Our final chat within our Eureka interview series is with lead actor Colin Ferguson, who plays Sheriff Jack Carter.
Despite being one of the busiest people on set that day, Colin graciously took more than enough time to sit down with us. In our chat, Ferguson discusses his multicultural background, what attracted him to the series, his thoughts on the departure of Ed Quinn (“Nathan Stark”) from the show, and much more!
Special thanks go to the Syfy network, NBC Universal, Vancouver Film Studios, Jaime Paglia, Matt Hastings, Eric Wallace and the entire Eureka production team for their support and graciousness.
SciFi Stream: Colin, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.
Colin Ferguson: Ah, absolute pleasure!
SFS: Even though you were born in Montreal, you grew up in several different places and you’re a citizen in three different countries. What was it like growing up? Did the multiculturalism that you experienced kind of affect your world-view or your approach to the acting craft?
CF: Yeah. Well, I guess it affected who I am as a person and therefore affected what I do for a living. But I would say, when you move around as many cultures as I moved around within, I guess you just have to adjust. Maybe that made it easier for me to adjust between characters or something like that.
It definitely opened my eyes to a lot of different things. It was one of the things I didn’t really think much about until I was older. Then I sort of looked back and said, “Oh, this is actually going to provide far more of a world-view than I had thought.” So, I would say yeah, if it provided anything, it maybe broadened my sense of the world.
SFS: You’ve been popping up on our TV sets since the mid-1990s. You’ve had roles in things like Titus and Malcolm in the Middle but prior to Eureka you were a main cast member on a couple of shorter-lived series, the main one being the American reboot of the British hit comedy Coupling, which I loved. It was touted as the next Friends at the time that it first hit.
CF: They wanted it to be. [Laughs]
SFS: Why do you think it failed to catch on?
CF: I think there’s a couple of things going on there. I think the mistake within the show concept was … the whole reason the British Coupling worked was that it’s ordinary people. And [the U.S. Coupling] took a bunch of characters and then sexed them up. It was glossy, it was glitzy, they looked good. Not that [the British cast] weren’t good looking, but [America] glossed it up and I think that made it less sympathetic to the audience. It’s harder to relate to beautiful, well-dressed people with thousand dollar outfits. You lose the everyday aspect of it.
I remember at the time, that was when NBC and Universal was just beginning to start merging, so this was prior to the merge. So when you divvied up the profits of a show like that — oh, geez! The BBC or whomever, they had a piece of the pie. Steve [Moffat] had a piece of the pie. Moffat is probably one of my favorite writers. He’s amazing, his work is always brilliant! And then you had all the other people who were making money off of it.
Cable was gaining ground, too. I think, to make that series go they guaranteed the advertisers something like a 15-share or something like that. And we got like a 13 and that wasn’t high enough. But then you cut to a bunch of years later and a 13 is astronomically good, so it was in that transition period.
The show never found itself, but the last thing that was a problem — I guess there were a lot of problems. [Laughs] The last thing was you take a show that’s 30 minutes in length, written by a guy like Steve Moffat, who’s so good. He makes use of 30 minutes. So you cut it down to 21 minutes for the American delivery time and you lose a third of the distance in the plot. So a lot of the effects don’t have quite the same effect. They were also super-sizing Will and Grace and Friends when we premiered, so that came out of us. I remember our show had to premiere at 19 minutes and it’s just really hard to get six characters and a plot out in 19 minutes.
SFS: Let’s talk about the casting process for Eureka. What attracted you to the project?
CF: It was pilot season. I was going through it and this was a one-hour comedy drama, which I really wanted to do. I didn’t necessarily think it was going to happen, but this came along and I said, “Oh, that’s great! That’s really the tone of what I’m thinking.” It came along early in the season and it was on Syfy and I thought cable would be good because I’d done two network shows — short-lived, as you say — and I really wanted to do something that had a chance to be on the air for a little bit.
So it seemed like a good thing, but it wasn’t until I walked in and Jaime [Paglia] was in the room that I knew. Because I usually do what I do and people go, “Oh no, we don’t want that. We want no comedy, really be strong and manly,” and Jaime was like, “No, no! That’s exactly what we want. We want a humor undertone to it.” So it was a perfect storm.
SFS: In what ways are Jack and Colin alike and in what ways are they different?
CF: Oh, God! I guess, increasingly, we’re similar. Yeah, I save people every week in my own life! Really! I’m constantly saving the world, so there’s a similarity. [Laughs]
Um, I’d like to think that I work hard and he works hard and I’d like to think that I am prepared to sacrifice for what I think is right. I mean, he does it on a much more metaphorically grand level.
I know the humor is the same, which is, you take a situation and if you can make a joke out of it, it diffuses it and it’s a good thing. I think, increasingly, our humor has sort of become the same, as I hear happens on most shows. Where you do it for a bunch of years, at a certain point they make the character closer to you because it’s just easier and it bleeds through. That’s probably why you got cast anyway, because you’re pretty close to the character that you’re playing. So those are some similarities.
