[caption id="attachment_2318" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Colin Ferguson as Sheriff Jack Carter in the Eureka episode "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
For the past three years, Colin Ferguson has been upholding law and order as Sheriff Jack Carter on The Syfy Channel's hit series Eureka. When its cast and crew returned to work last fall after a brief hiatus to begin shooting the remaining 10 episodes of the show's third season, the actor had the chance to put on a totally different hat, that of director. He stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct the year three story Your Face or Mine. In it, an unhappy and lovelorn scientist uses her newest invention to temporarily assume Deputy Jo Lupo's identity. Unfortunately for Jo, the scientist enjoys herself a little bit too much and decides to switch places permanently. While not the ideal position for the deputy to be in, Ferguson had the time of his life in his directorial debut.
"The good news is I had [consulting producer] Matt Hastings and [producer] Robert Petrovicz to take me through the prep process," says the actor. "They taught me an important lesson, which is it's all about the prep. So during prep I slaved over the script - which was a terrific script written by [co-creator/executive producer] Jaime Paglia - and when it came time to shoot, we really didn't have a problem at all. That's one of the perks of being a regular on a show and directing it; I'm familiar with every set, every actor and every personality. So I know what works as well as what to do and what not to do, probably more what not to do because I've watched significantly more talented directors than myself come through here and seen how they've approached things. So this was a great opportunity for me to use a lot of those experiences.
"Of course, working with the cast was great," he continues. "Everything went so smoothly. Everyone was so kind and rallied behind the cause. After all, we want other members of the cast to direct and have bigger episodes. So it was important on a number of different fronts that this went well, and it did. The story is all about Erica Cerra's character [Deputy Jo Lupo] and like the film Face/Off in that it's about identity theft, only on a much more literal scale. I knew the scene where Jo is facing off against herself was going to be a hugely important one, and the ball would be in Erica's court more than anyone else's. So we worked on that scene ahead of time and Erica knew that she had to deliver. Well, she knocked it out of the park and did an amazing job. You really buy the fact that there are two of her character in that scene the entire time."
[caption id="attachment_2319" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sheriff Jack Carter and Deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra) in Ferguson's Eureka directorial debut "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Although the actor spent plenty of time prepping for his directorial debut on Eureka, there were times when he had to tweak his way of doing things. "The biggest thing I learned throughout this entire process is that as much prep as you do and as much as you know exactly what you want, that on the day, sometimes the 'language' you use isn't always right," muses Ferguson. "By that I mean, yes, I know what I want, but I don't always know the exact words that the other person needs to hear in order to achieve it. Is it, 'We're going in this direction first,' or, 'I'd like to do a two-shot then go into a single,' or, 'I need to start the scene from this point,' etc. So you go through all the options until you get to the right one and then you're like, 'OK, excellent, let's shoot it.' I realized I can speak quickly, rattle off a bunch of subjects and eventually get to the right one," jokes the actor. "Next time, though, I've got to make sure I'm able to speak quickly and express to everyone exactly what I want right off the bat.
"We ended the episode, I believe, under budget and on-time, so I think everyone was happy about that. We shot inside on the sets for most of the time, and when that happens you have to keep it even more interesting. So I made sure to plan a special shot every day so that I could put a spark into things. I was extremely pleased with how everything turned out and, again, above all else, I received a wonderful script. Had I been given a not-so-hot script or one that needed a ton of work and massaging, it would have been quite a different experience. I got really lucky and the entire thing was a perfect fit."
There is an old adage that no good deed goes unpunished, and that was certainly true for Sheriff Carter midway through season three on Eureka. He was fired for letting Eva Thorne (Frances Fisher) go free at the end of the mid-season cliffhanger From Fear to Eternity. However, the town and its residents could not do without his unique style of policing, and Carter was back on the payroll by the end of the mid-year opener Welcome Back Carter. Since then, he has been kept busy personally and professionally, both of which have resulted in one or two new acting challenges for Ferguson.
