[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.]
We’re two for two on Zeph-tastic Killjoys episodes so it seemed a great time to get Kelly McCormack on the phone to chat about them.
Before we get to “Don’t Stop Beweaving,” McCormack gave us her take on that delightful cold open in “Cherchez La Bitch.” As Thom Allison broke down for us last week, a good time was had by all and McCormack says the added fun bonus for her was all the wardrobe and makeup work to flip from dirty, grungy Zeph to pseudo-space-Amish Zeph since the episodes were block shot together.
“My first reaction [when I read the cold open of 507]. to be honest, was, ‘I get to go outside!’ There’s only one time in Season 3 where I went outside at the very end for the [last supper scene]. All Season 4, I was in indoors. And then all of Season 5, I was in a hilariously disgusting raincoat,” she laughs.
“So the fact that I was going to be outdoors felt like some sort of exciting playground. We just had so much fun. It was so early. We saw the sunrise and in the quarry, there were all these trucks going around. And we just look like we’re dressed in a different film, like he’s Lawrence of Arabia and I’m just a weird sidekick.”
“I really enjoy prank falls, like as a theater actor. I love when they do that, when you have to fall down or be hit. I was having so much fun falling to the ground and then him lifting me up. It was magical. It was a gift. It felt like such a Michelle [Lovretta] scene. The fact that Zeph says, ‘I had a good run. There was sex and dairy and science’ is such a hilarious line and a pretty good roundup. I think we’re in good hands if our showrunner summarizes life like that.
“I sometimes think Zeph is a conduit for Michelle with her loveable weirdo stuff. I love that Michelle sees herself in Zeph. If that’s the case then sex and dairy and science is the perfect way to summarize a good life.”
“What is absolutely nuts is that I was dirty quarry Zeph and then I had to be cleaned up in 10 minutes. I felt so bad for the hair and makeup people because I kind of insisted that I got to actually fall down in the dirt. All I ever want to do as an actor is get dirty. I want to be grubbiest, gnarliest, nastiest, scrappiest character on the block. I wanted to do this entire sequence in the dirt, picking up dirt. And the hair and makeup people were like, ‘No. We only have 10 minutes to make you cleaned up again.’ I’m like, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t. I had to do it for art.”
When McCormack realized 508 would give us all of Zeph’s back story, the significance didn’t escape her. “I felt so incredibly grateful. I know that Adam [Barken] and Michelle talked about the fact that they’ve known where Zeph has come from for a long while [which was necessary to] understanding what makes her tick,” she explains.
“There have been these golden nuggets that have been dropped in [the last year], but as an actor, all you can do is be true to the character and work hard enough that you keep the character relevant and keep her spark alive. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to follow through with [telling more of] where you come from.”
“So for me to know that there was so little real estate left in the story, that this is coming in episode eight of the final season, that they wanted to dedicate part of that episode to where my character came from…I was kind of overwhelmed by it, sort of surprised, and felt so humbled by that. And of course it’s their work. They’ve written the character and they’ve crafted this character that people clearly like.”
“[I couldn’t] believe I was getting this airspace right now to live through because what could have happened is that we never see it. And then as an actor you kind of get into this character’s shoes and, and then you feel like you’re missing something if you don’t get to exfoliate those feelings and those ideas.”
“For me it felt like a weird sense of emotional closure because…it was something that I had had written underneath the fabric of that character all along. It felt really rewarding. When I read the script, I lost my shit. I think I cried a couple times. And the other factor is that episode was written by Julian [Doucet], who is also a really good friend. He wrote, [‘“The Kids Are Alright?’]. He had a lot of ownership of the character…and it felt like those two episodes together [were] bookends to each other because in 409, she’s talking about trauma [and in this episode] there was a thread [and a] payoff.”
McCormack says she struck the jackpot when her sister, Hilary, was cast as Zaia, and just the auditioning piece of it rekindled a lovely childhood memory for the women that was a bit meta when she snagged the role. “I read this insane episode and of course my sister is a phenomenal actor and lives in Toronto.”
“So of course my first thought is, ‘Oh my God, this would be really cool.’ And then I almost immediately get an e-mail from Adam saying, ‘Hey, Kelly I want to check with you on something. We’re interested in auditioning your sister to play your sister. Just want to make sure you’re cool with that. Just in case you guys were in fact mortal enemies,” she laughs. “Trust the sci-fi writer to create the possibility that my sister would in fact be my mortal enemy.”
