Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Ronald D Moore and David Eick have impressive pedigrees as creators of television SF. I was lucky enough to speak to them just after Battlestar Galactica ended, and go their final thoughts on the series. We also spoke a little about the prequel, Caprica, which at the time we did the interview was being produced. Sadly, it was cancelled before the end of the first season. From Death Ray #18.

All this has happened before, all this will all happen again…

It’s out with the old and in with the new as Battlestar Galactica comes to a final end and production on Caprica ramps up. The Adama clan will be off our screens for the best part of a year, before we are introduced to their immediate ancestors. We were lucky enough to get creators of both shows, Ronald Moore and David Eick, to talk about writing the climax of one, and the beginning of the other.

You’d have to travel halfway to Kobol to find an SF series that has been as consistently good as Battlestar Galactica. Basing their show on TV maverick Glen A Larson’s space-take on the Exodus, veteran SF producers Ronald Moore and David Eick succeeded in crafting a tale fit for our times, an action-packed saga of the near-extinction of humanity, wrapped up with fat agnostic bows. Battlestar’s complexity, cast of diverse characters and willingness to ask some tough questions about religion, loyalty, belief and societies under stress (not to mention some kick-ass space battles) have earned it numerous Emmies, Saturns and Hugos, as well as the prestigious Peabody Award. They kept us guessing until the end, and now it’s over. Not to worry, show creators David Eick and Ronald D Moore have a spin-off, coming soon.

We spoke to Moore and Eick about the series, where some of its major themes came from, its legacy, the fans and that pesky writers strike that threw US TV for six back in 2007. It’s not just the timing: this really is the last word on Battlestar Galactica. (more…)

I’m something of a fan of Ray Wise. He’s not that widely known, but when he does appear he has great screen presence, and his turn as the devil in Reaper was brilliant. This interview was done off the back of the film Infestation. You can read reviews of both by clicking of the links. From Death Ray #21, the very last issue.

Better The Devil You Know

Ray Wise, the player behind telefantasy’s best recent character, um, the Devil! Smooth and sharp, he’s our kind of guy.

Forty years in the crazy business of Tinseltown and still going strong, if you need a lawyer, president, or murderous father, Ray Wise is your man. Often attracted to horror projects, (you can see him in Dead End and Jeepers Creepers II, for example) Wise has played not one but three diabolical creatures: The Devil in Reaper, Ludlow the Demon in Charmed, and Leland Palmer in David Lynch’s frankly disturbing TV classic Twin Peaks.

Recently appearing in Kyle Rankin’s big bug movie Infestation, Wise talked with Death Ray via transatlantic satellite.

Death Ray: Infestation: We enjoyed it. Notice you have done a lot of SF and horror, what attracts you to that kind of project?

Ray Wise: I like to be frightened along with everybody else. I like to feel that titillation, that adrenaline rush when I think that something really frightening is going to happen. I like the anticipation of it, even more than seeing the actual event. Except that so much of the horror today is so… volumes of blood and ripping and slicing and cutting and tearing. It’s not frightening any more, it’s just gory. I prefer the old school horror.

DR: Infestation, like a lot of your movies, contains a certain degree of humour. One thing we really like about your acting is that you have a fantastic sense of comic timing. Where does that come from in you?

RW: Thank you. I really couldn’t say. I’ve always had that sense of humour, ever since I was a little child. I couldn’t explain it, except that that’s the way I view the world, it’s slightly askew, and it makes me laugh a lot.

DR: Whenever you’re on screen you’ve got such a little twinkle in your eye, like when you were playing the Devil in Reaper.

RW: That little twinkle is important. When you watch an actor on film, the eyes can tell you everything. If you’re not thinking the right thoughts, you’re not going to convey to the audience what you want them to feel. The eyes are windows to the soul, right?

DR: So what kind of thoughts were you thinking when you were playing your version of the Devil, then?

RW: Oh, devilish thoughts, you know! Haha. I have an incredible imagination, and I’m able to fabricate little scenarios in my mind that can back up any acting situation that I might find myself in.

