In Warehouse 13‘s pilot episode, United States Secret Service Agent Myka Bering and fellow agent Pete Lattimer thwart an attack on the Mexican Ambassador’s daughter during a presidential visit to a Washington, D.C. museum. They are “rewarded” with a transfer to a top secret government facility in South Dakota where their new assignment is to help retrieve objects (or artifacts) that are potentially hazardous to the public. While Pete’s curiosity is slightly piqued at the prospect, Myka feels her skills could be better used elsewhere. When, however, she is offered a choice in the matter, the agent opts to stay put, and while it takes her a little while to get used to things, actress Joanne Kelly, who plays Myka, could not wait to dive in.
“There are some characters that you have to work a lot harder to get, while others almost seem like they’ve been written for you, and I felt that way about this one,” says Kelly. “Myka felt really ‘easy’ for me and it all just worked. It was the casting director for Warehouse 13who originally asked me to come in and read for the role. So I did the audition, then met with David Simkins, who I had worked with before on The Dresden Files. He was an executive producer on that series and is also one of the creators and executive producers on Warehouse 13. After that I met Jace Alexander, who directed the pilot, and [network] tested for the show.
“All in all it took probably about four months between the test and my getting the part and then waiting to hear if we were actually going to do it. Then we all shot the pilot together, which was a long time ago. From there, we waited almost a year before we began shooting the first season, but the first day of work on the pilot was like the first day of going to a new job. You wonder if you’re going to get along with everybody, you wonder if people are going to like you, and if you’re going to be good at what you do or if you’re going to fall flat on your face. It’s your first day at school, your first interview, your first job – I think all those feelings more or less come under the same umbrella.”
Agents Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) have no idea how their assignment in Warehouse 13's pilot episode is going to affect their careers as well as the rest of their lives. Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Syfy Channel.
In the Warehouse 13pilot, Pete’s (Eddie McClintock) and Myka’s new boss, Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), sends them to Seever City, Iowa to investigate a report of domestic abuse. It turns out the root of the problem is a comb once owned by Lucretia Borgia, which possesses “twisted desires” and drives those around it to commit acts of violence. Although it was some time ago, Kelly still recalls some memorable moments from filming the pilot.
“I remember the scene where I pull Eddie out of the car. We were shooting in the middle of a field and it was sunny when we started, then it began raining, followed by hail, and the hailstones were like the size of golf balls, so we ran to a van and waited it out," recalls the actress. “Then we started filming again, and when I pulled Eddie out of the trunk, I sliced my thumb open and was bleeding everywhere. I kept going, though, because I knew if I didn’t, we’d never finish the scene. Saul was there that day, and he came up to me afterwards and said, “I cannot believe it. I’ve never seen an actress cut herself and start bleeding but still keep going.’
“So that’s probably the scene that stands out the most for me. I also love the scenes we shot here in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum. Those were really special for me. At that point I was living in Los Angeles, but had lived in Toronto, so I knew the city, and was quite excited that we were allowed into the museum at night to film.”
When it comes to how they do their jobs, Myka and Pete conduct themselves very differently. She is very much no-nonsense and by-the-book, part of which has to do with guilt and grief Myka carried with her for a long time over the loss of her former partner, Agent Sam Marino. On the other hand, Pete is far more jovial and, while serious about his work, defers to his gut instinct when out in the field, Not surprisingly, these two opposites begin to attract, but not as fast nor as seriously as one might imagine, which Kelly could not be happier about.
“There were really two opportunities with the script as far as was this going to be a romantic partnership, or a friendship and partnership,” she notes. “The writers were careful with that in the first season, and in season two it was fleshed out a little bit more. They didn’t take the easy route and have Pete and Myka fall into this kind of romance, but, instead, I think it was smart of them to progress things at a much slower pace and make it more of a work partnership.
“You basically get to know these two people without a romance getting in the way and, again, that continued to develop in the second season and will carry on doing so in season three. You really get to flesh out Pete and Myka as friends as well as potential love interests, but more as partners, really, and I think that’s one of the reasons why viewers have responded so well to this partnership, because it’s quite open to interpretation, as [real] life is a lot of the time.”
Myka (Joanne Kelly), Artie (Saul Rubinek) and Pete (Eddie McClintock) watch a potential tragedy unfold in front of their eyes in "Time Will Tell." Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Syfy Channel.
Besides developing a rapport with Pete, Myka also has to get used to working with her new boss Artie, whose background is very much a closed book when they first meet. Out of the blue, the threesome become a foursome when, in the season one episode Claudia, a gifted techo-geek and computer hacker named Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) joins the team. Keeping an eye on all of them is Leena (Genelle Williams), who assists Artie in the Warehouse as well as runs the local B&B that Pete, Myka and Claudia call home.
“Myka’s and Artie’s relationship is almost the same as hers and Pete’s,” says Kelly. “Initially you see this mutual distrust, and then these characters develop into a real family with the same infighting and trust issues. A number of people have come up to me and said that they’re so glad that Myka relaxed in season two, and part of that for me was that I really wanted to take her on a journey with these characters. The reason I played my character so uptight in season one is that I wanted to see this gradual trust start to build with all the characters.
