SciFi Stream chats exclusively with the cast of Eureka — straight from the set!
While the annual pilgrimage to Vancouver for the Creation Entertainment Official Stargate convention is always fun, I flew to British Columbia this spring with the knowledge that this year’s trip — intended to be my last for some time — was going to be especially awesome. Just a few scant days prior to the trip, I received an official invite to visit Vancouver Film Studios — home to series like Hellcats and Fringe. But the reason for my visit was to spend time on the sets of Syfy’s summer hit series Eureka.
Over the course of a day and a half, the production team at Eureka granted us amazing access … including tours of all the sets, the chance to sit behind the cameras watching dailies of next summer’s early Season Five episodes being filmed, and exclusive one-on-one sitdowns with the entire cast of the series. As we lead up to the premiere of Season 4.5 on July 11, SciFi Stream is proud to present this daily interview series for Eureka fans!
Our first chat is with Tembi Locke, who joined the series last summer (at the beginning of Season Four) as Dr. Grace Monroe. During our talk, Tembi talks about her acting roots, her experiences on another cult favorite sci-fi series, her time on Eureka thus far, and some tiny tidbits of what may be to come!
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: I’m on the set of Eureka today with Tembi Locke who plays Doctor Grace Monroe on Syfy’s Eureka. Thank you, Tembi, for taking the time to talk to us.
Tembi Locke: Oh, my pleasure! Awesome.
SFS: Tell us a bit how you got your start in the industry. You’ve been gracing our screens since the mid-90s, but I’ll confess that you didn’t really catch my attention until a little sci-fi show called Sliders, which we’ll talk about in a bit. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start in the industry?
TL: Yeah, I actually started in New York and I started on a soap opera in New York. I always grew up knowing that I wanted to act. And then I moved to L.A. and I actually booked the first job I auditioned for and I’m like, “Okay. Well, there’s no turning back now!” So it was great.
SFS: One of the first productions that I think you’re credited with was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air…
TL: Yes! That was my first job! So not a bad first job. I was a love interest for, actually, Will [Smith] and Alfonso Ribeiro who played…you know… Why am I drawing a blank on the name? We all know.
TL: Carlton! Thank you! Thank you! We had a date and I still didn’t remember! But it was funny because that episode they put me in a flag dress, like I wore an American flag for a dress. And to this day, people still go, “The flag dress!” It’s like the flag dress episode. [Laughs]
I think it’s also one of the few episodes when Carlton had a love interest.
SFS: Now, you said acting was pretty much the first career choice.
TL: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. From a kid, from the first time I stepped on stage probably at six years old. I was like, “I kinda like this.” So I went to school, I went to university and I studied Art History, lived in Europe, then I moved to New York and started working.
SFS: You joined the cast of Sliders for the fifth and final season as “Doctor Diana Davis” but, admittedly, it was a transitional time for the series.
TL: Oh, yeah!
SFS: There was a lot of turnover both in front of and behind the camera.
TL: You noticed that!? [Laughs]
SFS: Going back to those days, what was it like during that final year? I mean, the bonds that you formed with actors like Cleavant [Derricks] – who had been with it since the beginning — and Kari [Wuhrer]?
TL: Cleavant’s awesome. Yeah, we had a great, great, great time. Cleavant was awesome. And you know, it’s interesting stepping into a role that had been a male … but now I was sort of the brain of the show. At that time, I was stepping into Jerry O’Connell’s [place], what had been essentially his slot. And it was awesome. It just fit like a glove and I just stepped right in.
They were very, very welcoming. Cleavant was awesome, Kari was great, Robert [Floyd] was awesome to work with and we had a great time. We were just like this band and they threw everything at us on that show. We were often doing crazy things, wearing crazy costumes.
SFS: With all the behind-the-scenes upheaval, and the budget being slashed, was the environment kind of chaotic?
TL: It was positive. It was actually positive, because I think by then everyone was happy to sort of come back together and say, “Hey, let’s do this.” I think it was sort of refreshing. I was so happy to be working and to be a part of the show that, if that was going on, it was unbeknownst to me. It was very congenial on set, so it was great.
SFS: Talk a little bit about the casting process for Eureka and how you came to get the role.
TL: Well, the agent called. [Laughs] That’s the first thing! And I’m like, “Oh! Okay, I like this.” And it was interesting, because actually when I went in to audition for the show, the sides — which is the scene that you’re going to audition with — was from, I think, two or three seasons before. I think it was from Season Two.
I didn’t know this, right? So I’m going in and I prepare for all this stuff and when I had the time to meet with the producer, with Jaime [Paglia], I was like, “OK, so now talk to me about how this happened,” and he was like, “No, no, none of this even matters. It’s a whole other storyline.” I’m like, “Oh! Okay!” [Laughs]
It was wonderful. Jaime was great, the writers were really gracious in the room when I had the audition. And I just sort of had this instinct, like, “This would be so cool to do and I like what’s happening with this character.” I love strong, creative women and the emotional arc for Henry and Grace was so fascinating. It was a big hook for me.
SFS: She showed up last summer in the premiere of Season Four — “Founder’s Day” — but in terms of aired episodes, that’s just a short time ago. Just ten episodes. Yet, you’ve already found this natural, seamless rhythm with actors like Joe Morton. Having done it in Sliders and now with Eureka, how easy is it for you to build a brand new character on a property that’s already established itself and has a fanbase?
TL: What’s interesting is, because I’ve had the experience of doing that often, I kind of like it. What happens is, when I got this job I just sat back and I probably watched three seasons in, like, four days! I’ve got to know what’s going on here, I’ve got to understand it, and Jaime’s like, “Well, we’re pushing the reset button anyway.”
