Friday, July 30, 2010

Jaime Paglia and Colin Ferguson on the Eureka Season 5 Switch Up

Photo by Evans Vestal

The stars and producers of Eureka entertained their fans last week at Comic-Con 2010 in San Diego. The re-vamped Season 4 is in full swing and Eureka has been turned upside down. A little time travel has changed the future and left the town with a whole new reality. We spoke with series creator Jaime Paglia and star Colin Ferguson about the switch up and what we can expect from Season 4.

Q: Can you talk about your motivation to switch things up with this big thing that happens with all of the main characters and why you decided to do that?

JAIME: If you want your series to have multiple seasons, you want to do something that’s going to be exciting and change things up, but not takeaway the essential core of what your show is.

There was a concept that we wanted to do since Season 1—Founder’s Day. It is one of the original episode ideas that we gave to the network when we were trying to convince them that this was a series that they definitely wanted to green light to pilot. It was an episode about Carter and at the time it was going to be Kevin, accidentally transporting the two of them back to Camp Eureka and then having to figure out how to get themselves back and solve a mystery there without changing the future.

We were talking about doing that over the seasons [but] the reason we couldn’t do it is because it was so expensive to do a real period piece. The amount of extra money that goes into costumes and sets and all of those things obviously can be a budget buster.

But we were going to do it as a two-hour movie this time around. And then when our schedule changed around and we couldn’t do that we thought well what if we do it as our season opener? That could be interesting. And then in kicking it around, the idea came up that, well, what we could do is have maybe a couple of little things change when they get back.

And then it hit us, "No, everything could change." Which is a different concept that we had wanted to do as an episode where we would start the episode and Vincent would be the head of Global Dynamics. And Allison would be working at Café Diem and Henry would be the sheriff and Carter would be the mechanic. Where everybody [is] in a different role and over the course of an episode you would discover how they got to be in those roles and that they would get back to normal by the end of the episode. But it just hit us I think that this was an opportunity to have our same town and our same characters but in new dynamics and relationships. And get to play the fun of that out for a 20-episode arc.

And I think for everybody here it reenergized us because it was a chance to really reboot in some ways and again embrace the aspects of the show that we’ve loved, change some of the things that I wasn’t necessarily as thrilled about. Some might think patterns that we fell into last season that I wanted to move away from. And then I’ll let Colin talk to the acting side. But I think that from our cast it was just new stuff to play and they seemed pretty excited about it.

COLIN: I guess from my side Jaime called me in and I went in sometime in December or January to the office. And he pitches this idea for going back in time and I say, "Oh that’s great. You’re going to get shot down at network. You know, there’s no way you’re going to get green lit on that." And he said, "No, actually, we were there this morning and it’s a go. They’re excited about it." So for us right out of the gate it was instantly fresh. I mean it was a huge boon for us because it was a statement of faith by the network. It’s a monstrous thing to do. It’s a monstrous reboot to do in Season 4. So the fact that they would sign off and show their faith in Jaime and the writers and all of that stuff on that level, gave us a bunch of confidence and a bunch of energy. And then… the concept sat in the writers’ room.

And so the entire ten episodes were filled with this new sense of "well if we could do this then we could do this. And if we can do this then we could do that." And it redoubled on itself over the course of the season. And it made for probably the best ten episodes we’ve done.

JAIME: I totally agree. And what has been exciting is it’s not just the writers and the actors. It’s the entire team. Our crew, our production designers, our visual effects guys, our writers and directors up there, the network and the studio. Everybody has just been so excited by the opportunity and they’re all doing their best work. I don’t think the show has ever looked as good. I don’t think the stories have ever been as compelling. And the performances just across the board by everybody, have been really phenomenal. Everybody has stepped up to a new level this season. And it’s a really exciting energy to be a part of. I keep on hearing from other aspects of my life—agents or executives—who have talked to other people associated or who work on our show. And they say, God, we keep on hearing all of these amazing things from your staff and people and your crew." And it’s like, "Yeah, it’s exciting." So we hope that that translates to people enjoying it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

Q: You mentioned that you got approval from the network to shake things up. Does having such enthusiasm behind you give you the creative freedom?

JAIME: Absolutely. I mean I think that one of the primary things that we presented to them that they really were supportive of is wanting to have there not just be stakes but actually ramifications to what happens in these episodes that last for more than just the episode. And I think that that was fundamental in them getting behind us for this reset.

Mark Stern, the head of the network here on the West Coast development, and has been the champion of our show since the beginning. So I think it may have been his first original program that he green lit. When he challenged us to really push boundaries and then we said, "This is what we want to do." He owned it. He said, "I challenged you guys and you’re stepping up, so I guess I have to keep my word." And he has. And they’ve all been really, really amazing and supportive of us not being afraid to take risks.