[caption id="attachment_2321" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dr. Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), Sheriff Carter and Henry Deacon (Joe Morton) try to figure out what is causing the gravity wells in "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"The writers have brought in Allison's [Salli Richardson-Whitfield] old school friend, Dr. Tess Fontana [Jaime Ray Newman], who Carter ends up in a relationship with, " he notes. "Also, right now [early December 2008] Salli is eight-and-a-half months pregnant, so in the series her character is carrying Stark's [Ed Quinn] child and, therefore, will be doing a lot of 'heavy lifting' as far as the tech talk during the latter part of the season. In fact, she and Tess are both doing that, which has provided me with an acting exercise when it comes to trying to keep my character fresh. Carter is in a number of scenes with not a lot to do, so for me it's a matter of , OK, what can I focus on here, because he's hearing all this information, but doesn't impart much of it.
"So what I try to do is give myself lighter days. One way to keep it [your character] fresh is to stop yourself from burning out, so every now and then you don't over-think it. You just literally show up and do the best you can and let the scene go where it wants to go. In doing that, you allow yourself to regenerate a bit, so when a moment comes up that you really feel like digging into, you can actually do that. Another way is to change the dialogue every so often. That's obviously a tricky thing because you don't want to become at odds with the producers and writers and make it appear as if you're disrespecting what they do. However, it helps to talk with them occasionally about changing a line or two if you feel it will better service your character.
"Another thing is to take the work seriously. It's fun to joke around and get through a scene that way, but too much of that and there's the danger of phoning it [your performance] in. And that's just boring for you and the viewers. So you've got to dig in and see what you can come up with, and I have to tell you that there have been some really neat scenes we've come up with this season," enthuses Ferguson.
[caption id="attachment_2322" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Sheriff Carter and Dr. Tess Fontana (Jaime Ray Newman) end up slightly out of sync in "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
In the season three Eureka story Insane in the P-Brane, Carter is on his way to Global Dynamics when he discovers a car partially blocking the road. He has a rather prickly exchange with its owner, Dr. Tess Fontana, before allowing her to drive off. The sheriff later meets up with her again unexpectedly at Global, and has no idea that Tess will be helping him stop yet another experiment gone wrong from destroying Eureka. As Ferguson already mentioned, Tess and Jack become romantically involved as the latter half of this season continues to unfold. What did the actor think about a new love interest being introduced for his character?
"I was nervous out of the gate, because the initial meeting between Tess and Jack was a little 'forced' insofar as how they didn't like one another," he says. "Then, however, there was a nice little transition that they [the writers] did involving the two characters actually hooking up. And what's neat about it is it's not some tedious type of thing where their passion overflows as they lock lips in an embrace. It was more like a gradual emotional melting. Again, it started off with Jack and Tess not really liking each other, but having a begrudging respect, which leads to a friendship, and then to something romantic. It's subtle, which I like, and not overdone, either. It's not episode after episode of their relationship. It's sprinkled into the plot, and hopefully the viewers will enjoy it."
The actor has also enjoyed seeing his character's relationship further develop with his daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) as well as with Henry Deacon (Joe Morton). "It's always a pleasure to work with Jordan," says Ferguson. "Her character of Zoe is a little lighter in these latter episodes, but the two of us have had some wonderful little scenes together, which I'm proud of. As for Henry, he's going through something that I can't talk about, but I've enjoyed him having this problem, if you know what I mean, because it throws something new into the relationship between him and Jack. Any time you have to redefine a relationship because of circumstance it's a good thing in terms of storytelling."
[caption id="attachment_2323" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Henry, Sheriff Carter, Allison and Tess try to sort out yet another scientific mishap in "It's Not Easy Being Green." Photo by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
At the time of this interview, Ferguson and the rest of the Eureka cast and crew were shooting the season three story Shower the People, which guest-stars a very familiar face. "In this episode, people contract this infection and something really bad happens to them. Unfortunately, it's December in Vancouver and we're all soaking wet, which is all part of the story, but we're having fun," laughs the actor. "A good buddy of mine, Billy Campbell [Jordan Collier in The 4400] is doing a guest-spot in this episode and we've been having a ball working together. I've been in Vancouver for six of the last seven months and I definitely feel like it's time to go home for a bit, so having an old buddy on-set makes a big difference."
