Dark Matter is a Canadian science fiction/action series created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, and is based on the comic book of the same name.
Synopsis: The six-person crew of a derelict spaceship awakens from stasis in the farthest reaches of space. Their memories wiped clean, they have no recollection of who they are or how they got on board. The only clue to their identities is a cargo bay full of weaponry and a destination: a remote mining colony that is about to become a war zone. With no idea whose side they are on, they face a deadly decision. Will these amnesiacs turn their backs on history, or will their pasts catch up with them?
We caught up with actor Anthony Lemke, who plays ‘Three’ in the series to discuss his role on the show, acting in Canada and what viewers can look forward to during the first season.
Sci-fi shows tend to have a greater die-hard fan base, do you find there to be more pressure on genre shows such as Dark Matter. Does it make it tougher for you as an actor?
I don’t think it makes it tougher, I think it’s a real opportunity to be honest. You’re right that there is a stronger connection between the folks watching the show and the folks making the show, when it comes to genre television. I would say it’s almost a conversation or a dialogue that occurs between the creators, be it the actors or writers, and the people watching the show – especially with social media where the feedback is instantaneous. People let us know what characters they like, which they don’t, what elements of the show they are responding to and that all makes its way back into the scripts and planning for season two.
What do you think it is about sci-fi shows that seems to attract such keen fans?
That’s an interesting question. I believe really strongly in folks with creative minds and active imaginations and I think science fiction or fantasy speaks to those people. I think it’s a positive thing to be an adult and maintain a youthful imagination and creativity moving forward. Plus, I think we are actively engaged in shaping the future. People who make sci-fi and people who read sci-fi and are part of that community and directly involved in shaping what our future looks like.
A good example is a book titled Wired For War, which is both scary and a fantastic read. It speaks to the advancements technology has made, in this particular case warfare, it is not uncommon for research facilities to see a TV show or film such as Minority Report influence what becomes reality. So, science fiction thinks about the world that might exist and in doing so helps create it and I think that is all part of what fans respond to.
Dark Matter was always bound to attract attention just due to the fact it is based on a comic book and created by Joseph Mallozzi who was responsible for the many Stargate offshoot series’. Were you familiar with those shows and comic before signing on to Dark Matter?
The shows of course without a doubt, but the comic book no. It was only after I got the role did I manage to read them prior to shooting the first frame. What is interesting about shooting on a comic book, is there is a world already created and a fan base for that world and that is both a challenge and an opportunity. The opportunity obviously is that you are inserting yourself into an existing property and the challenge of course is that comic books are not television, so the goal for everyone is to be able to craft a TV show from the comic material and do it justice.
Once we hit episode three, it is the first episode that doesn’t follow the comic books and I think you are going to notice the difference in the manner that the show unfolds and I think audiences are going to respond to that. These are very experienced sci-fi writers, guys like Martin Garo who wrote episode three, who sort of grew up in the Stargate world in a lot of ways and that’s those guys saying ‘alright, well we’ve got this fantastic world created in the comic books, now let’s write a TV show about it.’ I think that makes a real difference and I think the audience is going to respond.
You have done a fair amount of sci-fi shows in your career; Andromeda, Earth: Final Conflict, Mutant X. Is that by design or because you are a working actor and they tend to shoot a lot of those shows in Canada?
You nailed it. I am a Canadian actor and the Canadian industry is a lot different than the American industry. Canadian actors work a lot because we have to. I am not going to sugar coat it for you, if you choose to stay in Canada, the manner in which you support your family and pay for your kids schooling etc., is you work, and you work as much as you can. So you take the opportunities that are presented – now having said that, there are shows I have not auditioned for that are just not in my wheel house, but in terms of sci-fi that is totally in my realm.
I love it and when I moved back to Toronto from Montreal, where I have lived for ten years, I said to my agent that I am moving back to try and land a series regular and if it could be a sci-fi show, that would be awesome. It is literally what I wanted to be on – I love the genre and creativity that we touched on earlier. I just love that and think it’s a fun space to play in and I am lucky that what I hoped for actually happened.
Your character of Marcus Boone aka Three is very much an anti-hero. The lovable rogue Han Solo type. Is that the sort of role you tend to prefer? It suits you really well.
