Posts Tagged ‘Zack Synder’

Alice’s Matt Frewer – Father Figure

December 7, 2009

Matt Frewer as The White Knight in Alice. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

From Sci-Fi time traveller to a digitally enhanced artificial intelligence and even Sherlock Holmes, actor Matt Frewer has over the years brought these and many other characters to life in theaters as well as feature films and on TV. There is one role, though, he once longed to play but never had the chance to do so. And it was a role that would have taken him in a totally different direction as far as his professional life.  

“I always wanted to be a pro hockey player,’ says Frewer. “However,  at one point I realized I wasn’t going to be good enough, and if I was good enough, I would probably end up with no teeth, playing on a semi-pro team and talking with a French accent for no apparent reason,” he jokes. “When I finished high school I was all set to do an honors degree course in biology, but I backed out of that at the last minute when my drama teacher said to me, ‘You’d get a lot more girls with acting.’ Well, I was sold,” laughs the actor. “I’m happy to say I have no regrets. I love doing what I’m doing and would do it for free. Don’t tell anyone that, but I would, really.”  

Last night, Frewer made his debut as The White Knight in Alice, the Syfy Channel’s take on the classic children’s story Alice in Wonderland. The image conjured up in most peoples’ minds when they think of his character is one of a noble warrior dressed in shining armor, carrying a lance and riding into battle on a mighty stallion. In this case there is the armor as well as a sword and even a horse, but the medieval melange that is Frewer’s character is far more than just a familiar stereotype  

“The While Knight is kind of a cross between Baron Von Munchhausen, The Cowardly Lion and Don Quixote,” explains the actor, taking a break during filming last summer in Vancouver. “The idea for Alice sounded intriguing to me, and then I was completely sold on it when I read the script. The story, which is absolutely delightful, was written by Nick Willing, who’s also our director, and he has come up with some amazing characters.  

“I have to say that this role has sort of fit me like a glove, so it hasn’t been much of a stretch to play. We’ve got this wonderful Salvador Dali-type beard and mustache that I wear, and that’s been a bit of a challenge, especially when it’s hot out because the glue starts to come loose. So there’s that business of people futzing with you right up until the moment that the cameras start rolling. You being to feel like a Christmas tree being continually dressed,” jokes Frewer, “but other than that the character has been a joy to play.  

Our hero enjoys a laugh! Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“The White Knight has a huge heart, but he’s a bit mad, you know? He’s nuts and he’s noble, but he also has a big secret, so what he shows to the world is not necessarily who he is. And happily with Nick’s version of the White Knight, my character is able to reveal who he really is during a scene with Alice [Caterina Scorsone], and that was tremendous fun to play on many, many levels.”  

In Alice, the White Knight crosses paths with Alice Hamilton when she comes to Wonderland to search for her lover, Jack Chase (Philip Winchester), who has been brought there against his will. He joins the Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts) in helping Alice find Jack, and in the process, the three of them also risk their lives to help oust Wonderland’s ruler, The Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates) and break her stranglehold on the kingdom.  

“The two characters that the White Knight relates to almost solely in the story are Alice and Hatter,” says Frewer. “He comes cross Jack in a couple of scenes, but most of my onscreen time is spent with Caterina and Andrew. There is kind of a begrudging friendship and respect for one another that evolves between my character and Hatter. And with Alice, I think the White Knight is more or less a temporary Wonderland father while she’s there.  

“He is somewhat mesmerized by her because in his eyes, she’s Alice of legend. She’s the Alice who he has heard of and who was written about, and he will do anything for her. The White Knight really is her protector, and as inept as he is, he does his best. Again, this is such an incredible role, and, I think, probably the best role I’ve had since Sherlock Holmes. There are very few iconic characters that come along and that you get a chance to play, and the White Knight is definitely one of them.”  

An unstoppable team - The White Knight, Alice (Caterina Scorsone) and Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts). Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

What were some of the challenges the actor found working in his White Knight attire? “The first day of work on any new job is usually pretty chaotic, and in this case it was particularly so for me because they had only just begun to put my costume together,” he recalls. “It included a huge breastplate, chain mail and all the various other accouterments that a knight would wear. The breastplate was cumbersome to say the least. We ended up calling it the Volkswagen,” chuckles Frewer. “I then began to realize how hot it was going to be lugging this thing around, especially on-location, because it’s basically like being cooked in your own soup can.  

