By using our website, you agree to the use of our cookies.

Helix Preview: “Survivor Zero” [VIDEO + Jeri Ryan and Steve Maeda INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: Philippe Bosse/Syfy
Photo Credit: Philippe Bosse/Syfy

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

TV Goodness participated in a press call with guest star Jeri Ryan and EP/Showrunner Steve Maeda. They talked about Jeri’s character, what’s coming up for her and the rest of the team and the state of sci-fi and genre shows today.

Jeri, when we first see Sutton she pretends to be this nice woman who’s there to help – which we know isn’t true pretty quickly. Can you talk about playing the more cold calculated side? Is there anyone that you – particularly a character you got inspiration for? Or how did you become her?

Jeri Ryan: “She was just fun. This was a really fun role to play because she’s kind of out there. She’s not subtle, which I love. So it was fun to just sort of let go and just really play and let her go to those places. That was a treat as an actor.”

Steve Maeda: “Yes. Sutton for us was someone who put on a very sort of benign and corporate face, which is why she does a lot of corporate speak, but then underneath there’s obviously a lot more going on, and Jeri just ate it up. It was fantastic.”

Jeri: “Are you implying scenery chewing?”

Steve: “No. No. It’s just awesome.”

Jeri: “Scenery nibbling perhaps.”

Steve: “A little nibbling.”

Photo Credit: Philippe Bosse/Syfy
Photo Credit: Philippe Bosse/Syfy

We see that Julia has the silver eyes and now your character has the silver eyes. I would’ve thought that was supposed to be a result of the cure, so does that mean that possibly she’s had the virus, or is it something else completely, entirely different that has nothing to do with the cure? Or, can you not even tell me that?

Steve: “You’re asking all the right questions.”

Jeri: “Well that’s part of the mystery isn’t it?”

Steve: “Yes. You’re asking all the right questions and answers will be forthcoming, I promise. It’s going to be answered really quickly. But, yes, those are the questions we want you to be wondering about.”

Jeri, what attracted you to this role? 

Jeri: “You know, it was fun – well the concept of the show to begin with was sort of intriguing to me. I hadn’t seen any of it at that point because it was just being shot. And, I loved the people that were involved in it. So that was all really cool. And then when I was hearing a little bit more about the character and I was seeing how she was written, then it was fun. You know what? It’s fun. This is my sort of first foray back into sci-fi in a number of years, so it was nice. It was a lot of fun to get back into it. And it’s a fantastic show.”

How much did you know about the show?

Jeri: “Oh, I knew very little about it because they were just shooting the season. Nothing had aired. Nobody had seen anything, so I think I was three or four days into shooting my first episode when they did the screening for the cast and crew of the pilot.

How secretive were they about what was going to happen with your character?

Jeri: “They were very secretive. Oh, they were extremely secretive. I was asking really direct questions about what the hell am I and who am I, and they were like, ‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s really cool. You’ll have to wait.’ I was like, ‘Come on.’”

Steve: “Yes. We played a little close to the vest. And some of it we’re just trying to keep the mysteries in obviously, and we’re trying to help the actors as much as we can while still not revealing everything at the end of the day. And part of it is, it’s a work in progress. That’s the thing about a series is you don’t have everything figured out from – you know, even the half way point. We’re still working through things. And, we knew where her character was going, but other things came up in the breaking of the show, so we tried to give as much direction as we possibly could.”

How would you best describe Constance and what motivates her?

Jeri: “She’s kind of a ball-buster.”

Steve: “That’s a good question. She is a ball-buster.”

Jeri: “I think that’s the best way to describe her, which I love. What motivates her? Well, I can’t really tell you exactly what motivates her. That you sort of find out.”

Steve: “But she’s a company employee, and so I would say she is trying to be loyal to the corporation and to the folks that she has been working with and been developing this whole plan with. And once she finds out that Hatake has since been working on his own agenda, she gets pretty damn angry about that. And it’s an interesting thing, which I though Jeri really walked that line really well, that line between the corporate kind of niceties and the polite things that you say versus the things that you actually do. And once the fangs came out, it’s all over. So it was a lot of fun to watch.”

