Patrick Gilmore: There was a character, just a guard, had this one line and they named him Trennan. He was just a one-line character and then after the casting session, Ryan [Copple] and Nick [Humphries] and Kaleena called me and they said, “We’d really like to offer you this part.”
“Yeah, absolutely, I’ll do one line.”
“Well, no, it’s more than one line now. He’s actually one of the main characters.”
And they described the character to me and I said, “Absolutely!” and we filmed it that August.
Then they started getting the hype out and they started releasing some of the episodes on YouTube. We filmed in December, we released one episode from the second chapter before we had to pull it, because the hype had gotten so big that we got a distributor. Then when … we’re in talks about what to do with it and they’re still editing up chapter two is when Syfy got on board. I was just talking to Ryan Copple this afternoon and we were thinking, “My goodness, like a year ago we hadn’t even filmed chapter two yet.”
GW: And now look where you are. Have you been pleased with the feedback?
PG: Yeah! Again, this is another one of those things that I’ve been a complete neophyte about is steam-punk. I didn’t know what steam-punk is, I don’t know if it’s a common thing. I could recognize it.
GW: It is a huge subgenre.
PG: Yeah! I had no idea! I mean, conventions just dedicated to that alone. It’s aesthetically pleasing to me. I love that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and His Dark Materials and what have you — I’ve read those books and that’s very exciting. The idea of airships, I just think this is so cool and that’s something they want to do if and when they get to do chapter three.
GW: We see some in the background in the first episode on the skyline.
PG: Yeah, they did some great jobs with that. But it’s shocking that this has been so quick.
GW: Can we expect some interesting twists for Trennan in the future? I’ve seen all the way through episode five and I’m gathering that he is not exactly 100 percent happy with the change of power.
PG: I’m thrilled with what they’ve given me here. Kaleena talks about how she was good friends with Ryan Robbins and wanted Ryan on board and she said, “You know, we’re doing a project for friends. What would you like to be in it?” and Ryan said, “Oh, I would love to be a romantic lead.¨” “Okay, well here you go. Here’s your part.” So he got his dream part and Allison Mack, she’s been Chloe [in Smallville] and now she’s this really devious bitch in Riese.
They’ve given me something that, if you threw all the characters on the table and said, “Pick one,” I would pick Trennan in a heartbeat, because he’s a tragic character. He rose in the ranks of the Sect, which was the religious organization that helped Amara take over the throne, so they’ve kind of got their place now and they’re running things but Amara’s kind of like the puppet dictator. Trennan was put to work as a kind of emissary to Amara, but in the meantime, he’s developed feelings for Amara.
He’s in a wonderful position to manipulate both sides to his benefit, but he doesn’t. He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself, he doesn’t like what his boss, Herrick, is doing and what the Sect is doing. You’ve got to watch the show, it all comes up. But in the meantime, Amara’s thinking that he’s on his side and he’s not sure and he has to choose sides. They’re very mum about where they’re going to go with this. At least they seem to, and then I’ll ask Ryan and he’ll tell me a whole other storyline. “You’ve just been holding onto this?” and he’s like, “Well, you’ve never asked.”
GW: He’s got plans for the show.
PG: They’ve got plans, man — the prequels and books and the game got released on the iPhone last week. But there’s so many place that Trennan can go and they’re all dark places, which is exciting.
GW: It sounds like it has a bright future ahead. Have you received any reports in terms of hits, in terms of how well it’s doing from Syfy’s perspective, as to whether or not they’ll want to do more?
PG: I have no idea. We’re getting into our third week, I guess the fifth episode was released today and I guess it goes for another two weeks after this. I’m not sure, I think Erica at Syfy would be the one to ask. They’re hoping for those releases and once they release it in Canada and overseas, that might give them a better sense. I think that there’s a place for it on Syfy, as far as fantasy goes, because they’ve got Legend of the Seeker.
GW: Yes. Yeah, it feels a lot like that, coupled with a couple of other shows. It feels very similar to that. Wild Wild West, I think I said, with a mix of Legend of the Seeker.
PG: Okay. But I think it’s a natural fit for the Syfy channel and I think that it’s such a beautiful looking place filled with people that have homes on Syfy. There’s not one actor in there that hasn’t been a regular on a Syfy show, as far as I know.
