Continuum is a show, which last year came out of the blue and surprised a lot of people with its intricate storyline and the fact that it has a strong cast of familiar names from other genre shows such as ’24′, ‘Andromeda’ and ‘X Files’ to name but a few.
The series is another import from Canada and is produced for Showcase by Simon Barry and having recently finished its first year on the UK Syfy Channel it has only just made its way to the American Syfy Channel and in order to help promote the show they recently hosted a phone conference with stars Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster and series creator Simon Barry.
ScifiPulse was there and below are a few highlights from the call.
SFP: There’s a lot of different technology used on the show. Fore example There’s Kiera’s suit allows her to review her memory. If you could take some of the technologies from the series and use them for real. What would you choose and why?
Rachel Nichols: That’s the best question for me because I would take my Multi-tool. It’s small. It travels well. It does legitimately anything I could possibly need it to do in any situation. And I’ve started reading scripts for Season 2, and the Multi-tool does just a whole bunch of new and different things pretty much every time we see it. So I would definitely take my Multi-tool.
Victor Webster: I think I would have to take her super suit. I don’t want it tailored. I don’t want anything. I just want to hang it up on a wall and look at it.
Rachel Nichols: Oh, I thought you were going to wear it, but okay. Good. I’m glad we cleared that up.
Victor Webster: Maybe every Tuesday. Maybe on a Tuesday night, but that’s it.
Simon Barry: I would definitely take the CMR chip because I have a terrible memory and I need as much help as I can get.
SFP: Simon how did you come up with the idea for the series and how did the rest of you get involved?
Simon Barry: Well, the idea for me came out of a really pragmatic approach to trying to get my love of Sci-Fi really into a pipeline of television production that was feasible. So time travel is a really great vehicle for that because you can have a very large mythology in a big universe, but still be set in the present day world, which obviously is more production-friendly.
So it was a pragmatic decision at the beginning, but then once the mythology and the characters starting coming together, of course it grew beyond that into a much more passionate process for me in terms of the many characters that the show presents, and also just some of the bigger themes that we are trying to explore in the show.
And then the first step was to find a Kiera, and we worked very diligently to find the right person for this part. And when Rachel presented herself as an option, we were thrilled and jumped on the chance to work with her right away.
And once we had cast Rachel, we basically built the cast around her, and Victor was a great fit and I can’t really – I’ll let the guys tell you about it from their perspective, but it was a very quick.
Rachel Nichols: My story is very long but yet very interesting. One of my best friends in the entire world got the script to me. She was the first person that reached out with a script. She said, “I have a friend and she’s got this script that she’s casting and I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes, but I think you’d be great for it,” and she sent it to me and I loved it. And – which is very unorthodox. Usually you don’t get a script from your best friend that’s amazing that you immediately want to do.
And then my team was absolutely completely on board and they loved the script, and they loved the fact that a friend of mine had found it. We just went sort of full steam ahead, and it happened very, very quickly just prior to the holidays last year when we were closing the deal. Suddenly, I was moving to Vancouver for five months on January 5th I think it was last year. So, it was a very interesting process for me. Unorthodox for me, but thrilling at the same time. And very fast, so that was fun as well.
Victor Webster: Well I got a call on a Wednesday asking me if I’d like to come to Vancouver to do a chemistry test with Rachel, and I hadn’t read the script yet. And I was a little hesitant at first, and then I read the script and I was like, “Absolutely.”
Got on a plane for a chemistry test with Rachel on Friday and then got a call I think that weekend that I would be moving to Vancouver. And then, I think Monday I was on a plane to Vancouver for six months. So, it all happened really, really fast.
SFP: The first season finished a little over six months ago in Canada and about six weeks ago here in the UK. What’s it like for you guys now going into this brand new audience that hasn’t seen the show yet?
Rachel Nichols: I think that it’s one of the most exciting things because it came out in Canada. It started airing in May and obviously did very, very well and then went to the UK for Syfy and did very well. And then the mechanism of Twitter is fascinating because it just – you have access to all of these people who want to know what you’re doing and what’s going on.
And I’ve had such a response from people all over the world from the show coming out, and especially people in the States saying for so long, “When is it going to be in the States? When is it going to be in the States? We don’t want to steal it or burn it or, you know, take it off the Internet. We really want to see it.” And now everybody’s getting their wish, including my parents who didn’t have cable until a couple days ago when they realized they were going to have to buy it in order to see me.
