Helix Stars Mark Ghanimé and Catherine Lemieux Talk Hope and Fear, Getting Creeped Out on Set, and Lots More
Two of the stars of Syfy's "Helix" spent some time speaking with journalists recently, and we have the highlights here, including how they've developed their characters, whether they've been creeped out while filming, and lots more.
The series, which airs Friday nights at 10/9c, is the latest brainchild of Ron Moore, creator of “Battlestar Galactica," and if you've been watching, you'll know Mark Ghanimé as Major Sergio Balleseros and Catherine (Cat) Lemieux as veterinarian Doreen Boyle.
Things kicked off with a bit of discussion about their characters.
Q: Mark, are we going to learn more of your character's back story?
Mark Ghanimé: I really hope you do… you just have to wait and find out as far as when the episodes get released. But there's definitely going to be some interesting stuff developing with my character. He's got a lot of… he's multi-faceted let's just say. So we're going to see some surprises… as far as his background and where he comes from, we're going to learn some stuff with some twists.
Q: Catherine, as far as developing Doreen's personality, was that all in the script, or have you brought something of yourself to it?
Catherine Lemieux: It's definitely a combination of those two things. I think what came from the script and what most of the writers gave to Doreen was definitely a kind of attitude... the idea of someone having the character to just deal with working with disease and being able to relocate to places like the Arctic takes a particular kind of personality trait I think. So for me I kind of tapped into Doreen being kind of a hard lady, you know, a kind of no-nonsense kind of lady, so that's how I reached that.
Q: And, Mark, for Sergio, are you still working on that process, or do you pretty much have an idea of who he is?
Mark Ghanimé: Oh, I think that's sort of a never-ending process. It's just like trying to discover who you are, and as a person you go through changes in your life… when you're 20, you're a different person than when you're 40. You know, there is that process. For my character for the series, so far for the season I'm done; we finished filming. But I do have some designs for Season 2 if that happens. If everyone's fortunate and everything aligns and we're working on Season 2 and my character is around, I've got some ideas for him for sure. That's something that I'm really looking forward to working on and developing further. Definitely.
Q: Executive producer Steve Maeda called the Narvik virus an "invisible villain." He said you can't touch it, you can't taste it, but it's there. How effective do you think that using fear and then of course the element of hope with your characters is in connecting you with and making you sympathetic to viewers?
Catherine Lemieux: I think that that's just a reflection of life really… life is a balance of those two things in a sense of fear and hope through that and of conquering the fears that we get. So I think that's kind of like a true reflection; the show kind of reflects the balance of life that we all try to achieve. And we all have fears, and we all have to face them in that sense. So it's a very, very human experience in that...
Mark Ghanimé: Exactly what Catherine says, and also the fact that if you look at some of the characters as we develop the story in the season, some of the infected… there is the fear and the hope that these people from the CDC can help them… it's a very important storyline on the secondary and the guest star characters in the show. A lot of times you don't see too much of the fear and the hope on the surface of the hero characters. But we have that support from the guest stars on our show. You really get to see what the true feelings are of these people in the space. And I think, yeah, it is exactly human nature.
Q: We have sort of a real world issue treated in a fantastic sci-fi manner on the show; how do you do that? How do you put that slant on it and keep some levity but the true gravity of the world?
Mark Ghanimé: We've echoed this a lot in our previous interviews. The fact that what we're doing in this show is not fantastical, is not supernatural, is not beyond the reach of the real world, I think that in itself lends a built-in fear in that it can happen…You look outside your door, and those things can occur. And I think that itself is enough to put the fear of God into people, for lack of a better term.
Catherine Lemieux: The possibility of any situation that's on television or on film or what have you is definitely the link with the audience in that sense. If an audience member can identify and see themselves in this problem that these characters are having, then you really do have a connection.
Q: There is a tiny bit of humor in your odd couple relationship. Was it always meant to be?
Mark Ghanimé: Obviously part of it is due to the writing. And they paired us up - dialogue-wise they paired us up like that… I had never met Catherine going into this project, but I was sort of met with open arms and she's a lovely woman. And we had a lot of fun together. And I think… our comfortable behavior with each other just lent itself to what we put on film afterwards. And it's just a blast for myself. And she's got a wonderful background in theater, and I had a blast learning from her.
Catherine Lemieux: I couldn't have gotten through this project without the complicity that I had with Mark who, again, we didn't know each other before this project. And he's just a really generous scene partner. I'm very new to working in television and so Mark was always just very, very, very helpful with that. And as he said, I think we just developed a kind of relationship. I think Doreen is a bit me, and I'm a bit Doreen. And so, yeah, definitely that is a reflection of… our actual relationship off screen.
Q: Has anything actually creeped you out? Clearly not as much as we're creeped out watching, but working with the goo, the black blood, and other revolting things? Or did you just feel like a kid in a candy store it was so much fun?
Catherine Lemieux: I think that’s how I felt, [like] a kid in a candy store. I think that's a really good expression. For me… I was just in a world of wonder because the special effects there are created by a team of artists really so, you know, the monkey that attacked me was a work of art really. Mark kept taking pictures of him, too. The things that we… come across are really fantastical but obviously in a non-threatening kind of context. I think a lot of people were a bit freaked out for me to be working with rats. I think a lot of people have rat fear… So that first scene in the pilot episode a lot of people were just afraid for me, but I love animals so that was fun.
Mark Ghanimé: I agree with Catherine… Catherine and I were working in tandem with a lot of the same kind of effects and a lot of the same circumstances for the first few episodes so we got to see a lot of the same things. So, yeah, definitely working with these monkeys that they created - the visual effects monkey - special effects - just the process that it takes to create such wonderful pieces of art that look like live beings on the screen is just amazing… You see them in regular light when all the lights are on in the house and you're looking at these products that are built for the show, but then under the proper lighting and when the cameras are rolling, it just adds this completely different level of creep.
Catherine Lemieux: It's not as scary from the side of filming; a lot of stuff is green-screened and stuff like that so you kind of have to imagine what's going on. And so the result, once it's all put together, is a lot different from the experience.
Q: Lastly, can you each describe your character in three words?
Mark Ghanimé: Badass with heart.
Catherine Lemieux: No-nonsense. Oh, three words? No-nonsense… with compassion.
Our thanks to Cat and Mark for their time, moderator Stephen Cox, Garrott Smith, and everyone at Syfy.
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