Winter TV Preview 2014: Syfy’s Helix [SET VISIT INTERVIEW, PHOTOS, VIDEO]
[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 bravedÂ 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 mankindâ€™s salvation or total annihilation.Â 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 GhanimÃ© (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:
On Dr. Alan FarragutÂ
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:Â It was all sort of very last minute so thatâ€™s my excuse for doing no research whatsoever. Noâ€¦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. Itâ€™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:Â 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 Carpenterâ€™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.
On Dr. Julia Walker
KYRA SYGORSKY:Â I am one of the top scientists of the CDC. And Iâ€™m also Alanâ€™s ex-wife. So Iâ€™m just going to leave with you with that.
On learning the terminology needed for her role
KYRA:Â YouTube has come in very handy. And I also have a brother-in-law whoâ€™s a doctor so Iâ€™ll call him up if Iâ€¦â€˜how do you pronounce this?â€™ or â€˜what is this?â€™ And they have technical advisors on set that you knowâ€¦I know the first time Jordan and I had a huge scene with all this medical equipment and we just asked forâ€¦give us a good solid rehearsal with him [the advisor] and the equipment so we can feel like we know what weâ€™re doing and try to sell it that it looks like we know what weâ€™re doing and just get used to it. So thereâ€™s a lot of people helping out.
On how her theater background has come in handy
KYRA:Â Iâ€™ve been really grateful for every moment I spent doing theater once I got into this part because of how much she goes through. Itâ€™s such a well written role for a woman. Sheâ€™s just strongly written. Sheâ€™s completely feminine. Sheâ€™s powerful. Sheâ€™s vulnerable. Sheâ€™s flawed. Sheâ€™s all kinds of things. But there was a lot ofâ€¦I was just really grateful for all that time I spent training in it. And training in story and all this stuff and itâ€™s justâ€¦that was the preparation for it. I didnâ€™t know it was. And then I get in the situation and go oh Iâ€™m so glad I did that movement class. Or I did this psychological thing in this one class or whatever it was. So itâ€™s kind of everything Iâ€™ve done leading up to this.
On Dr. Hiroshi Hatake
HIROYUKI SANADA: Iâ€™m a Director of Research. Iâ€™m an unusual scientist. Iâ€™m a little mysterious. Actually, I donâ€™t know who am Iâ€¦yet. So maybe you can enjoy the show. Iâ€™m so excited working with a great crew and cast. It will be great entertainment â€” no one ever seen.
Helix Creator on Hiro the actor and Hiroshi the character
CAMERON PORSANDEH:Â When I wrote this character, itâ€™s a rare thing when youâ€™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 heâ€™s the most enigmatic character on the show. And he has secrets galore.
On Dr. Peter Farragut
NEIL NAPIER: IÂ play Dr. Peter Farragut, brother to Dr. Alan Farragut. Iâ€™ve been up at base for a couple of years. Iâ€™m a research scientist. And I have a complicated relationship with my dear brother and his ex-wife and Iâ€™ll leave it at that.
On what he watched to prepare him for Helix
NEIL:Â One film I found interesting was Werner Herzogâ€™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. Itâ€™s a cool movie.
On Dr. Sarah Jordan
JORDAN HAYES:Â I play Dr. Sarah Jordan, who is one of the scientists at the CDC on Alan Farragutâ€™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:Â 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 didnâ€™t do any because itâ€™s the firstâ€¦our team just gets to the Arctic. So we actually havenâ€™t been isolated. Weâ€™ve been working in Atlanta. This is kind of the first introduction into the isolated base.
On her reaction after reading the script
JORDAN:Â When I first read the script I was very, very relieved to read these amazing female characters. As an actress in my 20s, Iâ€™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 Cameronâ€™s [Porsandeh, the creator] done a really, really good job at writing these great female roles.
On Major Sergio Balleseros
MARK GHANIME:Â As we know with these kind of shows, thereâ€™s always three different components with the government, the doctors and the military. So Iâ€™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:Â When I got it and I got to read all sorts of stuff â€” itâ€™s exciting. Like I was talking to the cast â€” every week when we get a new episode itâ€™s like Christmas day. The first thing you want to do no matter what youâ€™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 youâ€™re doing?’ So thereâ€™s an exciting buzz. Weâ€™re all like a bunch of kids in a candy store with the script. And the writing is fantastic. And theyâ€™re tailoring it to who we are â€” at first they donâ€™t know us. They donâ€™t know what weâ€™re like or what weâ€™re gonna bring. Itâ€™s one way and then all of a sudden each episode they start going, well, heâ€™s like this in real life, I think weâ€™ll cater to that and bring out this side of him, this side of her and itâ€™s been a really exciting dynamic throughout the seven that weâ€™ve filmed so far.
On one of the challenges of playing such a well written character
MARK:Â Every single one of our characters has a pretty giant arc. So to go along and just think that itâ€™s going one way and all of a sudden thereâ€™s this shift and you get this new script youâ€™re processing on your feet and youâ€™re trying to make the best of it and itâ€™s been a huge challenge but I think thatâ€™s kind of life. You come at something and you adjust.
On Daniel Aerov
MEEGWUN FAIRBROTHER:Â I play the character of Daniel Aerov which is Hatakeâ€™s Inuk adopted son. He is also the head of security at the base so if something goes wrong, Iâ€™m the guy to take care of things. If thereâ€™s a cleanup on aisle fourâ€¦yeah, I take care of things. Make sure it runs smoothly.
On Dr. Doreen Boyle (and what she likes to be called in real life)
CAT LEMIEUX:Â Iâ€™m Catherine Lemieux. I prefer to be called Cat. Iâ€™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. Iâ€™m also an epizoologist. Iâ€™m on Alanâ€™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:Â I actually had access to a veterinarian â€” a doctor â€” 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 itâ€™s definitely been challenging. Wikipedia is really useful in this instance. And Cameronâ€™s always been available to talk to about different stuff.
On playing a vet
CAT:Â 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.
The Helix creator filled us in on what to expect from his series…
On what he wanted to accomplish with Helix
CAMERON PORSANDEH:Â 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. Theyâ€™re everywhere in this room. Theyâ€™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 donâ€™t know how many of you have been to the Arctic Circle but in my opinion itâ€™s the closest place to the moon on Earth. Itâ€™s desolate. Itâ€™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:Â 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:Â 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. Weâ€™re really trying to think three to five years.
On the influence of Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World
CAMERON:Â I donâ€™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 itâ€™s a very particular kind of character whoâ€™s game for that and we have 106 people like that in this base. So itâ€™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 â€” to try to assert that.
On the show’s major love triangle — Dr. Alan Farragut / Dr. Julia Walker / Dr. Peter Farragut
CAMERON:Â 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 hadnâ€™t seen each other in years. All of a sudden they get a distress call that says Peter is sick and theyâ€™re forced to go back up there together. So these two havenâ€™t really spoken since the affair and were having really the most messed up family reunion ever. In the most unideal circumstances ever. And thatâ€™s really sort of the core of the emotional story. Thatâ€™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 Later on DVR
Undecided â€” 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 HelixÂ double episode series premiere airs tonight at 10/9c on Syfy.
The First 15 minutes of Helix
PHOTOS FROM THE SET VISIT
Photo Credit for Following Images: TV Goodness
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