, which is the heartfelt story about an Honduran orphanage that cares for children living with the HIV virus.

“Working on that film really put things in perspective, and I can’t begin to describe the wisdom of those seven and nine year olds,” says the actress. “I’m really proud of that particular piece and it’s done quite well in the festival circuit. At the moment, I’m working as a writer/director on a series of webisodes that deal with how cancer affects the entire family unit and not just the person who is struggling with the disease. The project has been commissioned by the International Psycho-Oncology Society [IPOS] and it’s basically for doctors to log in, watch these webisodes and then discuss the various ways that they should be taking cancer patients’ and cancer survivors’ families into consideration as well in the treatment process. Festival circuits are terrific, but if you can also find a practical application for your project that’s a bonus, and it fits the mandate of our company, too, so it’s all good,” she enthuses.

For more information about Jody please check out her website – www.jodythompson.com

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of The Promotion People, and while there are no specific copyrights on any of the photos, please refrain from any unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!