Check out the link below for my brand-new interview with Haven's Lucas Bryant:
Check out the link below for my brand-new interview with Haven's Lucas Bryant:
SPOILER ALERT!! -Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon feature film franchise) stars in Age of the Dragons, premiering Saturday, July 30th @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST on Syfy. Captain Ahab’s (Glover) obsession to seek revenge on a Great White Dragon that once slaughtered his family drives him, his crew and his adoptive daughter into the heart of danger. Once in the White Dragon’s lair, Ahab must battle the monster, confront a mutinous crew and reclaim the love of his daughter. The movie, a production of Koan, Inc., also stars Vinnie Jones (Swordfish, The Cape).
As noted above, photo by Natalie Cass and copyright of Syfy, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, David Boreanaz talks about playing the title role in season five of Angel.
Like oil and water, good and evil do not mix. However, a certain vampire with a soul named Angel is determined to prove otherwise. At the end of Angel’s fourth season, our hero took over as CEO of the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram and Hart, an evil law firm that once sought to control him. This (fifth) year, Angel and his friends have used the company’s resources to better balance the scales of good and evil. They’ve allowed some of Wolfram and Hart’s clients to carry on with business as usual, while convincing others to mend their demonic ways – or else. Angel will be the first one to admit that it has been a struggle and sacrifices have had to be made. It’s no wonder he had some initial trepidation entering into such a partnership, as did the show’s leading man, David Boreanaz.
“When I initially heard about the change I was slightly skeptical as to how it was going to work out,” recalls the actor. “However, after we shot the final episode last season I had a better grip on the situation. I knew that the show was heading in the right direction as far as getting Angel Investigations out of the hotel and mixing things up with our characters. Each of them was sure to be affected in one way or another as a result of us climbing ‘into bed’ with Wolfram and Hart. That, in turn, would be an asset when it came to storytelling.
“So I felt more comfortable once I had an idea as to where we were going. [Series creator and executive producer] Joss Whedon and his writers wanted to make the episodes more stand-alone as well as lighten up some of the plotlines. They were also interested in creating smaller [story] arcs rather than longer ones. Then, of course, there was the addition of James Marsters’ character of Spike to the ensemble. Here, again, I was somewhat apprehensive, but his presence has turned out to be a big plus for the show.
“I’m both pleased and enthused with the changes and I feel Joss and his team have done a great job of reinventing and re-energizing Angel going into our fifth year. I’ve been extremely impressed with the episodes that have aired so far and those coming up later this season are going to be just amazing.”
In Angel’s fifth season opener Conviction, Angel’s first day at Wolfram and Hart turns out to be a memorable one but for all the wrong reasons. He must prevent a ruthless criminal from going to jail or else risk all life in California being wiped out by a deadly virus. Things go from bad to worse when at the end of the day Angel returns to his office to find an envelope containing an amulet. It begins to spin around until suddenly releasing the non-corporeal spirit of Spike. Angel is far from thrilled to see his old “friend,” especially when it looks as if Spike has betrayed him in the episode that follows, Just Rewards.
“Joss not only wrote Convictionbut he also directed it,” notes Boreanaz. “Every time he directs an episode you’re pretty much in-tune with all aspects of what’s going on inside and around you as an actor. So that was a good place to be in, and once they brought James back at the end [of the episode] that really got the ball rolling. I was ready for what lie ahead. In Just Rewards it was a situation where, OK, here are two characters that we know don’t like one another. They’re going to be at each other’s throats and it’s sure to be a fun ride.”
Along with Spike, the season opener reunites Angel with yet another face from the past, Harmony (Mercedes McNab). It also introduces the new woman in his life, Eve (Sarah Thompson), an ice-cold beauty who serves as a liaison between Angel and the senior partners at Wolfram and Hart.
“Harmony is the type of character who’s come onboard to set the standard of goofiness,” says Boreanaz, “She does it, though, in a way that’s endearing and yet still out there. Harmony is a bit of an annoyance to Angel and tends to mess things up, but Wolfram and Hart just wouldn’t be the same without her.
“With Eve, it’s very much a different story,” laughs the actor. “She’s what you’d call an unknown. She claims to be working for the senior partners but who is she really working for? What’s her true agenda? Who does Eve represent and what’s the actual motive behind what she’s doing? We’ll find the answers to some of these questions as the season continues to unfold.”
One member of Angel Investigations that did not make the move over to Wolfram and Hart is Cordelia Chase. Sadly, she lapsed into a coma after being used as a pawn to give birth to the evil Jasmine (Gina Torres) during the show’s fourth year. Charisma Carpenter returned to the Angel fold to reprise her role of Cordelia one last time in the fifth season story You’re Welcome.
“Cordelia was a bright and energetic character who came full circle,” says Boreanaz. “In You’re Welcome what you think is there really isn’t, and that’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the episode yet. It was a beautiful thing to have Charisma on the set once more and feel her energy. I missed that and to get back into that groove was just a blast.”
In addition to further honing his acting skills, Boreanaz has also used his time on Angel to learn about directing. This season he made his directorial debut with the episode Soul Purpose. “I’ve been fortunate to work with several talented directors,” says the actor. “In doing so, I’ve gotten a sense of their style and seen how quickly they have to work. I also now have a much better understanding of what is and what isn’t necessary and what to cut out when it comes to balancing one’s time versus creativity.
“Taking all this into consideration, I looked at each of the scenes in Soul Purpose prior to the start of shooting and broke them down, first as an actor and how I’d play them, and then as a director and how I wanted them to be shot. The latter changed, however, once we got on the set and started rehearsing. Prep is an important part of directing but you have to know when to step back and have trust in your actors. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable enough to say, ‘This is what I can bring to the table, what do you think?’ rather than me telling them what to bring to the table and then making fine adjustments. So that’s pretty much how I approached my first directing gig and I felt good about how everything went.”