Wait until you guys see Episode 3, which is another departure and shows that if we’re going to do a genre homage that we want to push it and really go to those places. It might have been the first episode... I mean visually and stylistically it’s unlike anything we’ve done. Content-wise it’s actually a little scary. It might be the very first episode that I might want to put a warning on the front of it that it might be a little scary to some of our younger viewers. But it’s not like we’re changing the core of what our show is. But we’re feeling much more emboldened to paint outside of the lines. And that’s what has made this season so exciting.

Q: Colin, has the reboot this season changed your approach from an acting standpoint?

COLIN: No. No, I always approach it the same way. It’s always script first. You get a story and then you figure out [what] is going to help tell that story. What I’ve enjoyed about this season is going to new places. With what we can deliver I find that the scripts this year are more open to comedy. They’re more open to a little joke here and there than last year or the year before. And that’s really exciting. It feels like there’s a lot more grounded in a new way this year. Which is really exciting. There’s more subtext going on and I like that. So no, I wouldn’t say it changes how I go about it, but there are always different things that are called upon to execute it and that’s what’s been great about this year.

Q: Can you tell us about anything that’s coming up this season?

COLIN: Fun stuff, we have—what did they call it—metamaterial cloaking.

JAIME: Yeah. Which is in the episode the Colin directed for us this season.

COLIN: Yeah. In some forms it can match any item to another item. And that goes horribly wrong. And what else did we have? We had the mind meld this year. What are some of the science stuff? We had a race around the moon.

JAIME: There is an episode that we’ve wanted to do for a while that was one of my passion episodes that we got to do this year in coordination with Matt Gorr our visual effects producer, called Momstrosity which I always wanted to do our version of Jurassic Park. And we’re finally getting to do that this year which is fantastic.

COLIN: And we also went into the science of Santa for a little while.

JAIME: We are doing a Christmas episode which will be a standalone episode that will air in December. And Bruce Miller had a concept for that one that at first… scared me to death but he convinced me it could work and it actually did. So my hat’s off to him and Eric Tuckman who wrote the episode. It’s going to be a great one and we have some returning people in that episode. Matt Frewer who is fantastic.

Q: What has been your favorite science thing so far in the show?

COLIN: I like the more basic stuff. I mean the intense stuff is fantastic if you’re going to go into the [science] field. But I like the serum that makes you run really quickly. I think that would be fun. I like the hover board. I think that would be fun. Ending up in another dimension, I think that’s fun. Jaime what’s your favorite?

JAIME: I think that things like the biosphere that we did underground and the ability to mind link with somebody else and relive memories and things like that. Those would all be great. I think that in terms of the storytelling for me and I know for Colin, this is something I think he and I both have felt very strongly about and it showed in episodes like the one that he directed last season, Your Face or Mine. The concepts that really lend themselves to learning more about our characters that are much more about our people and less about either town wide or worldwide jeopardy, that those are the ones that we really enjoy the most. They’re certainly the most fun to write.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the zombie episode?

JAIME: It will definitely feature Erica and obviously it features Wil Wheaton’s character. And we had wanted to do a little bit of our version of 28 Days Later and this is going to be that episode.

COLIN: I do love that about our show, that we can choose your favorite movies and… do a Eureka version of that.

JAIME: Yeah. I mean always conceived of the show as being a love letter to science fiction where we can take our favorite concepts or stories or homages and genres and… do a Eureka-fied version of them. When it made sense for what was going on with the characters. And it totally fit in with what was happening to our characters in this particular episode.

Q: Colin, how is the introduction of Dr. Grant going to affect Jack and Allison?

COLIN: He’s a bit of a thorn. It’s one of those really difficult things because they have feelings for each other and I haven’t made a move and she’s single and he’s single so you don’t really have a right or any leg to stand on to object. But when emotionally you do object it puts you in a really strange place. So yeah, he’s a bit of a thorn but he’s also a very nice guy and it’s a nice little triangle.

Q: Could you expand on Claudia’s visit, the circumstances that bring her there, and whether or not there will be any ongoing repercussions from it?

JAIME: Well we created an interesting, romantic dynamic with Claudio’s character and Fargo’s character. And it’s something that starts in the Warehouse 13 episode that will air the same week as ours as a crossover event week. So her visit to Eureka is almost in some ways manufactured by Fargo to get to spend more time with her because he likes her. And he’s created a real thing for the Warehouse that they could utilize which is the reason that she’s come here. And then of course as things are wont to do in Eureka, something goes awry and she gets caught up in it with Carter and everybody in terms of trying to help figure things out. So at the moment it was a nice two-episode arc that leaves the door open for future potential if we decide to do more. Allison was fantastic. I think everybody loved her. I would totally keep her and if I could figure out a way to steal her away from Jack Kenny without him coming over and pummeling me I would do it.

Q: Zoe left for college at the end of last season. Does that mean we won’t see her much this season?

