It was three years ago when viewers of the hit Syfy series Haven were introduced to Duke Crocker. Initially, the character seemed to be one of the shiftier locals who lived on a boat docked in the small Maine coastal town, which also happens to be a hotbed of supernatural activity known collectively as “The Troubles.” If you were in the market for a particular item, Duke was the man to go to - no questions asked.
Who would have imagined that such an individual would eventually turn out to be an important ally to and, more than once, wind up saving the lives of Haven’s Chief of Police Nathan Wuornos and his partner’s, ex-FBI Agent Audrey Parker. In the show’s third season finale, Duke followed Audrey inside a mysterious barn that was part of her destiny and the two of them vanished into thin air along with it. In the season four opener, Fallout, Duke is ejected from the barn, but without Audrey. He sets out for Haven and during his journey back, he meets up with Jennifer Mason, a mysterious woman who, like Audrey, has a link to the town.
When Duke finally makes it back to Haven, he finds The Troubles worse than ever, and Nathan fixated on a singular purpose – to find Audrey. As if our reluctant hero does not have enough on his plate, his half-brother Wade shows up, and it is far from a cozy family reunion for the two.
Earlier this week, actor Eric Balfour, who plays Duke Crocker, chatted with journalists about the ups, downs and challenges facing his character in Haven’s fourth season. The following is an edited version of that Q & A (beware of minor spoilers). Enjoy!
Can you talk a bit about kind of how things just are going to change, including the dynamics amongst the characters, considering that Audrey (Emily Rose) isn't
Audrey in the beginning, and right now isn't even there?
Eric Balfour: It was really a sort of fascinating time when we found out what was going to be happening this season, not only from a character standpoint but also simply logistically with Emily having just had her baby. We were basically going to spend the first six weeks or so without her here in Nova Scotia filming. So it was going to be a challenge. At the same time, it was really exciting, and what it did do was create a lot of new dynamics between the characters and how things would shape up.
You know, people say everything happens for a reason, and I think we were really lucky because what this did was force us to get out of our comfort zone and think outside the box. What we ended up with is something really exciting. The show has an entirely new energy this season as well as a new sense of playfulness. There are new characters that we introduce, too.
The biggest change, though, is initially seeing how Lucas Bryant's character of Nathan is going to have to change his role as far as we deal with “The Troubles.” And also how my character Duke is going to have to relate to him and help Nathan in a way that he, as we know, has always been reluctant to do.
So especially in the first handful of episodes, things are completely different, and I really am excited about it. I think that the audience is going to love this season. Obviously, we try very hard to stay true to what is great about the show, but it's always exciting when a show has to reinvent itself to a certain degree.
I think because of the way that the cable landscape is today, you can't sit on your laurels. Gone are the days of the sort of old paradigm of the procedural TV show that basically is the same from episode to episode, week to week and season to season. Audiences are far too intelligent and sophisticated to not want to see characters and television shows grow. And I’m so proud of how much we have managed to do that this season on Haven.
Can you talk a bit about working with the new actors on the show this year and
about their characters?
EB: Absolutely. We have two new characters primarily this season, in Emma Lahana who plays Jennifer, and Chris Camargo, who plays my character’s brother Wade. They’re both an absolute breath of fresh air and incredible actors.
Personally, Emma's character of Jennifer creates a whole new dynamic for Duke. It's going to reveal a side of him that we've never completely seen. I loved having Emma on the set and working with her. She’s a really playful actress and brings a lot to the table. I know that the show’s fans are going to love Emma's character and what she brings to the show. It's great.
We were so blessed to have two people like Emma and Chris, who we really enjoy having on set. That’s such an important part of any work environment. You want to like the people you're working with, and they were so much fun, so easy going, and so ready to become part of the family. We just loved having them.
This season we also have sort of a special guest-star in Colin Ferguson (William). Colin's just an awesome guy. He's a complete professional, smart and funny. There's a lot of excitement because he's a member of the Syfy family, having been a part of the highly successful Eureka. So it's always fun to cross-pollinate the worlds, and we've just been having a blast.
I hope I'm not spoiling anything for folks who haven’t seen the season four premiere yet, but I wanted to ask about the one true love idea that Duke kind of challenges Nathan on and what Nathan thinks that is. Is Duke challenging him from a self-serving perspective of maybe it's him and not Nathan? Or is it at that point more about protecting his friend because his friend has this different agenda now?
EB: The greatest dynamic of this show, and whether this was serendipitous or just cleverly plotted out by the writers - and I wouldn't put it past them because we really do have fantastic writers – is that the triangle between Duke, Nathan and Audrey is pretty magical. So many TV shows try to create love triangles or these feeling between their characters, but ours sort of happened organically and it was very sincere.
At the beginning of this season, the question of destiny and true love really becomes a huge factor in the show. So when you ask, "What does Duke mean when he starts to question what Nathan is saying," this is something that is going to reveal itself over the course of the season. There are many levels and dynamics to what you're asking and what Duke is saying.
It's such an interesting thing, because I think in some ways one of the greatest love stories of this show is actually between Nathan and Duke. Although it's not a romantic relationship or a romantic love, it's almost like a brotherhood and a familial relationship in some ways.
