[caption id="attachment_3045" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dr. Tess Fontana (Jaime Ray Newman) and Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) have an unconventional introduction to one another in the Eureka episode "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Over the past several decades, the brilliant minds working at Eureka's Global Dynamics have been responsible for countless scientific breakthroughs intended to benefit humankind. Unfortunately, there are certain discoveries and inventions either far too dangerous or not yet perfected and must therefore be kept under tight lock and key. Such things are confined to Section 5, the most highly-secured of areas at GD. After an incident involving "the Artifact," the section was closed down, but this (third) season, it was reopened to deal with a new threat. GD's managing director, Dr. Allison Blake, called in an old friend, Dr. Tess Fontana, to get Section 5 up and running again. Although she has only been in town a short time, Tess has already made quite an impression on the locals, especially Sheriff Jack Carter.
"Tess is very passionate, spirited, quirky and brilliant; of course everyone in Eureka is brilliant, Jack Carter [Colin Ferguson] being in his own way the most brilliant," says actress Jaime Ray Newman, who plays Tess on Eureka. "She is also a very focused gal who marches to her own drumbeat. My character comes to town to work on some extraterrestrial findings that have been unearthed. Tess ends up sticking around a lot longer than she ever imagined, and along the way a romance kindles between her and Jack.
"I hadn't really done much Sci-Fi before this, so it was a matter of getting used to helping tell a story where the town and Earth are constantly in peril and about to explode. With something like that, it's important to keep that momentum up and keep things feeling like, 'Oh, this time it really is going to happen.' It's one big adventure after another, and playing that every week is a challenge, but it's a blast as well. It's not hard to show Tess' enthusiasm about the science because it mirrors my own excitement about acting and working in the arts. So it's an easy transference for me."
[caption id="attachment_3046" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jack and Tess must figure out a way out of the Fifth Dimension in "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Newman's character is introduced in the season three Eureka episode Insane in the P-Brane. Tess barely has time to settle into her new office at GD when a scientist who has been studying paranormal activity appears to go mad. Are his condition and the ghostly happenings around town somehow connected to the reopening of Section 5? As Tess and Carter get close to finding out the answer to that, they end up in another dimension.
"The toughest part of my first episode was the language," recalls Newman. "Because of the story, I was bogged down with a lot of technobabble, so the trick was getting those words out and somehow managing to act at the same time. So that was definitely a challenge, but from the get-go, Colin and the rest of the cast as well as the crew have been amazing. These are the nicest people I have ever worked with. Everyone has been very supportive and patient, and I honestly love the character they [the producers/writers] have created for me. Tess is funny and speaks the truth, which sometimes gets her in trouble," chuckles the actress.
"I'll never forget our last day of work on this episode. It was all done on-location with a second unit [film] crew and Matt Hastings [consulting producer] worked with us. We filmed the very first scene where Jack and Tess meet on the side of the road and she's somewhat irreverent towards him. Then we also did the last scene where the two of them are lying on the ground looking up at the sky. It had rained every day of the shoot except this particular one. It was a gorgeous fall day and the leaves on the trees were beautiful. It's hard to explain, but the scenes were the types of exchanges where my character and Colin's just got to be two people who are finding each other."
[caption id="attachment_3048" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jack and Tess in the Eureka episode "Ship Happens." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Although Tess is developing relationships with all the characters on the show, her main ones are with Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) and Jack Carter. "Allison and Tess have been friends for years," says Newman. "The two of them went to graduate school together, so they share a long history and a real kinship. Tess considers Allison to be a great pillar of strength at GD and she has a lot of respect for her. On top of that, Allison is going to be raising two kids on her own. She's a pretty amazing woman, and Salli plays her so beautifully. Salli is such a leader and really sets a precedent on-set. Everyone does, though. Colin, Salli, Joe Morton [Henry Deacon], they all come to work and do a bang-up job and are respected by the crew.