But, it’s something that’s been well received and I obviously think that’s going to happen here in the US. And so, it’s really – it’s something very exciting to think about. And finally, the fans that have wanted it for so long are getting exactly what they want.
SFP: Rachel, in all of your scenes with Victor you guys are always in the same room, but all of your scenes, at least that we’ve seen so far with Erik are all separate from each other. Can you talk about the differences in working with your co-stars?
Rachel Nichols: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Victor and I are always together. I mean, I’ve got to do my own sort of – and sometimes Alec being in my head is also in those scenes with Victor. I’m sure it won’t come as a shock to you that working with an actor actually in the room with you in a scene is easier than working with someone whose voice is just in your head.
But as far as Erik Knudsen is concerned, I’ve never met an actor who was more of a giver because I work every day, and a lot of – and Alec’s voice usually works every day and Erik Knudsen on the days when he was not working would come to set and read all of his lines off camera.
What was really important for both of us because then we can hear how the other person is talking in those scenes, even if we can’t see them and it’s not just you know a script supervisor just reading the lines. Because you know, Erik’s character and my character are very, very connected on an emotional level. He’s the only person really that’s a true ally that knows my story and can understand it, and he is my best friend.
Carlos is another version of a best friend for me, but he is someone that I’m technically lying to every day, and that’s very, very difficult for me. That storyline progresses throughout the season. By the end of Season 1, there are a lot of questions about how I’m going to be able to navigate that very tenuous situation in the next season.
SFP: Rachel, a few moments ago Simon said that the cast was by and large built around you. How did that feel for you as an actress and what do you think makes the cast special.
Rachel Nichols: It was really exciting. I’ve never been the first person hired on any job ever I don’t think. And you know, I loved the script and I loved all of the characters from the very beginning, and they immediately started casting people.
I mean my deal was done just prior to the Christmas holiday last year, so I was home in Maine and they were just going full steam ahead in Vancouver casting Liber8 and the rest of the police force, and Inspector Dillon, and Erik, and Carlos – I met – I think you heard I met Victor for a chemistry read on a Friday and I think Victor was completely moved into Vancouver by Sunday so that he could work on Monday.
It was the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to do a chemistry read with someone who would be playing my sort of best friend, confidant, my leading man. And all the guys that came in and read were great. Very, very different but great, and Victor was my first choice, which he knows now so I’m not talking out of turn at all.
We sort of sat down after I tested with everybody and he was a clear runaway choice. And so then that piece you know was in place.
Then I – you know, I knew who some of the Liber8 characters were, but I didn’t certainly do any chemistry reads with them, so I just sort of showed up on set first day and met everybody and thought, “Wow. They’ve assembled such an impressive cast of characters that there’s no way the show isn’t going to work. It’s going to have to because everybody is great.”
It’s probably – it’s one of the more interesting sort of groups of people I’ve ever seen cast all at once, so the fact that it was a part of a show that I’m on was great.
SFP: Looking at your career and I think of shows like The Inside and Alias, and even with G.I. Joe, you’ve played a lot of law enforcement types, and I’ve enjoyed watching you play that role. Is there something about law enforcement that’s particularly appealing to you as an actress?
Rachel Nichols: You know what? I like to carry guns and kick butt, and I get to do a lot of that when I’m a law enforcement officer, whether from the present or the future. I think there’s something really strong and sexy about those female roles and there aren’t necessarily a lot of those around.
Also, I consider myself very lucky to have been able to take on so many of those roles and to now have a fan base that finds me completely believable and interesting in those powerful action-oriented roles because they’re so much fun to play. And, I would like to keep doing them for a long time to come.
SFP: Can you talk a little bit about making the show in Canada and setting it in Canada, and being able to use a lot of “the farm team” at home in a show like that? How was that different from shooting a show with Canadians and then pretending you’re in the States, and then it gets released in the states? This was really kind of a home grown product.
Simon Barry: Yes. That’s funny. The process of making the show was interesting because I had originally developed the idea for the American networks. Found an opportunity to do it in Canada. And then to my surprise, was offered the opportunity to keep it in Vancouver, which is where I live.