DR: Can that be emotionally draining? We think of your turn in Twin Peaks, it must have been distressing playing Leland Palmer, who kills his own daughter…

RW: Totally distressing! You had to get your head in the right place to be able to portray that scene properly, so it can be stressful. I’ve learned over the years that downtime in between scenes I’m able to relax, and joke around with the people on the set. We try to keep it as light as possible when we’re doing heavy stuff like that. David Lynch kept a very laid back set.

DR: Like tunes, the Devil had all the best lines, our favourite has to be ‘I’m not a carjacker Sam, I’m the Devil!’

RW: Right! I had so many good lines and I enjoyed saying every single one of them. In my mind the Devil was a cross between a really good games show host and a used car salesman. He’s sartorially resplendent, and he has a kind of smooth way about him, and he’s able to cajole and talk you into just about anything. That’s the Devil to me.

DR: If we include old Leland in there, this is the third time you’ve played some sort of diabolical entity. Have you carved out a niche in the market?

RW: Yeah, I think so. I think Leland was the perfect prep for leading to the Devil in Reaper. I still watch those episodes today, and I’m still blown away by them. And Ludlow, another demon. He was pretty spectacular. And Charmed is a lovely show. Yeah, so I have a short short history in demonology.

DR: A lot of your other characters seem to be authority figures, vice-presidents, presidents, fathers, that kind of thing. What do you think the overlap is between the demon characters that you play and that sort of politician/ dad type character?

RW: Hahaha, well, I think the big overlap is the actor playing the characters! But there’s a little bit of demon in every good father, and certainly in every politician. I don’t see much difference between some vice presidents that we’ve had and the Devil in Reaper.

DR: The devil has a better suit…

RW: That’s for sure!

DR: And you also got the impression that he wasn’t all bad either. He was in a weird way a mentor to Sam…

RW: There are certain aspects of good and evil in every character. I try to keep that in mind, you have to find the good in the bad and the bad in the good it, seems to me. Yes, he was a mentor, and adviser, he was like a big brother… He wanted to see the kid blossom, though he would prefer that the kid would come his way. I don’t think the Devil has to be all bad all the time. I think he likes mixing it up with the humans here on Earth and having a good time with them. And that entails having some good things happen. Don’t forget good and evil is all a matter of choice anyway isn’t it?

DR: In Infestation and Reaper and others you are often paired off with younger actors. Do you find yourself performing that sort of devilish mentor role for the younger actors?

RW: Yeah, I think so. With younger actors, I am mentorish. And of course I have my own children too, well, they’re grown adults now, but I went through the same process with them. I like passing on what I know to the next generation. It gives you another reason to be on this planet. It ties you in a little bit more to everything in life. It’s a wonderful thing.

An interview with Jamie Bamber (Apollo) conducted just after the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica for Death Ray #21.

The End of the Affair

Actor Jamie Bamber, lately multi-talented space jock Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama, talks philosophically about the end of the very much brilliant (and very much lamented) Battlestar Galactica.

Pilot, captain, lawyer, politician… but some of Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama’s jobs on the Galactica. The career of the actor who portrayed him, US/English Jamie Bamber, is less diverse, being mostly restricted to actor, but we could add the label ‘environmentalist’ to him. For Bamber, BSG was a grand allegory for the problems facing us right now on our dear old Earth. Ask him what the show’s greatest achievement was, and he’ll say ‘relevance’. (more…)

I am so close to the end of my Death Ray archive now. This interview comes from Death Ray #20. It’s with Rachel Luttrell, who played Teyla in SG: Atlantis.

For some reason, a lot of actors insist they are shy. And while that’s probably true of some, it’s hard to equate the bubbly Rachel Lutrell with a shrinking violet. She portrays Teyla in SG: Atlantis, one of the only characters who made it all the way from season one to season five, and one of only two humans on the regular team who were actually from the Pegasus Galaxy, where the series was set. It’s all over now, though a TV movie is coming our way soon. She tells us this as she chats easily away and laughs down the phone. We’re not buying the shy line.

“It’s true!” she protests, “I don’t trust very easily and so there’s only a certain aspect of myself that I will share. But I’ve gotten to a point where I’m more comfortable talking to people that I don’t know immediately, and I enjoy that.” Well, she’s doing just fine right now. We’re not getting any kind of stand-offish vibe here. Right now, she’s feeding her young son Caden, whom she had while on the show. It’s like ringing your sister.

