Cult Roundtable Interviews: Jessica Lucas, Robert Knepper, and Alona Tal on the Show's Edginess, Playing Dual Roles, Obsession, and More
We're back with Part Two of our roundtable interviews for The CW's new series "Cult," which premieres February 19th. Today we have on tap co-stars Jessica Lucas, Robert Knepper, and Alona Tal.
Lucas, who plays Skye Yarrow, provided some information on her character and the show. "I play Skye, a research assistant on the television show," Lucas said. "She's the one who first starts to notice that weird things are happening with the fans of the show. She grew up with a journalist father so she's very inquisitive by nature, refusing to take no for an answer, and then she meets Jeff (Matt Davis); when Jeff's brother disappears, that gives her a reason to look deeper into the show. She's got a partner in crime to help her do that."
Thus far, Skye has not developed a ton of backstory, but that is certainly coming. "I think there's a lot of ambiguity around her at the moment," Lucas said. "There's not a lot about her backstory. I think her ambition and drive is something I can relate to, but beyond that, I'm not quite sure yet. We'll have to see." Lucas added, "She's been waiting for someone to confirm her suspicions, and when he comes along, that's an excuse for her and she feels a kinship with him. Her father has been missing. His brother goes missing. I think she feels compassion for him and wants to help him."
So can we expect some fireworks between the two amidst the frights? "I assume that's where it's headed," Lucas said. "We'll probably draw out that sexual tension for a while, but I'm sure something will happen with them down the line. That's the plan." She also hopes her character sees some action. "I've always wanted to do that kind of stuff, and I've done very little in my career thus far, so maybe. But Skye is a research assistant so I don't know how much ass-kicking she's going to be doing. We'll see."
Lucas noted how much she enjoys the mystery behind her character. "I know nothing, which is kind of exciting because on other shows I've worked on you kind of know where things are going," Lucas said, "but with this I really have no clue, and that's kind of exciting. With the next script I have no idea what I'm going to read. The show feels really unique and like nothing I've ever seen on television before."
Finally, Lucas also commented on her surprise with The CW for giving "Cult" unprecedented freedoms. "I'm proud of The CW for letting it go there," Lucas said. "I'm excited to see something more gritty and edgy on their network, and I assume we're going to keep pushing it as much as we can."
After a successful run as T-Bag on "Prison Break," Robert Knepper appears in "Cult" as both Billy Grimm and Roger Reeves, and he dished on his dual role. "It's amazing how people can be so fascinated by a character or a story," Knepper said. "I remember as a kid, if I saw Al Pacino in a movie, I started acting like Al Pacino. If I saw Robert De Niro in a movie, I'd act like him. It's crazy to be able to play a character that's so charismatic and magnanimous with so much to give to people. Also to play someone who is like a monster. Those are fascinating to me. I can't seem to get away from playing these characters, and hopefully with this guy he's more charismatic than the other ones put together. Simpler and really believes he's doing the right thing."
Knepper continued on his role, "What helped me get this part was "Prison Break". Rockne and the gang knew how the world perceives me as T-Bag. It's an iconic character that was just a total badass motherfucker, but you still didn't want him dead. And then in this show to be able to show the audience all the crazy things that have happened to me, and why not? Let's say the guy, Roger Reeves, starred in a show called "Prison Break" and played T-Bag and that's what made him famous, and now he's playing Billy Grimm. It can always be a world within a world and art imitating life like life imitates art to show the similarities between the character and the actor and also the differences."
Our time concluded with Knepper mentioning how he strives for realism with his characters. "My crust as an actor is always how real can I make it," he said. "To me acting can't just be reality because then you have this whole other thing, which also is what this is about… reality television. That snuff stuff on TV. You can't actually show someone getting shot on television, but hopefully it's so real that people think that person really did commit suicide and they go, 'Whoa, that scares the shit out of me!'"
Alona Tal, who appeared on "Supernatural" as Jo Harvelle, will be featured in "Cult" as Kelly Collins and Marti. "It's a very far away character for me," Tal said. "Kelly is a girl that used to be in the cult. In our story there's a cult and a cult leader and a cop that chases him. My character is the character that chases him and wants to bring him down, but she used to be part of this. And for me that's the interesting pathology of the character: someone who used to be part of a cult but is substituting one obsession for another. Any character that is obsessed with anything to that level is always interesting to me, and she puts all of her energy into bringing this man down and we don't know why and we don't know what happened or what has he really done, and that discovery is interesting and exciting."
Tal plays both an actress and, of course, the character the actress portrays on "Cult". She explained, "There's definitely subtle changes between the acting levels. I don't know if people will be able to see it, but just that level of obsession that Kelly is like a dog with a bone. She's all about the bone. But Marti is not that way. She's an actress. She's an artist. She's a little more free of that. She's not as consumed as Kelly is."
"Cult" Episode 1.01 - "You're Next" (airs 2/19/13, 9-10 pm)
Investigative journalist Jeff Sefton (Matt Davis, "The Vampire Diaries") has learned to live with his younger brother Nate’s (guest star James Pizzinato “Alcatraz”) relentless string of obsessions, especially his latest rant that a hit TV show called “Cult” intends to harm him. When his brother mysteriously disappears, Jeff enlists Skye Yarrow (Jessica Lucas; Cloverfield, “Melrose Place”), a young research assistant working on “Cult,” to help with his investigation into the dark underworld of the TV show and its rabid fans.
Meanwhile, in the parallel worlds of the show-within-a-show, the cult’s ruthless leader, Billy Grimm, is played by actor Roger Reeves (the double role of Billy/Roger is played by Robert Knepper (“Prison Break,” “Shameless”), a man whose primary agenda is winning back his former follower and lover, Kelly Collins, played by actress Marti Gerritsen (the double role of Kelly/Marti is played by Alona Tal (“Supernatural,” “The Killing”). Since escaping from the cult, Kelly has become an LAPD detective who finds herself drawn back into an investigation of the group’s activities as she struggles to keep Billy at a safe distance. As the television show grows in popularity, cast members Roger and Marti begin to feel the effects in their “real” lives.
Jason Ensler directed the episode written by Rockne S. O’Bannon.
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