“So getting all that together is my not-so-fond memory of my first day on the job, but it was still fun, and continues to be. The thing is, a lot of the stuff I thought I’d be able to [physically] do as the White Knight has been somewhat restricted by my outfit, so I’ve ended up, I guess, channeling any restrictions into the fact that my character is an older guy. He is supposed to be in his 60’s and slightly crazy, and that ‘madness’ has come from spending too much time on his own. So we actually found other aspects of his personality to highlight as a result of wearing the armor, and that’s been great.”  

“Again, this has been fun. Typically on these sorts of productions, the work stops and everyone has a laugh, and probably my favorite memory of working on this as a whole is that the laughing has never stopped. We’re always having a good time and hopefully that translates to the audience.”  

Frewer credits the show’s cast and crew, in particular, Nick Willing, with making Alice such a positive experience for him. “Nick is a real visionary,” says the actor. “He’s a little bit like the White Knight in that he’s slightly ‘mad,’ but in a wonderful way, as well as a very warm, gentle, kind and witty guy. That is all an added bonus on top of the fact that he is also a huge talent. You don’t often find that combination.  

Ready to take on anything - the White Knight and Hatter. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“Andrew and Caterina are a blast as well to work with. Caterina is a real find for Alice. She’s so much like her character and is an open book. Caterina is, I think, one of those actresses who has such an immediacy onscreen. Whatever scene she’s in, she’s right there and reacts to it immediately. And like I said, her face is an open book, and she’s an extremely tender, sensitive soul and isn’t afraid to show that. Caterina also has this kind of tough curiosity about her. Such a combination is perfect for Alice, and I think she has knocked the whole thing out of the park.  

“As for Andrew, he’s terrific, too. He’s from the north country in England, a place called Bradford, and he has sort of a tough guy swagger, but he’s very sweet as well. I think the girls are going to love him as Hatter. Andrew has this fantastic onscreen chemistry with Caterina, and hopefully audiences will go with that and be rooting for their characters to end up together.  

“There are very few projects where, when you start talking about them, you feel genuinely supportive of them, and this is one of those times. I think Alice is going to do great and I have really high hopes for it.”  

Born in Washington, D.C., Frewer trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and graduated from its three-year acting course in 1980. One of his very first roles was in the 1983 film Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. “There was a piece before the main film called The Crimson Permanent Assurance and it was sort of a pirate spoof where a group of young office workers were defending their building against a group of older ones,” says the actor.  

“The older office workers would pull up alongside what looked like a Spanish galleon, swing through the windows and take on all the young office workers. One of the older pirate guys corners my character by a window, I yell, ‘S**t!’ and jump out the window. That was my first professional experience in front of the camera. All I can say is thank God for all that classical training,” he jokes.  

The White Knight, dressed for action. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

A few years later, the actor became a familiar face, of sorts, around the world with his portrayal of a fictional British artificial intelligence in the TV series Max Headroom. “That was kind of a short sharp shock,” notes Frewer. “Originally, Max was meant to be this computer-generated man/video disc jockey and we perpetuated that ‘ruse.’ Then we realized the only way we’d be able to achieve the look and effect of such a character was to put someone in rubber make-up, and that guy ended up being me.  

Max Headroom started out in England [in a music video program] and then evolved into a talk show. Coca-Cola then picked it up and I did a bunch of TV commercials for [director] Ridley Scott. That then convinced ABC TV [in the States] to feature Max in an adventure series. At the same time, I was doing a Cinemax [cable] talk show along with various other ancillary things as Max. Long way around, what I meant by a short sharp shock is that from beginning to end, the whole Max thing really didn’t last much longer than three years. But Max made the cover of Newsweek, and it was great for me because it meant I was able to arrive in Los Angeles as an actor without having to pound the pavement. I was playing a double-lead in a very high-profile show for ABC, and even though it only lasted for 12 episodes, it was a wonderful introduction to Los Angeles for me.”  

Besides his work on Max Headroom, Frewer has guest-starred on such shows as Robin of Sherwood, Miami Vice, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Outer Limits and Intelligence. He also had a regular role as Matt Praeger in Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, and currently plays the recurring character of Jim Taggart in the Syfy Channel series Eureka.  

Frewer as Jim Taggart in Eureka. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“Again, some lovely people to work with on Eureka and a fun show to do,” says the actor. “My character only dips in and out every few episodes. He’s sort of a weirdo who lives in the woods, and I think whenever he comes to town, by sheer virtue of the fact that he is the weirdo who lives in the woods, the story sort of has to be about him. Jim is an Australian dog-catcher – I mean, you can’t beat that for weirdness – but he calls himself a biological containment engineer. He’s a nature boy, too, and tends to run naked through the woods a lot,” he says with a laugh,”so needless to say I have a ball when I do work on the show.”  

