Alex Mallari, Jr., or to be more precise, his Dark Matter alter ego of Four (a.k.a. Ryo Tetsudo), is not having an especially good day. He and all but one of his fellow crewmates are being threatened by a small contingent of armed and unwelcome visitors onboard their spaceship. Our heroes’ predicament may look dire, but Four is not about to willingly throw in the towel. Shooting a quick glance at his closest crewmate, he introduces the sole of his boot to the nose of one of their captors. Was Four’s effort worth it? You will have to tune into Dark Matter to find out, but it certainly got Four’s adrenaline pumping. As for Mallari, this type of thing is all in a day’s work on the new Sci-Fi TV show, and showcases some fancy footwork that the actor is quite familiar with.
“Prior to acting, I competed on a national level in Tae Kwon Do, and I carry a third degree black belt,” says Mallari during a break in filming on Dark Matter’s Toronto set. “At the time, I was much too young to go for my fourth degree, so that was that. I gave it up when I was 13 and hadn’t thrown a kick since then, but I still carried that background with me when I came to work on this show.
“As far as weaponry, though, I’ve never touched a sword or any other type of weapon in my life, unlike my character of Four. Well, on the first day of rehearsal for Dark Matter, I was told,’ You’ll be wielding two swords, and we’ll see how you do with that.’ If you’ve seen the first trailer for the show, the scene with the swords is in it. I had maybe a week and a bit to learn that routine. Since then, they’ve tossed me pretty much every single weapon that you could think of for my character to use. I remember at one point I told John Stead, our stunt coordinator, that I’m a huge fan of the Mutant Ninja Turtles. So throughout this season, you’ll see Four training with every kind of weapon that the Ninja Turtles have used, Again, it was my first time doing anything like that, but apparently it all looks good on film, so we’ll see,” says the actor with a smile.
Being able to handle yourself in a tight spot could mean the difference between life and death for Four and his shipmates given the unusual situation they find themselves in. When Dark Matter opens, all six awake from stasis with no idea who they are or how they wound up onboard a derelict spaceship in the deepest regions of space. With help from the ship’s android (Zoie Palmer), Four and the others start to slowly unravel this conundrum, and the truths they learn about each other are eye-opening. None of them can be considered upstanding citizens of the galaxy, and each have their own skill sets that make them formidable as well as dangerous. When it comes to Four, you do not want to get on his bad side. A man of few words, his actions speak volumes. He could kill you with a single blow, or be your most trusted ally.
“Four is the ultimate warrior that Sci-Fi and outer space have ever seen,” says Mallari. “My character is the strong, silent type and extremely calculating. Everything that he does, every step, every breath, every hit, has a purpose, and everything he doesn’t do even has a purpose, do you know what I mean? This is a man who has a very complex and emotional rollercoaster ride of a past, and I can’t wait for the audience to watch that unfold.
“The biggest acting challenge with this particular character has been finding that balance between being intimidating but not aggressive, and at the same time, not passive aggressive/intimidating. There’s a certain type of intimidation factor that Joe Mallozzi [series co-creator/executive producer/writer] talked with me about on the phone for my callback audition. He said that I nailed it in one of the scenes I did during my first audition, and it was that same balance that I wanted to maintain throughout my entire performance. I didn’t want to be the one who tries to be scary or push the whole intimidation thing. I wanted it to come naturally and for the character’s silence to speak for him. One of the things that really helped inspire me is the interview with Bruce Lee where he talks about water being formless. I watched that and really took the time to understand what he was saying. So on the surface, Four is this guy who you think is just a killer, but there’s so much more going on underneath.
“It’s funny, there aren’t many period pieces for Asian actors, and I always used to tell my girlfriend that I wanted to do a project that involved knights and that whole world. Then along came the [character] breakdown for Four, who is the son of an emperor of a kingdom and someone who speaks very eloquently. I loved that, and when I booked this job, it was such a nice surprise because this truly is my dream role. There’s something about Four’s story that I hope will draw people in, especially with the whole Game of Thrones following, because Four’s background leans more towards that type of fantasy world where kings still exist and knights fight in the name of honor.”
Born in the Philippines and raised in Scarborough, Canada, Mallari grew up with the intention of one day becoming a member of the NBA and playing professional basketball. He was forced, however, to abandon that dream due to an injury he sustained during his senior year of high school. After graduating, Mallari enrolled in the criminology program at the University of Toronto with an eye towards becomes an attorney. Then, however, another childhood dream resurfaced, and this one he was able to follow.
“The other day I was going through a file cabinet full of stuff from back when I was a toddler,” says Mallari. “I found this activity book from first grade, and inside there was a page with, ‘Draw something you want to do,’ written on it. I’d drawn a stick figure holding a gun and with the words, ‘Put your hands up,’ written next to it. Behind that figure was a sign that said, ‘Hollywood.’ That’s actually what I wanted to be when I grew up – an actor. I watched Bruce Lee movies all the time, along with Mortal Kombat and Power Rangers, and I wanted to be an action star. I guess I just forgot along the way and it took a little extra time, but I’m so glad I’m finally here,” he enthuses.
Robocop, The Strain, Nikita, True Justice and Beauty and the Beast are among the actor’s many other acting credits. While he might be all grown up now, Mallari has never lost the childlike joy and wonder that eventually led him to this profession, and he has no intention of ever giving either of those qualities up.
“Growing up, I trained a great deal and didn’t really get to have much of a childhood,” he recalls. “So whenever I could as a kid, I tried to take the time to play and be a kid. Now years later, my acting career allows me to just play, and I think it’s so important to have that type of freedom and allow my inner child to live. I’m incredibly grateful that I get to do this for a living. Not many people go to work and fight with swords onboard a spaceship. That’s pretty awesome, and you just can’t beat it.”
Dark Matter airs Fridays @ 10:00 p.m. EST on Syfy (U.S.) and on Canada's SPACE Channel. The series is also airing around the globe - check the local listings in your particular country. As noted above, all photos copyright of Prodigy Pictures and Syfy, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!