Fans of actor David James Elliott probably best remember him as the clean-cut United States Naval officer Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr. in the CBS-TV adventure/legal drama series JAG. This Sunday, he makes his debut played a very different type of hero in the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Knights of Bloodsteel. As the sword-wielding John Serragoth, the actor sports long hair as well as a beard and speaks with a Scottish accent. It was brand-new territory for him and one he was happy to explore.
"I'd never done anything quite like this before," says Elliott during a break in filming on-location in British Columbia. "I had just finished filming a miniseries [Impact!] in Victoria and was on vacation with my family in the Bahamas when I got a call about this project. They e-mailed me the script, I read it, thought it was well-written and they [the producers] offered me the role.
"Again, the fact that I had never really played a character like John was what made it interesting to me. My first day on-set was like most in that it feels as if you're about to climb Mount Everest. Not only are you still digging through the script to find the nuances, but you're also trying to find your character from inside yourself. That was certainly true with John because we took some chances with the character, including making him a Scotsman. We felt that that would help reinforce the fact that he's different from everyone else around him and more of an Earth-type guy. He's from the Moorlands, which is a wild territory on this world where our story takes place. So I was excited about the role and the chance to work with a new group of people."
In Knights of Bloodsteel, John Serragoth is one of four unlikely freedom fighters recruited by the sorcerer elf Tesselink (Christopher Lloyd). Their mission is to stop the evil Dragon Eye (Mark Gibbon) and his minions from acquiring the remaining supply of bloodsteel, a sorcery grade ore that gives powerful magical abilities to those who possess it. Should they fail, the island continent of Mirabilis will fall under control of Dragon Eye. Accompanying John on his quest to find the legendary magical Crucible, which is the source of bloodsteel, are Adric Thane (Christopher Jacot), a charming con artist, the enigmatic goblin Ber-Lak (Dru Viergever), and a fearless warrior elf named Perfidia (Natassia Malthe).
"They're a ragtag group," explains Elliott. "Circumstances thrust them together and John has his own agenda as well as this quest for a Crucible that will help his agenda. The latter is how the Elders of our story sold my character on helping them, and, in turn, this will help John complete his 'hit list' for lack of a better term. So he's a man with a list and he's ticking names off. Let's just say that he's got some vengeance issues," he says with a smile.[caption id="attachment_351" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="John Serragoth (Elliott) and Perfidia (Natassia Malthe) enter dangerous territory. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright The Sci Fi Channel"][/caption]
Off to one side of Elliott, Knights of Bloodsteel director Philip Spink is busy setting up his next shot. This project is the actor's introduction to Spink and in the director he has found a kindred soul. "Philip's enthusiasm is refreshing and he really gets into it, which is very inspirational," notes Elliott. "Like me, he's always digging and looking for the truth in every moment. Yes, we're doing this because it looks very cool, but at the same time it has to be grounded in some sort of reality.
"Before we began shooting I had to get a hair weave, so I came in for a seven-hour process where they were tying hair and attaching the extensions to my own hair. Philip came and kept me company. He and I laughed and talked about the script as well as my character and we had a good time. We sat together until almost two in the morning, and we were starting work at six the following day. It was nice to have that time because you rarely get that; once a project like this gets going there's really no stopping it and taking a pause."
As with many of his previous roles, this one brought with it various acting challenges, including physical ones, for Elliott to face. "The climax of this piece, which we already shot, was extremely challenging just from an emotional point of view," he recalls. "And it was late at night when we filmed it. We were working the night shift for a week straight, so that was tough. Again, you're constantly digging deep inside yourself and embracing areas that you probably wouldn't bother with in your normal day-to-day life.
"There's also been some fighting for my character," continues Elliott, "and I just missed having my eye taken out by a sword. It cut my eyebrow and I had a black eye for a while. People will often ask me, 'Oh, man, do you enjoy doing the fights?' Every time there's a fight I know I'm going to get hurt, and we have a big fight tomorrow, so I can't wait to see what happens then. I'm often cast in physical roles, probably because I have a high tolerance for pain. It's either that or someone has it out for me," jokes the actor.[caption id="attachment_354" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="John (Elliott) strikes a blow for justice! Photo by Carol Segal and copyright The Sci Fi Channel"][/caption] "This is a large script and that makes the work quite challenging because there are numerous things to be considered and to have to hold in your mind. It's important to always be in the moment, too. That's tricky and a struggle every day. You're trying to exist in this [make-believe] world and you're forced to exist in the real world at the same time. Some days are better than others, but you endeavor to put your best foot forward." The second of three sons, Elliott was born in Toronto, Canada and admits that he fell into acting. "Music was my first love, but I just became frustrated because I tried to make a go of bands and you're always having to rely on other people," he says. "I went to Ryerson Theatre School in Toronto and then auditioned for and was accepted into The Stratford Shakespearean Festival Company where I spent a couple of years doing quite a bit of theater." While honing his craft onstage, the actor made his TV debut in an episode of the Scottish-Canadian historical drama series The Campbells. "I played a mentally-challenged young man who lived in the woods," says Elliott. "I don't remember much about the work, but it was a challenging role, especially from an emotional standpoint and trying to portray my character as truthfully as possible as well as with some dignity. It was a great first [TV] role to have." Elliott went on to win the Jean Chalmers Award for Most Promising Young Actor of the Season. Not long after, his performance as Dick, a dimwitted stripper in a stage production of B-Movie: The Play, caught the attention of those in charge of the Canadian TV series Street Legal. They cast the actor as Nick Del Gado, the handsome love interest for the show's female lawyers. The program was a hit and made him a household name in his native Canada. Elliott eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting work there. Along with guest-spots on numerous shows including China Beach, Doogie Howser, M.D. and Dark Justice, he has had recurring roles on Knots Landing, Melrose Place and The Guard as well as regular gigs on The Untouchables, Close to Home and the long-running JAG. "It was a joy to have worked on a character for that long," says the actor. "It was also a pleasure to work with all those people in a collaborative effort for an extended period of time. The show certainly opened a lot of doors for me, so it was a great 10 years spent." [caption id="attachment_359" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Perfidia (Malthe) and John (Elliott) set their sights on the enemy. Photo by Carol Segal and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel"][/caption] All too soon Elliott is needed back on-set, but before leaving he adds to his previous response. "Overall, when it comes to this business, it's rewarding to work with people who take it seriously and give it the respect it deserves. It's also rewarding when people find entertainment value in what you do. That's ultimately what we're trying to do, entertain people, and if we affect someone then we're doing our job." Steve Eramo As noted above, all photos are courtesy of and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any fashion. Thanks!