Syfy Channel’s newest drama series DARK MATTER takes viewers deep into space where six strangers awake and find themselves unable to remember who they are or anyone else aboard the ship. Memories and identities erased, these six strangers struggle to survive and fight their instincts to distrust one another. But with each new discovery, they start to question everything they think they know. Just who put them on the ship and why is not the only mystery, but each will have to figure out who they really are — before it is too late. But until then, they decide to call themselves in the order they awoke, by the names of: One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six. Will there be more meaning behind these seemingly random assigned names, perhaps, so pay close attention to each of them as they awake in the ship.
In a recent press call, stars Melissa O’Neil, Marc Bendavid, Anthony Lemke and executive producer Joe Mallozzi talked about the challenges inherent in such a layered mystery tale and gave hints as to the action-packed season ahead on DARK MATTER.
Did it make it difficult for you kind of learning what was going on along with your characters as things went along?
MELISSA: I actually loved it. Being a first-time performer on television, I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought that it was such a lovely thing to encounter that we were going through what our characters were going through. At the same time, we were discovering what was happening and how to interact with each other in the exact way that our characters would be doing it. We were just piecing it together as it came to us. But I think that there is a great bit of truth that’s happening on screen is that we’ve all done our homework to prepare our characters as much as we could. But there is honesty that’s happening there as we navigate that.
Can you talk about the first time you worked with the cast because you have really great chemistry together. Was that instantaneous?
MELISSA: Thank you. I think that that has a lot to do with Joe and Vanessa and Lisa Parasyn, what they did with casting. We do get along very well – all of us. We have a lot of fun on and off screen, and I think that credit goes to the lovely people that chose us.
What drew you to DARK MATTER with your character?
MELISSA: It’s funny because after having been in her shoes for four or five months, the line gets a little bit blurry because you are just trying to respond naturally. She is smart and she is compassionate and she is so firm about her thoughts and her decisions. She doesn’t waver much, and I respect that. And, beyond that, when I’m looking at the decisions that she is making, I agree with them for the most part as myself. So I don’t feel like it’s too much of a leap other than she rocks a furrowed bow quite often. But the credit goes to my agent. He definitely was the one who saw the casting notice and he sent it out to me and pushed me to audition and get myself out of New York to come back for this. And for that, I am forever grateful. It’s a wonderful, wonderful part and I’m absolutely honored that I get to be in her shoes.
DARK MATTER is based on a graphic novel published by Dark Horse. How much of the content from the graphic novel can we expect to see on the series?
JOSEPH: You can expect to see all of it. Actually, the comic book was based on, basically, the pilot that we have envisioned. So if you read the first two issues of the comic book, it’s almost, word for word, the first episode of the series. And issues three and four of the comic book are very close to episode two. So in terms of spoilers, you are going to get a sneak peek at episodes one and two by reading the first two issues of the comic book or as in the paperback. But then, after that, all bets are off.
For those who aren’t familiar with the comic book, how would you describe the series?
JOSEPH: I would describe it as a sci-fi series with a cable sensibility. I’ve always been a big fan of cable shows with twists and turns and surprises that always leave you at the end of the episode going, “Oh my god. I can’t wait until next week” and you get to the boards, you discuss them or you go to work and it’s the first thing you talk about in the morning. That’s the show I wanted to create. So it’s something that a lot of – a lot of setups but a lot of payoffs along the way the mystery at its heart. It has a sense of humor. It’s a fun, ship-based sci-fi, which is something fans have been dying for. But at the end of the day, it’s really about the characters and this great group made up of this crew. I’ve often said viewers tune in for the hook but they stay for the characters. And we’ve got an incredibly colorful bunch of characters in this show.
MELISSA: Obviously, there is no singing in it, but it has a quality like I want to call it a “space opera.” There is just so many wonderful things happening and the story lines are fantastic. And the fact that we’re an ensemble, you get to see a little snippet of everybody’s past and where they might go. And I think that’s really exciting. There is a character for any kind of audience member out there. It’s great.
JOSEPH: One of the things that I was really heartened by was just getting reactions from people who watched the show for the first time, and they all respond to different characters, which is great. And the sound guys and the editors, when they first watched it, they all responded. They love Jodelle’s character. There were those who love Roger’s character, who love Anthony’s character. I mean those two early reviews super positive reviews, they loved Melissa’s character. So it’s a testament of the fact that there are so many colorful characters, very different characters, but also a testament to our fantastic cast who have brought them to life.
There is been so many space dramas that have been done. Why do you think that this series is apart from the rest and what would you tell viewers to get down to watch?