“She’s like my best friend. So [I told Hilary she was going to get an audition and when it came through], we were both up on the island that I grew up on in BC that has no electricity, no hot running water, it’s completely off the grid in the middle of the ocean, like a cabin in a forest on the island in the middle of the ocean.”
“So she finds out that she has to do this audition [within] a day or two [and we put it on tape]. I’m the only person on the island who [can help] and we go down to the cabin that my grandfather built 55 years ago for grandmother. We literally picked up a bunch of clothes that looked a little Amish or a little Quaker that [had been] around the cabin for years.”
“And [we found] weird weapons we made on the island [as children when we] played dungeons and dragons…wooden swords and axes and throwing daggers. We went down to the cottage on the water and we shot this. It was one of those moments I’ll never forget—my sister auditioning to play my sister in this cabin on this island, holding our own artifacts of our weird fantasy childhood.”
“And then we had to take the boat in to go to the Starbucks in the marina and upload the audition. It was a whole day event. [When she got it and we told our Mom], she started to cry and said [she’d be happy] ‘as long as you guys probably like two sisters who get along.’ It was very cool. It was really special and fun.”
“By the time we actually did the audition, [it had] already been really rewarding. [Once she booked it and] started showing up to the studio for fight choreography because she has this wicked fight…it’s like bring your family to work day. Everyone was so welcoming and [I gave her the tour], ‘This is my layer and this is my place and these are my people…’ “
Once they got to set it was a little bit déjà vu as the cottage closely resembled their family cottage. “We have a wood stove at our cabin. We were just in heaven…outdoors, running around all day, taking all these hilarious photos of ourselves as weird Quakers. It was a magical day on set. Even Hannah [John-Kamen] said [it was] like camp. The weather was beautiful [but] it was the hottest I’ve ever experienced. Any weather ever.”
That heat factored into the delirium of the Pip dream sequence, too. “It was so hot. I have to give it to the hair and makeup crew. We did one of the fastest turnovers I’ve ever done on camera ever, which was getting me into like that pregnant hair, beautiful,” she recalls.
“Like you never get to see Zeph like this. I love Julian for this—he knows that, not just for Zeph, but for myself as well, waking up pregnant in a white dress with baby breath in your hair…I look like the epitome of perfect ingenue, like a female domesticity and beauty and yet it’s a fucking nightmare.”
The episode also marks a very definitive break from the past and the family Zeph was born into to wholly become part of her found family, a throughline that’s run through Killjoys from the jump. “This episode is clearly underlining that things are about to get really real for this group of people.”
“It was really not difficult to find the emotional wherewithal or leverage. When I, say to the mother, ‘Someone said to me a long time that you never really knew me because if you did, you would know I would never abandon my family….’ She would never abandon Dutch and the boys because that’s her found family. I think it’s such a beautiful [sentiment], especially in the sci-fi world. I really love how Michelle has woven in this found family bond.”
“It’s gotten to the point where Zeph’s relationship with Johnny is so strong that they are blood. He would never question that. And by season five, for Dutch to say she is my elder sister, although be it hilariously a girl crush as well, is really beautifully.”
“She’s missing Aneela in a way, you know, and that was an interesting thread to that scene as well. When we were sitting in the rambler drinking. I don’t know if you get to see women do those kinds of scenes. I really am honored by how well they’ve crafted that relationship. And I think the fans have really responded to it and really wanted to see it.”
“And it’s not until you see those kind of really beautiful female friendships that you realize how much we crave them because it’s so often that women are positioned as antagonists towards each other in these types of worlds. I think that scene in the rambler is Zeph letting go, deciding to leave her baggage in Leith, and wanting to leave is her really growing up and finally letting go and becoming a woman and becoming her own person.”
“It was fun to kind of go through those motions and then sit in the rambler and have Dutch sort of treat me like an equal and a friend and a sister and then know that in the next two episodes there’s a confidence to Zeph, a stillness to her, a deeper rootedness that is not expressed in her nervous behavior. She’s more grounded.”
Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 pm/9c on Space Channel and Syfy. All of our Killjoys coverage, including a new interview with the writer of tonight’s episode, Julian Doucet, is here. You can catch all four seasons and the first seven Season 5 episodes on demand on the Space Go app and Syfy app and website. This episode should be available online tomorrow.
Images courtesy of Syfy.
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