So I had a built in relationship with a lot of actors in Vancouver having lived here for a long time, and so it was a pleasure for me to really kind of wade into that pool of talent having a familiarity and understanding where a lot of the great actors were hiding.
And so it’s been great. I mean, Vancouver, because of the amount of work that comes here, has developed into a really strong talent base on many levels, not just with regards to actors but directors, writers, producers. And so there was – knew that there was a much deeper reservoir than people appreciated, and the fact that we could be set in Canada was just a bonus really.
I never really felt that the setting was ever integral to the show or the story, but it was a very nice bonus to be able to embrace Vancouver for Vancouver and showcase this city, which is a character unto itself.
And so I really couldn’t be happier about all of these things coming together. And you know, with Rachel and Victor anchoring the show the way they do, they set the bar high. And anyone who shows up on Continuum knows that they can’t sort of phone it in. These guys work harder than anyone else I’ve ever worked with. And everyone who comes to work with us by seeing their example usually shows up with their best work.
SFP: Because of the time travel aspect, what Carlos knows about technology is different from what Kiera knows, and is different from what Alec knows. Is it hard to keep track of what you’re supposed to know and what you do know?
Rachel Nichols: For me, I get lucky because I am from the year 2077, so as far as all the future stuff is concerned, I, A, know what it does; B, know when to use it; and C, know that I have to hide it from everybody.
I do love the scenes where it get the opportunity to be a huge dork, like the Bluetooth scene where I think I’m wearing the coolest thing ever and Carlos basically tells me that I’m a nerd.
I love the opportunities for that, even in – there’s an episode where I – it becomes obvious that I’ve never seen a horse in real life before. I think that’s Episode 6. And for those things, I need Simon to tell me, “Remember. You’ve never seen this before,” or, “Remember, this is new, or this is your only concept of this thing in the future. And remember, there’s no real clean running water.” And, I definitely rely on Simon for everyday stuff, for everything that’s in 2012 that I have never experienced before in 2077.
But as far as the futuristic tools, that’s sort of the nice, close knit relationship I have with Alec, because he’s the creator of awesome. So it is fun, though, the moments where I have to play absolute fish out of water learning to drive a car, having never done that before.
And yes; provided that I have Simon to be my guide, I’m fine.
Simon Barry: Yes, I can – I can just say that it is tricky to track a lot of this stuff. But you know, the great thing is that Victor and Rachel, and Erik to that effect, will always sort of check in and say, “You know, is this…” – sometimes, they’re ahead of me. They’ll go, “Wait a minute. I shouldn’t know about this because of where I’m coming from or what my perspective is.” And I love that they are so invested in sort of their character’s understanding of where they are and what they’re doing.
But sometimes, they’re really as on top of it as the writers are.
Victor Webster: And that’s one thing that is great about the show. It’s such an open line of communication and it like a family where we can come and bring anything up at any time, whether it sounds ridiculous or whatever the discussion is. It’s just bring everything to the table and Simon’s always got a very intellectual answer for us, gives us something to think about, and it’s really good for us to be able to process all that information and have that sounding board.
SFP: Victor, in light of your martial arts background I’m wondering about your working relationship with Kimani Ray Smith, who I understand is your stunt coordinator on the show. Does he let you do as much as you like? Choreograph to your strengths and so on?
Victor Webster: Well, he is. One thing about Kimani is that I know he has in-depth conversations with everybody and Simon, and really wants to figure out what is right for this particular scene. I mean if you let Kimani go, he will give you four, five, and six in one scene. He’s incredible, you know what I mean? He’s just – his choreography is so interesting and he uses the surroundings around him.
But he’s also the type that choreographs to your strengths and he finds the things that you can do well, and he really, really choreographs around that and makes you look really good.
I prefer to do everything I can. Rachel and I, we pretty much do all of the stuff ourselves, and then sometimes the doubles will come in a do a few things. The majority of the fights that I’ve had with Rachel, it’s been her and I. So when you see the actors on camera doing the action, I think it adds a lot of depth to the characters and really draws you in more, rather than just seeing the back of somebody’s head.
Kimani is amazing and such a talented guy, and we’re really lucky to have him.