JOSEPH: First and foremost, it’s a ship-based sci-fi which differentiates it from anything else out there. Tonally, it’s a lot of fun. I mean, you watch this at the pilot and there’s more of that. At the end of the day, I think fans like to tune in for the character and just essentially to have a good time, and I think that’s what we’re going to offer them. At the same time like I said, I’m not sure how serialized the other shows are. But our show is very serialized in that I mentioned those twists and turns and surprises. There’s going to be a lot of reward for the audiences who tune in. And it’s funny. I was developing this for so many years that we’ve got like a great game plan. When Paul and I and my writers sat down and developed the first season, we had all the setups and payoffs. So there was this one big revelation late in the season, I remember, and one of the actors come out and it’s like, “Wait a minute. Was that a hint way back in episode three?” And I was like, “Yes.” So it’s the type of show that is definitely binge-worthy, but also the type of show that when those little payoffs come up along the way, you can go back to those earlier episodes and kind of piece things together. So I think it is fun — that sense of humor – and that it is ship-based, and I think very, very binge-worthy.
Through most of the episode, everybody really has no perception of who they are. Will we see them challenged to go forward with a persona that they can now write for themselves or to fall back on the persona that they have been told they had previously?
JOSEPH: It will be different for different characters. And it’s interesting. I mean, I always love this idea that people make mistakes in their past and they can move forward, hopefully, or sometimes not. And it’s fun to explore that kind of journey with different characters. And like in real life, it’s not going to be happy ending for everyone. It’s just very interesting in that like the audience, these characters essentially start tabula rasa, right? And you’re following along on the adventures with them. But they are able to sort of trigger certain aspects of their former self, like Melissa’s character to the way she takes command of the ship and the way everyone lets her take command of the ship really speaks to the strength of her character.
MELISSA: I think that’s one of the greater struggles that we have with the concept of this show as our characters. It’s that we wake up and we are who we are in that particular moment. And then, we are confronted with these facts about who we were, and how do we walk through our lives having everybody else who we don’t remember know who we are, know what we are capable of and treat us like that? how do we move forward into that kind of a landscape? It’s very interesting, I think.
The title, DARK MATTER. What is that referring to? And are we going to see that be incorporated throughout the season?
JOSEPH: I guess it’s a darkness that resides in all of us.
You mentioned that this is a ship-based show, does that mean that there aren’t going to be going to various planets very often? Is most of the drama going to be actually taking place on the ship?
JOSEPH: No. It’s going to be a little of both. I mean we have an amazing standing set and we’re going to make use of it. I mean as is the case with most of the ship-based shows like STAR TREK or STARGATE or FIREFLY, the ship almost becomes a character in itself, and we have like an amazing, amazing ship. But we’re going to be getting off. We’re going to be visiting planets. We’re going to be visiting space stations. So we want to avoid that claustrophobic feel. We’ll definitely be opening things up.
Can you talk about your characters and kind of what they like about them and what challenges there are in playing them?
MARC: My character, One, is really enjoyable to pay, for me at least, because he is surrounded by people who have some kind of quick proficiency at something and he is sort of is always falling on his face like he always makes a mess of himself. You never see any malice or vindictiveness really in him. But for me, it was fun to be around all these sort of like sexy, lightning-fast action figures And sort of be the one whose jet pack seems to be broken. That, for me, was fun.
MELISSA: One time, we were doing a cast read-through. And we were sitting around the cable room, and I think it was Anthony who remarks that most people who are actors are actually the younger sibling or the only child in a family. And as we went through on the table, everyone was either a younger sibling or an only child, except for me. It definitely caters well to who Two is in that she very organically and actually takes on this leadership role that everyone seems to just accept. She was so much fun. She is direct and straightforward and she gets to kick a lot of ass.
ANTHONY: Everything that Marc said about One, that’s pretty much the opposite of Three. And if I could extend the jet pack analogy, I’m the guy with the jet pack that works but doesn’t always know the right thing to do with it. And that’s the fun Three’s character, that he is impetuous and he says what other people may or may not be thinking but certainly what he is thinking that he shouldn’t say. And it’s a lot of fun to play that kind of character and especially within the context of a crew who each of us is so well-defined. And, so to be able to play that role within this team is doing a lot of fun.
How did you feel not knowing everything ahead of time and kind of learning along with the characters?
MARC: It might seem sort of contrary to what you often hear actors saying about preparing their role. I found it really liberating and unusual because there’s very little to go on. There’s very little to prepare other than a kind of openness and to what I would react like myself to these people in these situations. So there is no history. At one point, I asked, should I watch every episode of STARGATE or STAR TREK ever produced. And he said, “No.” And it seems like to be able to come to work with in essence, given the other characters and the other actors in the cast a real big say into how one ends up because he is really torn until he encounters Two and until he encounters Three and the rest of the cast. So I like it because it meant that we have to be on our toes, listening to each other and just seeing where the scripts took us and making a lot of decisions beforehand. So, for me, I really enjoyed that, actually.
