Actress Jayne Heitmeyer.
Once again, I have decided to open up the interview vault and revisit some of the many interviews I have had the pleasure of writing over the years and that just appeared in-print and not on-line. Today's interview is with Jayne Heitmeyer, who talks about her experiences working on Earth: Final Conflict. Enjoy, and keep coming back for more familiar faces and shows!
This past year has been anything but business as usual for Earth: Final Conflict’s beautiful and brassy newcomer Renee Palmer. As a top executive for the multi-billion dollar Doors International corporation, Renee serves as liaison to the Taelons and works closely with their leader Zo’or in developing new forms of human/alien technology. Unbeknownst to the aliens, she is also part of the anti-Taelon Resistance movement and is using her position at Doors to help fund the fight to win Earth back from the creatures.
The high-powered businesswoman appeared out of the blue in the third-season opener Crackdown and saved Resistance leader Liam Kincaid as well as fellow freedom fighters Augur and Jonathan Doors from being arrested by Taelon volunteers. Since then, she has continued to risk her life working undercover against the aliens. Renee will do anything to get the job done and God help anyone who tries to stop her. You never really know where you stand with her, which requires Jayne Heitmeyer to keep her cards close to her vest when playing the character.
“Renee was added to Earth:Final Conflict to create a greater sense of espionage and mystery and I was happy to see that she kept everyone guessing last season,” says the actress. “As you know, her motives and intentions are not always clear. She’s constantly popping up at times and in places that you’d least expect. What I enjoy most about Renee is that we don’t get to know her all at once, which I think would be boring to the viewers. We’re slowly peeling back layers of the character, but who Renee is at the core remains a mystery.
“She’s not perfect, and I think that makes her more interesting. At times, Renee can be very cold and ruthless but she’s had to be in order to get to where she is today and to continue climbing the ladder of success. Renee needs to secure a place of real power if she hopes to achieve her goals, especially those concerning the Taelons. So these traits are important and the show’s writers did a wonderful job in the third season of developing this side of her persona. At the same time, they didn’t forget that she’s a human being with feelings and we got to find out a little bit more about her as a person, too.
“A terrific example of this is the third-season story Abduction, in which Renee is faced with a personal dilemma,” continues Heitmeyer. “Basically, she falls for a man whose wife, previously thought dead, turns out to be alive and she must decide whether or not to let people know the truth about this woman. The wife is a brilliant mathematician who has been working for the Taelons on vital research related to the future of the aliens and humankind. The story has to do with moral issues and sacrifices. It’s one of my favorites because it puts Renee in the uncomfortable and very human position of having to choose what’s more important to her. So we’re gradually seeing different aspects of the character emerge, but, again, we still don’t know who she really is.”
One person who would like to know more about Renee is Liam Kincaid (Robert Leeshock). At first, he is unsure just what to make of his new Resistance colleague, especially at the start of the third season in episodes such as Emancipation and The Once and Future World, when it appears as if she is working against him. He eventually comes to believe that he and Renee are loyal to the same cause, but they just have very different ways of showing it.
“Liam and Renee are getting to know and trust each other more and, together with Augur [Richard Chevolleau], are building a strong alliance,” notes Heitmeyer. “They’ve finally realized that they need to pool their resources if they want to accomplish anything. Sometimes, they will try to go behind each other’s backs in an effort to get what they want, but nine times out of ten they opt for a team approach.”
Does the actress believe that Cupid’s arrow will one day strike Liam and Renee? “There’s certainly a strong attraction between them,” she says, “but any [sexual] tension comes from the fact that they’re not really pursuing each other at this time. Honestly, it’s for the best because I don’t think it would fit the storyline. They’re too busy right now worrying about the Taelons. What will happen down the road, I can’t say. It’s interesting, though, to see how Renee reacts when Liam becomes involved with another person and vise versa. They’re always watching to see what the other one is up to,” laughs Heitmeyer.
There is, on the other hand, zero attraction between Renee and Zo’or’s (Anita La Selva) right hand man FBI Special Agent Ron Sandoval (Von Flores). She believes that he has betrayed his own race by siding with the Taelons. Renee’s dislike of Sandoval is so intense that she was initially appalled when Liam decided to save the FBI agent’s life in the episode Thicker Than Blood. However, while she may not respect Sandoval as a person, she does respect him as an enemy and, as such, always tries to be one step ahead of him.
