Previews

Winter TV Preview 2014: Syfy’s Helix [SET VISIT INTERVIEW, PHOTOS, VIDEO]

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Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

[WARNING: Mild Spoilers for the series]

Anytime Ron Moore’s name is in the mix, consider us on board. The Battlestar Galactica guru is involved in a cool (pun intended) new series on Syfy called Helix. The drama takes place in the Arctic and it stars The Killing‘s Billy Campbell. Get ready for intel on the show in the form of photos, a sneak peek and interviews with the cast and creator. We braved extreme frozen temperatures to hit the Helix set, people. So here’s what we found out:

Syfy’s Series Synopsis:

Helix is an intense thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to the high-tech research facility, Arctic Biosystems, to investigate a possible disease outbreak, only to find themselves pulled into a terrifying life-and-death struggle that may hold the key to mankind’s salvation or total annihilation.  However, the lethal threat is just the tip of the iceberg, and as the virus evolves, the chilling truth begins to unravel.

Billy Campbell (Killing Lincoln, The Killing) stars as Dr. Alan Farragut, leader of the Centers for Disease Control outbreak field team called upon to investigate and control a potential outbreak. Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin) also stars as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, director of Arctic Biosystems and its mysterious viral research program.

Helix also stars Kyra Zagorsky (Supernatural) as Dr. Julia Walker; Mark Ghanimé (Emily Owens, M.D.) as Major Sergio Balleseros; Jordan Hayes (House at the End of the Street) as Dr. Sarah Jordan; Meegwun Fairbrother as Daniel Aerov; Catherine Lemieux (White House Down) as Dr. Doreen Boyle, and Neil Napier (Riddick) as Dr. Peter Farragut.

TV Goodness crossed over to Canada to visit the set of Helix. In Montreal, we were able to take a tour of the facility as well as take part in a press conference featuring the cast and creator. Here’s what they had to say about their characters and being part of this Syfy thriller:

Helix - Season 1

Billy Campbell — Dr. Alan Farragut
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Dr. Alan Farragut 

BILLY CAMPBELL: Alan is the head of a remarkable team from the Center for Diseased Control who are sent North or are called North to deal with the viral outbreak but things are a bit more complicated than they would at first seem. Not only with the base but within our little unit.

On not doing a lot of research for this role

BILLY: It was all sort of very last minute so that’s my excuse for doing no research whatsoever. No…about as much research as I do for anything is read a million times over the script. All the research has already been done for me. It’s just read the script over and over and over again. And then become a nuisance about the script. So, yeah, not very much.

On his reaction after reading the script

BILLY: When I first read the script I got terribly excited because it reminded me of several different things which were sort of longtime favorites. John Carpenter’s The Thing. The very claustrophobic stuck in the Arctic thing. The Andromeda Strain which is one of my favorite movies of all time. And I was just a fan of the genre. I love science fiction. I love the situation. I love the characters. And I loved really everything about it and I became quite excited.

Helix - Season 1

Kyra Sygorsky — Dr. Julia Walker
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Dr. Julia Walker

KYRA SYGORSKY: I am one of the top scientists of the CDC. And I’m also Alan’s ex-wife. So I’m just going to leave with you with that.

On learning the terminology needed for her role

KYRA: YouTube has come in very handy. And I also have a brother-in-law who’s a doctor so I’ll call him up if I…‘how do you pronounce this?’ or ‘what is this?’ And they have technical advisors on set that you know…I know the first time Jordan and I had a huge scene with all this medical equipment and we just asked for…give us a good solid rehearsal with him [the advisor] and the equipment so we can feel like we know what we’re doing and try to sell it that it looks like we know what we’re doing and just get used to it. So there’s a lot of people helping out.

On how her theater background has come in handy

KYRA: I’ve been really grateful for every moment I spent doing theater once I got into this part because of how much she goes through. It’s such a well written role for a woman. She’s just strongly written. She’s completely feminine. She’s powerful. She’s vulnerable. She’s flawed. She’s all kinds of things. But there was a lot of…I was just really grateful for all that time I spent training in it. And training in story and all this stuff and it’s just…that was the preparation for it. I didn’t know it was. And then I get in the situation and go oh I’m so glad I did that movement class. Or I did this psychological thing in this one class or whatever it was. So it’s kind of everything I’ve done leading up to this.