SFS: From very early on, the series kind of brought a focus to the flirtation, blossoming — and finally in Season Four — the development of a real relationship between Jack and Allison Blake. Historically, love plot lines don’t always mix so well on genre and sci-fi shows, especially in today’s viewer climate. How do you think Eureka‘s been able to buck that trend?
CF: If we’re going to survive the trend, I would say it’s because it’s never settled. Like, we get together, but something pulls it apart. Or we get together and it messes up, or we get together and something changes. It’s sort of the history that we’ve done so far. It’s all of a sudden 1947 and I’m in and she’s not and she’s in and I’m not, sort of going back and forth. We definitely get together, but like a normal relationship, we’re better on paper.
Normal relationships, it all looks good but the reality is it’s constant … uh, not “warring.” That’s a bit revealing about my own life, but it’s not as easy. [Laughs]
SFS: Part of that relationship building also included some interference by Nathan Stark, played by Ed Quinn. Some of the wittiest dialog through the series, I think is between the two of you. You kind of spar back and forth. Do you think, even short-term, that Ed’s departure from the series maybe hurt it a little bit? Or was it a natural progression for the story to take?
CF: It wasn’t natural that Ed went, that’s for sure. We missed him. Worse for the series? I don’t know. The strange strength of the series has been in its additional cast members and ability to bounce back from things like that.
I think any show that’s going to go down on losing a cast member was going to go down anyway. I mean, you have to be stronger than one person. But, yeah, personally we were all sad when Ed decided to go and we loved the banter and we loved having him there and that was a really key part of the show. But he’s off to do bigger and better things.
SFS: In Season 4.0, with “The Ex-Files,” when he comes back and you get that banter back again, it’s just like, “Wow! I don’t realize how much I miss that!” You don’t miss it when it’s not there, but when it comes back …
CF: Yeah, we did that episode last year that he came back for and it was great to have it back. I mean, we just spar really nicely.
SFS: You’re filming Season Five already, as we speak, and you’ve lived with the character for years now. Are there aspects of Carter that you’d like to see explored more going forward?
CF: Yeah, yeah, I always like to see things explored, but I’d like to see the aspects of other characters explored. I think that was sort of the great thing about Ed leaving is it created a bit of a vacuum that needed to be filled.
You’re always going to try different things on a show and we’ve tried a bunch of people that didn’t work. And then we’ve tried other people, like when Felicia Day came on. Having her is just great for Fargo, and for us. You wouldn’t have gotten that moment had you kept the other moment, so I think at a certain point you do ditch things that are working to sort of go, “Well, we need to shake it up and make it new.” We’ve been really lucky with those relationships working.
SFS: What qualities does Eureka have that makes it stand out from the rest of the sci-fi genre pack?
CF: I know that we’re light, we’re fun. We get our numbers that we’re supposed to get. I think people have responded to that. It’s tough to get a show to last. I think some shows just go down based upon when they were airing. Some great shows, they go up against three or four weeks of brutal programming, you’re dead. It doesn’t matter if the show’s any good.
I think we benefited from being one of the summer launches before summer launches became common. We found our footing and we found our audience. It comes from Jaime and the writers. The word “original” isn’t right, but it’s unique to them. So there’s an authenticity to the fact that they’re not tying to retread anything. It’s this crazy, weird group of minds that churn it out and I guess that’s resonating a bit.
SFS: You’re occasionally directing now. You’ve done some episodes of Eureka, and you also helmed last year’s Syfy movie Triassic Attack. What’s more creatively satisfying for you? Where would you like to see your career at a few years from now?
CF: A few years from now, where would I like to be? I’d like to rest a few years from now. I would like to be on a beach. [Laughs]
I’d love to continue to direct. I really, really enjoy getting a story early and protecting the parts of the story that need protecting — the parts where it’s vulnerable — and then seeing it through all the way to the end of editing. I really enjoy that process. It’s longer and it’s arguably more fulfilling.
Acting is really, really hard. You’re hitting the same timing every time, it’s physically really exhausting and the make-up and the costume and all that. However, when I’m behind the camera, sometimes I’ll be asking an actor to do something and I’ll really want to do it. I’ll sort of get there and be like, “Aw, I wish I could step in and do that bit. That’d be a really funny thing to do.” So I’ll never be content. I’ll probably continue to do both.
SFS: Do you have a message for fans that you want to give?
CF: Yeah! Thanks so much for finding us every summer even though we’re not on and not the easiest to find sometimes. The life and death of the show has been that core group who seem to find us every single summer. We’re still trying and I think the stuff that’s airing this summer is some of the best stuff that we’ve done.
We’re shooting way ahead of you guys now. We’re shooting next summer’s stuff in the spring of this year. Thank you for staying with us and hang in there, there’s some really good stunt casting and some really fun stuff coming!
Interview by Chad Colvin
Transcription by Lahela
Season 4.5 premieres on Syfy tonight at 8/7 p.m. (E/P). Season 4.0 is available on DVD today.