On the big screen, the actor’s credits include The Fourth Protocol, Far From Home, Going The Distance, Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, playing former super-villain Edgar William Jacob/Moloch the Mystic. “The first scene I shot on that was in a cemetary and I just remember being overwhelmed by the number of crew,” notes Frewer. “You suddenly realize that you’re part of a big-budget movie and being directed by Zack Synder. He’s a lot like Nick Willing in that he has endless positive energy and keeps his crew driven and wanting to perform for him. Zack is one of those rare leaders who has the power but also the wisdom not to wield it. He’s a really amazing guy and I had a ball working with him.”  

The goal of most actors is to be able to practice their craft in as wide a range of projects as possible, and for Frewer, the wider the better. “I think the measure of success for an actor is that you can be on your deathbed – which hopefully comes later rather than sooner – and look back over your career and say that you did plenty of diverse and interesting things, as opposed to how much [money] you took to your grave,” he muses. “After all, what are you going to do? Get a more expensive lining for your coffin.  

“I was trained as an actor to do lots of different things, and that’s what makes this [acting] such a joy for me. You can only hope to be lucky enough to go from doing a heavy drama to something light and comedic and then something totally different from the two. It also helps to be facile and quicksilver-ish enough to be able to slip easily from one role to the next and not pigeonhole yourself because so many people are willing to do it for you.” 

The concluding two hours of Alice airs tonight, Monday, December 7th starting at 9:00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel. 

Steve Eramo  

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

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Eureka’s Niall Matter – Matter of Fact

August 28, 2009
Niall Matter as Zane Donovan on Eureka. Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Niall Matter as Zane Donovan on Eureka. Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Syfy Channel

In the second season Eureka episode E=MC…? some of the world’s smartest minds try to re-create the “Big Bang” and the first moments that the universe came into being. As is typical in this Pacific Northwest hotbed of brilliance, things go somewhat awry. The town’s geniuses suddenly lose their smarts, and it is up to Sheriff Jack Carter and a young, cocky know-it-all, Zane Donovan, to save the day. It is no accident that Zane came to Eureka, and he has since ended up sticking around, which was a pleasant surprise for the actor who plays him, Niall Matter.

“When I first heard about the audition for the character I was told that it was a guest-star role and a possible recurring one,” recalls Matter. “So I went in to read and the director of the episode, Tim Matheson, seemed to like what I did. He gave me a little bit of direction as did the casting director, then I came in for a callback, ended up booking the role and before I knew it I was on-set working on Eureka.

“My first day on the job I was immediately impressed by Colin Ferguson [Sheriff Jack Carter] and the amount of energy that he has. It carries through the entire day, too, and it doesn’t matter if that day lasts eight hours or sixteen hours. Colin is ‘present’ the entire time and ready to go. With him, I saw what it takes to be the number one on a TV show.

“In this episode I was really able to get into comedy. I hadn’t done much of that before, so I was able to spread my wings. And when it comes to the cast, Joe Morton [Henry Deacon] as well as Ed Quinn [Dr. Nathan Stark] back then, along with Salli Richardson [Dr. Allison Blake], Erica Cerra [Deputy Jo Lupo], all of them, their comic timing is so different.

“So working with each of them, respectively, in whatever scene I had, it was pretty cool figuring my own timing out and where my character was going with each of the others in the story. It was like trying to piece together a puzzle and I wanted to make sure I did my best so that they [the producers] would ask me back,” jokes the actor. “I loved that my character actually got to save the day when he stopped the device from detonating. After all, you don’t get to do that every day.”

Eureka producers were obviously impressed enough with Matter’s debut that they made his character a recurring one. Having been arrested for allegedly crashing that New York Stock Exchange, Zane was originally meant to go to jail. However, rather than waste his intellectual talents, the authorities decided instead to send him to Eureka. After helping avert a disaster in E=MC…? he was offered a job at Global Dynamics. With his character now appearing in more episodes, Matter looked at giving Zane a bit of a makeover.

“I wanted to start opening him up and taking him in other directions,” he says. “As I became more confident about my work on the show, I began talking with Jaime Paglia [Eureka co-creator/executive producer] about the direction of my character as far as where he wanted to take Zane and where I was thinking he could go.

“As a result, I think we’ve shaped him into a pretty cool human being. Zane has shed a great deal of his stubbornness, because initially he was, not cold, but pretty snarky and kind of annoying. We had to tread carefully, though, with that fine line of change in order to make it believable. I mean, how quickly can someone turn that corner. So that’s been a little bit tricky for me, but the writers have been a huge help and we’ve managed to transform Zane into someone who’s much more likable. He’s grown up and matured as well as taken on some responsibility, which is nice.”