If the opportunity arose would Boreanaz like to direct again? “Definitely,” he enthuses. “It’s funny, with most episodic TV you’re directing a formula. Angel is a programthat was created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt [former executive producer], so you’re limited in what you can do. And by that I mean as a director you have to keep to the boundaries that have been set down but do it in such a way that still allows you to put your own mark on the episode. For me, that was the biggest challenge throughout the entire process. Naturally, the final cut is the producers and very often certain shots have to be cut out due to time constraints. I think my episode came in 10 minutes over so there were shots that didn’t make the final cut. That’s a bit of a disappointment, but also a learning experience where you accept that as fact and move on in order to grow from it.”
It was back in 1997 that Angel was introduced to audiences in the very first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Boreanaz never imagined that seven years later he’d still be playing that same character, and on his own TV series no less. “It’s incredible to have walked in Angel’s shoes all this time and been given the chance to develop him with the support of gifted writers and producers and a person like Joss Whedon, who is a genius. The work speaks for itself, and when this show ends I can look back with pride and say I came to work on time, hit my mark and always tried to do the best job possible.
“For me it’s about the work and telling the story, and the reward is being able to give that story to the fans.”
As noted above, photo copyright of The WB, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, sisters and fellow actresses Patricia Arquette and Rosanna Arquette talk about working together on Medium.
2008 has proven to be one heck of a year for Medium’s Allison Dubois. When, at the end of the show’s third season, her psychic powers as well as her part-time consulting work for the Phoenix District Attorney’s office became public knowledge and tabloid fodder, it seemed that this suburban wife and mom might be spending more time at home as opposed to using her “gift” to catch criminals. However, a variety of circumstances have led to Allison helping put a number of predators, murderers and kidnappers behind bars so far this fourth season. One of her recent dreams featured a femme fatale portrayed by Rosanna Arquette, the real-life sister of series leading lady Patricia Arquette (Allison). This was the siblings’ first collaboration together, at least for episodic TV, and was a while in coming to fruition.
“We did actually work together one time before on Searching for Debra Winger,” says Patricia Arquette, “but that was a documentary, not fiction. So this [Medium] was our first fictitious experience so to speak. I don’t know why it took so long, because we’ve always wanted to do something like this.”
Continues Rosanna Arquette, “Glenn Caron [Medium creator/executive producer] said he just was waiting for the right story. Prior to this, there was never one that he felt was right, and even then, this episode was originally written for a man, but they decided to change the character to a woman. So here we are. And I have to say that Patricia is the hardest working girl in show business. No one knows how hard this show is because the cast doesn’t have a full-on script every day, so there are pages and pages of dialogue that they have to memorize. That was rather challenging for me, because my series [What About Brian] was cancelled a year ago, which meant my memory muscles were a little rusty, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ So it was intense, but, again, Patricia and everyone else on Medium work very hard.”
In the season four Medium episode Lady Killer, Allison and Detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt) team up to track down Michelle Todd (Rosanna Arquette), a beautiful, seductive, sexual siren or “cougar” who enjoys the challenge of bedding and then killing younger men. Allison begins dreaming about this woman when her romantic encounters appear to turn deadly. For Rosanna, adopting such a persona was not an easy thing.
“It was actually quite challenging,” says the actress. “There was this one moment where my character had to strangle this man, and I found myself getting really nauseous. Every time I had to do it I kind of felt sick to my stomach, and I thought, ‘This feeling comes from the fact that this is wrong,’ do you know what I mean? It amazes me that there are people out there in the real world who actually do these sorts of things and can [mentally] get to such a place. I don’t know if I’d want to play someone like that a lot, but it was interesting to be in a person’s skin who could commit such acts of violence.
“Because of the way Glenn works, I was figuring out this woman as I went along. He’d have an idea about her, and then new [script] pages would come out. But my character starts off as this woman who’s like a cougar in that she lures in young men and then kills them. I’d never played anybody like that before, so that was fun,” enthuses Rosanna.
And what did Patricia think of her sister’s character? “Because I know my sister so well, it’s a testament to what a great actress she is. Physically, she is a very beautiful woman and a very natural woman in real life, too. So I knew she’d look gorgeous, but it was just so different for me to then see this carnivorous, mercenary type of dangerous person emerge.
“Part of the reason why I liked working on this episode so much was enjoying my sister’s incredible talent. So much so, in fact, that I had to keep catching myself because my own reactions as Patricia were coming through. Does that make sense? Because my character of Allison isn’t quite as onboard with what’s going on, I had to keep kind of putting myself in-cheque. I would be smiling really big [during a take] and then think, ‘Oh, no, it’s not supposed to be funny. Stop, what are you doing? You’re meant to be giving her [Rosanna’s character] a surly look. After all, you’re not sure if she’s telling the truth.’ So I was having a little inner war with myself because I was having so much fun watching my sister, and it felt weird to keep reining myself in from that.”
Rosanna is the third member of the Arquette clan to join her sister on Medium. Brother Richmond Arquette guest-starred in the season two episode A Changed Man, and David Arquette directed year three’s 1-900-Lucky and as well as this season’s Do You Hear What I Hear? And Patricia’s husband Thomas Jane also guest-starred during the show’s third year in the two-part Four Dreams. For both sisters there is nothing quite like working with family.