ANTHONY: I think one of the things you learn very early on in your acting career or when you’re studying acting is that preparation is key. You should definitely answer all the questions about your character. You should have done all of that homework. And then when you show up on the first day of shooting, you should forget it all and just play the role and play the reality of the moment because that’s going to be there. And so in a way, “the forget it all” part is where we started. It’s incredibly liberating and we were sort of discovering things about ourselves as characters. We had a fair number of scripts moving forward. So by the first frame of camera, we were able to read three or four, five, six, seven episodes ahead. So at least we knew that as our back story. Like, “Listen, this is an interesting piece of information that my character doesn’t have on day one but me as the actor does have.” So there is a little bit of that forward prep that was probably influencing our day one shooting decisions as well.
Can you each describe your character in three words and, for Joe, describe the show in three words?
JOE: I would say fun, funny and exciting.
MELISSA: For Two, she is: strong, smart, a fighter.
ANTHONY: I’d say Three: cocky, crass and caring, surprisingly. That shall be answered as you watch the show.
DARK MATTER began sort of the way STARGATE UNIVERSE ended: everyone went into spaceships on STARGATE and then came out on DARK MATTER. Was that a conscious decision?
JOSEPH: I started developing DARK MATTER way back when I was working in Atlanta. So I have no idea. We were going to do STARGATE UNIVERSE much more how we would end it. It was coincidental. But the first person who actually brought it to my attention was actor Patrick Gilmore who played Dale Volker on STARGATE UNIVERSE. He was like, “Wait a minute.” And I was like, “Aha, that is kind of funny.” Because at the end of UNIVERSE, of course, everyone goes into spaces while they wait how long this jump is going to take. And that’s how we sadly, ended the series. I guess it’s kind of appropriate in that there is a definite heavy STARGATE influence on DARK MATTER. We used to do it on STARGATE — relied heavily on the humor. It was very character-driven – a lot of fun. And at the end of the day, this really focused on this team, this family. It’s exactly the same thing with DARK MATTER. So appropriately enough – it works out.
Are there are any plans to have any old STARGATE faces as guest stars in the future?
JOSEPH: Absolutely. We brought David Hewlett, who played Rodney McKay. He plays the part of Tabor Calchek, who is the team’s handler. Torri Higginson, who played Elizabeth Weir on STARGATE ATLANTIS is going to be Commander Delaney Truffault, one of the corporate ships. And I have a couple of other guest stars in mind for season two that I can’t reveal yet. But STARGATE fans are in for a treat in that respect.
Can you talk a little bit about this ship on the series and how it plays under the tone and feel of DARK MATTER?
JOSEPH: I think the ship is a reflection of the characters. I mean when designers designed the ship, we wanted something kind of badass. I describe it as almost like little gold box just retrofitted with weaponry. She has a lot of experience, a lot of battle scarring, but it’s the type of ship that you kind of look at—and easy to underestimate—But in battle, more maneuverable, a lot more savvy. The hero ship doesn’t get the upper hand on ships because of its size. And I think that the ship is a reflection of all our characters — you don’t know very much about them on the surface But as you dig deeper there is a richness there and aspect that will surprise.
ANTHONY: One of the things I noticed is that an outsider is reflective and often you see ship-based shows and they’re being driven kind of how we drive our own cars today. And it’s not always the case. Our interaction with the ship can be very manual in that way. But it also goes through the android character. So in a way, as an actor looking at what the ship is the android was a real sort of interface with the ship for us for a lot of reasons. And, so the ship almost has its own character as well through the character of the android, which is an add-on to the ship. But it is definitely integral in the ship’s system
MARC: That was actually my second question. It’s how the actors interacted with the ship and how they found that.
ANTHONY: Primarily, it’s through the android that we interact with the ship in terms of commands and Melissa, I’ll let you talk a little bit more about that because being the leader, you interacted a lot more with the ship and the android than I did. That’s for sure.
MELISSA: There was a lot of what Two does with the android is she was basically trying to pick the android’s brain and figure out how to get things done. But when we’re in a battle situation and things need to happen quickly and efficiently, once there was a basic trust that was established a lot of the time Two just instructed the android to watch himself if he was right in that particular moment. But we work in tandem a great deal to navigate but mostly to make decisions when we are in space battle.
MARC: I think Anthony brings up an interesting point that the android is a reflection of the ship in a way. I think it’s not an accident that he will be one among us who knows how to fly the ship and Melissa and, in a weird way, it feels like the ship is, in a sense, kind of mother to the crew. There are a lot of mysteries about the ship that we don’t know yet, that we don’t understand, and we can’t quite compute how they influence and inform our personalities. But in a strange kind of way, the ship takes care of us. And Melissa being the person who sort of runs the show and being the de facto mother of the – of the crew, I think it’s a sort of beautifully mysterious reflection of that relationship. Sometimes the ship is really angry. Sometimes the ship seems to save our butts in the last second. So I think this is no accident that Melissa is at the controls.