GW: I was staggered at the production quality of the show, because I think — and please, Amanda, forgive me — I think it looks better than Sanctuary on the web. You’re not using a great deal of green screen elements, it’s very natural, it’s very down to Earth. What you’re seeing is really what you’re getting and I think that for the budget that you guys have, it comes across better on the screen. I’m betting with Darren right now that you guys are going to get a series pick-up on Syfy at some point. I think you’ve proven that it’s good.
PG: Well again, the comparison with Sanctuary, they do a lot of green screen stuff. I’m good friends with Ryan Robbins and we were out for drinks and I said, “I have to admit, pal, I’ve never seen your show!” He went, “That’s okay, I haven’t seen Stargate.” I’m like, “Really? You really should watch it, it’s fantastic!” He’s like, “Well, I’m saying the same thing about Sanctuary!” It was pretty funny. I’ve never seen the original Sanctuary web stuff.
GW: They were different. There was actually some aspects of it that I liked more, that I think Syfy had changed. Or Amanda [Tapping] and Damian [Kindler] and Martin [Wood] had changed before they committed it to the series. But, who knows? You guys are on the web right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you get a series pick-up depending on the quality of the stories and the amount of buzz and eyeballs that the series gets. But, one step at a time.
PG: Yeah, well, best of both worlds, you know? I’m splitting my time between Stargate Universe and Riese. I mean, what a life that would be. I’ve been pretty lucky so far with both of them, so I’m not complaining.
GW: It’s good to be employed, especially right now.
PG: You know, before I landed Stargate Universe, I was shoveling brick in a demo crew.
GW: You’ve got to bring in the bacon! You’ve got to do it.
PG: Pay my bills, yeah. I mean, it was desperate. The entire industry out here just tanked and I almost quit acting in the beginning of ’08. There was no point and then you start thinking about things like family and just paying your mortgage and it just didn’t make sense. Then the idea of walking away from this art, something I’ve committed to and I feel like I’m meant to do, was so heartbreaking that desperation breeds invention.
GW: Well, following your dreams can be costly, and then sometimes you just get lucky and someone smiles upon you.
PG: Absolutely. And you know, going to the Bridge Studios tomorrow morning, I’ll get up at three in the morning and I’ll have a smile from ear to ear. But then you do look at things, I’ll look back at my friends in Edmonton and they’re on their third kid, they’ve got a yard, they’ve got a house, they’ve got a couple of vehicles, they see each other every weekend. It’s been a sacrifice, but when I step into that gateroom …
GW: Do you not have a family?
PG: No, no, I’m not married. I’ve got a couple of nieces and a nephew and they’re a handful.
GW: I think I’m following you right now. I want to work on work, I’m young, I have time ahead of me, you know? There are sacrifices that you have to make in order to follow your dreams, but I think at the end of the day, when you look back and ask yourself, “Was it worth it?” I think that’s the real question.
PG: Well, you know I did a movie called 2012, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.
GW: I walked out of the theater, to be perfectly honest with you.
PG: Did you really? [Laughter]
GW: I thought the visual effects were astounding, but I could not stand it.
PG: Oh, that’s too bad. Then you didn’t see me, because I was at the end. You know, it was an experience to be in a Roland Emmerich movie but I don’t know if I could sit through it again because it was just too much. But the point of this is, that was filmed in December of ’08 and I remember sitting in my trailer for, like, 12 hours — it was the biggest budget movie I’ve ever been on — and I was sitting there reading a book and realizing that at that very moment, my Dad was having his retirement party back in Edmonton. That I couldn’t go to because I had to work because I was broke.
You have that moment where you go, “You know what? On my deathbed, I’m not going to remember some s****y TV movie that I did but I will remember that I missed my Dad’s retirement party.” Sure, we’re making sacrifices now to follow these dreams, but I guess we still have time to make that gamble and we still have time to regret them.
GW: I think that you hope, at least I certainly live my life, hoping to get myself in a position where I have sacrificed enough that I can then be in a position where I can say, “You know what? I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go do this,” and it will not impact my career because of the important position that I have, wherever I’m at. It’s just a balance, you know? You’ve got to survive and you have to live your life trying to follow your dreams.
PG: And I don’t know what’s worse. If I had walked away and spent my life with three kids and a ski-doo and a couple of cars going, “Gee, I wonder if I could have made it as an actor.” That’s the fear that keeps driving me. I don’t want to feel that regret. I can actually say, “I’m a working actor,” which is something that 90 percent of the actors out there can’t say. So, I’m lucky.
Interview by David Read. Transcript by Lahela.