“I think the really interesting thing about us as artists together and when I did work with my brothers or sister on the series was the collaborative exchange of ideas, like, ‘Oh, well, maybe it’s this particular moment,’ or, ‘Hey, what do you think of checking this idea out,’” notes Patricia. “All of us are open to each other and respect one another’s minds as artists, so it’s not uncomfortable as it might be for some other people. Also, because David and I had more scenes together, particularly with one very emotional episode, I’d be thinking about something from my early life [while shooting a scene] and David would go, ‘Great, cut and print.’ He would then tell me, ‘I know exactly what you were thinking of right then,’ and he’d be right.”
Says Rosanna, “With me and Patricia, she was able to look at me if I was having a challenging moment with a scene that had a lot of dialogue and was a little tongue-twisting, and say to me, ‘Maybe if you tried it this way.’ I thought that was pretty neat.”
Adds Patricia, “I’d love for Alexis [the fourth Arquette sibling] to come on the series, and David as well [as a guest-star]. I don’t know, though, how many favours he owes me at this point,” she jokes.
Medium was among the host of TV shows that were forced to shut down production last November as a result of a strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Fortunately, the strike was settled several weeks ago and work has since resumed on a number of series. Patricia Arquette and the rest of the Medium cast and crew are almost finished shooting seven more episodes for this season, and she, like everyone else, was happy to have the cameras rolling once again.
“It was so good to see that our crew and everyone else were back,” says Patricia. “I was really worried because a bunch of our drivers hadn’t returned, but there are different rankings of drivers, like the number one group, number two, three, etc. So all the number one’s have to be working first, but then all the others were put back on our show. I was just glad everyone was given the opportunity to return to their jobs. I mean, I felt like it was an inevitable strike and that both sides really had to come to some kind of an agreement. And I’m happy that they eventually did.”
SPOILER ALERT!! - Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager, Body of Proof) will guest star as a would-be bride on Syfy’s hit series Warehouse 13 on Monday, August 1st @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST. In Queen for a Day, Ryan portrays Amanda, whose planned fairy tale wedding is derailed when exposure to an artifact threatens her life and the lives of everyone around her.
As noted above, photo by Stephen Scott and copyright of Syfy, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, Alexander Enberg talks about his guest-starring roles in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as his recurring role as the Vulcan Ensign Vorek in Star Trek: Voyager.
In the 1967 Star Trek episode Amok Time Captain Kirk risks everything to get his first officer Spock back home when the Vulcan begins to experience Pon farr, the Vulcan mating cycle. Thirty years later Captain Janeway is faced with the identical crisis when young Vulcan Ensign Vorek is stricken with the same pangs of passion in the third-season Star Trek:Voyager tale Blood Fever. The lovesick Vorek is the third character Alexander Enberg has played in the history of Star Trek. The first was that of a young newspaper reporter in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Time’s Arrow, Part II.
“I was attending school in upstate New York at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs,” recalls Enberg. “I went home to Los Angeles for the summer break and shortly after I got there I was taken on by an acting agency. My agent heard about this part in The Next Generation and arranged an audition for me. This was the first television part I had ever read for. Because the story was set on Earth in the late nineteenth century most people were coming in and playing the reporter as very dry and much like an ordinary person from that period. I took a chance and portrayed him as an energetic young man who was eager to find out more about these people who were involved in time travel.”
The show’s producers and casting directors were impressed by Enberg’s enthusiasm and hired him for the part. In the episode his character chases after Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain, to get the scoop on the writer’s investigation of a supposed alien threat to the Earth. “I remember thinking, ‘Wait a minute. If I’m working on this hot sci-fi show The Next Generation, then why am I wearing this turn-of-the-century Western costume?’ I kept looking around for the phaser guns and blinking lights,” he laughs. “It really didn’t feel as though I was on Star Trek, especially as I didn’t have a scene with anyone in the regular cast. For all I knew I could have been doing The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie. I did, however, enjoy the scenes I had with Jerry Hardin [Samuel Clemens]. He’s a great character actor and it was a thrill to work with someone who has so much experience in the business.”
Two years later Enberg finally had the chance to see phasers, blinking lights and much more when he was cast as Lieutenant (j.g.) Taurik in The Next Generation episode Lower Decks. This time around he was portraying a Vulcan and, while he was excited about getting more on-screen time, he quickly realized how ill-prepared he was to take on such a role. “I’ll be honest with you. Up until that point I don’t think I’d seen an entire episode of the original Star Trek,” says Enberg. “I’d seen bits and pieces of it but I’d always just assumed that it was a campy, dated and plain silly programme.
“I knew the only way I could truly learn how to be a Vulcan was to try to follow the precedent set by Leonard Nimoy and his performance as Mister Spock on Star Trek. So I began watching videotapes of the old series. I borrowed four tapes from the casting office and when I finished with those I asked them for four more. By the time I did my audition I’d probably watched fifty shows and when it came time to start filming I’d watched all seventy-eight episodes. I became this incredible fan and I realized how cool the show is,” admits the actor.
“I really got into studying Leonard Nimoy’s work and I also spent a significant amount of time practicing my eyebrow arching,” he jokes. “One thing I made sure to do during the audition was the Vulcan hand salute. I knew it would be ridiculous if they hired somebody who couldn’t do that. Other than that I just went in and read my lines as straightforward and as logically as I could. I have a deep voice and dark eyes, which are reminiscent of Leonard Nimoy’s looks, so I think that helped my cause as well. Whatever I did must have rung true to how a Vulcan behaves because they hired me. I was psyched and it ended up being a lot of fun. In-between takes I’d pretend to be Leonard Nimoy and Dan [Gauthier, who played Lieutenant (j.g.) Sam Lavelle] would do an amazing William Shatner impression. We had a lot of laughs."