Among those Eureka residents who have changed their opinion of Zane since he first arrived in town is Deputy Lupo. Not an easy person to win over, she found herself attracted to Zane in more ways than one, and during the show’s past two seasons, they have become romantically involved.

“The relationship between Jo and Zane was somewhat ambiguous at the beginning and we weren’t really sure what was going on,” notes Matter. “Now, however, this third season it’s heading towards a very realistic and mature level, and it’s a great to see that they share a true connection and have a lot of love for one another.

“One of the neat things with their relationship is that Zane will rib her and Jo will give it right back to him. I’ve seen couples do that in real life and those are the moments that you remember and help also define a relationship, so it’s been fun to re-create those moments with Erica onscreen. There was one episode [From Fear to Eternity] where Jo and Zane were stuck together, and the moment they got unstuck, she said something to me and I said something right back at her. I can’t remember exactly what I said because it wasn’t scripted, I ad-libbed it, but it actually made the final cut [of the episode] and the crew just killed themselves laughing. Jo and Zane did plenty of kibitzing in that episode when they were stuck together and that helped create a stronger bond between them.”

In the third season Eureka story Your Face or Mine, which was directed by Colin Ferguson, Zane almost loses Jo when a scientist (Leela Savasta) uses technology that she has created to steal the deputy’s identity and…life. “That was a challenging one because I had to work with another actress who’s supposedly Jo inside this other person’s body,” says Matter. “Being directed by Colin was incredible because he’s got such a clear vision for the show. He knows exactly what he wants and where he thinks the series should be going. The actual shooting of the episode was both concise and quick, so when it comes to Colin I just think he’s a genius.”

Following Ferguson’s directorial debut on Eureka, Matter and the rest of the show’s cast and crew also had the chance to be directed this season by Joe Morton with the episode Have an Ice Day. “Obviously this story has something to do with ice, and at one point Zane becomes very cold, one could say almost freezing over,” teases the actor.

“Working with Joe Morton in the director’s chair was incredible. I grew up watching him on TV and in the movies, and I’ll never forget coming onto this show and meeting Joe for the first time and being quite intimidated by the fact that I was actually getting to hold my own in a scene opposite him. So when being directed by Joe, everything he said to me, any notes or redirection he gave me, I soaked it in. I wanted to make sure I gave him everything he wanted because I respect him so much as an actor and I really wanted to garner some respect in his eyes as a director.”

Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Matter was 13 years old when he started writing and directing his own films, and then began acting in them as well. “I’d get in front of the camera with the other actors I was working with to show them the shots I wanted,” he explains. “Then I would go into the editing room and edit all my films on my own. They were only shorts, maybe five or ten minutes long and usually in the horror genre, but that’s how I first got into this.”

Having only been in the business for a few years, the actor has already appeared in a variety of made-for-TV movies as well as recurring roles or guest-spots on such series as The Best Years, Fear Itself, Warehouse 13, Melrose Place and Stargate Atlantis.

“On Stargate Atlantis I played someone called Lt. Kemp and I worked opposite Kavan Smith, who played Major Lorne,” says Matter. “My character was a short-lived one – he was only in two episodes – but working on those sets was incredible. I had no idea how elaborate they were, and I remember just being blown away when I first saw them. I was like a kid in a candy store walking around and checking everything out.”

One of Matter’s most high-profile roles to date has to be Mothman in the big screen superhero flick Watchmen. “That was a dream come true,” he says. “It was a massive blockbuster film directed by Zack Synder, who also did 300, and I couldn’t believe I had the chance to work with him. It was kind of a surreal moment the first time I stood there on-set talking with Zack. Shooting that movie was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had because he makes the work fun, and I’ve never seen anyone more prepared than Zack. I think when he sleeps, he plans out his shots,” jokes Matter. “I had an amazing time.”

With every job he goes out for, the actor makes sure the character is as different as possible from the last one he played, and with each new role, Matter gets to entertain more and more people, which for him is what acting is all about. “The fact that you can reach so many people in this industry and bring joy into their homes, whether through TV or films, and relating to them life experiences in a truthful way is what I find most rewarding about this job,” muses the actor. “And also leaving [work] at the end of the day knowing that you emotionally connected to your scenes and, hopefully, that will transcend over into someone else’s life. I think acting is a pretty powerful tool that can actually be used to help change the world for the better, and I’m happy to play some small part in that.”

For more information about Niall check out his official website – www.niallmatter.net

As noted above, photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!