"As for Tess and Jack, they start out at odds with one another. She's this pistol who kind of walks in, takes her territory and Jack is like, 'Hey, who the heck do you think you are?' Ultimately, they go through all these crazy things together, like getting stuck in the Fifth Dimension, which creates a bond between them and they find out they have a lot in common and really like each other. One of my favorite episodes is You Don't Know Jack, where Allison has her baby. Along the way, we all lose our memories and Jack has to help Tess piece together how she knows him. Colin and I really got to do some acting there. It wasn't just about the planet being in danger or some nano-technological technobabble, but rather two people connecting, and that to me is always the most fun. I know the writers like writing scenes like that, but there's not alot of time for that sort of stuff. So when we get it, I don't waste a second of it."
Having appeared onstage in her first Equity professional play when she was just 12 years old, Newman went on to study acting and English literature at Boston University's School for the Arts theatre conservatory for two years before transferring to Northwestern University in Chicago. After graduating, she spent a year-and-a-half working on the ABC daytime drama General Hospital.
[caption id="attachment_3050" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Tess is helped through a life-and-death situation by an old friend, Dr. Bruce Manius (Billy Campbell), in "Shower the People." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"Talk about a great training ground," notes the actress. "I come from a theater background, and onstage there's a real freedom. You can do whatever you want, within the confines of the character you've created, of course. Every night can be different and you don't have to be worried about hitting your mark, being lit in a certain way, etc.
"It's not that theater isn't a technical craft like films, but in my mind it's a much less self-conscious craft. When you're in front of a camera it's not easy to ignore that big thing in front of your face that captures your every blink. So I still feel like I'm working on having that same freedom in front of a camera. I look at someone like Colin Ferguson, and you never feel like he's acting because he is so easy with it. So Colin has been a good role model for me to watch, especially with comedy. There's almost a musicality to the way he performs."
A Line in the Sand, Catch Me If You Can and the forthcoming The Gauntlet are among Newman's feature film credits. On the small screen, she has appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies and guest-starred on such popular series as Supernatural, Bones, Medium, Nip/Tuck and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The actress was also seen in the recurring role of Mindy O'Dell on Veronica Mars, while her first Sci-Fi experience was on Stargate Atlantis as Lt. Laura Cadman in the episode Duet.
[caption id="attachment_3051" align="aligncenter" width="207" caption="Jaime Ray Newman at Comic-Con 2009. Photo by Evans Vestal Ward and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"Veronica Mars was awesome," enthuses Newman. "I'm a huge fan of Rob Thomas [series creator/executive producer] and I loved working with Ed Begley Jr., who played my husband [Cyrus]. My character is a murder suspect kind of straight out of the gate, and early on I made the decision to play her in a very film noir, femme fatale, Veronica Lake-type of way. That was really different for me and I loved the challenge.
"With Stargate Atlantis, all I can say is that David Hewlett [Dr. Rodney McKay] was such a rock star. The first episode I did was sort of an homage to the movie All of Me with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin. My character's consciousness was trapped inside Dr. McKay's body and David was so good at all the physical stuff that the storyline called for. You could just tell when we were shooting that it was going to be a classic episode, and it really was."
It was back in college that the actress also discovered her love of music. While living in Chicago, she performed with her own jazz quartet along with the popular funk band Sweet, Sweet Candy. Nowadays when not acting, Newman spends part of her time performing with her cover band School Boy Crush. This fall, the actress will be playing Kat Rougemont opposite Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price and Paul Gross in the new ABC series Eastwick. As with all her jobs, this one is sure to be yet another learning experience.
"As an actress. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to meet people who are inspiring and aren't afraid to creatively stretch themselves," says Newman. "Again, it's about being around someone like Colin Ferguson, who is that good all day long. A while back I did a play [Turnaround] with David Schwimmer, and watching him do eight shows a week was just amazing. I recently did a play that [writer/producer/director] Neil LaBute directed, which was incredible, too. So for me, the best part about this job is watching others who are really free within their craft and sharing in that creative energy."
Steve EramoAs noted above, photos by Marcel Williams or Evans Vestal Ward and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
[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!