When Voyager producers first thought about exploring the subject of Pon farron the series they considered using the character of Lieutenant Commander Tuvok (Tim Russ) for this storyline. This idea proved to be unworkable, so they created Ensign Vorek. The producers felt, however, that because the character would play such an important part in the Pon farr story it would make no sense to suddenly thrust him upon audiences. They decided to gradually introduce him into the series over a three-story arc beginning with the episode Fair Trade.
“I remember being really nervous on that first day,” recalls Enberg. “I had to do a scene in engineering with Roxann Dawson [Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres]. One of my lines had to do with the warp drive’s plasma injectors. For whatever reason I was completely tongue-tied. I just could not get those words out of my mouth. Everyone turned to me and said, ‘It’s OK. It’s not easy at first. Take a deep breath and you’ll get it on the second take,’ and sure enough I did. They were all very encouraging.
“You have to be very careful when you’re spouting off all the technobabble. There are people out there who know these terms inside and out, so you have to say them nonchalantly, like bacon and eggs. If it doesn’t sound like something you say every day then you’re liable to fall into the trap of being a rigid Starfleet stereotype and that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about engineers who are dealing with warp cores just as a mechanic deals with the engine of a car.
“Something else I became aware of while watching the dailies from this first episode was my making subtle facial gestures,” he continues. “I’m a very strong character actor. I’ve played everything from pyromaniacs to British rock stars to strange German photographers - all very emotionally charged people. Although this sort of energy came in handy when doing the Pon farr episode Blood Fever, I had to remain my logical Vulcan self for Fair Trade and the show that followed, Alter Ego. It’s sometimes difficult, however, to keep a smile or a wink from creeping out, especially when you’re trying to be natural in your delivery. When you’re playing a Vulcan, however, you have to be aware of what you’re doing at all times. You have to put yourself in a certain mindset and not deviate from the established parameters of your character. There were a couple of times I caught myself slipping in Alter Ego and I knew that with Blood Fever coming up I had to work extra hard to get my Vulcan persona under control.”
According to Enberg, one thing that was completely uncontrollable when he first started to play Vorek was the character’s hairstyle. “If the viewers want to scrutinize something they should watch the evolution of Vorek’s hair because there is one,” he laughs. “It all came about because they didn’t want audiences to become confused and mistake Ensign Vorek for Lieutenant Taurik from Lower Decks. The problem with this is that I’m one person playing both characters. Once you put on those pointy ears on me and arch my eyebrows there isn’t much else you can do to alter my appearance. The only thing you could really do would be to dress the character differently but Vorek and Taurik both wear Starfleet uniforms, so that’s not really an option either.
“They came up with this Oriental bowl cut which curved up on the sides like a ram’s head. Then they tried making it fuller, but then I started looking like a cross between Marlo Thomas from the sixties sitcom That Girl and a Vulcan,” chuckles the actor. “By the time we got to Blood Fever they pretty much started over again and I ended up looking like a traditional Vulcan, which made me very happy. Again, I tried to base my portrayal of a Vulcan on Leonard Nimoy’s work, so I became uncomfortable when we began diverting from that just for the sake of my looking different. As I said, my Vulcan repertoire is somewhat limited but I don’t think we confused the audience. As far as I’m concerned Vorek is just vain about his coiffure. He obviously spends a lot of time in front of the mirror before going on duty,” laughs the actor.
In Blood Fever the young ensign has worries other than his appearance when the primitive urges associated with the Pon farr begin to consume every fibre of his being. Vorek chooses Lieutenant Torres as his mate, but much to his surprise the Klingon rejects his advances. In pursuing her, however, the Vulcan accidentally awakens similar primeval desires in her as well and the lieutenant’s erratic behaviour jeopardizes her life and the lives of those with her on an away team mission.
“This episode was a joy to work on,” says the actor. “It was one of those wonderful dramatic scenarios that every actor hopes to have the opportunity to play at least once during his career. I knew the fans, in particular, would really enjoy it because its roots stem from the old Star Trek episode Amok Time. It was an important experience for me and I really tried to remain true to what had already been established as far as how Vulcans behaved and how the Pon farr would affect them.”
Unlike a stage production which starts off at the beginning of the story and carries on straight through to the end, most television programs shoot the scenes within an episode out of sequence. This proved to be a stumbling block for Enberg when filming began on Blood Fever as it prevented him from establishing a frame of reference for what his character was feeling. Luckily, director Andrew J. Robinson (Garak on Star Trek:Deep Space Nine) was there to help point the actor in the right direction. “That first day we started with the scene in sickbay in which Vorek is telling the Doctor [Robert Picardo] rather vehemently that he’s not getting any better. The Pon farr had already begun but I hadn’t as yet done any of the scenes leading up to this particular conversation between Vorek and the Doctor.
“I said to Andrew Robinson, ‘There’s no progression; I don’t know where I’m supposed to be coming from or how I should be feeling at this point.’ So we came up with this sense of Vorek feeling as if he wants to explode. He said something to me like, ‘As an actor you’re familiar with the agony you put yourself and your family though because of the disappointments associated with the job. You have this bubbling desire to scream and shout and cry but you have to keep it all bottled up inside you.’ So I had to keep a tight lid on all these emotions that were churning within me and wait until the climax of the story to let loose. It’s not easy to work against your emotions,” notes Enberg, “and because of this Vorek is certainly one of the most challenging characters I’ve ever played.”
Both of Enberg’s parents work in the entertainment industry, so he was exposed to the business at a young age. When he was eleven years old he had bit parts in two television series, Quincy, M.E. and Simon & Simon. By the time he reached his teens, however, his interests shifted from acting to music. “I was in a jazz ensemble at school and had a garage rock-’n-roll band. My school used to put on two big stage productions a year, a dramatic one in the autumn and then a musical in the spring,” he recalls.