“I find Myka’s relationship with Artie really interesting. There’s a father/daughter dynamic as well as a mentor/protégé one, and you see her fighting that. It’s not easy at times for us to trust our bosses and take what they say as 100% truth without any misgivings, especially in this case because Artie isn’t giving Myka all the information. Her big thing has always been the loss of her partner. Myka feels that if someone screws up, then lives are at stake, and I think that’s what makes her the ‘straight arrow’ in the series, in particular with Pete. That’s where my character’s frustration stems from, a fear that hi-jinks will result in the loss of someone else in her life that she cares about.
“With Claudia, I think my character sees a lot of herself in Claudia, somebody who doesn’t trust easy and is kind of a loner. There’s definitely an older sister/younger sister vibe going on. Myka wants to be close to Claudia but she doesn’t know how. As for Leena, she is perhaps the glue that holds this family together. Genelle herself is so sweet and easy to be around, and her character has always been the most trustworthy of all of them because she doesn’t really push any of the others. Leena is sort of there as a sounding board for Myka and the rest of the team.”
Asked about specific acting challenges in Warehouse 13’s first season, Kelly singles out the episode Duped, in which Myka becomes trapped in Lewis Carroll’s mirror. “I’ve talked a lot about that episode, in which my character turns into a sort of psychopathic Alice, as being one of my favorites,” says the actress. “I actually played three characters in it; one being Myka trapped in the mirror, then Alice pretending to be Myka, and finally Alice, and I wanted to make each one as different as possible from the other.
“When I first read the script I was elated, and I was worried,” she says with a chuckle. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is awesome,’ followed by, ‘Oh, my God, what am I going to do?’ To prep for it, I actually did a ton of research on sociopaths. I discovered this sociopath message board/blog on the Internet where people with sociopathic tendencies write in and kind of post their troubles. It was quite eye-opening, especially the stats. They say that something like one in four people have sociopathic tendencies, and one in 12 are actually sociopaths, although I’m not sure about those numbers because statistics are so hard to read sometimes depending on the various forces.
‘It was really fascinating to research the psychology behind somebody having absolutely no empathy for others. And it was scary, too. So that’s basically how I went about that, plus I knew Alice Through the Looking Glass quite well and I wanted to bring a childlike eagerness to the scenes where Alice is playing Myka. Here’s someone who has been trapped for years and years in this mirror, so even with simple things such as eating and touching objects, there was this childlike sense of wonder.”
In the Warehouse 13 first season finale MacPherson, a former Warehouse agent attempts to sell off artifacts, and his plot leads to a catastrophe at the Warehouse and Artie’s “death.” Season two opens with Time Will Tell,in which MacPherson (Roger Rees) frees another ex-agent, H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray), from the bronze sector and together they breech the more secure section of the Warehouse. For Myka and Pete it was back to business as usual (after an artifact miraculously brought Artie back to life), while Kelly focused on the further development of her character.
“Jack Kenny, who’s our show runner and executive producer, encouraged me to open Myka up a little bit more,” she explains. “The danger, though, in making a character too likable is that they become slightly less human, at least in my opinion, because people aren’t always likeable, especially when put in stressful situations. However, Jack helped me go for more of a sense of fun, and I think I really found that with Myka last year.
“In season one I think she was tortured, and it was the working through the death of her old partner in Regret, which is an episode where you see her finally deal with that and put it away, that subsequently allowed me in the second season to kind of relax into the character a bit more. We see a sense of trust between her and Artie, Claudia, Leena and, most importantly, Pete. You see an openness and more of an unguarded nature that wasn’t there in season one and I think that sense of enjoyment really allowed me to have a great deal more fun on-set.”
At the end of Time Will Tell, H.G. double-crosses MacPherson and he winds up dead. She disappears but turns up again in For the Team, where she helps Myka and Claudia find an artifact that is causing young athletes to burst into flames. H.G. manages to gain Myka’s trust, which, in turn, helps her become reinstated as a Warehouse agent in season two’s Vendetta. Unfortunately, H.G. reveals her true colors in the second season finale Reset and Myka realizes her trust was misplaced. Kelly enjoyed working with actress Jaime Murray and developing an onscreen relationship between their two characters.
“It was fun to play that relationship because it was two on one with Pete, and Jaime and I had a ball with that. Poor Eddie,” jokes the actress. “The terrific thing about Jaime is that she’s an amazingly talented actress and when you’re playing with somebody like that it ups your game. I was so happy that she came onto the show. It’s funny, people will ask me why I think the show is watched by a lot of women and I tell them it’s because our writers actually write women characters well on our show. They’re not one-dimensional, and I think Jaime was great in the role.
“One of the themes of this show is the isolation of our characters and the gradual breakdown of that. And this was just one more piece of the puzzle where Myka opens up a bit and really starts to trust. You see this person in the pilot episode who trusted no one, and then you see Myka in the second season be the first one to trust somebody. So there’s a growth and an openness, and what’s really interesting is because of the disastrous results of that trust, what’s going to happen down the road to this poor woman.”
