[caption id="attachment_3639" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="On the job with Ellen Dubin as Jeri Slate in The Collector. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
She has helped expose alien conspiracies, risked her life to battle forest fires and even reigned as the Pope, all fictionally, of course. So who better than actress Ellen Dubin to take on the forces of darkness in the Canadian-made supernatural TV drama The Collector. As reporter Jeri Slate, she takes a keen interest in Morgan Pym, a onetime German monk who, centuries ago, made a deal with The Devil to collect the souls of others in exchange for 10 years with his one true love. In the present day, he spends 48 hours with each of his employer's intended "victims," helping them seek redemption. If they fail to do so, that person's soul ends up going to Hell. Coincidentally, it was Dubin's work in another Sci-Fi/Fantasy series that helped her get the role of Jeri Slate.
"I'd done a guest-spot on an episode of a show called First Wave, and the producer of that, Larry Sugar, also produced The Collector," says the actress. "He remembered my 'quiet strength,' I think is what he said, from that episode, so when I read for The Collector I sort of had a leg up already because of that performance. You never know when one Sci-Fi show will lead to another one. I was doing a TV movie-of-the-week playing a firefighter and I auditioned for the Jeri Slate role during my lunch hour. I went in with soot and dirt all over my face and wearing a firefighter-type outfit. Larry asked me to do a crying scene for him, so I did, and then I left and subsequently ended up booking the job.
"Sometimes I guess it helps when you're working on one project and you audition for another one because you don't have time to think or get nervous or stressed out. My only worry was about making it back on time to shoot my first scene for this movie-of-the-week."
[caption id="attachment_3640" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Behind-the-scenes with The Collector's Chris Kramer (Morgan Pym) and Ellen Dubin. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
The actress makes her debut in The Collector in the first season opener, The Rapper, in which Morgan (Chris Kramer) must convince his client, a rap star (Adrian Holmes), that his past 10 years of success carries a steep price tag. Besides being a print journalist, Jeri Slate is also a widow and the single parent of an autistic son, Gabriel (Aidan Drummond). Juggling her character's personal and professional lives provided Dubin with a variety of acting challenges.
"A number of my character's scenes were done talking on the telephone, and those are always challenging when you have to do a lot of solo acting," she notes. "I also worked a great deal with Aidan Drummond, a wonderful young actor who played Jeri's son. I watched him grow from six years old to eight, and while I obviously couldn't replace his real mom, I became his on-set mom. I'm not a parent in real life, but I am quite maternal, so I always felt very protective of Aidan and I think it came across in our work. He has a great sense of humor and the two of us humored each other," jokes Dubin.
"In our first episode there was so much excitement with the cast and crew as far as starting something fresh. There's the rush of adrenaline that carries you through the work of meeting new people and creating onscreen chemistry as well as relationships with characters, some that you've supposedly known for a long time. The first scene we shot was outside and it was one of those walks and talks that you see on many TV shows. I just recall being so nervous about making sure I could remember my lines and walk and talk at the same time," laughs the actress.
[caption id="attachment_3641" align="aligncenter" width="203" caption="A family portrait - Jeri and her son Gabriel (Aiden Drummond). Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
"If I'm not mistaken, we didn't actually shoot the episode that aired first. We did, I believe, either episode three or six, and by doing that, you get to create a certain tone. So by the time you shoot episode one, viewers watch it and go, 'Oh, OK, they [the characters] sort of have their sea-legs already.' So I think that was such a smart thing for the producers to do."
Having been around for a while, Morgan knows how to handle himself when people start asking questions about him and his otherworldly dealings. At the same time, Jeri Slate is certainly no cub reporter and is determined to unravel the mystery surrounding him. This creates an interesting dynamic between the two.
"My character and Chris Kramer's are caught up in a game of cat and mouse," explains Dubin. "The audience doesn't know exactly what their relationship is, and I still get letters asking, 'Were they lovers, or did they hate one another?' They weren't lovers, but sometimes in a show where your characters are adversarial, it comes across as sensual and sexual because of the tension between them. In The Collector, though, it wasn't meant to be that way at all because there were other women in the show that were Morgan's love interests.
[caption id="attachment_3647" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ellen Dubin, Aidan Drummond and Chris Kramer. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
"Having said that, I find playing adversarial roles fascinating, and it just sort of happened with me and Chris. We both have a mischievous quality to our acting, which sparked our onscreen chemistry, and I think audiences responded to that. They seemed to enjoy watching our characters hitting that [proverbial] ball back and forth over the net. There's a mystery to that relationship, and one that is intrinsic to the show's overall plot. What's with these two? Are they linked to the past? Is she reading his mind? Is he reading her mind? What do they truly know about each other? The fact that it wasn't black and white between Jeri and Morgan is what really contributed to the viewers liking to see them together."
When asked if she has a favorite episode from the first season of The Collector, one immediately comes to Dubin's mind. "It's The Medium, directed by Holly Dale and guest-starring Teryl Rothery [Dr. Janet Fraiser] from Stargate SG-1," she says. "Teryl plays a medium and the story focuses a lot on peoples' deaths and connections to the past. I thought it was really well-done, especially with regard to what other people yearned for and their lost loves as well as Jeri's dead husband Danny's relationship with their child. You actually saw some of my character's vulnerability when she's looking at old pictures of her husband, played by Andrew Jackson, and, again, the audience is wondering what's up with him and Gabriel. Chris Kramer and I also have a neat confrontational scene about the supernatural in that episode, so it's definitely my favorite."
