Helix Preview: “274” [VIDEO + Billy Campbell and Jordan Hayes INTERVIEW]
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
If you’ve watched the first two episodes of Helix, you know this is more than just an outbreak show. The military is hiding something from the CDC, who has been called in toÂ Arctic Biosystems – an unregulated, high-tech research facility – toÂ help contain what seems to be a deadly virus. Of course, all is not what it seems.Â
With the number of infected rising, Alan forces Hatake to open up a new section of the base while Julia tries to make sense of her encounter with Peter.
Helix airs Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy.
TV Goodness participated in a press call with series starsÂ Billy Campbell and Jordan Hayes. They discussed what attracted them to this project, how they approached playing their characters, their favorite episodes and moments on set and teased a little of what’s to come.
What did you like about this particular series and what attracted you to it?
Billy Campbell: â€œWell speaking for myself, I was extremely attracted to the genre, the situation. I’m a big fan of both The Thing movies – the Howard Hawks one and the John Carpenter one – and The Andromeda Strain is one of my big favorite films. So I was very attracted to the situation, and of course attracted to the fact that Ron Moore was attached. And not least of which was that we were shooting in Montreal.â€
Jordan Hayes: â€œI loved the characters. They were obviously very smartly written and very intelligent characters.Â Despite being a science fiction show there was a huge emphasis on the dramatic nature of the writing and that really attracted me as an actor.â€
You have a great mentor/student relationship. Can you comment on that?
Jordan: â€œI think it is exactly what you just said, â€˜It’s a mentor/student relationship,â€™ and I think that Sarah has a lot of admiration for Alan. She really holds his opinion in high esteem. She really wants to make him proud and improve her worth and impress him.
Billy, how did you approach playing Farragut?
Billy: â€œWell, I’m a genuinely fairly confused person anyway, so that helps. I’m not sure that I thought about it very deeply. You know, the situation is so apparent that it didn’t seem to require that much in the way of depth of thought. It’s a very black and white situation; we come, there’s an outbreak and we have to contain it. Then things start getting confusing because we’re being misdirected by [Hiroyuki Sanada‘s] Hatake and there are all these variables.â€
How much were you told about your characters and what was going to happen to them?
Jordan: â€œI had the hand tremors before we even started shooting. So in that regard I was made aware of that particular plot point. But there were several things that will surface throughout the season that you’ll see that we just weren’t aware of. I think that worked in our favor because then we were discovering things in the moment, which was nice because then we weren’t telegraphing things from early on in some of the earlier episodes.â€
Billy: â€œYes. I would have to agree with that. I prefer honestly not to know what’s going on for the very reason that Jordan brings up.â€
What can we expect from Sarah moving forward?
Jordan: â€œI think – and this is true for all of the characters – that when you’re put in a situation like we are, where the stakes are so high, where the stakes are literally life and death, your character gets challenged and you end up doing things you don’t think you are capable of doing. I can’t say too much, but I will say that Sarah’s [in] some very challenging situations where she is forced to do things she never thought she would be capable of doing.â€
With Peter and Julia infected, will Alan try to save them as they try to convert him?
Billy: â€œWell I would be pretty safe to say, I think, that he would be trying to save them. Whether he’s successful and whether they are willing to be saved is another question. And the act of saving them is inherently dangerous and who knows what perils lie ahead for Alan and the whole team.â€
Jordan, Steve Maeda talked about how your character was first conceived as more of an Eve Harrington type character from All About Eve, but that changed once you were cast and started playing her. Were you aware of that?
Jordan: â€œNo, it wasn’t actually. Oh, that’s funny. No, I wasn’t aware of that at all. But I think, I mean I think I’m going to take it as a compliment. As we said before, we have the luxury of discovering these characters episode by episode. I hope my discovery is there along the way- turns out as good as it could. I never saw her as a backstabbing kind of character so I guess I’m happy that they changed their mind on that.â€
Billy, whatâ€™s your take on Alan and Julia’s relationship and what did you enjoy most about developing that on camera?
Billy: â€œI’m not sure we did all that much about developing it on camera. I mean that’s sort of the purview of the writers. They write that stuff, they develop it, and we just do what they write. With this cast it wasn’t difficult to have chemistry with anyone. There were no divas, there were no monsters of any kind, except in front of the camera running around with goo coming out of our mouths. It was just a wonderful, wonderful situation. And in that case, it’s really not difficult to develop chemistry with anyone. The times when it’s hard to have chemistry with someone is when you don’t like them as a person, and then you have to go in front of the camera and pretend to like someone or even be in love with someone that you actively dislike. That can be really difficult. On this show there was none of that. I actively loved everyone I worked with, which just made it so wonderful to go to work.â€
Describe each otherâ€™s characters in three words.