Simon Barry: Yes. We stopped writing action. We just basically say, “Kimani, do your stuff here.” And then he always shows up with an amazing, brilliant, inventive fight that we could never have come up with technically. So, it’s wonderful having him as such a key part of the team.
SFP: Simon, did you have any favorite scenes that you felt just came together most perfectly from those first two episodes that John Cassar directed?
Simon Barry: That’s a really hard question to answer because I have a lot of favorites. But, I do think that in those first two episodes, one of my favorite scenes, and I think a lot of people would agree with me, is the emotional scene at the end of Episode 2, which is where Kiera is sort of contemplating being stuck in the present and facing the truth of her situation.
I think not only did John do a great job, but Rachel did a great job playing that kind of awful situation of realization.
So for me, I know that that was something that came together really well, but it’s really hard to pick one favorite because there’s so many different dimensions to the show to pick one scene that really captures what the show is is really tricky. But, I know that when we watched Episodes 1 and 2, everybody felt like we’d really found something special in not only the story that we sort of cobbled together, but also in Rachel’s performance of that beat in particular.
SFP: Rachel and Victor, could you talk about if there was anything to their characters that they added that wasn’t originally scripted?
Rachel Nichols: Initially, Kiera was Kyle, so you know I brought some anatomy with me.
That’s a really interesting question because I started thinking, “Wow? Did I?” And then I starting thinking, “Well, I must have.” And then I thought, “Well, everything is so collaborative that I am not sure which sort of characteristics belong to which creator.
There is a large element, and Simon and Victor can both attest to this. There’s a large part of me that’s very goofy and kind of clumsy, and I think – I don’t necessarily think Kiera was supposed to be that way. But, I think that part of my personality lends itself very well to the fish out of water situation, given the fact that I’m from the future so there’s a lot of stuff that I obviously don’t know about 2012.
So, I’d like to think that my own awkwardness is a good add-on. But, that’s sort of the first thing for me that comes to mind anyways, is kind of the goofy aspect of my personality.
Victor Webster: No, but I agree with Rachel. I think that one thing that we had was the relationships were there. The drama was there. Everything was there, and there were definitely some funny moments written in. And I think the only thing really on my end was just bringing up a little bit of that self-depreciating side, like the scene in the elevator when he’s locked in there, they’re so great about letting you really jump into your character and seeing what comes out.
And, I think that that’s something that we all worked on as a family, as a team, is bringing up a little more of the comedy. Other than that, I think that was it. Everything was on the page for my character anyway.
Simon Barry: I think Victor’s underselling it, and I think Rachel and he both put their finger on it. I think these characters really did come out of a great collaboration. I love that Victor’s giving me credit, but the truth is that – and the other writers.
But the truth is that we kind of found these characters I think in a way together, and it was really fortuitous because as much as we – the writers and I would love to think that we laid it all out, Rachel and Victor absolutely – and Erik to that effect as well – actually all the actors, they really did bring a very special quality to everyone.
I think that because the process moved very quickly and because we all wanted to aim high and succeed, that that creativity really pushed everyone into bringing whatever they could. And we as film makers were very open to it. We wanted it to happen that way. It was very organic and it was fun.
And the truth is Rachel’s right. She does bring her personality in ways to the character that we never wrote on the page, but that really brings it to life. And Victor does have a genuine sense of self-depreciation and humor, and also a kindness and a straightforwardness that we really appreciated him bringing because it – I don’t think it was as clear on the page.
And, they really have defined the characters now in a way that in writing the show we think of – more about what they bring to the table necessarily than what we as writers have brought to the table. And, we’re embracing those things that I think we love and I think hopefully the audience loves as well or we’ll love.
SFP: What is it about this show that you think has really captured peoples imaginations?
Simon Barry: I think there’s a lot of ideas in the show that are relevant to today, but that we’ve kind of repurposed through the prism of someone from the future. We do see the world, our world, through Rachel’s character’s eyes, through Kiera’s eyes.
And I think there’s something interesting about someone who has a perspective that’s different who knows what’s going to happen. And seeing our world through those eyes can sometimes be a fascinating way to relook at our world. So, that’s one element that I think is definitely intriguing.