Jeri: “It was a lot of fun to play. And I also love, as you’ll see without trying to give too much away, she’s definitely, as Steve said, in the corporate world, and very much looking out for the best interests of Alaria, but you find out that there’s a little more personal issue for her at stake as well, which I really loved as well.”

Steve: “We tried to do with characters even if they seem to be, both with Hatake and with Sutton, even if they seem to be very kind of on point and you know their agenda comes first, we try to infuse them with some emotion down the road so you understand where they’re coming from and it’s not just about money. It’s not just about greed or this sci-fi illness of the show, but there’s an emotional component as well.”

Jeri: “And I love that.”

Steve, whose idea was it to have Constance have to file her teeth down? Is that a hint that maybe she has to keep doing that otherwise it’ll grow longer and longer?

Steve: “That’s absolutely the hint, and that idea I think that was something that came from Cameron’s original script. It may have actually been in the original pilot. I don’t remember, but it’s something that we always liked because it was so freaking weird. And we just had to put it in. It’s just the best, so yes; it was there originally. It was something that fell out of the pilot I think, and then we ended up finding a nice place for it.”

Jeri, who is this character? How would you describe this character for those people who are going to see her for the first time this week?

Jeri: “I’m not – trying to tiptoe the line about not giving too much away, but she’s certainly driven, and she definitely has an agenda that she is there to do. Hatake has gone off the rails. He is supposed to be finding them a virus and a cure, and he’s screwed up. He’s messing around and doing his own thing, and that’s not okay, so she’s there to fix it, and whatever she has to do to make that happen is what has to happen.”

Steve: “Yes. She’s a fixer. She comes in and she takes care of things. And you know under the guise of corporate benevolence, she really has this very, very clear agenda and if Hatake has gone off the rails a little bit, Sutton has not gone off the rails of this. Firmly on the rails and is trying to make sure that everything happens the way it’s supposed to be happening and try to figure out what Hatake’s game is.”

Jeri: “Yes.”

Do you know where this character is going?

Steve: “Oh, yes. We know where she’s going. We know exactly. Sutton was a character who we knew very early on that we wanted to get into the show, that we wanted to have someone come from the corporation. And then the idea of Sutton was something that we talked about very early on. And then the rest of it just sort of you know came in kind of discussing and breaking stories with her.”

 Jeri, you certainly know how to make an entrance. That was really cool.

Jeri: “Yes. That’s actually not subtle.”

No. No, she’s not. What’s it like to step into this ensemble cast?

Jeri: “Well, it’s a great group of people. I mean, I’ve been really luck because I’ve sort of had to do that a lot. I’m sort of a pinch hitter because I’ve kind of jumped into a lot of shows that they were already in the middle of the run. I’ve been really lucky to work with great casts, and this is another in a long line of really wonderful, welcoming, warm, just cool people who enjoy being together. Who genuinely enjoy working with each other.”

Have you had a chance to go into the cold room yet?

Jeri: “I did. I only had one brief scene in the cold room. I was lucky. But it is so cool. It’s really, really, really cool.”

Jeri, you got to get rough with Hatake there when you were mad at him. Would you like to maybe explore some more action and physical roles after getting a little taste of that?

Jeri: “Oh, yes. It’s not my first taste of it either. I mean I did Mortal Combat and I’ve done some other roles with a little bit of action here and there. Yes, it’s a lot of fun. I always enjoy those scenes. I have to tell you, I have to brag about Hiro for a minute. That man is unbelievable. I was in awe of him. I still am in awe of him. The man is a ninja.”

Steve: “He is. Really, yes.”