There is this question that I think we all ask ourselves about Duke, which is, if he even could have a relationship with Audrey, could he handle it? Would he really want it? Is he even meant to be in a relationship? There are some people in this world that are meant to be alone, and that's something Duke struggles with.
So I think there's an element to it where, as much as he may not want to admit it, Duke truly does care about Nathan and wants him to be OK and to be happy. That, however, may come at a price. So what you're asking is all true in some ways. There are many different levels to this question and you're going to see it revealed over the course of the season and right up until the finale.
It sounds like Duke and his half-brother Wade are kind of extremes and both very different people. So I would think their relationship is going to be quite stormy during the course of the season.
EB: You would be absolutely correct. I mean, the idea of family for the character of Duke is tumultuous. So to actually bring one of those people into his life and in such direct proximity was really challenging for him, and then on top of it, for them be such opposites. The audience is going to learn pretty quickly how and why they are so different, and it really made for a lot of fun to play that conflict.
For the fans of Duke, this season is going to be, I hope and think, one of their favorites, because he experiences so much. I mean, we've clearly seen him go through a lot and struggle with his abilities as well as with his place in this world, but now there's a whole new emotional context to what he's experiencing. So I think it's just going to be awesome.
What new developments for Duke are you most excited about this year?
EB: Oh God, how do I answer that without giving anything away (he jokes)? You know, I think what I'm most excited about for Duke this season is that he’s going to be pushed harder than ever towards a decision, and is going to be forced to choose sides in a battle that are almost Shakespearean in nature. They're impossible choices for him to make, so watching that journey has been really exciting this season.
I kind of wanted to follow up and just ask a little bit about, what is maybe the biggest or most surprising change we can expect in Duke's character from the beginning of the season to the end of the season?
EB: There are two really huge changes that Duke is going to make this season. Unfortunately, I can't actually say what they are. It would be giving away too much, but I will tell you that it's going to leave fans either really happy or really frustrated. Duke is going to have to completely redefine himself in many ways, and that rebooting of sorts, or redefining of his entire life, is really going to affect who he is.
And actually thinking about it, I don't know that it's going to change who he is. I think we know who Duke is now. I think we understand who he is in his heart, but it is going to change his place in this world along with his choices in life. That, to me, is really what fans are going to be most excited about.
Over the past three seasons viewers have been kind of confused as to whether Duke is a good guy or a bad guy. He seems to have a very dichotomous nature. Is that something that we're going to continue to see in the new season, or has Duke finally decided to be the good guy?
EB: That's a very difficult question to answer, and it's also why I love playing the character, because he is completely human and he is fallible. In that human quality, it's very difficult to simply say, "He is good," or "He is bad," or, "He has, you know, decided to be good."
In some ways, Duke is the most honest character on the show. That's not to say that he doesn't ever lie or isn't ever deceitful. He certainly can do and be both. What I mean by that is, he's the most honest as a human being and as a character because it's never that simple for him, you know? He's not written to be sort of a caricature of the earnest hero. Duke is more dynamic than that, and so his choices are always veiled with his own at times selfish desires along with what I believe is his inherent nature to do the right thing.
So I think in some ways his desire to be more earnest may be there, but because of the challenges that he faces this season, it becomes that much harder.
As an actor, how do you kind of walk that gray line so that fans are always trying
to guess what Duke's motives are?
EB: In all honesty, it's something that's always talked about. I ask a lot of questions of the writers and I challenge them a lot of times to allow me to infuse things that I think are inherent about the character.
For me as an actor, there are times when you want to simply play the emotion that is in front of you, and then you deal with the consequences of whatever is written on the next page. However, as the show has grown and become more complex, you really do have to sort of, in some ways map out where you're going and what you're going to do with these things.
So I always try to just weigh all of the different facets of his emotions and try to be very vigilant about keeping them in my mind because, again, emotions are never simple or sort of singular in thought.
It was very clear to me right at the beginning of Haven and when the three of you (Eric, Lucas Bryant and Emily Rose) were first onscreen together that there was a chemistry there that other shows would kill for. If they could bottle it and sell it, they'd all be rich because it's so rare to have that connection like early on. As far as the bond amongst the characters as well as the actors, to get both and have both of them working is, I think, not as commonplace on television as some people think.
EB: You're completely right, and there's part of that question or that statement that I can't answer. Chemistry is a magical thing. One of our guest stars was actually commenting on it just a couple days ago, saying how, "It's so weird, I've been on so many sets and I've never walked on one where they get along as well as you guys. By season four of a show, there are always the two characters or the two actors who hate one another and won't even talk to each other, or the ones who used to date and now don't look at each other. You guys, though, all get along so well." And we really do.
My response was, "I think we’re even closer and tighter now than when we first started." The trials and tribulations of shooting this show on the schedule that we do and the amount of energy and stamina it takes and toll that takes on all of us physically and emotionally is really challenging. And what we've all managed to do is to learn to lean on each other. We all have our own families and our own relationships, but, honestly, I can't tell you how much I love Lucas and Emily, and how proud I am of them. Just to see how they've grown, and how we've all grown together, it's pretty amazing.
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