“Because of my love for music I would always try out for the spring show and I began getting leading roles in such plays as Bye, Bye, Birdie, Hair, the censored version, of course, and Grease. Little by little I came to see that I was performing in a medium in which I could not only make people think and feel but also question things. One day I suddenly put down my guitar and I began taking acting classes.”
Enberg spent his first summer break from college working as an apprentice with the Williamstown Theatre in Massachusetts where he appeared as a young John Wilkes Booth in a production of Austin Pendelton’s play Booth. The show moved to the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut where the actor received his Equity card. “That was it,” he says. “After that I started looking for an agent.”
Blossom, Step by Step, Get Smart, Lois and Clark:The New Adventures of Superman and Murder One are just some of the television shows Enberg has guest-starred on since returning to Los Angeles to pursue a full time acting career. His film work includes roles in Pump Up The Volume, Junior and The Last Gasp. He recently portrayed German photographer Chris Von Wagenheim in the HBO cable film Gia, the true story of the drug-addicted supermodel who died of AIDS at the age of twenty-six. “I wore yet another wig for this movie,” he laughs. “It was a very intense film and a totally different type of challenge from my work on Star Trek.”
Voyager fans have not seen the last of the lovelorn Vulcan ensign. Enberg reprised his role of Vorek in the fourth-season episode Day of Honor. “It was only a couple of scenes with me and Roxann Dawson in engineering,” says the actor. “Nothing is addressed with regards to what happened in Blood Fever, which is only logical, no pun intended, considering it’s all in the past. It was nice coming back. Hopefully they’ll continue to find ways to use Vorek because I just love having anything to do with the series.”
As noted above, photo copyright of Paramount Pictures, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
Tags: Alexander Enberg, Andrew J. Robinson, Dan Gauthier, Ensign Vorek, Entertainment, Garek, Jerry Hardin, Leonard Nimoy, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Lieutenant Sam Lavelle, Lieutenant Taurik, Mister Spock, Robert Picardo, Roxann Dawson, Samuel Clemens, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Tim Russ, TV, Vulcan, William Shatner
In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, husband & wife and fellow actors John Billingsley and Bonita Friedericy talk about their guest-starring roles in the Fear Itself episode "Community."
In the Fear Itself episode Community, directed by Mary Harron and written by Kelly Kennemer (The Music Within), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) and Shiri Appleby (Roswell) play a young married couple who move into the perfect house in the perfect neighbourhood, making their lives perfect. However, they soon learn that their fellow residents will to go to any lengths to maintain order in the community. Also guest-starring are John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise) and his wife, actress Bonita Friedericy, as another neighbourhood couple struggling to keep their white picket fence façade from crumbling.
“Bonnie and I had worked before with casting directors, David Rapaport and Lindsey Hayes Kroeger, who brought us in for the film Prom Night as well,” says Billingsley. “They’re two of the casting people in town who really do tend to think of us as a great couple who can act together, so whenever the opportunity arises they’re very good about giving us a call.”
“They actually let us read together,” recalls Friedericy, “which nobody ever does because it tends to be awkward for casting directors.”
“I asked David and Lindsey if we could read together, and they were very amenable,” says Billingsley, “which is nice because then you’ve got both people on-camera and can see how they interact. Also, as actors it gives you the opportunity to work together, which then allows you to throw in a few overlaps and the occasional adlib without screwing the party up as it were.”
Friedericy describes her and husband John’s Fear Itself episode as a bit Twilight Zone-like in nature, and their characters as not quite the perfect couple. “They’re kind of rebelling against the community, but in an ‘underground’ sort of way,” she says. “It’s interesting because, for example, at one point my character has to slap John’s, not because she’s angry at him, but because he’s drunk and she’s trying to stop him from speaking too loudly because it could result in a not-so-good response from their neighbours.”
Adds Billingsley, "Given the nature of the series and the parts we played, there wasn’t a ton of screen time, so it’s difficult to talk about them in their dimensionality. I think that was more alluded to than anything else. I mean, what you see is a couple who’s sort of holding it together, but when we first meet them they are, at the very least, frazzled, particularly my character, who is past saving on a certain level. However, there isn’t a ton of opportunity to really flesh that out, so you see more the manifestation of the end game rather than the build-up to it.“
The couple laughs when talking about the scene where Friedericy slaps Billingsley. “Just for the record, I don’t like hitting my husband, and especially not eight times in a row, which I had to do when we were filming,” she says. ”For a couple of takes, though, they brought a stuntman in, because when I slapped John, he had to stumble backwards and fall onto a glass table.”
“I must say the first slap was beautifully executed,” says Billingsley, “and then they did a second take, which I watched from the monitors, and it looked like a Joe Louis KO [knock-out] punch,” he chuckles.
“So I was knocking them out right and left,” jokes Friedericy.
Besides her work on Fear Itself, Friedericy plays the recurring role of General Mary Beckman in the NBC show Chuck, while Billingsley can be seen as a coroner in the upcoming HBO vampire-themed series True Blood. “So far my part in every other episode seems to consist of me wheeling in a table with a corpse on it and my character saying, ‘Coming through.’ In fact, that’s what I’ve decided to call my memoirs, Coming Through,” teases the actor.
Tags: Bonita Friedericy, Brandon Routh, Chuck, David Rapaport, Entertainment, Fear Itself, General Mary Beckman, Horror, John Billingsley, Kelly Kennemer, Lindsey Hayes Kroeger, Mary Harron, Shiri Appleby, Star Trek: Enterprise, True Blood, TV
Our five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell – what if for some reason you were robbed of one or more of these. How would you cope? On the other hand, imagine if you could magnify your senses and, for example, see a speck of dirt in the groove of coin or eavesdrop on the faintest of whispers. Rachel Pirzad can do all that and so much more, and while some people might envy her abilities as a Synesthete, she has found them to be somewhat of a double-edged sword.