Jeri: “The scene where I had to throw the book at his head, and I have to throw it directly at his face, and it’s on me. I can’t like pretend to throw it. I have to wail it at him and he’s standing like six feet away from me. And I was a wreck shooting the scene. I was so nervous. I was like, ‘Dude, I have no aim. I can’t.’ He was like, ‘Just throw it. Just do it. Just right at my face. Just go.’ And there’s cameras set up right behind him, and so he has to knock the book away, and we’re worried about hitting the lens and all this expensive equipment. He never even blinked. Never flinched. Never breathed heavy. Nothing. Every take, he just batted it out of the way like it was nothing in the exact spot that it was supposed to land so it didn’t hit any equipment. He is amazing. He is amazing.”

Steve: “He pretty much didn’t flinch for the entire series.”

Jeri: “God. He’s just…”

Steve: “It was everything he was asked to do. Yes. He really is amazing. And just – was he dancing on set at all?”

Jeri: “No. I didn’t see the dancing.”

Steve: “Because the last time I was there, he’s also really graceful. I mean he can dance and sing. It’s unbelievable. He’s really talented.”

Jeri: “Yes. He’s amazing.”

So, he really is a bad ass and he plays one on TV.

Jeri: “Oh, my God.”

Steve: “Oh, yes.”

Jeri: “No, honest to God, I am such a fan girl about him. I just like follow him a round. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, you’re so cool. You’re so cool.’”

Steve: “I’ll tell you a little Hiro story. He does that thing with the gun where he hands the gun over butt first and he does this little flip with it.”

Jeri: “Yes.”

Steve: “The first time I saw that, because that was not scripted, he just did it, and I was like, ‘What did he just do?’ And I went back and I liked watched it three times because it was so cool, and then sent him an email and said how bad ass that was.”

Jeri: “He’s so awesome.”

Steve: “Yes.”

Will the reason why Hatake’s so obsessed with Walker be fully explained this season, or is that a mystery that might carry over until the next season if there is one.

Steve: “It will be fully explained this season.”

Jeri, you mentioned that joining the cast this late. Did you bond with or become especially good friends with any particular members of the cast or crew during your time on Helix?

Jeri: “You know what, everybody was great, but I absolutely fell in love with Kyra Zagorsky. She is amazing, and we didn’t get that many scenes together. Actually, we sort of bonded before we even got to technically work together. She’s amazing, amazing, amazing. So talented. I’m so excited for people to see her in this and discover her, and she’s just the coolest lady in real life as well, so that’s been really fun.”

Steve: “Yes, I’ll second that. We really feel like she was a find in that she had never been a series regular before, and she’s terrific.”

Jeri: “Yes. Actually when we watched the pilot, I was saying that they had screened the pilot for the cast and crew at lunch one day when I was shooting, and I hadn’t met her yet, but I was watching the show, and I was like, ‘Who is that?’ Because you can’t take your eyes off her. Her performance is so good in this and she’s just kind of mesmerizing. Really impressive.”

Had you worked with any of this cast before?

Jeri: “I did an episode, I think it was Shark actually, with Billy [Campbell] a long time ago, but that was it, so it was my first interaction with everybody else, and it’s a great group and so talented.”

How would you say playing this character compares to the character of Juliet that you played in Dark Skies? That remains one of my all time favorite shows.

Jeri: “Yes, that was fun. Well Juliet was much more – okay, let me say this again. Wait a minute. I got to not get myself in trouble here. Juliet was a Russian agent who worked with (Majestic). She was a little more cut and dry, her emotion. I mean she kind of hid her emotions, but she certainly had them and they were on the surface, and she was just a person who is doing her thing. There’s a little different situation than what we’ve got on Helix. There’s a little less – well a lot less mystery surrounding Juliet I think.”

How do the other characters react to Sutton?

Steve: “Oh, gosh. I mean you know I think that they are all sort of dismayed for their own reasons because very early on you discover that Sutton is putting on a performance for the gang. And so Hatake certainly knows who she is and where she’s coming from. I think that Daniel has an idea. And I think that Alan and company learn very quickly what’s going on. So what appears to be, ‘Oh, good, help is here,’ is really not help at all. I mean look, she arrives with you know gun-toting soldiers too.”

Steve: “She comes loaded for bear.”

Will this also kind of shift some of the bad guy image away from Hatake? Because so far he’s seemed like our villain? Will he be teaming up with Billy now?

