I think Eureka is as good as it’s ever been. That had to do with a big shift down here in the writers room and finally finding our footing and getting our way back after the writer’s strike and all of the big Hollywood problems that happened. It made it really difficult even to know if you were going to have a job. _Colin Ferguson: Eureka
Colin Ferguson: Eureka
Credits: Ghost Hunters, CSI: Miami, Girlfriends, Malcolm in the Middle
By: Judith Wallace
Eureka Colin Ferguson, who plays Sheriff Jack Carter Season 4.5 of Eureka, kicking off Syfy’s new Monday night lineup of scripted originals.
You’ve been both an actor and a director now, which of these do you find more challenging and which do you prefer?
Colin Ferguson: I don’t know. About a year ago I would have answered the question saying, “Hands down, directing.” It was new, it was fresh, it was so exciting, and now the three episodes and a movie at this point and I sort of get it, and I really sort of embrace both in the same way now. It’s project by project, scene by scene in what you can really do. I think I’m tired at this point, to give you honest answers I’m really tired, I’m looking forward to a break so I can replug in and get more energy to do anything at all. But, I like about directing more is that you get the questions – I mean you get the story earlier, you can affect change in a more profound way, and stay with the story longer, and that’s a really rewarding process to go through. As an actor, you really are sort of a professional athlete or a hired gun, you show up on the day and you do your little magic and that’s what goes on tape. And it’s a gun slinger-type job. The problem is you show up so late that sometimes you can’t affect the change that you’d like to. So, it’s good and bad for both, but I think we’d all have the same answer; we really, really enjoy doing both.
How was Sali’s directing?
Colin Ferguson: Its really nice when one of us does direct because it’s always great to have a cause to rally behind. I don’t know how many episodes, close to eighty at this point, and you just sort of go, “Okay, great. At least there’s a reason to show up today,” you know? You have to know how to do it on our show, I mean we’re a cable show, so we don’t have $4 million a week to get this stuff done. You can’t learn on the fly, you have to know how to do it and know how to do it quickly. You can’t sort of figure it out. So, it’s a great training ground because it’s trial by fire, which is fantastic. When I’m directing I’m all about making the day and being relaxed, and I like a calm environment at this point, so I respond to how Salli directs because she’s very calm and she knows what she wants.
Are there any similarities with the role you play and your real life?
Colin Ferguson: Well, I’m a Sheriff in real life, so (that sums that up). Personality-wise we’re pretty similar at this point. They’ve done an amazing job of s taking the best of me and making it palatable for other people. I guess the biggest difference would probably be, I would say relationships, I guess. He has a steadfast (and that’s how he makes things work) with Allison and he sort of pushes through the problem, and that’s something that I’m working on in my own life. A hard thing working out of town and trying to get something going back in Los Angeles, but that would probably be the biggest difference. But you know what, I’m working on it and I’ll figure it out.
Is Jack oblivious to how Allison is feeling or does he have a hard time admitting it?
Colin Ferguson: No, I don’t think he’s oblivious- it’s a funny thing asking me about relationships; not my forte. I’m not terribly good at it. But no, he’s not oblivious, but at the same time it’s difficult when you’re working with someone and having a relationship with them, as these two characters do. So, you have to give each other more space and you have to give each other sort of the latitude to have more off days than normally you would. And also Allison is a character that has two kids, so you really got to move slowly and be really patient with that if you’re going to try to partner with that. So, I think he’s patient, I think he’s aware of it, but we’re dealing with something in the next episodes we shoot, which is that he’s not aware of, so there are still bumps and problems to come.
What are you excited about the fans seeing as we approach this new season?
Colin Ferguson: So, we pick up right where left off with sort of the big sort of arc of the season, it’s the (Estreas) Project, basically Eureka going into space. And I was concerned when we started it that it was going to sort of be just sort of a path like, “Oh, this is the mission de jour that we’re going to on for 13,” but actually balloons and blossoms into this fantastically complex plot. And then, at the end of the season you’re about see it kicks into the whole next year in a way that you completely don’t expect. So, what I’m really looking forward to seeing is sort of everyone even next summer going, “Oh, my God. Really? We’re – that’s happening now?” Because it’s sort of Eureka going into space and do they go into space, and it’s really interesting.
Can you talk about how things change when you had the new timeline? And also, are you surprised that the show’s been around and lasted so long?
Colin Ferguson: I think the show is as good as it’s ever been. That had to do with a big shift down here in the writers room and finally finding our footing and getting our way back after the writer’s strike and all of the big Hollywood problems that happened. It made it really difficult even to know if you were going to have a job. We have a really solid group of writers and a really core group of people that hasn’t changed, so that’s why it sort of feels really energized and is really sort of firing on all cylinders. As far as the reboot and the energy that happens with that, I think that’s sort of symptomatic of the changes that happened. We really found our footing and the reboot was sort of this symbolic gesture on behalf of the network that we were allowed to do what we wanted to do. They went in to the network and said, “We want to go back in time, and then come back and change everything and never address it.” And normally when you got into a network and say that they go, “No.” One of the biggest characters on the show is the Town, so to change the Town is a really tall order and it was a big sign off on behalf of the network as a gesture to say that the writers knew what they were doing. And I think the writers got that gesture, they filled confidence and it just sort of redoubled on itself until we sort of had the energy that we have now. Plus, the casting that’s gone on has been unbelievably helpful. I mean we’ve got Felicia Day, we’ve got Wil Wheaton, we have Wallace Shawn coming in, we have Dave Foley coming in, and it’s just -God Bless recession. Like, those names – that’s great to get all those people in to the show.
How are you coping with the new changes on the show?