I think audiences will also like just the straight up thriller aspect of the show and the character dynamics of the show. There’s a real intimacy between the good guys and the bad guys on this show that’s very special. And because the time travel component links everyone, there is this awareness that all of the characters share regardless of which side they’re on that really helps keep the show kind of connected within the varying factions.
Also, I think Rachel and Victor have a point of view about this too.
Victor Webster: Well, the one thing that I personally – one of the reasons that I would tune is I like a show that makes you think. I like to make a show that after the show ends, you could sit there with your friends and you can discuss the possibilities and where a show could go, and what did they mean by that? And you know what if this happened? And, I think we explore a lot of those in this. We answer a lot of questions as much as we leave a lot of questions for the audience to ponder.
And of course, me coming from an action background and growing up doing martial arts, I love the fact that this is a fast-paced, action-driven show that’s relatable. It’s not too far out there, even though it is a sci-fi show. All of this is within the realm of possibility. And, it’s incredible characters.
So it’s got aspects from so many different genres compiled together and mixed up that there’s a little bit of something for everybody.
Rachel Nichols: Yes. I completely agree with Victor and with Simon. You get everything you want. There’s that procedural element. There’s the sci-fi element. Then it’s a heavily character-driven show, and that sort of trifecta is very hard to come by.
Plus the sci-fi genre is fascinating and wonderful because it allows us to do so many different things, whether it’s something like a social commentary like whether we’re talking about corporations and governments and things like that. Sci-fi really kind of lets us as storytellers get away with a lot. And, the built in sci-fi audience that always enjoys that will love Continuum.
But the audiences from other types of shows I think will also find something that they’re looking for as well, and that’s hard to do. I think Continuum does it very well.
SFP: I think what’s really interesting is that both characters – both Victor’s and your character, Rachel, both have family elements. Could you talk about that part of the dynamic of these two and how you will use that going forward in the series?
Rachel Nichols: Well for me, the complicated thing with the fact that I have a family is that I can’t really talk about my family. If I’m in a scene with Carlos and he’s talking about his family, Kiera can’t exactly say, “I know. You know, my husband and son in 2077, I really want to get back to them.” I mean, that’s not something that I can ever say.
And so, there’s definitely an element of scenes when for Kiera when she hears Carlos, or anybody for that matter, talking about family, especially Alec with everything that he dealt with with his family. Obviously, Alec knows that I have a husband and son in the future, but Carlos or anyone from the year 2012 who’s not Alec, hearing them talk about their family is – it’s very hard for Kiera.
I think it’s also very important that family is a big element to the show because I don’t want Kiera to be wallowed in sadness of missing her family every episode, but she’s got to think about them at least once in every episode because that is the driving force. She may have realized it and started to understand that she is probably in 2012 for a purpose, but that never for one second means that her number one goal isn’t getting home. That’s what – that’s where she wants to go.
So I think the family aspect is very important because it allows us to get to know the other characters and it also allows Kiera to reflect on what her goal is at the same time.
Victor Webster: We haven’t touched a lot about my family, but there’s definitely hints and there’s things that I’ve had to deal with myself as Carlos from where I’ve been from, where I came, and my family situation that obviously plays a big role in the reason that I became a police officer and the driving force behind a lot of decisions that I make in my profession on the show.
But I think we deal with family a lot on the show. Liber8 is kind of a dysfunctional family in itself. We have our own little family at the precinct with Inspector Dillon and Rachel, and with Betty. In a way, it’s almost like a few different aspects of the way that we all deal with each other, the way we would deal with families, and it reflects you know our relationships.
But definitely, I think one of the biggest things is Rachel’s quest to get back to her family. And, it’s such a driving force – yes.
SFP: Simon, could you give an idea of you know how far ahead you’ve thought about the mythology and the timeline for the series? For example in the development stage, you probably were really focused on the first season, but now you have the second season. Are you really keeping track of everything so everything fits in line?
Simon Barry: Yes. It’s certainly a full-time job managing just all of the many threads of the show’s mythology introduces. And that’s half the fun too, I got to say.
When we started the process on the first day of the writing room, we as a group all made the decision that we needed to know two things off the top. We needed to know the rules of at least our version of time travel, which was important. And also, we needed to know where the show was going to end.
Because of the nature of television, you can’t really pinpoint that to an X number of hours or years, but you can certainly aim high. And I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I certainly built in the possibility that there would be many years worth of mythology elements set up at the beginning that could play out. But you don’t want to get ahead of yourself too far.