Steve: “Absolutely. One of the things we wanted to do was take our characters who seemed to be villains and try to humanize them and create some kind of unlikely pairings. And also, take our characters who seem to be you know on the side of the angles and turn them a little bit and twist them and give them some unsavory motives perhaps. And so yes, we’re trying to find those balances, and I think you’ll see them.”

I saw the trailer where you come in and say, “Oh, I’m just here to help you,” and then it shows you shooting someone. So is it safe to say that you’re not who you seem to be when you first come on the show?

Jeri: “I think it’s very safe to say that she’s – I mean she certainly is there representing Ikaria Corporation. There’s no question about that. But yes, being there to help is not necessarily…”

Steve: “Well, help her own interests.”

Jeri: “I mean, yes, she’s helping herself. And she certainly wants the cure. That is very sincere.”

Steve: “Right.”

Do you get to wear any interesting makeup while you’re on the show?

Jeri: “Maybe.”

Steve: “Good answer. I like that. Well put. Yes. So there could be some interesting makeup.”

About this makeup that you may or may not be wearing, are you going to be like a human Skittle like Neil? Poor guy.

Jeri: “No. Not necessarily. We don’t know. You guys are just going to have to watch.”

Steve: “That’s right.”

Jeri: “It could be that. It could be something very, very different.”

How many episodes will Constance be appearing in, and will there be a chance for the character returning in future episodes or seasons?

Steve: “This is Syfy, there’s always a chance. Yes. Without giving too much away, she’s – I don’t want to say how many episodes or you know the why or the why not; all that will come to bear, but we love having Jeri and you know she’s in a number of episodes and we’ll just leave it at that.”

Have either of you picked up like an unnatural fear of needles as a result of working on this show?

Jeri: “Oh, I’ve always been needle-phobic. Hideously needle-phobic. That’s the one thing that I have a hard time with.”

Steve, what about you?

Steve: “No, not so much. Although the show does make you think twice about you know any time there’s a new flu strain or anything like that. But no, not overtly I would say, but no; it’s not my favorite thing.”

Both of you were speaking earlier about Kyra’s acting on the show, and it really is in some cases like she’s doing a one-woman show. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Steve: “I mean, Kyra very early on, brought a really nice humanity I think to Dr. Walker, and to that character and really fleshed her out, and we just started writing toward that because we saw what we had, and it was part of our whole story-writing process. Obviously Walker is very central to the story and maybe even more central to than we’re letting on; although, we certainly are hinting at that. I think that by the end of the season you’ll see just how central, because she’s a very, very important character in the show.”

Jeri, What has been your favorite experience working on Helix?

Jeri: “Well I think again working with Hiro Sanada, he’s just – he’s incredible. This man is such – I mean everybody, the entire cast is fantastic, but he’s in another world. He’s not even human. It’s crazy. Seriously, he is such a professional and he’s so dedicated, and he’s just so good, and so connected, and so right there with you in any kind of scene. And whatever you have to do, you just – he’s amazing to act with. You just feel so supported as an actor to work with him.”

Steve: “But also I think, unlike the Hatake character, in person.”

Jeri: “Yes. Exactly. He couldn’t be more the antithesis of Hatake in real life.”

Steve: “Yes, he’s just charming. Yes.”

Steve, what can you tell us about Ikaria?

Steve: “Oh, well they’re a pharmaceutical giant. They do good work and they make lots of drugs and their public face is actually benevolent. But behind the scenes, there’s a lot more going on than what you might expect. And I can’t tell too much more than that, but the foundation of Ikaria, the origin story of how all that happened and how the company became what it is, is something that we’re going to see over the back half of the season.”

Steve, I wanted to ask are you completely done with Season 1? Have you finished it in it’s totally out of your hands now?

Steve: “Not totally. We are locking our last episode, Episode 13, today, and then we are actually on the mix stage right now. We are watching a playback – a sound playback of Episode 8, which is the second episode that Jeri is in, and we’re working through those. So that’ll be going on almost until a couple weeks before we air this last episode.”

