Helix Q&A: Jeri Ryan and Steve Maeda Talk Forthcoming Answers, Upping the Gore, Season 2, and Lots More
Syfy hosted a Q&A with "Helix" guest star Jeri Ryan and exec producer/showrunner Steve Maeda last week, and they revealed quite a bit about what's ahead now that Constance Sutton (Ryan) has arrived in the Arctic.
Things kick off with some discussion about Sutton, who she really is and her motives, and then we hear about topics ranging from the likelihood of a second season, Jeri's love of gore, how long they can keep up the series' intensity, Hatake’s obsession with Walker, the current state of genre TV, and much, much more.
If you're a fan of the show and/or Ryan (whose appearance as Ilaria's corporate "face" first occurred this past Friday night in Episode 1.07, "Survivor Zero," and will continue in future eps), you'll want to grab your morning coffee or tea and settle in for a bit.
It's President's Day; you don't have to work anyway, right? There's a lot of good stuff here!
Q: When we first see Sutton, she pretends to be this nice woman who’s there to help, and we learn pretty quickly that's not true. Can you talk about playing the more cold, calculated side of the character?
Jeri Ryan: She was just fun. This was a really fun role to play because it’s... she’s kind of out there. You know, she’s not subtle, which I love. So it was fun to just sort of let go and just really play and let her go to those places... that was a treat as an actor.
Steve Maeda: Sutton for us was someone who put on a very sort of benign and corporate face, which is why she does a lot of corporate speak, but then underneath there’s obviously a lot more going on, and Jeri just ate it up. It was fantastic.
Q: This is more for clarification. We see obviously that Julia has the silver eyes, and now your character has the silver eyes. Does that mean possibly she’s had the virus, or is it something else completely, entirely different that has nothing to do with the virus or the cure? Or can you not tell us that?
Maeda: You're asking all the right questions.
Ryan: Well, that’s part of the mystery, isn’t it?
Maeda: Yes. You're asking all the right questions, and answers will be forthcoming, I promise. It’s going to be answered really quickly. But, yes, those are the questions we want you to be wondering about.
Q: Steve, are you completely done with Season 1? Is it totally out of your hands now?
Maeda: Not totally. We are locking our last episode, Episode 13, today [February 10th], and then we are actually on the mix stage right now. We are watching a playback - a sound playback of Episode 8, which is the second episode that Jeri is in, and we’re working through those. So that’ll be going on almost until... a couple weeks before we air this last episode.
Q: Are you waiting to finalize this finale until after you hear about a Season 2 pickup?
Maeda: You know what? We’re locked into our finale. We don’t have the luxury. So we are cautiously optimistic on a Season 2 pickup, and [Episode] 13 is going to lock today, so we’re crossing our fingers and toes.
Ryan: I'm not cautious. I'm not cautious. I'm going out there. They’re picked up… I'm making the prediction right now.
Q: Whose idea was it to have Constance have to file her teeth down? And is that a hint that maybe she has to keep doing that or otherwise they’ll grow longer and longer?
Maeda: That’s absolutely the hint, and that idea… I think that was something that came from Cameron [Porsandeh]'s original script. It may have actually been in the original pilot. I don’t remember, but it’s something that we always liked because it was so freaking weird. And we just had to put it in. It’s just the best so yes, it was there originally. It was something that fell out of the pilot I think, and then we ended up finding a nice place for it.
Q: This show can be very tension-filled, but you guys always break it up. Either with Alan and Sarah being unsure of themselves after having sex in this Friday’s episode or the music. The music has been really great. Like "Fever" being used in this episode. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Maeda: We decided from the get-go that we wanted to do some things a little bit differently and be unsettling not only in, you know, storytelling and how we were shooting the show, but also in post and in how we cut the show and in music… "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?," which started the whole thing, came from Ron [Moore] when we were sitting in post on the pilot. And... one of our other producers… we bought it on iTunes and watched it just kind of temped in, and it was like, “Wow. That works really well.” So it was something we had talked about. When we saw it, we thought it was great, and so that’s why we continued to do it. And "Fever" is the perfect one. That’s probably the best song we’re using in the entire show.