JOSEPH: It’s both mother and warrior in a way. I remember reading a fantastic book called “Wired for War” that’s all about, essentially, artificial intelligence and robotics in warfare. And it’s pretty clear that the technology currently exists for F16 robotic AI pilots to essentially, 100 percent of the time, beat humans. So if that exists today, then take that out into the future and ask yourself how much the humans would be involved versus how much the robots and artificial intelligence would be involved in any warfare or dogfight scenario. And I think that’s something that Joe has dealt with that unfolded really, really well in the show, that asking the question of what is the place of the human not just in warfare but in a society where there are these other beings that exists that we have created that, in a lot of ways, can beat the snot out of us. I think that’s an interesting and central element to thematically to the whole show.
Can you talk about like the relationship between the characters because they seem to get along really well when they’re strangers But then there’s some butting heads of One and Three by the end and how that relationship is going to change once they know the truth about their past and do they trust each other anymore or does it make them trust each other more or how it evolves?
MARC: That’s another one of the central elements of the entire first season, really. And it ebbs and flow. I mean, if you wake up without any memories or any knowledge of who you are or who your friends are or who your enemies are and if that notion of trust becomes paramount to keeping the team together and just staying alive and, I think that’s something that the characters struggle with throughout the entire show, without a doubt.
ANTHONY: There is going to be constantly shifting alliances. But it’s kind of very interesting the way some of these early relationship form or don’t. Like right off the bat One and Three clearly, whereas the character of Six played by Roger Cross instantly bonds with the character of Five, played by Jodelle, which is like just a wonderful relationship. It goes back to this idea that even though their memories are wiped those instincts remain. And so you can get a sense of what these people were or the types of relationships that existed prior to them entering phases very early on.
Are you planning one complete arc for this first season so it tells one complete story? Or are we going to get one of those cliffhangers and keep our fingers crossed for the second season?
JOSEPH: I approach each season as a book in a series. So a definite beginning, middle and end, like a season-long arc, is not to say it’s not going to end in necessarily a cliffhanger. But very early on, we have some questions that get established very early versus about the mind wise, and what’s going on. And as the season progresses we begin to peel the onion on these various characters and their back stories and who they are and, essentially, the mixed views of how they ended up on that ship and what happened to them. One of the things that I promised fans is: we are not going to be the type of show that is going to ask a lot of questions and then leave then unanswered. We are going to ask a lot of questions, we’re going to keep asking a lot of questions, but we will pay them off along the way and in the most satisfactory fashion.
Amongst the STARGATE fandom, there was a bit of a division between those who really like STARGATE UNIVERSE versus those who thought its tone was a little too dark in comparison to the previous STARGATES. Considering this is DARK MATTER, would you say the show aligns a lot more with the tone of STARGATE UNIVERSE than the previous STARGATES?
JOSEPH: I want to say, basically, it falls somewhere in between because one of the things that UNIVERSE did so well is it dealt with kind of the bigger issues. In our series, there is a bigger issue of, for instance, redemption: are people born bad? In that respect, it’s a lot like UNIVERSE in terms of tone and in terms of look. And yet one of the things that I know a lot of fans were missing on UNIVERSE was that sense of humor that really marked ATLANTIS and SG-1. But it’s one of the biggest characteristics of this show, DARK MATTER. It has a sense of humor. I keep on emphasizing fun. And ATLANTIS was fun, SG-1 was fun. Maybe some fans did not consider UNIVERSE fun because it was a little dark. It was a little slow to get going more introspect, a little claustrophobic, which basically DARK MATTER is not. So DARK MATTER is fun. So I think for STARGATE fans, if you love ATLANTIS and SG-1, I think you’re going to love DARK MATTER. And, frankly, if you love UNIVERSE you’re going to love DARK MATTER. It’s the very best of all three shows.
What about the level and types of action viewed might be able to expect? Will the action, whatever level there is, be comprised mostly of ship-to-ship combat or hand-to-hand fighting or equal measures of both?
JOSEPH: We do it all. There’s gun play. There is hand to hand. There is ship-based action types. First of all, I want to talk about the visual effects of the show. We brought in our guys from STARGATE. Lauren Bancroft-Wilson and Mark Sevilla have been working through the atmosphere. And our visual effects are second to none. We just ran a real efficient production. We put the money up on screen and I put our visual effects up against any other show out there. They look fantastic. The gunplay has been fantastic. We have a great stunt coordinator in John Stead, who coordinated some fantastic gunfights, for instance, in episode one or two which, hopefully, you will see sooner than later. It’s all unbelievable (a) because John Stead is so amazing, but (2) also because the actors are so amazing. And here, I asked to talk about Melissa O’Neil, who goes in there on the weekend and basically works on the choreography and does such a phenomenal job that when we are in the editing room in other shows, you would basically have to cut to the stunt woman to make it more convincing. But because Melissa is so good at what she does. And occasionally, we’ll cut in for the close ups. But I mean for the most part when you see the fighting up on screen or Two fighting up on screen, that’s Melissa.