So it’s this fine balance of knowing that the universe and the mythology and the stories that you have, have many, many stories within them. And at the same time, you want to keep it contained so that the focus is on one major component that is manageable.
So certainly into Season 2’s announcement, we started opening that up in a way, which I think makes the show better. But we’re always trying to stay focused on our central character’s goals and obstacles. And, that’s sort of where we can I think feel like the show is in a very safe place, but also you know, gives us permission to expand beyond that.
SFP: Are there any sort of inspirations or some sci-fi that you’ve enjoyed before you signed up for Continuum?
Victor Webster: I’m a huge sci-fi fan. I love all of the Star Wars movies. I’ve watched TV shows since I was a kid like Manimal, dating back to when I was in my early teens. I’m a big kid now and my imagination is very vivid, so I love shows that let me explore that and let me go out and see all of that.
So anything to deal with sci-fi, space, technological gadgets, super powers, I’m in.
SFP: This vision of the future in 2077 is pretty dystopian and a little bleak, with the corporations and such. Kind of Orwellian almost. Do you think that that’s kind of where we’re headed?
Rachel Nichols: I think that’s one of the really interesting things about the show. And the fact that the sci-fi genre allows you to go to these places and have this idea of the future and people accept it, and then they do ask that question, “Is this where we are headed?”
I hope not because I happen to really enjoy food, and running water, and live animals. The future looks pretty bleak as far as I’m concerned.
But you know, there’s a lot to be said for some of the different events and issues that we take on in the first ten episodes of the show, and I’m sure in Season 2 we’ll dive into even more.
But yes. There definitely is that recurring question of, “ is this really where we are headed?” And what could we possibly do to prevent that from happening?
SFP: Can you describe the dystopic world that you’ve created politically, atmospherically, for the year 2077?
Simon Barry: I’ll start by saying that you know I think that dystopia is often a relative term, and so in trying to create 2077, I didn’t want to create something that was abjectly – you know, kind of oppressive in an obvious way.
I think that if you were to ask Rachel’s character if she lived in an oppressive society, she would say no. And I think that’s kind of the point. Our Liber8 freedom fighters/terrorists, if you will, have a different opinion. And I think one of the great things that we’re trying to infuse the show with is that you can have a gray area in almost anything in the world as far as opinions go. And that perspective has a lot to do with how we make judgments.
So as much as it’s easy to paint the future with one brush of dystopia, I think that there’s also a point of view that there’s a process of evolution with society that tends to develop on its own way that we as a society either allow to happen or don’t allow to happen. And when you’re living in it, you don’t necessarily see it for what it is.
I imagine if someone from 1930 were to come to 2013, they might find our world quite dystopic in its own way as well. Because in a weird way, we’ve kind of gone backwards from the freedoms of the days of the ‘30s and the flappers in Paris.
And there’s a funny thing about perspective that is always fascinating to me. So we’ve kind of tried to create at least a future that has one foot in storytelling and one foot in a potential reality, and I think that’s what SyFy tries to do always is to make people consider their world and look at their world through hopefully a different prism.
SFP: This organization Liber8, which are the terrorists in 2077, why do they go back to 2012? What is Liber8’s perspective? What are they trying to do?
Simon Barry: What we learn in the pilot is that Liber8 in the future are a terrorist organization from the perspective of the future, and they’ve been condemned to death. It’s an execution actually that sort of opens the show.
And what Liber8 manages to do through a conspiracy is put together a prison break, if you will, but it’s not the kind of prison break that goes through a wall or a tunnel. They are given the kind of technology – experimental technology that allows them to basically set off a bomb that creates a wormhole – a time travel portal if you will.
And so their escape is on the one hand a planned event, but they aren’t supposed to end up in 2012. They were only supposed to end up kind of at the tipping point of their future revolution. So it’s a bit of a mistake, but they realize very quickly that they can still change history from the perspective of 2012.
And Kiera, Rachel’s character, is accidently thrown back with them.
Rachel Nichols: Right.
Simon Barry: So she realizes that their goals – as much as she wants to get back, her ability to get home is inextricably tied to stopping this group of people from executing their mission, which is to change history.