Colin Ferguson: That’s actually difficult. It requires a lot of communication and it requires a lot of trust. And you build that up with, for example, the vis effects guys over time. Acting to green screen if you don’t know how to do it it can be one of the more humiliating things that you can do, because you don’t know to ask certain questions. You don’t know to say, where’s the outline? How big is the explosion? Is everybody going on the same queue? No, stop this. Okay, we need everyone moving on the same queue. Can we move the queue to unify everybody? And it’s all those sorts of tricks and necessities that if you don’t do you’ll see the show and I’m sure you’ve seen it where you’re like, “Wow, that doesn’t work.”
What do you think is a special ingredient that the show is such a draw to all ages?
Colin Ferguson: We try to put in as much – I remember the first season, the mandate came down and were always being chastised saying, you know, “This is not a comedy,” “Stop putting – stop doing that, stop putting the jokes in. This is not a comedy.” All the directors were told, “This is not a comedy.” I think the comedy that we throw in and the writers write in really helps. It sort of helps us take the sting off of ideas and be a little more self-aware and make it fun. When the show began I really wanted it to be dark and edgy and all this stuff, but then as we started hearing from people like, “Oh, we watched this, we watched this with our parents or I watched this with my kids, and oh, our – my grandparents watch it.” And I guess I’ve gotten older I’m really proud of that. It’s a little better than it used to be, but for the last bunch of years it was all CSI and all sort of murder and rape and just TV was hard, and it was really nice to do a show that people could watch together. It became a source of pride for us. We got lucky. The right combo worked and we were on a network that was patient enough to keep us on the air.
What is the funniest thing you can recall that’s gone wrong on the set so far this season?
Colin Ferguson: Some things go wrong and they’re not funny, like when Frasier had his collar bone ripped out this year. That was funny. It was the one stunt I’ve ever said, “You know what,” I’d been going through a rough time personally and I said, “You know what, I don’t know the scene. I can’t do it. I just – have Frasier do it.” And Frasier went to do it and it tore out his collar bone and I was like, “Okay.” I would say the funniest thing that’s gone wrong, what would that be? Probably Neil Grayson, a couple years ago we use this stuff called Methocel, which is – Methocel is the stuff that’s in McDonald’s milkshakes and it’s like a food additive. And one of the properties of Methocel, when you get covered in it, is that it wicks all the heat from your body, and then dries so it’s really, really cold. So, basically getting covered with stuff is always an exercise and Neil was supposed to shoot first and ended up shooting six hours later, so he was covered in this stuff. I think he was painted green, standing in his trailer for six hours and that’s because you’re covered and you can sit down and you can’t do anything, (and he has glasses) and he’s functionally naked because he was naked in the scene. So, he’s got this little banana hammock and a bathing suit on – that provided us with endless amusement. And right before we stopped shooting I was supposed to get peppered with paintballs, they hurt, but you know there’s this giant plaque that they’re supposed to be pounding on, which they systematically missed more times than they hit over the course of the scene. And I’m supposed to be reacting like I’m in pain, which is like good, because I was, and then after the scene, “Aren’t you bruised?” In like four or five different places for like a week. Those things kill, the paintballs, so we always get up to no good with stuff like that.
What have you most learned about yourself since you started this show?
Colin Ferguson: I don’t know my lines half the time anyway, so if I’m making them up it’s an intense lack of prep, let’s procrastinate a little bit more. No, It is something that you can mark the passage of time by because it has been six years and who you were six years ago and who you are now, they’re very different people. I have a respect for my body that I didn’t before. I really try to not damage it so much. And that may seem just like, “Oh, he’s getting old,” but it’s more – it’s sort of respect and I have more respect for, God, I guess life and emotion and all sorts of things that I didn’t have before. I was sort of all about work before. And just the difficulty, this is not a fun answer, but the difficulty of shooting and the trauma and the tragedy of not being around those that you love, while you are doing 14 hours a day for five months in a row.
What would you consider to be your definitive episode of Eureka?
Colin Ferguson: I think that there are a bunch of episodes that sort of meant different things at different times for us, and I definitely clock them that way. I remember when a good friend of mind, Johanna Stokes wrote, wow what was that called, it was Game, something about Game. It was like first or second season, and when a friend of yours writes an episodes that’s a great thing. I remember the first time Salli directed, that’s a big thing. I remember the first time I directed, which was, Your Face or Mine. It was a smaller episode and that was a huge thing for me. So, there’s sort of these more in point episodes all the way through, which mean the world to us, as like the first one that (Alexandria) directed, we fought really hard for our script supervisor to get an episode to direct. She directed A Dead Zone before and is really one of the people who held the show together when it was going through rough times. It was (Lexi) and myself a lot of times fighting for the best work that we could get. And for her to be rewarded and respected by getting an episode was absolutely huge for us as a cast. It felt like we’d had a big victor- amazing job.
What is your dream role?
Colin Ferguson: A musical would be fine. I’d really like to do something where I shot it, maybe acted in it, and then edited it. It’s – coming from TV where we out of necessity we have to move so quickly, it’d be really nice to move slower and take some time or something and really sort of hone it. So, it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it was with friends. I really want to work with my friends at this point doing stuff that I want to do. So, I think a lot of actors feel that way these days, particularly with the Canon 5D being so comparable to the F23, Viper, or the Genesis or all the different cameras that we use. In fact, we’re using the 5D more and more and more and that’s a cheap camera that you can get from a (consumer) line anywhere in the country. So, I think that with the technology finally getting to the place where anybody with a story can tell it, it’s a really exciting time to be someone who wants to tell a story. So, I’d like to do something like that.
What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?
Colin Ferguson: I’m shy, in my own way and I think when people get to know me – I’m brash and I’m all sorts of things, and there’s this one side of me which is very out there, but people who know me -know me as someone who’s quite different. I mean, that’s always strange for them when they go, “Oh, wow, he’s actually quite shy.”