Was there any standout stunts or, perhaps, even injuries that are most memorable for you from the season?
ANTHONY: Well, I’m missing a leg. But that’s episode 10. So when you get there…
MELISSA: So there’s a huge fight that we do in episode 10 or 11. And there was this was this flying move where you like lunge and you travel like 4 feet across the floor to get to the – my opponent. And in the rehearsal, I nicked the girl’s toe like she was a little bit too close or I went too far it was practically a “Home Alone” fall, which it’s named after it, where the guy goes right up into the air and you got one leg up when you land. And I landed on the floor in our medical room and the floor in the medical room has all of these intricate geometric patterns on it. It imprinted onto my palm and it didn’t go away like there was this massive blood blister on my palm in this beautiful like geometric print. Anyway, it was gone about a week after we were done shooting, like four other episodes had to go by and a week of time off before it finally went away. It was so weird but really cool looking. There is a picture of it on my Instagram.
MARC: We got to this beautiful set when we all sort of gawked at in admiration. And the floor, like Melissa said, beautifully intricate with geometric shapes carved out of hard plastic. When we got to work on the first day Joe and Paul said “You come off stages barefoot,” because we leave shoes in the stages. So we need to shoot this scene of you and Melissa running down the hallway of the ship, which because it’s broken, is dark and covered with little bits of spark and fire, and we need to shoot it for the entire day. And, so by the end of the day, Melissa and I had sort of hobbled ourselves, with bloody feet running back and forth across the hall. Melissa never complained about it once and I’m still harping about my bloody feet six months later.
ANTHONY: Listen. In terms of bruises, like the ego is probably the biggest thing that got bruised in a fantastic fight with Ruby Rose that my character has. One of the things that John Stead does so brilliantly — well, he is a great fight coordinator and, to be honest, we don’t actually have a lot of injury stories, and that’s thanks to John Stead his preparation. He will never let anybody get in there without 100 percent preparation, but if he feels like someone may be getting a little tired or sloppy or a stunt person goes in there and there’s top out. He is fantastic and he tells stories with his fights. His choreography as good as, if not better, than anyone I’ve ever worked with. He is wonderful. There is a fun fight between Three and the Ruby Rose character and that’s the one that – well, I’ll just leave that one up there as probably my highlight fight of the entire season for my character.
Is there a rigid plan with the series as far as the art? Or as these guys kind of inhabit the characters a little more, is there a plan to kind of maybe deviate a little bit based on who they do their performance?
JOSEPH: Sure. There is always room for movement. I mean, I have kind of the general idea of where I want to go. Just in terms of the first season we were super prepared. We have the majority of our scripts already done and then we made adjustments along the way. One of the things that we are doing – and as we build stories for season two, again, assuming we get season two, but I’m fairly confident – is just going off what the cast has done. And essentially, you create these characters they’re on the page and then you hand them off and, then they really come to life. You create the characters you see on the page. But the actors bring so much to them in develop them and they re-evolve in their performance and as you inform moving forward, it gives you ideas. I mean a lot of our ideas for season two – these stories for season two come about as a result of something like they could be – the standout moments that these guys have brought to the show and just the types of relationships and the chemistry. I had a great start with Paul, our other writer and executive producer, about this and he was talking about how when they were developing — a lot of sci-fi shows in that past have talked about how humans were, like it was a bit utopian society and everyone was getting along, and that they wanted to bring back this idea that the conflict isn’t going to come from external sources. It’s going to come from within each other as we’re fighting for resources, we’re fighting to stay alive when we are not on the planet anymore. We are in space. And I think it’s so honest and great and real. It allows us to be humans because we’re not always going to get along because we don’t in life. And trying to navigate that when you’re dark essentially on this life preserver in the middle of space, our beloved ship how do you – how do you figure out how to co-exist with these essentially six other strangers? It’s wonderful.
ANTHONY: In episode one or two, like Roger’s character points out, we’re on our own. We have no memories. So basically, we’ve got our former enemies coming after us or our former victims coming after us, the galactic authorities. Who knows who else are going to come after us? None of which we’ll see coming because we don’t remember them. And at the end of the day they only have each other to rely upon. It’s really the most extreme of dysfunctional families. Like it or not they’re family. The interesting thing, from the standpoint of getting along, that there’s so many reasons presented so fast for us not to trust each other. But this encounter with our eventual with the android didn’t turn out well. We find out things at the end of the episode that would suggest that we’re maybe not going to be compatible. And, at the same time, it becomes clear that with all the people who are after us, the only way we stand even a slim chance of survival is getting along. So it’s constant play which continues throughout the season between who is this person and what do I need to know about them to trust them and can I trust them less or not and that question gets asked in life or death situations all the way to episode 13. I think we learned that that kind of negotiation: it’s not important to get along if you can trust one another and maybe go getting along the other way – go out of it backward, inside-out shoot first and ask questions later.