It was announced last weekend at Comic Con in San Diego that Eureka has been picked up for a fourth season, which means that everyone involved will be back in Vancouver at some point to start filming. In the meantime, Ferguson is currently working half a world away and enjoying every minute of it.
"I just finished shooting Lake Placid 3 as a actor and start prepping Fossils as a director on Monday [August 3rd]," he says. "So I"m busy, busy, busy and loving life in Bulgaria."
Steve EramoAs noted above, all photos by Marcell Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!
[caption id="attachment_2081" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Colin Ferguson (Sheriff Jack Carter), Joe Morton (Henry Deacon) and Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Dr. Allison Blake) in the season three Eureka episode "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
BELIEVE it or not, it was three years ago that Eureka co-creator and executive producer Jaime Paglia first invited audiences into the small Pacific Northwest town where, thanks to the local government-run think tank Global Dynamics, just about anything scientifically and technologically-speaking can happen. The brains behind Eureka may be working towards the betterment of humanity, but their results often end up endangering the town and its locals.
Midway through the show's third season, Sheriff Jack Carter prevented a doomsday weapon from destroying Eureka. However, when he let Eva Thorne, one of the scientists involved in a pre-Eureka research project on atomic bombs, go free, he was fired. That was last summer. Earlier this month, Eureka returned to the Syfy Channel with 10 brand new episodes to finish out its third season, which was part of the plan all along according to Paglia.
"The reason that this order [for season three] got split the way it did was because once the writers' strike [of 2007] resolved itself, it was a matter of, 'OK, hurry up and catch up,'" explains the executive producer. "In order to stay on track for having episodes to air last summer in Eureka's regular time-slot, we were only able to physically shoot and complete eight episodes.
"So as opposed to doing the full 18-episode run all at once, we wrote and shot eight, then took a brief hiatus while the writers furiously caught up on scripts so that we'd have more material to shoot, and gave the cast and crew a little breather. Then we went back and shot the last 10 episodes. We'd hoped that they were going to air earlier this year, around February, but economics being what they are, the network elected to hold them until this summer.
"We planned to do a mini-arc with the Eva Thorne [Frances Fisher] character and that was something we wanted to resolve. We had discovered the challenges of sometimes doing a longer mythology arc that you then might not be able to explore in every episode the way we would want to. And I think we decided it was easier to focus on the active element of the first eight episodes of this [third] season and resolve things a bit quicker. That, in turn, allowed us to create a whole new mini-arc for the remaining 10 episodes, and it felt like a really nice, manageable way to approach the story breaking process."
[caption id="attachment_2082" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="An unemployed Sheriff Carter happily lends a hand to help his friends out in "Welcome Back Carter." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
In the mid-season cliffhanger From Fear to Eternity, the lives of many of our favorite Eureka characters were turned upside-down. Besides Jack Carter's (Colin Ferguson) dismissal by General Mansfield (Barclay Hope), the sheriff's teenage daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) almost died as a result of her exposure to an aging compound that killed Eva Thorne's colleagues. Dr. Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) also discovered that she was pregnant with her deceased husband Dr. Nathan Stark's (Ed Quinn) child. All these developments, coupled with various behind-the-scenes goings-on, steered the show's writers in a certain direction when it came to writing the rest of the season.
"There were some curve balls thrown at us midway through this season," notes Paglia. "Some were production related, and others were just the types of things that happen with peoples' personal lives that, in turn, can affect how you break stories. All those elements definitely had an impact on what we ended up doing with these back 10 episodes.
"We wanted to introduce a new love interest for Jack Carter and change the dynamic that we've traditionally had with him and Nathan Stark as these two Alpha males battling over the Alpha female. Also, with Stark's passing, we wanted to bring in a new character, which we did in Dr. Tess Fontana, played by Jamie Ray Newman. Tess and Allison have a history. They're old friends, but that also gets a little tense when Tess and Carter start to develop a romantic connection, which was, I think, really fun to play out.