DR: You’ve said you empathise with Teyla because she’s an outsider – she’s human but she’s not from Earth, she’s telepathic so she doesn’t really fit in with her own kind. Do you feel like an outsider yourself?

RL: Not now, but I was born in Tanzania, and my mum is from a very small village When we first moved to Canada, yeah I certainly did feel a little like an outsider. Thankfully in this day and age coming from a bi-racial family is like: ‘So what? me too.’ But back then it was a bit more unusual. My father is from Louisiana, he grew up with a lot of racism.

DR: Talking to my mum, she says that my dad was always harassed by Tanzanian men for taking their woman, it’s so silly! But he was very welcomed over there by her family, with the exception that occassionally a small child who had not seen somebody as fair as him would run screaming, they’d think that he was a man without any skin! When I was in Louisiana there was a lot of staring and ‘You know, what’s going on there?’ But not so much any more. I don’t want to paint Louisiana as a place that’s horribly backward! But there was a feeling from a certain element there, shall I say. So, you know, I don’t feel like an outsider, but I can empathise with Teyla.

DR: Obviously Atlantis the series is over, but you just appeared in a TV movie. Do you think your role as Teyla is going to run and run and it’ll be a nice pension fund?

RL: Hahaha! Oh God! If that happens, I certainly wouldn’t say no, I mean, why would I? But I have no idea, there may be just the one movie and everything might be neatly tied up… I’m not sure what their plans are to tell you the truth, but we’ll see. I would very much like to do my own thing as well, but if there does end up being more movies I would love to do them, because I adore Teyla.

DR: Were you a big SF fan before this?

RL: Yes, yes, yes! I love it. My family and I will always be the first in line for big blockbuster science fiction action. My father instilled that in us way back. He’s a big fan, and he just devours science fiction novels, and I’m that kind of a person now too. I couldn’t wait to see the new Star Trek movie.

DR: Would you like to do a Stargate movie like that?

RL: Oh please! That would be fantastic! And I think the fans would love it. In a way I think it’s a missed opportunity that they haven’t done it. And I think if they don’t do it, then in twenty years, someone else will.

DR: How was it when the show ended?

RL: It was a mixed bag, but it was sad. I think none of us were really expecting season five to be the last season, we were all anticipating that it wouldn’t have gone beyond six, but for it to all of a sudden come to an end like that, I was quite saddened by it.

DR: Do you know that that was going to be it then when you were filming that last scene?

RL: Filming the last episode we all knew. We had all been told about a month before. Maybe I’m exaggerating, maybe it was just three weeks, but we all knew that, okay this is going to be my last scene. we were all so keenly aware of it. And when it came time for my last scene I was so scared that I was going to lose it that I was just kind of steely , until they announced: ‘Alright, this is a series wrap’ and then oh, I just wept, and everybody was hugging everybody. It was very emotional, it was a big deal, a huge, huge part of our lives.

DR: Everything comes to an end eventually.

RL: Yeah, but do you know what? Change is a good thing.

An interview, with me

Posted: January 24, 2015 in Interviews

Hello. A brief public service announcement. There’s an interview with me on Manuscript’s Don’t Burn, conducted by Steve Kozeniewski, where I talk a bit more about The Rise of the Horned Rat, and writing in general. Check it out. That is all.

An interview with the writer Michelle Harrison, first published in Death Ray #19. She writes fairy-based YA fiction. It’s pretty good.

Michelle Harrison has just won the Waterstone prize for Best Children’s Book. Must be good eh? We chatted to her about fairies and growing pains in the land of the East Saxons.

Essex and the Fey, not two things that might immediately spring to mind in a word association game (Maybe they do. Maybe your psychiatrist is taking notes right now as the words pop into your head and run, unstoppably, out of your treacherous mouth…), but Harrison marries the two to great effect in The The 13 Treasures her award-winning story about a big old house, generational misunderstanding and proper nasty folkloric fairies, fairies the heroine, early teen Tanya, can see, which is far less fun than it sounds. Comparisons between 13 Treasures and Spiderwick are inevitable, but these have been favourable ones, and the book has just won the Waterstone Prize for Best Childrens’ Book.