Billy: â€œThis is wonderful. Intelligent, of course. I would say there’s just a little, there’s just a spark of defiance, I would say, â€˜Intelligent, defiant and, well sexy.â€™â€
Jordan: â€œOkay, Alan Farragut is commendable, forthright and sensitive.â€
When you first read the scripts and started working on the show did it freak you out that some of this could actually happen?
Jordan: â€œYes, absolutely. I mean that’s one of the greatest things about this show is that it’s dealing with something that is very real. Throughout history we’ve seen huge epidemics wipe out hundreds of millions of people. Although now thankfully we have the invention of antibiotics and we can treat things much better, it’s still very real and it’s still very scary, and can possibly wipe out thousands of people.â€
Billy: â€œI think it goes to our most primal fears, you know the thing which you cannot see that will come in the night and kill you from the inside out. I can’t imagine much of anything creepier than that.â€
What are your favorite episodes of the season?
Billy: â€œThat’s hard to say honestly. I think the one upcoming might be my favorite.â€
Jordan: â€œYes, I think [that] was my favorite as well.â€
What were your best and most challenging experiences during production?
Billy: â€œI don’t know. The whole thing was a great deal of fun. I don’t know what really was challenging. I mean it’s always a bit of a challenge to imagine yourself into the circumstances. But even that was relatively easy because of stellar cast-mates and a wonderfully, creepy set and situation.â€
Jordan: â€œI loved the team involved on the project in general. The cast and the crew really made it just such an enjoyable experience. In terms of difficulty I think for me the most challenging part was necessarily memorizing the dialogue and understanding exactly what we were saying. It was very important for me to have a clear understanding, or as clear as possible as I could, of the science that we were referring to. So that was a little bit like going back to school and looking at old textbooks and learning about the science all over again.â€
Do you tend to gravitate toward science fiction and horror personally or is that just sort of how things have turned out in your career?
Billy: â€œI dig science fiction. It’s kind of my – one of my favorite things just because – well I don’t know why exactly. I mean I always have, since I was quite young. I went to military school for six years when I was quite young. So it was a big sort of escape for me. I’ve loved it, I guess I’ve loved it ever since.â€
Jordan: â€œIt kind of just happened for me I guess. A fair amount of my work has been in the horror and sci-fi genre. I guess I’m just fortunate in that regard. It wasn’t a particular choice on my part, it just kind of worked out like that.â€
Billy, how is working for a network vs. working in cable? Why do you think many of the imaginative shows seem to be shifting to cable from the traditional network model?
Billy: â€œWell I mean, it’s I think fairly easy to understand why that’s the case; there are simply more options on cable TV for storytelling. As a network you have to please a great many people, and from all parts of the spectrum so things necessarily get a bit watered down. Cable is more aimed at particular niches and so you can write more specifically and more daringly. I think that’s the big difference.â€
This is creator Cameron Porsandehâ€™s first television series. What’s it been like to bring his creation to life?
Billy: â€œIt’s been fantastic, really fantastic. Cameron is a very, very talented fellow, as well as a lovely human being. I have to say it’s been nothing but a deep pleasure to be working with him.â€
Jordan: â€œYes, I have to agree. I think Cameron is extremely talented. It is his first year. Thereâ€™s something great about that because it’s a very original concept and it’s written in a way that’s fresh. We’re just very fortunate to have someone like him on board.â€
How do the special effects help you as an actor to get into that horror frame of mind?
Billy: â€œWell goodness, I mean, you can just imagine. Well first of all Jordan actually threw up in her helmet. I’m kidding of course. But you can well imagine opening a body bag and having the goop drip out and having the skeleton there. It was all very, very conducive to that kind of feeling. Am I right Jordan?â€
Jordan: â€œYes, absolutely. I mean if you look at Peter Farragut – who’s played by Neil Napier – if you look at his makeup I mean it’s just terrifying. Our special effects team in Montreal is just unbelievable. They’re just so good.â€
Jordan: â€œI remember Neil would come and sit down next to us while we had lunch and it was unappetizing to have him sitting across from you. But no, I mean it does help a lot. Yes, that definitely helps you get into the mind frame of, â€˜Look at this virus, look at what it’s doing to this person,â€™ because the special effects makeup is just so, so good.â€
Does anything stick out in your mind from shooting the pilot and is there a memorable or especially challenging scene you can recall from that shoot?