Are you waiting to finalize this finale until after you hear about a Season 2 pickup?

Steve: “We’re locked into our finale. We don’t have the luxury. So we are cautiously optimistic on a Season 2 pickup and 13 is going to lock today, so we’re crossing our fingers and toes.”

Jeri: “I’m not cautious. I’m not cautious. I’m going out there. They’re picked up.”

Steve: “Awesome. I like that.”

Jeri: “I’m making the prediction right now.”

This show can be very tension-filled, and I love the way that you guys break it up either with Alan and Sarah being all unsure of themselves after having sex in last week’s episode or the music. The music has been really great. Like Fever being used in this Friday’s episode.

Steve: “Really? Oh, thanks.”

Can you talk a little bit about that?

Steve: “Sure. We decided from the get go that we wanted to do some things a little bit differently and be unsettling not only in you know storytelling and how we were shooting the show, but also in post and in how we cut the show and in music. And so part of that came from I think the whole Do You Know the Way to San Jose? which started the whole thing, came from Ron when we were sitting in post on the pilot. And that idea came from one of our other producers to use that song and we bought it on iTunes and watched it. Just kind of temped in and it was like, ‘Wow. That works really well.’ So it was something we had talked about. When we saw it, we thought it was great, and so that’s why we you know continued to do it. And Fever is the perfect one. That’s probably the best song we’re using in the entire show.”

What was it like to work on a series that’s sometimes kind of gory and gross?

Jeri: “Oh, I love the gore. Are you kidding me? Oh, God, more gore. I love it. The goo and the guts, and all of it. I love it. So much fun. Come on. I observed autopsies when I was on Body of Proof. I love this stuff. I love the science of it. I love the gore. I love all of it.” 

The X-Files was very dark and it was certainly kind of a pioneer in that sort of vibe, and Helix has a really dark edge. But unlike The X-Files, you had at least a little humor in that show with the interplay between Scully and Mulder, but this one is just relentless. Do you plan to keep up this intensity or are you going to maybe let us breathe every now and then somewhere in the series?

Steve: “No. We want to keep up the intensity. There are light moments coming, but they tend to be kind of in the service of – it’s black humor definitely, and they tend to be in service of keeping everything moving and just sometimes you find those moments in the worst situations. So yes, we have 13 episodes and our mantra was to keep the show moving, and so we want to have down time, we want to have character time, but we definitely want to keep everything twisting and turning and keep you coming back for more hopefully.”

Yes, there is I guess humor in some of the musical irony, so…

Steve: “Yes. There’s definitely.”

And Jeri, you mentioned that this is your return back to sci-fi and you know this kind of a role. Obviously, you’re one of those iconic sci-fi actors. Is that one of the reasons why you’ve shied away from it, or have you just not found you know scripts or material that has really interested you to this point?

Jeri: “In the very beginning when I had first ended Voyager, then yes, that was a conscious decision, because one of my concerns when I signed on to Voyager to begin with was that Star Trek is kind of notorious for its actors getting pigeonholed and not really being able to break out and do other things. And so that was a big concern of mine in the beginning, which thank God has turned out to be completely unfounded and I’ve been very lucky. More recently, it’s just because I go where the interesting roles are, and this was the first one that really sort of caught my interest.”

Steve: “And we were thrilled, I should add, because we were hoping that we could get someone of Jeri’s caliber, but you never know. And when she signed on, we were over the moon.”

How is Helix different than Star Trek Voyager?

Jeri: “Well God, I mean I was there for four years. It was a long time. I mean it was a big difference. Everything about it is different. The character is very different. Seven of Nine, her emotions were very internal. Constance’s are not. She’s a little more demonstrative with her feelings. She doesn’t quite hide it as much as Seven, so that’s kind of the biggest difference right off the bat.”

Is it quite a different experience working on this set? With the kind of people that you’re working with and the costumes that you have to wear and the kind of scenes that you had to shoot?