“The dance continues with Renee and Sandoval,” says the actress. “There’s that great scene in Scorched Earth where she finds herself reluctantly indebted to him. Sandoval has just interrogated her and he knows that he can get her. However, she knows that she can get him, too. Ultimately, he lets her go and tells her to remember the leniency he has shown her. So now he has a marker out there that he can call in at any time, which is a nice little hook for the future, you know? That scene is indicative of the relationship between the two. They’re like animals circling each other and never quite sure when the other is going to pounce.”
Besides the aforementioned Abduction, Heitmeyer has a few other third season stories that she particularly fond of including One Taelon Ave in which Renee and Joshua Doors (William deVry) temporarily join forces. “In that one, a Taelon artificial intelligence program takes over a research centre and starts to control the minds of all these top engineers, physicists, chemists, etc.,” she explains. “Renee falls under its influence and this dramatically affects how she behaves. That was interesting for me because I had to play someone whose mind had been taken over by an outside force. That whole concept is quite scary and I thought a fascinating one to tackle on the show.
“We all had a blast with Marina Sirtis [Counselor Deanna Troi on Star Trek:The Next Generation] when she did The Cloister,” continues Heitmeyer. “Marina is just lovely. As I’m sure you know, she’s British and one day we were talking and I found out that she comes from the same town outside of London as my mom, Tottenham. So the two of us have lots of things in common, especially when it comes to pets because we both own Yorkies [Yorkshire terriers]. Marina has a great sense of humour and is very professional. We’ve been campaigning to get her back on the show in some way. It’s possible. After all, you never know what can happen in science fiction.
“Speaking of the British, Scorched Earth guest-starred another talented actor from across the pond, Simon MacCorkindale. He’s a charming, highly intelligent man with a ton of acting experience. I’d actually worked with Simon before on an episode of Nightman, so he and I were very comfortable with each other doing Earth: Final Conflict. I liked the way Renee and his character of Dennis Robillard interacted in the story. At one time, she cared deeply for Dennis and he used those feelings to manipulate her so he could carry out his plan. They both felt the same way when it came to the Taelons but, unfortunately, he acted out his feelings in a very self-destructive manner. Simon did a wonderful job with the role.”
Another episode that is memorable for the actress but for very different and rather amusing reasons is The Once and Future World. “There was a scene in which I had to drive off in a Porsche and throw a grenade over my left shoulder into a huge dumpster, which was then subsequently supposed to explode. I was so pleased when I managed to get the grenade into the dumpster and it went off on cue. I stopped the car and these guys carrying blankets ran over to it. It was a night shoot and I was rather chilly because I was wearing a spaghetti-strap dress. I thought, ‘Wow, how nice. They want to make sure I’m warm.’ Then I realized that the blankets were to cover the Porsche so it wouldn’t get scratched,” chuckles Heitmeyer.
Because Lisa Howard (Captain Lili Marquette) took some time off from Earth:Final Conflict following the birth of her baby girl, Heitmeyer was the only female regular on the series last season. Like any actor joining an established television show, she had no idea how Earth:Final Conflict fans would respond to Renee Palmer.
“I love to get feedback one way or another,” says Heitmeyer. “As far as the Renee character, it’s been mixed. People really seem to love that she’s so strong-willed and doesn’t back down easily. At first, I think some viewers were concerned about her being cold and ruthless, but, as I’ve explained, there were and still are reasons for this.
“Renee doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve like, for example, Briony, my character on Nightman. Briony said what she thought and was very open about everything, including her feelings, so it’s been good for me to play someone who is the total opposite. I’m curious to see what audiences think of Renee once the fourth season starts airing this fall.”
Heitmeyer’s many fans will be pleased to know that she managed to find some time during the recent Earth: Final Conflict hiatus to work on several new projects. The actress has a co-starring role in the Lifetime network thriller True Romance with Vincent Spano and a featured role opposite Stephen Baldwin and Kim Coates in the HBO science fiction movie Xchange. She also made a cameo appearance in Eddie Murphy’s new science fiction comedy Pluto Nash. “While I love playing Renee, it was fun to explore some other characters,” she says.