Billy: â€œFor me I think it harkens back to the outside stuff before we had a cold room. In the very first couple or few days, we were swaddled in our extreme cold weather gear on a stage with fake snow blowing around and in the middle of summer. It was horrible In fact, I remember I got sick because I ingested so much crud into my lungs I got quite sick for a couple of weeks. So that’s the thing that sticks out to me from the pilot, other than just being so insanely happy to be in Montreal again.â€
Jordan: â€œI think the experience thatâ€™s standing out the most for me was the first time I walked into the BSL4 Lab, onto that set, was kind of great. It was just so wonderful to see all of the scientific paraphernalia and get to play around with it. We had an actual scientist on set who was showing us exactly what every instrument did. Â I think that was the funnest part for me.â€
Did you get any coaching on the technical dialogue?
Billy: â€œI did not have nearly the technical dialogue that Jordan had and I’m deeply, deeply thankful. So I’ll pass that along to Jordan.â€
Jordan: â€œYou had a lot of technical dialogue. I’ve never found memorizing lines to be difficult. As I said early the most important thing for me was to have a clear of an understanding of the science that we were referring to. We did have a scientist on set who was there to help us whenever we had questions. I was also fortunate enough, my older brother majored in anatomy and Â biology, so whenever I wanted clarification on something he would whip out one of this massive text books and try and teach me with drawings and in very layman terms how the science was working that I was referring to. But no, I think it’s great. I like that they didn’t dumb down the science in it. I think it adds to the show and makes it just a more intelligent and interesting show. At times it can be difficult for the audience to understand exactly what we’re referring to, but if you think about the reality this is how scientists talk, you know?â€
How was working in the Hazmat suits?
Billy: â€œThey were very real. They weren’t built for the show, they were real Hazmat suits. I would have this to say about them: they weren’t as uncomfortable as you might think, because they were ventilated. We had a pack on the back that actually ventilated the helmet. So they were pretty cool to work in. They were a pain to put on. And unless you looked like Jordan or Kyra [Zagorsky] they’re not terribly flattering. So they had that going on for them, or didn’t have that going on for them in my case.â€
Jordan: â€œThereâ€™s these ventilation packs. The helmets were sealed off so we actually had oxygen being pumped into our helmets. I can remember at least once, maybe twice Billy, you pulled my hose out of the pack. So they were fun. Like Billy said, they were difficult to get into. But I really liked them and I think they look really cool on-screen. So I think it worked out well.â€
Did you have a favorite part of the set to work with, or was there something on the set you found particular creepy?
Billy: â€œYou know what set I really loved was when we did the episode with Jeremiah [Chechik] directing and we go off base, Kyra and I, and we go off to an abandoned listening station. I can’t tell you what happens, but it was dreadfully, dreadfully creepy. The set folks, the set designers and decorators, did an amazing, amazing job with this place. What happens there is intensely, intensely creepy. I think that was one of my favorite sets.â€
How did you manage to keep things light on such an intense set?
Jordan: â€œI had such a great time with this cast and this crew. It was very, very easy to keep it light on set.â€
Billy: â€œIt was wonderful. You know there are a lot of sets when actors aren’t on camera they all scurry back to their individual dressing rooms and never see each other except when they’re in front of the camera. I don’t think a single one of us ever went to back to our trailers between shots. We all sat as a group on the set playing games and chit-chatting, Â which was, I think deeply appreciated by the crew, because when they called us to be in front of the camera, there we were in like 8-1/2 seconds. So it was a very special situation that way. I have to also add to that it might have been my favorite crew of all time.â€
Jordan: â€œThe crew was really, really spectacular.â€
How did you like working on a show thatâ€™s not a procedural?
Billy: â€œThis will be more along the lines of uncovering a mythology and a deeper story. So I would say that watching any one particular episode would be exciting, but you wouldn’t get the full excitement or fulfillment unless you sort of carried on watching all the way through. I don’t see the real reason in being all that episodic. The beauty of the serial form is telling a story over the long-term, developing situations and characters and so forth. The episodic model doesn’t, and really never has, entirely appealed to me.â€
What can you tease coming up?
Billy: â€œWhat I can say is that the story does open up. We are not confined to the base the entire time and other characters make an entrance into the story, into the situation and they change things up in a very big way.â€
Jordan: â€œI think we’re allowed to say this because it’s public knowledge, but as you probably know Jeri Ryan comes into the show and that’s just kind of…â€
Billy: â€œKick ass.â€
Jordan: â€œYes, she’s great. She’s awesome. That just kind of reinforces the notion of how we get to this base. We think we’re dealing with one thing and it’s actually dealing with several other things. So as those several other things begin to surface you’ll see more and more characters come out as well.â€
Edited for space and content.
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