Luckily for Rachel she met Dr. Lee Rosen, a neurologist, psychiatrist and an expert in people like her, or Alphas, whose physical and/or mental capabilities far exceed those of most humans. Rosen has been guiding Rachel and a handful of other Alphas in how not only to live with their abilities but also further develop them. In the premiere of Syfy’s new hit series Alphas, the Department of Defense asks Rosen and his team for help in solving a baffling case. The mission opens up a whole new world of challenges for each of them. Actress Azita Ghanizada, who plays Rachel, eagerly took on those hurdles with her character, but she almost lost out on doing so.
“Initially casting didn’t want to see me for the role of Rachel,” recalls Ghanizada. “My character was written as an Hassidic Jew who was very shy, and I think when [series co-creators/executive producers] Zak Penn and Mike Karnow originally created her, she was almost like a mute. So they were having a really hard time trying to find an actress to play Rachel.
“At the time I didn’t know what Alphas was all about. I was more focused on a couple of big movie auditions, but one night I received a phone call asking me to come in the next day at 10 o’clock for an audition. That was followed by several other calls from people telling me, ‘You need to dress conservatively for the audition,’ and I was like, ‘What does that mean? I know how to dress for an audition.’ What they were actually trying to tell me was that Rachel is very different from who I am. I’m a very outgoing and confident person in real life, and as such I think casting felt I wouldn’t be able to portray Rachel in a believable way.
“What they didn’t realize, though, is that I have a great deal in common with my character. The abilities that ultimately make her an Alpha have really affected Rachel’s home life as well as made her feel vulnerable throughout her life because she’s so sensitive to people believing that she’s different. Even her own family thinking that she’s ‘cursed.’ For me, being from Afghanistan and coming over to the United States, I felt very different as far as school and my community, and then not really understanding what was going on at home. I identified right away with Rachel and I could tap into that softness and vulnerability and why she would be shy around men in certain situations.
“Well, I went in and read for the character the next morning and I think it was the following day that I booked the role. Before I knew it I received the pilot script and was on a plane and heading off to shoot the pilot.”
In the Alphas pilot, Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) and his team must track down an Alpha who assassinated a federal witness. The first glimpse that audiences have of Rachel is at her family’s dry cleaning business. She is rushing off to work at Dr. Rosen’s, but as she is leaving, her hypersensitive hearing picks up an unsettling conversation between her father and one of his employees. In the following episode, Cause and Effect, Rachel receives a phone call at work from her mother that quickly turns into a disagreement about a supposed arranged marriage. Rachel is clearly juggling a great deal, personally and professionally, and Ghanizada geared her performance towards that.
“The trick for me was rearranging who I am and becoming shy and awkward as Rachel,” she says. “I was able to find those types of moments very easily, especially if you put me in front of David Strathairn. You can’t help but feel a little intimated acting-wise when you’re working with someone that talented and experienced. I had quite a few scenes with David, so I was able to draw from the reality of the situation.
“The thing is Rachel feels everything. She’s really special and precious in that she has a great deal of heart, and I think my character is a lot of the emotional throughline in the series. I mean, all the characters are definitely dealing with emotional baggage, including issues involving their families and home lives, but because Rachel experiences everything so acutely, it affects her emotionally as well as physically on every level.
“That’s so real, and it’s been so rewarding for me to discover her abilities as we’ve gone on. We recently shot an episode where we learn about Rachel’s touch sensory overload, which has been something very hard for my character do deal with. As a result of this, she can’t really go out on dates and be around men. She’s very awkward because physically that’s not something she can handle at the moment, and that’s been a really fun thing that the writers have been able to work into the series.”
Rachel’s Alpha teammates include Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), a Hyperadrenal with super-strength and increased tolerance to pain, Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell), an Influencer who can bend the will of others, Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), a Transducer with the ability to read a wide range of electromagnetic frequencies, and the newest member of Dr. Rosen’s group, Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), whose Hyperkinesis gives him flawless aim and enhanced dexterity. Although she already knew and had been working with three of these Alphas for a while, the Alphas pilot is their first time together out in the field. Like the pieces of a puzzle it takes our heroes time to fit together into a cohesive team, and that level of comfort and trust amongst them continues to grow as season one unfolds.
“What you see in the pilot is, I think, just the beginning and the truthful state of our characters finding one another and learning to deal with that uneasiness of working with other people who are also gifted but in really different ways,” explains Ghanizada. “Dr. Rosen is, in fact, the glue that holds these people together and forces them together in the pilot. You see his private little relationships with each of them and how he analyzes our characters and really be the doctor that he is, which continues throughout the first season.
“With Rachel and Dr. Rosen there’s a deep familial bond that has grown and she’s extremely loyal to him. She’d do anything for him, and does just that. Rachel puts herself in constant jeopardy when she taps into her sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing to help solve whatever case they happen to be investigating. When she does that, though, the rest of her motor skills go to ‘sleep.’ So in order to hyper-intensify one of her skills, Rachel has to sacrifice the rest, and quite often that puts her in danger. I don’t know of any young woman who wants to go to work, even though she really doesn’t know exactly yet what she’s doing, and is willing to die for the mission. I think Rachel would do that for Dr. Rosen because this is the first place she’s ever felt like she’s belonged.