Jeri: “Well yes, I mean they’re completely different shows and different groups of people, and the costumes are certainly infinitely more comfortable than they were on Star Trek. There’s no corset involved in this one. So yes, I’d take this costume every day over the other one.”

The themes of Helix are very much a cautionary tale about where we’re going with genetic research, and medicine, and pharmaceuticals. Where do you mine the science for the show? Do you guys have science advisors? Where do you get the science?

Steve: “We do, and we’ve done a lot of research ourselves. We do have an advisor who reads all of our scripts. We have an advisor on set as well, but we have a CDC doctor who reads all our scripts and then comes back to us with, ‘You know what? It would really be this way guys and not that way,’ and we try to take those cues when we can. Dramatically, we’re always trying to tell the best story, but we also want to be as grounded as possible. And yes, sometimes we take flights of fancy, but in doing so – it’s something I actually learned on X-Files, which is the more you tie your fantastic story, your science-fiction story into actual science, the easier it is to buy. And so, that’s what we’re trying to do. We may not hit it all the time, but it’s something we certainly are mindful of.”

Dr. Hatake stabbed himself, which was shocking. One of the many shocking things that has happened in the show. He stabbed himself, and yet his wound healed really, really quickly. Shockingly so.

Steve: “Yes, it did.”

I know that there’s a lot of genetic research and the idea of this virus being a delivery system or something genetic leads me to wonder if it has to do with Hatake’s ability to heal quickly and his own chromosomes and what experiments he’s been doing on himself?

Steve: “I would say it very much has something to do with that, without you know giving too much away. It’s part of just who he is and what will be revealed in later episodes. But yes, we delved as deeply as we could into research and into trying to take a lot of really arcane science and make it understandable to us, understandable to the audience. And without dumbing it down too much, to get in as much real stuff as we could.”

What do you think of science-fiction today? Are you a science-fiction fan? Do you watch a lot of science-fiction films?

Jeri: “You know it’s funny, when I started on Voyager I had never ever been interested in science-fiction. It just wasn’t my genre to watch. And now, my son grew up loving Star Trek and loving Star Wars and all of that, and I just was never really interested. And now I’ve got a daughter who’s now almost six and so I’m sort of watching things with her with her big brother showing her Star Wars, for example, and she loves it. She’s obsessed with Star Wars, and I became a big fan of it through her eyes, watching it with her. And I’ve really started to enjoy it, so we have a great time. And so yes, I’m actually getting into science-fiction now as an adult, which is really kind of crazy at this point in my life to start to be a fan. And all the, you know, Avengers and Iron Man, and all those movies I love, so yes it’s fun. Discovered a new interest.”

What’s the best action scene you’ve been involved in?

Jeri: “I don’t know. There’s been some fun ones over the years. I think in Dark Skies was some of the most fun. I got to shoot an AK47, which was interesting. Or was it an M16? Now I don’t remember. Whichever the period gun was from that period, that’s what I shot. It was fun.”

Who’s your favorite science-fiction heroine of all time?

Jeri: “Oh, Lord, well if you’re going to make me stick with a heroine, I guess I got to go with Leia. I would say Darth Vader. He was much cooler. He had a better costume, but we’ll go with Leia.”

The X-Files was iconic for the 1990’s, and here we are in 2014, how is the state of the genre TV changed? To me, it’s almost gone to the point where it’s almost mainstream.

Steve: “Yes. I think it definitely has gone more mainstream, and there’s so much good stuff out there I think both in TV and movies. It’s so great. The thing I’ve done genre shows and shows that are not genre, and I just love these because the storytelling, you get to first off come up with whatever you can imagine and put it out there. But then also when you do want to you know get a theme in, it’s so much easier to couch that in science-fiction or in genre because for some reason it just doesn’t feel as heavy-handed and you can tell stories that are much more – you can layer in something without feeling preachy because you have the genre kind of as your shield and still do a really entertaining, but have something to say. So, it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy it.”

Edited for space and content.


Survivor Zero First Look:

“Aniqatiga” Behind the Scenes:

Helix airs Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.