MARC: Anthony, I was just going to say that I thought you’re definitely channeling a little bit of Han Solo in there.
ANTHONY: Well, I’m flattered. That would be a reference to Three, when people watch it. Growing up as a kid, that was definitely a boyhood idol the Han Solo character and not so much there as in Ford but literally the Han Solo character. So to be able to play this character was really, honestly, a bit of a dream come true. It’s a character that I feel very comfortable in. And what I like about it exactly – we laugh because he is a jerk. He is an arrogant prick in a lot of ways. But he isn’t what he seems to be, which is the case for absolutely everybody in the show. They aren’t what they seem to be. And I think it’s a testament to Joe and Paul’s writing that you’re right to pick up on the fact that one is definitely the moral compass of the show. But just because it’s the moral thing to do doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. And I think Joe and Paul played with that brilliantly well where they don’t let you – they don’t let you side with any one character for the entire episode – for the entire season. They just don’t do it. I mean, Three runs off of the mound and comes up with a crazy old man or crazy schemes but some of which are based in a very pragmatic sense of survival. And it may not be the moral thing to do, but it may just be the thing that allows you to be moral tomorrow because you’ll still be alive. And the dialogue between morality and this more utilitarian vision of our existence is again, one of the really interesting elements of this show. And definitely, One is on one side, Three is on the other side and Two – it’s interesting. Melissa, you can talk to that. But Two I would not say picks either of those camps. And Two sort of says, “Listen. There is a right moment for everything.” And it’s fascinating to watch that interplay.
Since the characters already existed in the comic book, why did you decide to make the changes that you did?
JOSEPH: Just one of the best actors for role at the end of the day and, also to redress what I felt was a bit of a gender imbalance in the comic book. I mean like I said, we opened this to all genders and all ethnicities, specifically the roles of Four, the sword-wielding Four and the android. And we got a thousand possibilities both male and female for both. But, ultimately, I think we found the right actors for the role and in the comic book character, Four is male. It’s somewhat different from Alex Mallari Jr. who just nailed the part with an audition that was so controlled and nefarious that it just sort of blew me away. And, then, Zoie Palmer, who is playing a character so unlike her character in LOST GIRL, she came in and I talked about her where she came in and we were discussing the fact that one of the actors that came in, he was British And so he gave the android with a British accent. And I’d say the way I describe the android is less sort of like a robot and more of that polished efficiency. And Zoie was like, “I can do a British accent.” And so she did one version with a British accent. And she was like, “I can also do a Jamaican accent.” And I was like, “Do it.” And she does Jamaican accent. That was like, “Aha, this is interesting.” So file that Jamaican-accent story away and we’ll talk about it later on in the season. But she brings something just so great to the character. I mean, there’s certain expectations one has with the android character and her character answered those expectations and yet she brings a certain earnestness and childlike wonder and joy to the performance that, I think will make her an instant fan favorite.
What went into the decision to make Two the leader and why not one of the guys?
MARC: She is so adorable. I mean, look at her. But I just want to point out there is something about the charisma of our number Two which makes it hard when you watch her, even when she is being totally unfriendly, not to just do what she says. And yet, she owned it so beautifully throughout the season.
JOSEPH: But that’s exactly it. She has a leadership quality that the other recognize right off the bat. And I remember we saw over 250 actresses for the role of Two. And it’s such a tough role because as the commander, the ship’s commander, she has to be strong without being unlikable yet she has to possess a certain empathy that allows her to connect with the crew but not to the point where it makes her look weak. And it was one of the things that Melissa and I discussed very early. It’s a fine walk. You are walking that fine line, and Melissa just does it so well. I’ve always been a big fan of sci-fi, whether literature or television. And I just kind of like the idea of creating these these archetypes and then kind of undermining them like with the android, like I said, fulfill certain obligations, whatever an android does but is almost like a picture and child at that time, where she was saying, “No, show me, show me.” And then, basically, when she gets real and it’s a panicky situation and she kind of turns around smiling, “Do you want me to show you?” I mean, that’s the character. We’ve seen so many, males commanding and in charge, which are some very memorable characters. But they are very few female commanders in sci-fi. I mean, Janeway comes to mind from VOYAGER – frankly, it’s just something different. And it’s something you see a lot of, frankly, in Japanese anime, which heavily influenced the development of DARK MATTER. So that’s where it came from.
Did you like get inspiration for your characters from any other actors or characters? Or did you kind of take it all directly from the script?