“I have to say, too, that if you liked the pilot, you’re going to love the series. To me, the pilot is gold; it’s beautiful and it introduces all six of the regular characters and quickly brings the audience into the Alphas world. The pace was a little bit slower, though, because we had to take the time to do all those introductions. The rest of the episodes are faster and sharper. The stories that they’ve been breaking in the writers’ room have been really awesome, so I’m eager for viewers to see what we’ve been getting up to since the pilot,”
Story-wise, Ghanizada has a particular one that presented her with a variety of challenges as an actress. She also has a scene that was especially fun for her to work on. “There’s a special episode this season where Rachel experiences quite a few things, and it really forced me to deal with myself as well as my character on a highly emotional level,” she says. “It was really tricky to find the right balance and make sure it all came across as authentic on the screen.
“I think my favorite scene so far is one where Rachel goes on a date. It’s such a sweet thing for her to want to explore her romantic side, and it was a real treat for me to play. I think that’s going to be something fun for the audience to see.”
Born in Afghanistan, the actress was just a baby when she and family came to the United States. “We were political refugees and received asylum to remain in the United States,” says Ghanizada. “During the mid-80s we brought over the rest of our family via refugee camps, and that was a very curious time for a child to understand war so closely back at home. The Afghans are a proud people and they watched everything they had ever known or understood about their country disappear. I remember going to the airport and seeing people arriving here and the crying didn’t stop. So there was never a time where I wasn’t politically aware of the world at large, and I’m a child of the globe because of it. I understood being awake to the world and valuing it at a very early age.
“As I grew up in the United States I also stumbled quite a bit in trying to fit into my very middle class Virginia environment insofar as becoming a Virginian, understanding how to be an American and what my role was at school,” continues the actress. “I was very bright and wanted to excel, but my parents didn’t necessarily understand what that meant as far as staying after school and participating in things like spots and doing plays. I wasn’t allowed to do any activity that would keep me away from the home.
“I learned English as well as everything I understood about American culture from TV, so I couldn’t imagine another profession that I would rather work in. I did struggle quite a bit and it did take me a little bit of time to get on my own feet and be able to pursue acting. I was terrified and no one approved of my career choice. So I more or less stopped caring about what other people thought and made my own choices. I worked a million jobs and fell on my face a lot of times, but my heart was always in the right place. I was pretty good at it [acting] and I kept at it.
“Now I’m the first girl from Afghanistan to be a lead on a TV series in the United States of America and I’m so proud of that. I’m also proud that there are other people in the Afghan community that are involved in other things besides politics. There are young models, actors, even Miss Americas. I just think it’s wonderful to see so many different images of Afghanistan being represented and embedding themselves in the nation in such a positive way,” she enthuses.
Having made her start in commercials, Ghanizada has since guest-starred on several TV series including The Closer, Numb3rs, Bones, Veronica Mars, Entourage, Psych, Castle and NCIS: Los Angeles as well as played Anita on the big screen’s X’s & O’s. “I love being on-set,” she says. “I love the energy as well as the family atmosphere. I have a whole different energy when the camera is going. Our show runner on Alphas, Ira Steven Behr, says, ‘She’s [Ghanizada] my Gloria Swanson; she never wants the camera to stop rolling,’” jokes the actress. “My experiences so far in this business have been nothing but good. I’ve truly been blessed.”
Away from the set, the actress keeps busy with organizations and causes geared towards supporting her birthplace. “I’m an Afghan and I try to do as much as possible in my spare time to create awareness for that country’s most vulnerable, the women and children,” she says. “I will continue to work with the former ambassador to Afghanistan and try to work on projects there with them as well as with UNICEF and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Ultimately all this is to work towards building schools in Afghanistan and being able to break some more ground along with a few more barriers in order to help the country reintegrate and get back on its feet.”
As noted above, photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of Syfy, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
Tags: Azita Ghanizada, Bill Harken, Cameron Hicks, David Strathairn, Dr. Lee Rosen, Entertainment, Gary Bell, Hyperadrenal, Hyperkinesis, Influencer, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba, Mike Karnow, Nina Theroux, Rachel Pirzad, Ryan Cartwright, Science Fiction, Syfy, Synesthete, Transducer, TV, UNHCR, UNICER, Warren Christie, Zak Penn
In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, actress Jenni Baird talks about her role as NTAC (National Threat Assessment Command) director Meghan Doyle on The 4400.
There’s a new girl in town, or on The 4400 to be more precise. Australian-born actress Jenni Baird joins the fold this fourth season playing Meghan Doyle, the new director of the National Threat Assessment Command’s (NTAC) Seattle offices. A graduate of both Yale and Cambridge University, Meghan also has a PhD in political science, specializing in conflict negotiation. A trained field agent, she once worked for a government think tank designing response protocols to, among other things, the 4400’s return. Now at NTAC, Meghan is dealing with these extraordinary human beings on a daily basis. Stepping into such big shoes was initially somewhat daunting for Baird.
“I was petrified my first day of work on The 4400,” recalls the actress. “As an actor you have all these irrational fears that when they call, ‘Action!’ you won’t for whatever reason be able to speak or remember your lines. So I basically said to the director, ‘Just tell me when you’ve got one [take] in the can,’ because once that’s the case, then I can relax. That’s just how I work with every job. I need to know my lines came out OK, that I stepped in the right position, and that they can at least use something.
“So once they had that first take in the can I felt much more at ease. Of course, it helped, too, when Joel Gretsch [NTAC Agent Tom Baldwin], bless his heart, took me aside at one point and said, ‘Don’t worry, you’re doing really well.’ So he was looking out for me. I know it sounds rather cliché, but Joel is such a caring and supportive actor. I’m very fortunate to have him as the person who I share a lot of my scenes with, as well as Jackie McKenzie [NTAC Agent Diana Skouris]. They’re the ones I spend most of my onscreen time with and it’s been just wonderful.”