As far as favorite second season Warehouse 13 episodes, the actress has two. “The season finale [Reset], in particular, the scene with Jaime and the pitchfork,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite scenes that I got to do last year just because it was so intense, and it was also one of the hottest days on record in Toronto when we were shooting, so it was quite a physical challenge as well as a mental one.
“My other favorite episode from last year was the body switch episode, Merge with Caution, where Pete and Myka switch bodies. Just like Duped, I read the script and thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is awesome. Oh, my God, what am I going to do?’ If you talk to anyone on the show, they’ll always say that I’m the worrier, and in this case I was really nervous and unsure.
“I watched tapes [of Eddie McClintock] to try to get his movements down, but, again, I was really worried about it. The scene on the couch was really tough as well as exhausting. The problem with doing something like that is making it real. The fun scenes are easier because you kind of get to play a bit, but once you start to add in the emotional stuff, how do you do that without going completely over the top. How do you find the truth of the moment when the truth is you’re pretending to be another character?
“That’s where Sci-Fi can get tricky, and where the show can get tricky. Thank God we have a talented cast that can find the emotional truth in scenes that are so far-fetched. Again, that scene on the couch with me and Eddie after the body-switch thing happens with our characters was a really tricky one. I just remember both of us sitting on that couch in the hotel room and we were totally lost at that point, but the director, Anton Cropper, helped lead us through it. Of course, it didn’t help that there was a fire alarm going off in the building every fifteen minutes, so we’d all have to go outside and wait until we were allowed back inside. That was not a fun day,” says the actress with a laugh.
Last month Warehouse 13 fans were given a little Christmas present in the form of a holiday-themed episode, Secret Santa. “That was the last episode that we shot last year, and it was just fun,” says Kelly. “Jack Kenny directed it and there was this feeling of, OK, it’s the end [of the season], let’s kick up our heels and have some fun, and we did.”
Having grown up in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada, Kelly had no specific plan back then to pursue an acting career “We had two TV channels and there was no movie theater in town, so it wasn’t something I was exposed to as a kid,” she says. “Even the idea of doing something like this was foreign to me. I kind of fell into acting through my love of literature, and actually when I began reading Shakespeare I became interested in dialogue and plays. That’s how I found my way into acting.
“When I studied at Arcadia University I wanted to be a writer, but I took a theater class and did a double major in English as well as theater because I was interested in writing dialogue. My first audition at school was for a Shakespeare troop. I showed up in a T-shirt, jogging pants and a fall hat and they asked me, ‘Do you have a headshot?’ and I said,’ What’s a headshot?’ I was so out of the loop,” laughs Kelly. “I was only 17, though, when I began studying at university, so I was still quite young. I ended up landing a spot and I got to go to Cornwall, England where we performed Romeo and Juliet. That’s when it really started for me and where I decided, ‘OK, I want to be an actor.’
“While I was at school I bartended for a while in order to make some money. Then I moved to Toronto and worked at a law firm as a secretary, or executive assistant as they’re known today, I sold Globe & Mail newspaper subscriptions over the phone, I did all sorts of jobs while trying to get an agent. It took me a year before I finally got an agent and then I ended up booking the first audition I went to. During the time it took me to get an agent, I took acting classes, read books, and tried to educate myself as much as possible about the industry.”
Mutant X, Slings and Arrows, Vanished, Castle and Republic of Doyle are among the TV series that Kelly has appeared in. She has also worked on several made-for-TV movies as well as the miniseries Diamonds and the Jack Hunter trilogy. On the big screen, the actress’ credits include The Bay of Love and Sorrows and Crime Spree.
“The Bay of Love and Sorrows is the first film I did and it was an amazing experience,” she says. “It’s based on a book, which I love, by a writer [David Adams Richards] from the East Coast of Canada where I’m from. It won the Governor General’s Award and my character was just so beautifully written. That’s probably my favorite role so far. I also worked on a film called Crime Spreeand I got to meet Harvey Keitel, who was in the movie. He and I would have conversations about Shylock and The Merchant of Venice, and he gave me an acting book as a gift, which was really incredible.”
In addition to Warehouse 13 - which begins production on its third season in a few weeks - other recent projects for the actress include the upcoming film Last Stop as well as guest-spots on No Ordinary Family and CSI: Miami. What does she feel makes a career in this industry rewarding for her so far?
“It’s the tiny moments, the little gifts where you truly transcend the medium – whether it’s onstage, TV or film - and feel like you really nailed something,” says Kelly. “That makes the months, sometimes years, of just kind of churning things out and doing your best and hoping for the best, and then seeing the finished project and being a little disappointed by how it was cut or a little disappointed in your performance. It’s sort of like running a race and not winning when you see certain scenes. You’ll think, ‘Oh, God, if I just did this or that.’ But then sometimes you just nail it.
“It’s funny because a lot of the auditions that I go on and where I don’t land the part have been some of my most rewarding experiences, because for me it’s never really about how it ends up or what people see, it’s about how I feel afterwards. I did Oleanna and I remember walking offstage after one performance and thinking, ‘That was it. That was it.’ When you really find those moments, it makes the rest of it, the heartaches and the critiques or criticisms, all worth it.”
As noted above, photos by Justin Stephens or Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!