[caption id="attachment_2944" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Niall Matter as Zane Donovan on Eureka. Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
In the second season Eureka episode E=MC...? some of the world's smartest minds try to re-create the "Big Bang" and the first moments that the universe came into being. As is typical in this Pacific Northwest hotbed of brilliance, things go somewhat awry. The town's geniuses suddenly lose their smarts, and it is up to Sheriff Jack Carter and a young, cocky know-it-all, Zane Donovan, to save the day. It is no accident that Zane came to Eureka, and he has since ended up sticking around, which was a pleasant surprise for the actor who plays him, Niall Matter.
"When I first heard about the audition for the character I was told that it was a guest-star role and a possible recurring one," recalls Matter. "So I went in to read and the director of the episode, Tim Matheson, seemed to like what I did. He gave me a little bit of direction as did the casting director, then I came in for a callback, ended up booking the role and before I knew it I was on-set working on Eureka.
"My first day on the job I was immediately impressed by Colin Ferguson [Sheriff Jack Carter] and the amount of energy that he has. It carries through the entire day, too, and it doesn't matter if that day lasts eight hours or sixteen hours. Colin is 'present' the entire time and ready to go. With him, I saw what it takes to be the number one on a TV show.
"In this episode I was really able to get into comedy. I hadn't done much of that before, so I was able to spread my wings. And when it comes to the cast, Joe Morton [Henry Deacon] as well as Ed Quinn [Dr. Nathan Stark] back then, along with Salli Richardson [Dr. Allison Blake], Erica Cerra [Deputy Jo Lupo], all of them, their comic timing is so different.
"So working with each of them, respectively, in whatever scene I had, it was pretty cool figuring my own timing out and where my character was going with each of the others in the story. It was like trying to piece together a puzzle and I wanted to make sure I did my best so that they [the producers] would ask me back," jokes the actor. "I loved that my character actually got to save the day when he stopped the device from detonating. After all, you don't get to do that every day."
Eureka producers were obviously impressed enough with Matter's debut that they made his character a recurring one. Having been arrested for allegedly crashing that New York Stock Exchange, Zane was originally meant to go to jail. However, rather than waste his intellectual talents, the authorities decided instead to send him to Eureka. After helping avert a disaster in E=MC...? he was offered a job at Global Dynamics. With his character now appearing in more episodes, Matter looked at giving Zane a bit of a makeover.
"I wanted to start opening him up and taking him in other directions," he says. "As I became more confident about my work on the show, I began talking with Jaime Paglia [Eureka co-creator/executive producer] about the direction of my character as far as where he wanted to take Zane and where I was thinking he could go.
"As a result, I think we've shaped him into a pretty cool human being. Zane has shed a great deal of his stubbornness, because initially he was, not cold, but pretty snarky and kind of annoying. We had to tread carefully, though, with that fine line of change in order to make it believable. I mean, how quickly can someone turn that corner. So that's been a little bit tricky for me, but the writers have been a huge help and we've managed to transform Zane into someone who's much more likable. He's grown up and matured as well as taken on some responsibility, which is nice."
Among those Eureka residents who have changed their opinion of Zane since he first arrived in town is Deputy Lupo. Not an easy person to win over, she found herself attracted to Zane in more ways than one, and during the show's past two seasons, they have become romantically involved.
"The relationship between Jo and Zane was somewhat ambiguous at the beginning and we weren't really sure what was going on," notes Matter. "Now, however, this third season it's heading towards a very realistic and mature level, and it's a great to see that they share a true connection and have a lot of love for one another.
"One of the neat things with their relationship is that Zane will rib her and Jo will give it right back to him. I've seen couples do that in real life and those are the moments that you remember and help also define a relationship, so it's been fun to re-create those moments with Erica onscreen. There was one episode [From Fear to Eternity] where Jo and Zane were stuck together, and the moment they got unstuck, she said something to me and I said something right back at her. I can't remember exactly what I said because it wasn't scripted, I ad-libbed it, but it actually made the final cut [of the episode] and the crew just killed themselves laughing. Jo and Zane did plenty of kibitzing in that episode when they were stuck together and that helped create a stronger bond between them."
In the third season Eureka story Your Face or Mine, which was directed by Colin Ferguson, Zane almost loses Jo when a scientist (Leela Savasta) uses technology that she has created to steal the deputy's identity and...life. "That was a challenging one because I had to work with another actress who's supposedly Jo inside this other person's body," says Matter. "Being directed by Colin was incredible because he's got such a clear vision for the show. He knows exactly what he wants and where he thinks the series should be going. The actual shooting of the episode was both concise and quick, so when it comes to Colin I just think he's a genius."
Following Ferguson's directorial debut on Eureka, Matter and the rest of the show's cast and crew also had the chance to be directed this season by Joe Morton with the episode Have an Ice Day. "Obviously this story has something to do with ice, and at one point Zane becomes very cold, one could say almost freezing over," teases the actor.
"Working with Joe Morton in the director's chair was incredible. I grew up watching him on TV and in the movies, and I'll never forget coming onto this show and meeting Joe for the first time and being quite intimidated by the fact that I was actually getting to hold my own in a scene opposite him. So when being directed by Joe, everything he said to me, any notes or redirection he gave me, I soaked it in. I wanted to make sure I gave him everything he wanted because I respect him so much as an actor and I really wanted to garner some respect in his eyes as a director."
Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Matter was 13 years old when he started writing and directing his own films, and then began acting in them as well. "I'd get in front of the camera with the other actors I was working with to show them the shots I wanted," he explains. "Then I would go into the editing room and edit all my films on my own. They were only shorts, maybe five or ten minutes long and usually in the horror genre, but that's how I first got into this."
Having only been in the business for a few years, the actor has already appeared in a variety of made-for-TV movies as well as recurring roles or guest-spots on such series as The Best Years, Fear Itself, Warehouse 13, Melrose Place and Stargate Atlantis.
"On Stargate Atlantis I played someone called Lt. Kemp and I worked opposite Kavan Smith, who played Major Lorne," says Matter. "My character was a short-lived one - he was only in two episodes - but working on those sets was incredible. I had no idea how elaborate they were, and I remember just being blown away when I first saw them. I was like a kid in a candy store walking around and checking everything out."
One of Matter's most high-profile roles to date has to be Mothman in the big screen superhero flick Watchmen. "That was a dream come true," he says. "It was a massive blockbuster film directed by Zack Synder, who also did 300, and I couldn't believe I had the chance to work with him. It was kind of a surreal moment the first time I stood there on-set talking with Zack. Shooting that movie was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had because he makes the work fun, and I've never seen anyone more prepared than Zack. I think when he sleeps, he plans out his shots," jokes Matter. "I had an amazing time."
With every job he goes out for, the actor makes sure the character is as different as possible from the last one he played, and with each new role, Matter gets to entertain more and more people, which for him is what acting is all about. "The fact that you can reach so many people in this industry and bring joy into their homes, whether through TV or films, and relating to them life experiences in a truthful way is what I find most rewarding about this job," muses the actor. "And also leaving [work] at the end of the day knowing that you emotionally connected to your scenes and, hopefully, that will transcend over into someone else's life. I think acting is a pretty powerful tool that can actually be used to help change the world for the better, and I'm happy to play some small part in that."
For more information about Niall check out his official website - www.niallmatter.netAs noted above, photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!