Q: Jeri, how would you best describe Constance and what motivates her?
Ryan: She’s kind of a ball-buster. I think that’s the best way to describe her, which I love. What motivates her? Well, I can’t - see, I can’t really tell you exactly what motivates her. That you sort of find out.
Maeda: She’s a company employee, and so I would say she is trying to be loyal to the corporation and to the folks that she has been working with and been developing this whole plan with. And once she finds out that Hatake has since been working on his own agenda, she gets pretty damn angry about that. And it’s an interesting thing… I thought Jeri walked that line really well, that line between the corporate kind of niceties and the polite things that you say versus the things that you actually do. And once the fangs came out, it’s all over. So it was a lot of fun to watch.
Ryan: It was a lot of fun to play. And I also love, as you'll see without trying to give too much away, she’s definitely, as Steve said, in the corporate world and very much looking out for the best interests of Ilaria, but you find out that there’s a little more personal issue for her at stake as well, which I really loved...
Maeda: We tried to do with characters, even if they seem to be - both with Hatake and with Sutton - even if they seem to be very kind of on point and you know their agenda comes first, we try to infuse them with some emotion down the road so you understand where they’re coming from, and it’s not just about money. It’s not just about greed or this sci-fi illness of the show, but there’s an emotional component as well.
Ryan: And I love that.
Q: Jeri, what was it like to work on a series that’s sometimes kind of gory and gross?
Ryan: Oh, I love the gore. Are you kidding me? Oh, God, more gore. I love it. The goo and the guts and all of it. I love it. So much fun. Come on. I observed autopsies when I was on "Body of Proof"! I love this stuff. I love the science of it. I love the gore. I love all of it.
Q: Steve, "The X-Files" was very dark [Ed. Note: Maeda served as writer, story editor, and executive story editor on the show] and certainly a pioneer in that sort of vibe, and "Helix" has a really dark edge. But "The X-Files" had at least a little humor with the interplay between Scully and Mulder, but this one is just relentless. Do you plan to keep up this intensity, or are you going to maybe let us breathe every now and then somewhere in the series?
Maeda: No. We want to keep up the intensity. There are light moments coming, but they tend to be kind of in the service of… it's black humor definitely, and they tend to be in service of keeping everything moving. and just sometimes you find those moments in the worst situations. So yes, we have 13 episodes and we really want to… our mantra was to keep the show moving, and so we want to have down time, we want to have character time, but we definitely want to keep everything twisting and turning and keep you coming back for more hopefully.
Q: You got to kind of get rough with Hatake there when you were mad at him. Would you like to maybe explore some more action and physical roles after getting a little taste of that?
Ryan: Oh, yes. It’s not my first taste of it either. I did Mortal Combat, and I've done some other roles with a little bit of action here and there. Yes, it’s a lot of fun. I always enjoy those scenes. But I have to tell you, I have to brag about Hiro [Sanada] for a minute. That man is unbelievable. I was in awe of him. I still am in awe of him. He’s… the man is a ninja. The scene where I had to throw the book at his head, and I have to throw it directly at his face…it’s on me. I can’t like pretend to throw it. I have to wail it at him, and he’s standing like six feet away from me. And I was a wreck shooting the scene. I was so nervous. I was like, “Dude, I have no aim. I can’t.” He was like, “Just throw it. Just do it. Just right at my face. Just go.” And there’s cameras set up right behind him, and so he has to knock the book away, and we’re worried about hitting the lens and all this expensive equipment. He never even blinked. Never flinched. Never breathed heavy. Nothing. Every take, he just batted it out of the way like it was nothing in the exact spot that it was supposed to land so it didn’t hit any equipment. He is amazing. He is amazing.
Maeda: Yes, he pretty much didn’t flinch for the entire series… everything he was asked to do, yes. He really is amazing. And just… Was he dancing on set at all?
Ryan: No, I didn’t see the dancing.
Maeda: Because the last time I was there, he’s also really graceful. I mean, he can dance and sing. It’s unbelievable. He’s really talented.