Harrison is an Essex gel herself, hailing from Grays in the west of the county. Elements of the area she was raised in make up the fictional landscape of Tickbury where the action unfolds. 29 now, she’s in publishing herself, with a day job as an editorial assistant to a children’s book publisher, but by night she writes tales of modern-day enchantment. She trained as an illustrator (the illuminated capitals at the head of each chapter in The 13 Treasures are her work), but has been writing since she was fourteen, though it was art that sent her off down the fairy path…

“When I was in my first year of illustration, it was an HND at Stafford college, I was studying quite a lot of different artwork by different people, but the ones that really jumped out for me were the like the fairy artwork,” she says. “We did a module on Victorian fairy art, and our tutor showed me some work by Arthur Rackham and Brian Froud, really gorgeous illustrations. But some of them were really quite dark, like Brian Froud, his fairies are quite sort of troublesome, and that’s where I got the idea from.”

Froud admitted to DR that he ‘experiences’ fairies. Does she?

“No, sadly. Actually, maybe not ‘sadly’. They’re probably more trouble than they are worth. But I’d always be interested to see one. I haven’t had any luck so far, and I do wear a lot of red anyway [one of the methods of scaring them off], so that probably keeps them away!”

Her fairies are troublesome alright – five pages into the book, one of them threatens to render the heroine an imbecile if she doesn’t stop writing about fairies in her diaries – the sort of nasty, spiteful, rulebound magical troublemakers you find nicking babies. And that old fear of our rural ancestors, that some pixie would swap their little darlings for a changeling, forms the crux of the plot.

One of the strengths of the book is that its setting – ivy-choked Elvesden Manor and Hangman’s Wood with its mysterious ‘Deneholes’ – are intimately described, so much so that they’re almost a bit Alan Garner in their seeming verity. But, unlike the old Cheshire master’s dead-on landscapes, The 13 Treasures does not accurately describe some corner of England.

“No, unfortunately not!” she laughs when we ask her if she used to live in a house like the one in the book. “I grew up in a council house actually! But I have always fantasised about those sort of houses. They’ve always had an appeal to me. I did visit a friend of the family who lived in quite a big country house, and that had these big dressers with stuffed game on things on it so I think there’s possibly some inspiration there. I made most of it up,” she says. But little bits and pieces of Essex found their way in. “There’s a pub near Brentwood called the Boar’s Head that has a blocked off staircase which is exactly like the one I described in the book. That’s where the inspiration for the servant’s staircase [a secret stairway that plays an important role in the book] came from.”

Hangmans Wood, and its ‘Deneholes’, is a real place also, being situated in Harrison’s hometown of Grays.

“It’s a really small area of woodland, nowhere near as vast as the one in the story, but it is called Hangman’s Wood. It’s opposite a playing field where’s there’s a swimming pool. Me and my friend used to go there after school swimming, and one night we decided we’d go into the woods and see what these ‘Deneholes’ were about. We’d heard lots about them, and my mum had always said to me, ‘Don’t you ever go into those woods, you’ll be in a a lot of trouble if you do. Obviously we went in there! It was just really eerie, you’ve got these massive holes in the ground surrounded by these railings. It was just something I wanted to put in there, it was something that I had always remembered. I found it quite creepy and atmospheric.”

The holes are unique to that part of the country. They’re bell-shaped chambers many metres underground, accessible only by a narrow chimney. Like many enigmatic relics of the past, it is unknown what they were for exactly – grain stores, dungeons, hideaways – though a theory that they were mines for chalk used to replenish the mineral content of the fields sounds most likely. (They delved so far underground so they could get to chalk uncontaminated by exposure to the atmosphere, and save valuable agricultural land). However, in Harrison’s story they offer access to the abodes of the fairies.

“I did some research on the internet,” says Harrison, “and there weren’t any explanations, there were a lot of different ideas, but it’s just the fact that there’s a bit of mystery about them. That’s why I put them in.”

Despite the the fact that the story is about fairies, and features a female heroine, the boys are buying into as much as the girls. There is, after all, heroine Tanya’s sidekick Fabian, a bookish, resourceful boy. Tanya herself is remarkably well drawn. Like the fairies, she has her bad side: she’s prone to sulks and flashes of unreasonable anger at her relatives. But her foibles make her believably human…

“Yeah, she’s based on my niece actually!” says Harrison. “She’s called Tanya too.”