ANTHONY: So the answer to that obviously is — I mean as actors, one of the things that we do is you are always aware of what some of the actors that you respect are doing. And, again, like I was saying about preparation. I definitely didn’t walk in to any particular scene and say, “Geez what would Harrison Ford have done to ‘Star Wars’?” I don’t think that’s it. But I think you are aware of what has come before you and how that has affected the audience’s perception of a certain type of character. And it speaks to a little bit of what Joe is talking about where everyone knows — a lot of sci-fi fans know what to expect of androids. And part of it is about fulfilling that expectation and part of it is about taking it in a different direction. And that’s a collective effort. That’s an effort where it starts on the page with Joe and Paul and, then, it continues on the day with what you can offer up in conversation with Joe and Paul who are there every day of shooting and with the director. And then it actually continues on into editing where you let go of that. And, fundamentally, what you are seeing is what the editor takes from what you gave on the day. Again, that’s the conversation between the other folks. So absolutely, there are influences. But I personally try to make sure that you’re as fresh and present on the day for your own character as you can be.
JOSEPH: And just to add to that, Anthony was incredibly successful — I mentioned this on the blog — but when we auditioned for his character we had our first choice, Anthony Lemke. And, then, there was the pack. So basically, he so nailed that audition that just from the first round of audition, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. So I consider myself very fortunate that we ended up landing him. But he just nailed that audition and has been nailing it ever since.
Are we going to see a lot of creature makeup effects,either as a recurring character or as a signature alien race that you’re going to encounter as they are going to the different planets and star bases? Will there be a lot of that type of special effects?
JOSEPH: In the first season, we are really more focused on this crew and their back stories, which is a little more grounded. As sort of the series progresses, we do make a little more use of that type of thing. And we do — spoiler alert for the cast — have kind of laid the groundwork for that kind of reveal in season two. So essentially we are not, let’s say a FARSCAPE that makes use of a lot of alien races. From the beginning, it’s going to be fairly grounded. But that’s not to say that’s a region we will not be exploring fairly soon.
Has there been a signature moment either for your character or just a moment in the course of the series that is a standout moment in the first season?
ANTHONY: I’ll throw one out first. Although I love a lot of what I had to do and there’s some fantastic relationships that my character was able to enter into, for me, one of the highlights was the relationship between Five and Six. And in specific, there is an episode where Six has to entire into a type of realm that I won’t go into because it’s a spoiler to save Five and there’s a moment and Five is a little hesitant to be saved. In that scene there — I remember because we were shooting right next to each other and I would run in between my takes to go watch the monitor from that scene between Five and Six — I love their relationship that they develop throughout the show and I think the audience, specifically those who have got kids. But I think everyone can relate to that kind of relationship. It’s just such a beautiful, beautiful relationship. And that particular scene, it’s just a beautiful touching poignant scene where Six has to convince Five that any version of reality, no matter how grim it may seem is, on the whole, better than a fantasy because reality can be changed and your fantasy can’t. It’s just such a beautiful and simple moment so well played between those two actors that, honestly, they have to tear me away from the screen. I’d wave until literally they are like, “All right. We are rolling on the other set.” And I’d run back to the other set and I’d do my scene and I’d come back as soon as I could. It’s beautiful. I think the audience is going to love that relationship.
MARC: For me, it’s a hard question to ask because there were so many moments, so many gasp moments throughout the season when we were reading the scripts. It’s hard to pick. Every week and a half, we would have a cast reading and sit there on the table and there inevitably, would be yelping and screaming, laughing and gasping because there’s so many turns and surprises in the story that we really don’t see coming even after having shot half the season. But for me, probably what is most exciting moment is the very last scene of the last episode because everyone, having had the time to work through — having constantly worked through — have a feel about the situation, who they trust, who they don’t. Everyone very suddenly has to put all their cards on the table and nobody can lie. And so I found it such a fulfilling thing to shoot and also so interesting to read. suddenly, everyone is standing there and there is a 30-second deadline to make the right choice and make the right decision and it’s so beautifully captured all the struggles that have come before it that it’s really nail-biting and — as a performer and, I hope, as an audience member.
MELISSA: I have been listening to these stories and I’ve been trying to be present. And in doing so I am I haven’t found a moment.
JOSEPH: OK. I’ll tell you mine. Mine is actually comes near the end of episode one where the crew convenes to discuss exactly what they’re going to do and decide on a course of action. And the cast did such a brilliant of conveying and just encapsulating who these characters are in that brief exchange. Marc, as Anthony said, sometimes doing the right thing is not the right thing to do. Anthony as Three basically adopting the more selfish route. The character of Six played by Roger becomes that warm benevolent that basically runs throughout the show. The character of Five played by Jodelle, you see that relationship with Six right of the top her desire to help the character of Four, who is kind of the more solemn character by words. We have a lead. And then Melissa’s character of Two basically having to sort of juggle all these balls and ultimately come down with the decision. Just that one scene did such a great job of encapsulating, not just the characters But I guess, thematically, the show as a whole that it just stood out very early on for me. And I’ve given Melissa plenty of time now.