After months of trying to figure out just who Morgan Pym is, Jeri Slate's curiosity about him intensifies, and understandably so, in the second season of The Collector. "Every time Morgan is in the room something weird happens," notes Dubin, "so the hairs on the back of my character's neck are on end and you begin to see the relationship between the two of them further develop. She's starting to get close to the truth that something is not right with him and that we're dealing with darker issues in terms of the supernatural. Jeri doesn't know if it's The Devil, Hell or what exactly; she can't put her finger on it.
[caption id="attachment_3648" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Jeri Slate follows up another lead on just who Morgan Pym really is. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
"The relationship between Jeri and her little boy changes as well in the second season. Gabriel is becoming a little bit undone. He's autistic, but that doesn't have anything to do with it. You see him spending a lot of time alone looking thorough his mother's papers and old newspaper clippings. Gabriel is doing some odd things that most kids wouldn't be doing, unless they were 'possessed.' As a result of all this, Jeri is becoming undone, too. She's a strong woman in terms of knowing what she wants and going after it, but she begins acting a little nutty. Jeri starts to neglect her motherly duties and becomes possessed - excuse the pun - pretty much 24/7 by what's going on with Morgan."
The game of cat and mouse between Jeri and Morgan takes on a new dimension in season two's The Campaign Manager, which presented Dubin with the opportunity to really sink her teeth into the story. "First of all, the episode was challenging because a good portion of it was filmed outside and we were dealing with weather issues," recalls the actress.
"In this story I'm constantly chasing Chris Kramer's character and getting very close to the fact that there's something really not right with this man. Jeri is starting to realize that Morgan may have ties to The Devil, and the two of them have this long and slippery chase scene during a cold and rainy Vancouver day. It's a very interesting story about politics as well as religion and what people will do to make that deal with The Devil and have a fabulous life for 10 years before things start to become undone.
[caption id="attachment_3649" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A shot from "The Campaign Manager." Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
"So everyone is going a little crazy, and the episode was an important one for me because I was nominated for a Canadian Gemini award, which is the equivalent of a U.S. Emmy. My character has a big emotional story arc from absolute sorrow to, 'I've got to get to the bottom of this.' Jeri becomes very driven and will stop at nothing to get to the truth that she's been searching for."
Although her character's story arc came to an end in season two of The Collector, Dubin went on to appear in the show's third and final year. "You see me playing versions of my character in a kind of virtual reality flashback episode," she says. "Then I play another major character in season three. It's actually quite brilliant on the parts of Jon Cooksey and Ali Matheson [series creators/writers/executive producers] as well as the other producers of the show when it comes to what they wrote for me in season three. Just when you think it's all over, it's not.
"I like eclectic, offbeat types of stories and in this case they made really good use of my talents. I mean, yes, this is a supernatural drama, but there is also a Law & Order quality to my character in terms of her being real. Jeri is not whacked-out and over-the-top. This is a very real woman experiencing real situations and being a single mother in a real world, even though supernatural things are occurring. But in season three you see a different edge to her and in some cases a more comedic side, too."
[caption id="attachment_3650" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jeri and her son Gabriel share a quiet moment. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
The Collector may have ended production, but thanks to it being aired in 65 countries, Dubin still receives fan mail about her work in it. "I hear from fans in places like Serbia, China, Japan, there's even a Russian fan club for the show," enthuses the actress. "Some people don't know it was cancelled, so they ask me about season four and what's going on with my character. I like having fans in other countries because it reminds you of the power of television. It's not just a North American thing. It's wonderful to hear different viewpoints, and yet there are a lot of universal aspects of the show that appeal to everyone."
Like her Jeri Slate character, Dubin does not like to sit still for very long when it comes to her work. The actress recently completed shooting another TV movie-of-the-week, Second Chances (a.k.a. Lesson of Fear), starring opposite Melissa George (Alias), and is about to start filming a new web-based series called The Resolve. Dubin also just finished doing voiceovers for a major video war game in which she plays multiple roles.
"There are some great women characters in this game, and I modelled two of mine after Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar [Catwoman] in the old Batman TV series and gave them a purr-like quality," she says. "They're members of this tribe, and the other voice I did was closer to Cate Blanchett's character [Galadriel] from The Lord of the Rings. So I went from a sort of dark and sexy purr to more of an ethereal, dreamy, mysterious type of character.
[caption id="attachment_3651" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Ellen Dubin is all decked out for the Gemini Awards. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc."][/caption]
"It was a real privilege to work on something like this. It's a big game and my first foray into the world of voiceovers for video games. It's a very tough market to break into in Los Angeles, so I was thrilled to be a part of it and I look forward to being able to talk about the game when it comes out in 2011. So I've recently had the chance to play three very different women, all of whom are strong ladies in their own right, which is pretty cool."
Season two of The Collector was released earlier this week in Canada (Region 1 - US compatible) and can be ordered on-line from Amazon.ca. It can also be purchased at the Canadian branches of the following retail outlets - Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Future Shop, HMV, Indigo and London Drugs.Steve EramoAs noted above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc., so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!