JAIME: You will definitely be seeing Zoe this season.

COLIN: Yeah. She comes back for a bunch. She was heavy, I would say, in the episode that I directed in the first ten and that’s always great for me. I mean she’s such a great presence on set and I think brings so much to the show that it’s nice that she always comes back.

JAIME: That relationship has always been a really vital, central focus of our show. And and in terms of the reality of contracts and things like that, we just don’t have Jordan Hinson for all episodes produced this season because she was striking out and doing other exciting things as well. But she is definitely still a part of our show.

Q: Do you have any plans to bring Stark back to the series at some point?

JAIME: We’ll have to see. Obviously that’s always a challenge when you kill off a character. I was always of the mind that if we can manage it to leave we have a sci-fi show. So ultimately at the end of the day anything is possible and we love Ed Quinn. So I think if the circumstances are right, I’ll never say never.

COLIN: I’m really good friends with Ed and we always joke about bringing him back. I have no say in it but it would be really funny to bring him back as his brother and call him Tony Stark and then just get mileage out of him having the same name as Iron Man.

Q: Are there any scenes that you wished had been in the show that you had to cut, or on the other end, something maybe you wish you had cut in hindsight?

COLIN: Oh god every week there’s something we wish we could fit in that we don’t get a chance to fit in.

JAIME: Yeah, that is really the challenge. And we’ve made an effort to add more and more deleted scenes to our DVDs. This last season I think I’ve added more than we ever have before just because even if it’s a portion of the scene there are times when there’s a really interesting exchange or some great performances that you miss. But I think that the hardest part of making the show is you write something that you love and the performers give you something fantastic and the production design gives you something great to look at. And then you realize, "Okay, I have to squeeze this into under 43 minutes and we have 48 minutes of footage. Something has to go." So it’s a weekly dilemma.

I think for me probably one of the times that a scene that got deleted that was of the most importance was in Phoenix Rising that might have been in Season 2. It was a scene where Carter confronted Henry when these little pieces of memories of a relationship with Allison and Henry having done something to him were coming back in fragments. And he realized and confronted him when Henry was behind bars. So I guess actually that was at the top of Season 3. And it was a really emotional scene where Henry basically had to admit to him that I took your memories of her away. And Carter was saying. "Well, you’re not going to play the martyr for me." You behind bars doesn’t help anybody. And we’re going to work through it. And it really was a chance for them to confront this dark thing that Henry had done out of grief over losing Kim. And it really tested the relationship. And it unfortunately did not make it into the final cut of that episode. So it was something that I think was a slightly unresolved thread that we’ve tried [to] put to bed in smaller ways over the course of the series.

COLIN: As an actor it’s hard because you act an episode that you love and you do it all the way through and then because of the nature of post production you don’t find out that that scene isn’t in there until three weeks later when they actually get to the point and they go, "Oh, it’s got to go." And so all of a sudden you’re going, "I’ve been acting the two episodes after like that scene has been… a part of it. It then puts a strange strain on you like, "Oh well, I hope my stuff is going to work." But it’s the nature. The bit that I can’t understand as a non-writer, being able to write an episode and fit it to the second into the slot... that they have for you. You can’t shoot too little. You have to overshoot. It’s even the little sacrifices that kill me where there’s this little joke that has to go. And it’s a great little joke. That’s the stuff that kills me. It’s not the big stuff, it’s this great little joke that you read in the script and you’re like, "Oh, that’s a great joke." And you got on set and it just killed. And for the two seconds that that joke is it’s got to go to get it down to time. And that’s the stuff where you’re just like, oh, part of you dies.

JAIME: And that’s what we try to maintain. There are a couple of deleted scenes from Founder’s Day—one in particular with Carter, Grant, and Henry—when they’re walking out… after the satellite dish goes down and Carter has to go climb up the tower. There was actually a scene where they leave all three of them and go outside and they’re looking up at the tower. And it’s the discussion about you’re going to have to climb up there and you’re going to have to adjust to ten degrees and Carter wants nothing to do with it because of his fear of heights. And it gets into the digging exchange between Grant and Carter. And they were hilarious. In writing the scene it’s always such a pleasure to write for our cast because you know what they’re capable of doing. And we craft the dialogue that we feel best fits them.

And Colin just completely nailed the joke exactly how it was in my head when I wrote it and I loved the scene and I had to cut the whole scene to get that episode down to time. And it pains me greatly but it will definitely be on the deleted scenes reel.

COLIN: Oh great. And the hard thing about that is the scenes can go in but you can’t include… 45 two second jokes.

For a slideshow of The Eureka cast and crew at Comic-Con visit

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For other Syfy celebrity interviews check out:
James Callis of Battlestar Galactica Joins Eureka
An Interview with Haven's Emily Rose and Syfy's Mark Stern
Sci-Fi Legend Roger Corman Talks about His Proteges

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