A native of Sydney, Baird admits to being very pragmatic and, therefore, made sure she got an education before attempting to pursue an acting career. “I majored in communications [at the University of Technology Sydney] with plans to become a writer,” she says. “So I went to college, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communications, and almost immediately after that enrolled in the Western Academy for Performing Arts in Perth where I spent the next three years studying acting.
“My first onscreen role was playing a junkie in an Australian TV series called Water Rats. Funnily enough, though, I didn’t think I was skinny enough to be a junkie. I couldn’t understand why I had to audition because I was convinced no one would buy the fact that my character was a heroin addict, but they did. So that was my first TV role. However, it wasn’t until I did All Saints that I got really used to working in front of a camera. That was 44 one-hour episodes a year, so if I hadn’t become comfortable in the three years I was on that show, then it was never going to happen.”
The actress came to the United States after being chosen in a worldwide search for the female lead opposite Keith Carradine in the ABC pilot Metropolis. Other TV work includes the WB pilot Global Frequency as well as the CBS pilot Conviction and a guest-starring role on Justice starring Victor Garber and Kerr Smith. Of all the auditions the actress has been on since arriving in the States, the one for The 4400 was her shortest to date.
“I auditioned on a Thursday around 10am, and on Friday evening I was on a plane to Vancouver, so my whole life literally changed overnight,” recalls Baird. “I didn’t even meet any of the show’s producers. I went straight in with the casting director, who worked with me until she was satisfied with my interpretation of the character, which is such a gift because you typically don’t get that opportunity as an actor. Usually you go in once and if you’re right for the part then you’re right. If not, you don’t get a chance to reinterpret the character. In this case I did maybe five takes and on number five, the casting director said, ‘Right, that’s the one.’ She sent the tape to Vancouver for overnight approval because filming began the following Monday, and here I am today.”
Meghan Doyle arrives for her first day on the job at NTAC in The 4400 season four opener The Wrath of Graham. She barely has time to arrange a few movie posters on the walls of her new office when she and her team are called in to deal with a high school student who after taking a promicin shot becomes a messiah to those around him. “I don’t know if they did it on purpose, but they were very kind and started me out on my first day with a very basic procedural scene which helped move the episode along, so there was no pressure attached to it,” says Baird.
“A couple of days later we shot my audition scene where Tom walks into Meghan’s office for the first time. He says, ‘You wanted to see me,’ and she asks him, ‘Do these posters look straight to you?’ He’s like, ‘What? Why are you asking me this?’ That’s such an establishing scene insofar as setting up who my character is, and because I had done it so many times with the casting director it was a joy to finally do it for real in front of the cameras because I knew it so well.”
Prior to this scene is one where Agent Garrity (Kavan Smith) and Tom quietly discuss Meghan’s qualifications, or lack thereof, for the position of NTAC director. They quickly discover that she’s unlike any of their previous bosses and more than up to the job at hand.
“My character is unconventional and doesn’t prepare for her day at the office,” explains Baird. “Meghan arrives at work and thinks her way though the day. I want the audience to see that on the screen. I don’t want her to be one of these types who are like, ‘I know exactly what I’m going to do now, and it’s this.’ I want her to really work it though as a process. Meghan is described as think tank smart as opposed to being savvy with a gun or government politics. She breaks rules and certainly isn’t uptight about most things. There are a lot of lighter shades to Meghan and she easily accesses those lighter shades, do you know what I mean?
“When it comes to relationships, she’s not afraid to jump into the deep end right way,” continues the actress. “For example, when Meghan meets Diana in the second episode of this season [Fear Itself], she says, ‘Look, I know you and I know you’re good at your job, so we should probably just skip all the preamble and get down to business.’ She gets her hands ‘dirty’ fast, but she’s like that with everyone, and I think Tom finds that strangely arresting, especially after all his previous bosses. Here’s someone who just says what she thinks. With Meghan it’s, ‘This is how I make you feel and you really don’t have a choice in the matter. And, yes, I realize that I’m younger than everyone else but you’re just going to have to live with it.’
“So I’m hoping that audiences are willing to go along for the ride. The show’s producers certainly wanted to surprise viewers with the new boss, and having watched the first few episodes of season four as objectively as I could, I honestly feel they’ve done just that.”
While some people would be content to just sit behind a desk issuing orders, Meghan Doyle isn’t against rolling up her sleeves and mucking in when needed. “There’s a great episode, I believe it’s number six, where NTAC goes into a lockdown and Tom and Meghan try to break into a weapon’s locker,” says Baird. “Well, sparks fly, literally, as in electrical sparks, and there’s smoke and injuries. It was the first time I’ve ever been involved with any type of prosthetics work, so all that was a blast for me to do.”\
The more Tom works with Meghan, the more he comes to appreciate her, on a professional as well as personal level. The latter is a slow-burn, which Baird is pleased about. “I like the fact that they don’t rush things with Tom and Meghan because audiences need time to get used to her,” notes the actress. “Also, Joel’s character was with Alana [Karina Lombard] up until the end of last year when she disappeared, so I didn’t want him to be searching for her this season and then all of a sudden look at Meghan and go, ‘Hey there, nice to meet you.’
“As this season goes on, my character becomes more deeply involved in the overall story arc, particularly because of her and Tom’s relationship. Without giving anything away, Meghan basically gets drawn into the climax of the season along with Tom.”
For Baird, her job on The 4400 is not only a big break career-wise but a personal triumph as well. “People think, ’I’m going to Los Angeles to act because there’s so much work, but it’s not that easy,” she says. “The competition is fierce and sometimes the odds seem to be stacked against you. So when you finally do nab a role, and such a wonderful role like the one I’m playing on The 4400, you feel exhilarated. After all, at the end of the day all you want to do is act, right, and the fact it’s so hard to actually do that makes the work even sweeter.”
As noted above, photo copyright of The USA Network, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!