"Something else we wanted to do was step up the relationship between Deputy Jo Lupo [Erica Cerra] and Zane Donovan [Niall Matter] and challenge it as far as if it's a short-term thing or something more," continues the executive producer. "Then there was Zoe and her boyfriend Lucas [Vanya Asher]. She's coming to an age now where they're talking about college and whether or not they're planning to go to the same school and things of that nature. So I think it gave us a chance to really deepen the relationships and those connections and go to places that we haven't before. That's a challenge writing-wise and probably a lot more satisfying for our cast of actors to play as well."
The second half of Eureka's third season opens with Welcome Back Carter. In it, Carter and Zoe contemplate leaving Eureka as the ex-sheriff looks for a new job. Meanwhile, everyone in town is surprised when Carter is replaced with Fargo's (Neil Grayston) latest invention, a robotic sheriff named Andy (Ty Olsson). Unfortunately, the congenial and civic-minded robot is targeted by powerful gravity wells, which repeatedly crush him. Carter investigates and ultimately teams up with Andy to help save the day. Realizing that Jack is better suited to uphold law and order in Eureka. Andy helps Henry (Joe Morton) get him reinstated.
[caption id="attachment_2088" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sheriff Carter and Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston). Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"I'd like to have Sheriff Andy make a return to the show," says Paglia. "He nearly did in this season's finale, but I would say looking forward optimistically to season four, I think it would be great to have him back on some kind of recurring basis.
"Welcome Back Carter is probably the most challenging episode we did in these back 10. There's a sort of constant push and pull that goes on when you're making a show like ours because you're obviously tied to a certain budget. You do everything you can with that budget, and with that in mind, the [visual effects] guys who put the show together kill themselves to give us more than we're even paying for. I mean, they really extend themselves and I think they're more critical than any of us when it comes to saying, 'You know what, if we did just one more thing it would be better.'
"One example of that is the final action sequence in this episode where Jack and Andy are in the barn. Probably two-thirds of those [VFX] shots were not originally budgeted, but creatively everyone agreed that they really needed to be there. So the networks and the studio came through with the extra money and the guys did everything in their power to get it done."
Following Welcome Back Carter is the episode Your Face or Mine, in which Erica Cerra plays two very different versions of her Deputy Lupo character. Paglia is quite complimentary of her work as well as Colin Ferguson's, who made his Eureka directorial debut with this episode.
"This was an opportunity where we really wanted to allow some of our other cast members to be the focus of the story, and Erica really stepped up to the task," says the executive producer. "And Colin might be a little biased, but I think it's probably one of our favorite episodes of these back 10.
"Colin did a terrific job of directing and he'll be doing it again. This was actually the first episode that we shot of these back 10, and we specifically did that so that Colin would be able to prep his episode as a director without having to worry about acting in the previous one. This presented some interesting challenges for the writers, but we welcomed that as it gave us a chance to write a script that wasn't Carter-driven in every scene. That said, he's absolutely a presence through the episode. Colin got to be a fun comedic runner without having to be ferried from one set to another, which would have really impacted his work as a director.
[caption id="attachment_2091" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra) and Allison try to figure out who's who in "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"So it all really worked, and I think it proves that we have an amazing supporting cast who we can put in the center of a story and still have it feel like our show."
Paglia previously spoke of the introduction of Tess Fontana as a new romantic interest for Carter in these upcoming Eureka episodes. How will this impact the sheriff's and Allison's relationship in the future? "We want them to truly 'earn' what they have relationship-wise," he muses. "Most of us have had those unrequited relationships in our lives - those missed opportunities where the timing just wasn't right or things went in a different direction. And you always wonder what if you had managed to work things out.
"As you know, we forced Carter and Allison apart in season two. She was taking over Global Dynamics and Stark was getting much closer to her and trying to help [her son] Kevin [Meshach Peters]. That was a very deliberate choice on our part to put Carter in a place of not trusting Allison for the first time because she was making some choices that were guided much more by her own personal interests and love for her child. And with the proposal from Stark at the end of the season, it really put a cap on the fact that she was going to go down that road.