It doesn’t matter, but I needed to know for myself as an actor, because you get a sense of what are the other actors doing on the show, and what the arc is their characters are taking. Even though some of that was unbeknownst to Grace, it’s great for an actor, it’s a benefit.
SFS: Is it more daunting than starting a character fresh from the very beginning of a series?
TL: Well, you do feel like a new kid on the block. You’re hoping to fit in, you know this is a well-oiled machine. You know these people have been doing this for a while and you want to step in and be playing at the same level from day one. Which is different from a show that’s just getting off the ground where everyone’s finding their voice, everyone’s in that some unknown place.
I kind of like it because I feel like I get to learn a lot before I even hit the set. You don’t have [that] if it’s the first season of a show and it’s the first ten episodes of a show. I could tell everyone had a great working relationship. Plus I knew Debrah Farentino and she gave me the inside scoop that everyone on Eureka was really awesome. She said it’s like a family and she said, “You’ll love it!” So that helped me to know. She was like, “The set is really relaxed, everybody’s great,” and I was like, thumbs up. I’m there.
SFS: In what ways are Grace and Tembi different?
TL: Well, Grace is definitely very handy. I mean, Grace can change a carburetor. Tembi can’t! [Laughs]
Tembi can play that she knows how to change a carburetor. I was on set and it was like, OK, that’s the wrench and that’s the pliers? So in that way, we’re different. I’m not that inept, but I’m not the most tool-friendly as you would say.
But I think we’re very similar in that Grace really leads from her heart. Her intellect certainly has its place. It’s what has gotten her where she is professionally, and it’s what Henry also really enjoys and loves about her. But she also is very heartfelt, which is why the arc of them having the difficulty in their relationship and then having to find their way back, I could put my hooks into that. I liked that as an actor.
SFS: Let’s talk about that a bit. Grace goes through most of the first half of Season Four before she discovers that the Henry Deacon that she has now is not the one that she had previously. That initial hurt that you showed onscreen was powerful, and as an actor it was fantastic work.
TL: Thank you!
SFS: In the end, Grace stays to work on it. In real life, under the same circumstances, if it was you, could you?
TL: That’s a great question! I think that would be really, really, really hard. It was interesting because I played around with that in preparing for that moment. And I think for me, seeing the thread of the person that I knew before — even if it’s just a tiny bit of them, just a sliver of who you remember and who you know — because I do lead with my heart a lot that would keep me hooked in. But on a tentative basis. You know, how are we really going to form this new relationship?
So I would be a little bit more reticent, which I think Grace was, but the love for Henry could transcend time. I think we all would hope that our deepest loves could all do that. Love is supposed to push everything else aside and be able to stand the test of time. I think that’s what was really fascinating to play around with, the idea of that. Yeah, I would hope.
SFS: Perhaps once the back half of Season Four airs, we’ll be able to expand on this a little bit more fully, but after filming what you have at this point, where would you like to continue to see Grace grow as a character?
TL: Well, Grace’s professionalism, to see that continue to expand as well and her role in Eureka at Global Dynamics. Also to see how the relationship with Henry evolves. To see also what happens with the depth of their relationship because now we’re inside of a couple and what comes up for them. They’ve gotten over this big hurdle but in life, things happen.
SFS: If you look throughout the years, Henry needs some happiness.
TL: Henry needs some happiness, right?! I mean, I saw Season Two or Three and I was like, “Oh, oh, oh! Come on! What are they doing to this guy?!” I had someone stop me at the grocery store and say, “Oh, you’re on Eureka! I’m so happy! Henry needs somebody! He needs somebody! We’re so happy for him!” and I was like, “Yes! Yes!” I completely concur.
SFS: What qualities does Eureka have in your mind that make it stand out from other genre series and why do you think some of the franchises that have been out there that were previously successful are having more trouble now? What do you think has changed?
TL: You know, that’s a complex question. You know … to get into the mind of television execs and the audience and sort of where we are in the world right now. I can speak first to what I think people resonate with with Eureka, which is that balance of both the humor, the science and the heart. Its overall tone, and holding those in equal measure.
SFS: Do you think that part of it, too, is that there’s so much going on in the world today that the escapism …
TL: Absolutely! Absolutely. I think it’s important. And also the fact that this is a show that I feel like a family could sit down in front of. A 10-year-old kid is going to be totally hooked into the science and the gadgetry and the inventions that are coming up. The parents are connected to what the show is saying overall about where science is and how government fits into the role of science. You can just connect to the relationships that are involved. I mean, there is something for everyone. I think all shows have that, but Eureka finds that unique balance with it. It’s great.
SFS: Where do you see yourself in the next decade? Still acting? Would you want to do anything else like directing?
TL: Oh, I love acting. That’s a good question, I’ve actually been thinking about that. It’s something that I haven’t been pulled to do, but of late and being on a show where I have so many great actors and so many of my colleagues do both, you’re like, “Oh! Wait a minute. Let me take a look at that.” I haven’t given consideration to that, but it’s something that I would stay open to, for sure. I do a lot of writing and that’s also another area that I could see myself doing in 10 years.
SFS: Any upcoming projects outside of Eureka that you’ve got in the can?
TL: No, not at the moment, no. It’s one of the things where it’s moment to moment.
SFS: Any message you want to give fans?
TL: Just that Eureka‘s fans are awesome, and thank you for your support!
Interview by Chad Colvin
Transcription by Lahela
TOMORROW: SciFi Stream’s Eureka interview series continues with actor Niall Matter!
Season 4.5 premieres on Syfy on July 11 at 8/7 p.m. (E/P). Season 4.0 is available on DVD today.