Helix - Season 1

Hiroyuki Sanada — Dr. Hiroshi Hatake
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Dr. Hiroshi Hatake

HIROYUKI SANADA: I’m a Director of Research. I’m an unusual scientist. I’m a little mysterious. Actually, I don’t know who am I…yet. So maybe you can enjoy the show. I’m so excited working with a great crew and cast. It will be great entertainment — no one ever seen.

Helix Creator on Hiro the actor and Hiroshi the character

CAMERON PORSANDEH: When I wrote this character, it’s a rare thing when you’re actually picturing the character, the actor that you want. This was the man that I was picturing the whole time when I wrote the character. And I think he just does a brilliant job by just being who he is. Because he’s the most enigmatic character on the show. And he has secrets galore.

Helix - Season 1

Neil Napier — Dr. Peter Farragut
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Dr. Peter Farragut

NEIL NAPIER: I play Dr. Peter Farragut, brother to Dr. Alan Farragut. I’ve been up at base for a couple of years. I’m a research scientist. And I have a complicated relationship with my dear brother and his ex-wife and I’ll leave it at that.

On what he watched to prepare him for Helix

NEIL: One film I found interesting was Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World set in the Antarctic. It follows a bunch of researchers who are actually pretty well isolated. It was kind of fascinating just to get a bit an insight into the type of personalities that choose to put themselves in these really remote places and do the work that they do. They are really fascinating people. It’s a cool movie.

Helix - Season 1

Jordan Hayes — Dr. Sarah Jordan
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Dr. Sarah Jordan

JORDAN HAYES: I play Dr. Sarah Jordan, who is one of the scientists at the CDC on Alan Farragut’s team. And Sarah is the young, ambitious, overachieving scientist who is very, very accomplished and on her way to becoming one of the leading viral pathologists of her time.

On researching her role

JORDAN: In terms of research, I reached out and got a contact at the CDC and learned from her exactly what kind of educational background was required to work at the CDC. And what exactly these scientists go through on a day-to-day basis. In terms of research for isolation, I actually didn’t do any because it’s the first…our team just gets to the Arctic. So we actually haven’t been isolated. We’ve been working in Atlanta. This is kind of the first introduction into the isolated base.

On her reaction after reading the script

JORDAN: When I first read the script I was very, very relieved to read these amazing female characters. As an actress in my 20s, I’ve just auditioned for so many cardboard one dimensional roles and so I felt very fortunate to and I do feel very fortunate to be able to play this dynamic, intelligent, multidimensional character and Cameron’s [Porsandeh, the creator] done a really, really good job at writing these great female roles.

Helix - Season 1

Mark Ghanimé — Major Sergio Balleseros
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Major Sergio Balleseros

MARK GHANIME: As we know with these kind of shows, there’s always three different components with the government, the doctors and the military. So I’m part of the military with an agenda of my own that we might see, we might not see.

On his reaction to reading the script for the first time

MARK: When I got it and I got to read all sorts of stuff — it’s exciting. Like I was talking to the cast — every week when we get a new episode it’s like Christmas day. The first thing you want to do no matter what you’re doing is drop everything and read the script. And kind of phone each other and be like ‘oh my god, do you see what you’re doing?’ So there’s an exciting buzz. We’re all like a bunch of kids in a candy store with the script. And the writing is fantastic. And they’re tailoring it to who we are — at first they don’t know us. They don’t know what we’re like or what we’re gonna bring. It’s one way and then all of a sudden each episode they start going, well, he’s like this in real life, I think we’ll cater to that and bring out this side of him, this side of her and it’s been a really exciting dynamic throughout the seven that we’ve filmed so far.

On one of the challenges of playing such a well written character

MARK: Every single one of our characters has a pretty giant arc. So to go along and just think that it’s going one way and all of a sudden there’s this shift and you get this new script you’re processing on your feet and you’re trying to make the best of it and it’s been a huge challenge but I think that’s kind of life. You come at something and you adjust.

Helix - Season 1

Meegwun Fairbrother — Daniel Aerov
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Daniel Aerov

MEEGWUN FAIRBROTHER: I play the character of Daniel Aerov which is Hatake’s Inuk adopted son. He is also the head of security at the base so if something goes wrong, I’m the guy to take care of things. If there’s a cleanup on aisle four…yeah, I take care of things. Make sure it runs smoothly.

Helix - Season 1

Cat Lemieux — Dr. Doreen Boyle
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Syfy

On Dr. Doreen Boyle (and what she likes to be called in real life)

CAT LEMIEUX: I’m Catherine Lemieux. I prefer to be called Cat. I’m playing Dr. Doreen Boyle and I like to be more often referred to as doctor. As I am a veterinarian and not always recognized as such. I’m also an epizoologist. I’m on Alan’s crack team. We have a past together, Alan and I.