(Laughs) Yeah, honestly it is, it’s a role I fill really comfortable in and playing the asshole people are supposed to like, is a lot of fun and a real challenge to make characters say and do really unpleasant things and to make them likeable and it’s something I’ve been fortunate enough to do before. In order to make that work it’s a collaborative effort – the writing has to be there to allow the likeability while being the jerk and also the freedom on set has to be there to play with some of the lines.
Actors are actors – there are certain things that come out of our mouths a little more easily than others and having that ability to play around and say ‘ok listen, I think there might be a better way of doing this’ on the set and having folks who are open to it is really important as well. So the character you end up seeing and hopefully in turn liking, and hating at times, is really the fruits of my work along with the director, writer and editor.
You have had roles on both TV and film – do you prefer one over the other? The say that film is a director’s medium and TV is an actor’s medium, do you find that?
I have worked a lot in TV and I’m very comfortable with the rhythm of television. What’s required of a television actor is to get there quickly and then we move on. The budgets are smaller, especially in Canada – and I would say it definitely is an actor’s medium, especially on series television where you’re getting directors coming in and out. We have had more than eight directors on this one season of Dark Matter, so of course a new director that comes in is not going to know your character and the tone of the show as well as the actors who are there, so in that regard absolutely it is more of an actor’s medium and also a producer’s medium. When I say producer it can be in the normal sense of the word or the executive producer who is the writing producer, in this case Joe (Joseph Mallozzi) was on set almost all the time and it was really his show and that is different than in film.
In film, things tend to move slower. You tend to get more coverage, more interesting shots where the way the shot is composed is almost as important as what acting is being done in the shot, whereas in TV that is less the case. There are the beauty shots but it is a medium where most of the time it is about the acting. I like working in both TV and film, but I feel very fortunate to be working on the television side
You are bilingual and have had roles in both French and English. Because of the difference in language, the cadence and intonation in lines, is that a tough transition to make?
(Laughs) Yes, for me it is. If you are perfectly bilingual, which I am not, then it won’t. I am functionally bilingual, I speak French very well, I went to law school in French and English but I am an English guy and it takes effort to speak French and to work in French is even harder. When I landed my first series regular role in French, I hired a private coach to run through every single line of dialogue with me for the entire twenty two episodes I was on.
As an actor I am a little freer and looser with the text and I improvise a little more than maybe some other actors do and people who hire me tend to hire me because of that but imagine if you do not speak the language well enough so you can improv and find two or three different ways of saying the exact same thing – which I do in English, but in French I don’t really have the ability to do that. So with my coach we would run through the scripts and the scenes I thought could be more alive, I would ask her to give me a few alternatives to each line so on the day if I felt like going somewhere different, then I would have other alternatives. So yeah, it’s a real challenge.
Sometimes the words don’t feel like your own coming out of your mouth because they are written in a way that, even though I speak French well, I would never say it that way in a million years because I don’t speak it like a Francophone, I speak it like an Anglophone. In terms of sentence construction and the type of vocabulary I use – it’s my second language, so it can be really distancing from the emotion to be speaking words that you would never speak in your real life. That said, I absolutely love it! To shoot in French is one of my most favorite things to do.
Can you give us any sneak peeks of what happens to the crew of The Raza?
Yeah, I can give you a sneak peek to the type of things we get involved in that I think are really interesting. The ‘middle episodes’, say four through eight, are episodes where you are really exploring back-stories of our characters. Our characters for the audience and for themselves are a clean slate, we don’t know who we are, so it’s interesting for the viewers and for the actors to find out little dribs and drabs about who they are, and their past. I think what Joe and Paul (Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie) have done so well during those discovery episodes, is the action flows from the discovery so it feels very very rooted in something incredibly real and true to the characters themselves and the show gets very rewarding at that time.
The action complications – the gun fights etc., are evolving from these challenges and discoveries from the past, so that’s one thing you are going to see. There is also a really interesting philosophical side discussion that is happening in Dark Matter, regarding the role of artificial intelligence and advanced technology and beings within a human society and that will ripple out in incredibly interesting ways. I think the discussion there is an interesting one because it sort of brings us full circle back to what we were talking about at the beginning of how science fiction is this world that is pushing our real envelope, and artificial intelligence and robots – what place do they have in our society?
It’s a fascinating discussion and I know that’s one of the things the audience is going to see all the way through the first season, so watch for little cues here and there and eventually it will become a major storyline that will even ripple through season two as well.