"Of course, all that changed when Nathan died in what was a very noble way. Then there's this pregnancy that's left over and how is that going to affect Carter's and Allison's relationship. You'll see as the rest of this season unfolds that their friendship has developed. It's interesting when another woman comes into the mix and one who Allison had a previous relationship with. She sees that Tess could potentially make Carter happy and has to make the unselfish, or selfish, choice about whether or not to be supportive of that. Salli, Colin and Jamie Ray really play that dynamic nicely.
"There has been a recurring theme that we've tried to weave into the episodes over the past few seasons, which is do they [Carter and Allison] or don't they have 'a thing.' You just have to have a little faith. It may take a long time to get there, and it's not going to be the same road that was traveled down in the alternate time-line at the end of season one. We've seen different characters end up getting married and different characters being the parents of the kids. When Allison was pregnant at the end of year one it was with Carter, and last season it was actually with Stark. Those changes are part of the show. But as for Allison and Carter ending up together, well, there's still the potential. After all, you never know what the future holds, but if you believe strongly enough and maintain those connections, anything is possible.
[caption id="attachment_2092" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dr. Allison Blake in "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Sadly, Eureka fans hoping to see the return of Dr. Stark this year will be disappointed as that is not in the cards. However, there are some other familiar faces that will be making a comeback. "I don't want to and can't spoil it, but I can tell you that there are two characters that have been a major part of our series and will be making a reappearance," teases Paglia. "Along with that, Lexi Carter, who is played by Ever Carradine, will be back for a few episodes and she's great. We also have Billy Campbell [The 4400] coming in for an episode. But, yes, we do have two favorites who will be returning."
And what about the show's "big bad?" At the very end of Welcome Back Carter, an alien object is detected to be heading straight for Eureka. Can Paglia shed any light on how it may manifest itself? "We wanted to have another big bad," says the executive producer, "but we wanted it to be something different as well as have it sort of tie into the historical aspect of our characters and the town on a personal level.
"So instead of it necessarily being a person, it's a thing, and we don't know what it is. The question is, is it from out there? Is it man-made? It's coming towards Eureka and we have to deal with it, and that has, again, allowed us to introduce some new characters and bring back some old ones who we haven't seen in a while."
When it comes to a "wish list" Eureka episode, Paglia definitely as one. "There's the concept that we've had for a really long time that focuses on Carter's smart house, S.A.R.A.H. [Self-Actuated Residential Automated Habitat] and her desire to not just be literally a housewife to Carter, but to get out there, find a job and experience the world," he says. "There was an episode in season two called Duck, Duck, Goose where S.A.R.A.H. was downloaded in a smart car for a while and was able to get out and feel the wind in her hair so to speak. However, she hasn't managed to become personified yet, and I have an idea who I would like to play that character if we ever get a chance to do it. And I'll just say that the actress happens to be on Battlestar Galactica."
Having occupied a Tuesday night time-slot on the Syfy Channel since its premiere, Eureka has been moved to Friday nights for the remained of its third season. With the shift, the series has continued to go from strength to strength, much to Paglia's delight.
[caption id="attachment_2095" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Carter and Dr. Tess Fontana (Jamie Ray Newman) try to save the day in the season three episode "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"I'm happy that Syfy has sort of staked out a hold on Syfy Friday's for the channel," says the executive producer. "Naturally, when you've got a time-slot that seems to be working for you, there's always that little trepidation about throwing any curve balls into the mix. However, we premiered to record numbers and have managed to hold onto our number one status on the channel.
"We've actually built our audience even more and we want to see those numbers continue to grow. I'm hoping that we can maintain that on Friday nights. The network has always been very supportive of the series and I don't think they would have moved us if they didn't believe we could not hold our own. Hopefully, that will prove to be the case."
Steve EramoAs noted above, all photos by Marcel Williams and copyright of the Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!