On learning the difficult terminology that comes with playing a veterinarian and epizoologist

CAT: I actually had access to a veterinarian — a doctor — to get to speak to her about the ethics and the ins and outs of what we do as vets so that was really, very, very helpful. It was really nice to be in touch with somebody who actually works with the animals in that respect. But it’s definitely been challenging. Wikipedia is really useful in this instance. And Cameron’s always been available to talk to about different stuff.

On playing a vet

CAT: I was really excited to be a vet, to play a vet. Personally I adore animals so much and I do come across some animals in the show and so I was very excited to portray something that I actually had a personal interest in. So that was fun.

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Helix Creator Cameron Porsandeh

The Helix creator filled us in on what to expect from his series…

On what he wanted to accomplish with Helix

CAMERON PORSANDEH: When I first started thinking about Helix, there are a few things I knew I wanted to do. One, I wanted to tell a virus story. I think each generation has a fear. I think the one before us was that computers were going to take over the world. I think before that there were nuclear weapons. I feel like for our generation, viruses are really sort of in the zeitgeist as a threat. And unlike the two things I just alluded to, viruses are everywhere. They’re everywhere in this room. They’re inside of us right now and I think that was terrifying. And I still do. I knew I wanted to set it in an exotic location. I don’t know how many of you have been to the Arctic Circle but in my opinion it’s the closest place to the moon on Earth. It’s desolate. It’s hauntingly beautiful. I knew I wanted to create a facility that was like a maze.

On the set up and the structure of the series

CAMERON: The mythology of the base is also hand in hand with the mythology of the show. So that was super important to me. The final thing was I wanted it to be a fast pace. And so we built into it, this one episode equals one day. And what I really love about that is we are going to start our show and end our show in less than two weeks. So those are really the bones of the story. And once I had sort of the structure and the story built out, we brought on Ron Moore. I developed the show over at Sony and they said if you could work with anyone who would you want to work with? And I said Ron Moore sort of the way a voice says Santa Claus. And they sent it to Ron and he was very gracious and he wanted to be involved. And what he brought to it quite masterfully in my opinion is, he really constructed with me an overall mythology that not only connects our first season but connects all our seasons in really sort of a beautiful way.

On how futuristic this show will get

CAMERON: We have some people at the CDC [Center for Diseased Control] that we speak to regularly. It is science fiction so we push the boundaries of things whenever we can. But everything is rooted in science and that was very, very important to us. A lot of science fiction is 20, 30, 50 years in the future. We’re really trying to think three to five years.

On the influence of Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World

CAMERON: I don’t know how many of you have seen that movie but it was really instrumental in the development of this show too because what it essentially asks is what kind of people give up everything they have in the normal world, fly in the middle of nowhere just to do random research. And it’s a very particular kind of character who’s game for that and we have 106 people like that in this base. So it’s actually a very interesting world and as the pressure starts to mount we see how these types of characters who in some ways are loners and in some ways are desperate to make their mark on the world — to try to assert that.

On the show’s major love triangle — Dr. Alan Farragut / Dr. Julia Walker / Dr. Peter Farragut

CAMERON: These two gentleman are brothers and they have had a huge falling out. Because he [Alan] was married to her [Julia] and he [Peter] slept with her [Julia]. So an explosion. And they hadn’t seen each other in years. All of a sudden they get a distress call that says Peter is sick and they’re forced to go back up there together. So these two haven’t really spoken since the affair and were having really the most messed up family reunion ever. In the most unideal circumstances ever. And that’s really sort of the core of the emotional story. That’s our first triangle. It actually gives way to a second sort of triangle which is just as intriguing.

TV Goodness Winter Preview Ratings System
Watch Live
Watch Later on DVR
Undecided — Need to Watch Some More
Not Watching at All

Ok, I’m going to go with Watch later on DVR. But here’s the thing. I’m anxious to tune in so I’m not going to wait that long. This Syfy series has an interesting premise. I love the whole one episode, one day story structure and I love me some Billy Campbell. I’m excited about this show. I’ve heard good things. So I will watch sooner rather than later. How about you?

The Helix double episode series premiere airs tonight at 10/9c on Syfy.

VIDEO

The First 15 minutes of Helix

PHOTOS FROM THE SET VISIT
Photo Credit for Following Images: TV Goodness

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