MELISSA: The stuff I had the most fun shooting on set were always the two hander scenes. There are these one-on-one conversations I was having with everyone. Two didn’t often share what was going on in her head so much as she was trying to get into other people’s heads and hear what they were going through. And I always found that very interesting, like most of the time when I was talking to people, Two would be listening and other people would be going through the thick of it with something and she’d be trying to get in there and figure out what was going on in their head and what they were going to do, why were they going to do it and what about this as an option. So I love those moments. Two learned a lot about other characters as well as I did too. And, of course, in all of my fighting, there is one day in particular where there was a fight that actually, oddly enough, I wasn’t fighting in it. It was a shot where my stunt double is being used and it was such an incredible day that the entire set — we just felt like a family. I remember at the end of their fight the entire crew just erupted and they started clapping because John had choreographed this incredible fight. The two stuntwomen just executed it to perfection. And I felt so much pride on that day to be a part of such an incredible team. Everyone on the set was just crushing it. They were nailing everything that they were supposed to be doing. And as a spectator in that moment, I felt so proud to be there. So I guess that will be my moment. You can’t see that moment.
ANTHONY: I’m going to jump in here because I have a favorite Two moment that I shot with Two. And everything she says is right, that Two ends up being a leader — and she is a leader for the reason — on the whole alpha leaders don’t show their weakness. They don’t show their vulnerability. And throughout the season, there are a few moments where Two is a afforded the ability to show vulnerability. And Three gets one of those. And me as an actor, Anthony, just watching Melissa in that particular scene, it was beautiful and heartrending and unfortunately that my character had to make a choice between sort of comforting in the vulnerability and not — and, sometimes, the actor is screaming out one way and the character, unfortunately, goes the other. But it was such a beautiful and poignant and sensitive from an actress who just knocked it out of the park the entire season doing the leader and then to see her come in and play this really sensitive vulnerable moment But yet, with the poise of the leader. And that was a really lovely Two moment.
What do you think has sort of evolved over the last 15-20 years if you’re thinking even back to STARGATE that the stories are telling now that they weren’t then, how it’s kind of the outside world influence the story should tell based on a ship set in the future?
JOSEPH: I said at a conversation earlier this morning when we talked about how contemporary issues influence storytelling and they do to a subconscious degree. I always prefer to deal with sort of larger themes like the world we are set in, for instance, is a world of multi-planetary. It’s essentially multi- corporations have gone out and colonized planets and existing planetary resources and that’s a reflection of sort of, I guess our contemporary world. Thematically, we deal with this idea of redemption: Are you born bad? Are you the product of your environment? Can people change? And I think that’s something worth pursuing. I find when you start kind of reflecting specific contemporary issues in episodic television, you tend to date your show. And it’s something I prefer to avoid. You mentioned sort of how things have changed in terms of sci-fi television. In terms of the storytelling, I think we need to tell more serialized stories, which is basically what we’re going to do with this to redevelop the characters. On the other hand the stuff that worked in the past is what brought people to STAR TREK and STARGATE and FIRELY and FARSCAPE was this idea that, basically, these people on the ship are sort of family, you’re having fun with them there is kind of a humor and there’s a sense of exploration. So in that respect there are aspects of old sci-fi that are very present in DARK MATTER.
ANTHONY: I think there is also a response — in a more sort of basic — at a structural sense, a lot of what Joe is talking about could be dealt with in another way other than a spaceship show. But there is a reason it’s a spaceship show now and that KILLJOYS is a spaceship show now and we’re seeing a bit of a rebirth of a genre that wasn’t dead but call it a bit dormant compared to its heyday. And if you just look into the society at large with SpaceX, with Virgin Galactic, with Barack Obama talking about a mission to Mars with the reality show that’s going to Mars and guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson who are encouraging an entire generation of individuals to start looking spaceward and dreaming about what we used to be able to do 30, 40, 50 years ago that we cannot stop doing, really. And I think people are starting to look outside into space in a — I’m not saying in a more realistic manner — but it’s getting closer and closer to that notion of actually inhabiting. I’m reading the biography of Elon Musk right now and it’s a fantastic read. But what’s interesting is what underlies his entire thing is that when you walk into his office, There are these massive photos on the wall. One of them is of Mars as it currently is, completely barren, and the other is of Mars terraformed and occupied by humans, which underlies everything that all of his companies does and I think that guise is what’s leading to a bit of renaissance of ship shows.
To see what spectacular surprises and sci-fi twists DARK MATTER has in store, be sure to tune in for the premiere on Friday, June 12th at 10:00 p.m. on Syfy. Just when you think you have the show figured out, it will throw another curveball into the story. So watch out!