With the premiere of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY finally upon us, it was a real treat to hear from the cast and creator about what the show shall offer in terms of surprises and how much fun they had working on it. Taking the time to chat with press about the series were stars John Barrowman, Eve Myles, newcomer Alexa Havins and creator/executive producer Russell T. Davies. The following Q&A is their insightful and at times very humorous responses.
What inspired you to write about the theme of never-ending death?
RUSSELL: I just wanted to write something that would put me first in a conference call ahead of these actors. It’s hilarious! Come on, we all find this ‘conference call’ day funny. [laughter] It was kind of like you know, an old idea that’s been in my head for years — possibly about a decade or something — because it’s kind of an old classical idea. I think it happens in medieval mythology and stuff like that — death taking time-off and leaving the world and things like that. And I just thought it would fit TORCHWOOD marvelously and that we would have ten hours to explore what would happen to the world — what would really happen to the world instead of making it like a fable or a fairy tale. So it was just kind of irresistible because TORCHWOOD now is about big ideas. So that was the big idea.
Could describe briefly what the process was for this story and how did this miniseries end-up on Starz?
RUSSELL: I had the idea for the story. We then got together with Jane Espenson and a man called Chris Chibnall, who ran the first two years of TORCHWOOD back in the UK. We beat that out into a 13-episode storyline and then we hawked that around various networks. You just go around pitching it and selling it. We got a lot of interest from Fox initially, who were lovely and charming, and eventually went with something else. But then, the second place we went calling was Starz. And they instantly liked it and we talked about the story and they had a slot for ten episodes as opposed to 13, which was fine actually because we sent three episodes a packing. So they just went — the great ‘lost’ episodes. So it was just a very healthy relationship from the start. It was a lovely farce once we got to Starz. They really loved it. They wanted all the strong elements in it to be emphasized. They didn’t want it calmed down or toned down at all. And we were very quickly into production so it was a nice, happy experience. It was brilliant.
What was it like having some of the new actors come in from the other side of the pond, so to speak, and really making it an international cast for you?
RUSSELL: Well, from my point of view it was just brilliant. It was to get Alexa in and to get Mekhi in, Bill Pullman as well. It was just a whole new infusion of energy, new voices, a new spirit. It just opens the doors for new viewers and it’s just a delight to work with them. Absolutely brilliant. I’d hope Alexa would say the same. What do you think?
ALEXA: It’s been rough. I don’t know. [laughter] No. It’s been a great experience definitely. I mean we especially from my standpoint, it’s interesting. There is like a really slight parallel, but an interesting one enough between my character Esther and Gwen in the original first season. That was an honor to kind of take over that passing of the torch as introducing the new audience. As that was her job in season one to introduce the audience, I kind of feel like it was passed upon to us to say welcome to the world of TORCHWOOD to the American viewers that weren’t privy to the world already. So it’s been an interesting hat to wear kind of. Everything that the new audience members are asking what is Torchwood, Esther is asking the same questions. She’s digging and finding those answers for them. Who is Captain Jack? She’ll find out for you. And it’s a neat way of quickly starting the fourth season strong with bringing in the new viewers. They don’t have to have watched the past episodes and, at the same time, it doesn’t alienate the current fan. You just jump on for this ride. It’s not a ton of backstory exposition. It’s here. It is a [complete] story — here is where we are and join us — we’re going to take you on an adventure.
After Miracle Day, Jack is mortal and he can die. Do you think that prompts him to see his relationship with Gwen in a new light, like she’s suddenly more important to have in his life because his days are now numbered?
JOHN: Jack, I think, has always thought of Gwen being important because initially Gwen was the ‘heart’ that he brought in in order to teach him again how to be more connected to the human race. And now we’ve moved on to a fact where Jack is at risk of dying. He’s realized over the time that he hasn’t really come to terms with his immortality and all of a sudden he’s now mortal. And he realizes he kind of liked being immortal and loved the life that he had. So he needs the protection and Gwen is the right one to protect him. He needs her and she also needs him — it’s like a 50/50 — in their kind of team and their partnership. He very much needs her to step-up to the plate to save him from any harm. But he finds it very difficult not to get involved because he has to stop himself –and think I could hurt myself here. So it’s a really nice new dynamic that develops and you learn an awful lot about Gwen and Jack and their relationship in this series.
John and Eve, where are your characters when the show begins, because obviously with Torchwood pretty much gone, where are your characters both mentally?
JOHN: Well, mentally and I can also tell you kind of physically also, what’s going on with Jack — we find him. He’s come back from his travels. We don’t know what he has done. That is something that maybe will be explored one day, but probably that’s just a piece in time that we figure he has dealt with some of his issues and he has come back to planet Earth and he’s come to keep the Torchwood name below the radar. He’s come to make sure because he knows that this thing Torchwood hurts people and destroys relationships. So he knows that Gwen Cooper is still alive and he’s protecting her from a distance and kind of unbeknownst to her. He’s really kind of the guardian keeping it all under wraps and not letting it come out. So there is kind of a mental state with him that he is determined not to let anybody else get hurt — not to allow bad things to happen through this organization. Although he loves the organization, he has got to let go. It’s had its course and he’s trying to keep it quiet. I’ll hand it over to Eve now.
EVE: Well, you’ll find Gwen Cooper living in complete isolation and completely self-sufficient and cut-off from the world. I mean, she’s living with her six-month-old baby girl and her husband. They’re living in this very, very remote beautiful cottage somewhere in Wales overlooking the sea and that is their life. So you’ve gone from this woman who has saved the universe to being completely cut-off and it’s quite sad. It’s very unusual to see Gwen Cooper in this kind of place. And the only person that she can tell stories about her past and Torchwood to is a little baby whilst giving her dinner. So it’s a very lonely place actually for Gwen Cooper. Then unbeknownst to her, as John has said, he’s been Gwen Cooper’s somewhat ‘guardian angel.’ He’s been keeping her and her family safe. She thinks by being in isolation and being hidden away from the world she’s keeping her family safe, but actually there is a bigger picture to it. The big brother, which is Captain Jack Harkness, is watching over at all times, keeping her and the family safe. So we see her looking like she’s having this somewhat idyllic life, but actually there isn’t a cupboard or a closet in the house that hasn’t got some sort of explosion kit or a gun or a grenade or a knife or some sort of form of weapon because she knows one day it’s going to come knocking. She’s constantly on alert and boy does it come knocking. It comes knocking with helicopters and rocket launchers. So the girl was right.
Alexa, you’ve got this fresh perspective on this and it’s such a different world to be in with the Torchwood people. You’ve done comedy and drama and so forth but what did it take you a while to get used to?
ALEXA: Besides the craziness on set with these two? [laughter] No. I think I just had to take a breath and just trust what Russell wrote because even sometimes we’re reading things and it’s this spider-web of all these fabulous ideas that are so out-there in the sci-fi world. But he takes them and he roots them in reality, so I just had to trust what was on the page. Whereas, before, you kind of like know exactly what’s happening. With this, we didn’t because we didn’t even know where Russell’s mind was taking us — the journey that we were on. So yes, I would say that would be the biggest adjustment.
As TORCHWOOD drifts further from DOCTOR WHO and now its own self-sustainable series, what are the chances that fans will see cross-overs between the two series in the future?
RUSSELL: It’s interesting that. It’s probably less to be honest because when I used to run DOCTOR WHO and TORCHWOOD, then I could sort of spin those things quite easily in my head and talk things over. Now, they are two separate production teams. I’m so out of touch with DOCTOR WHO, I’m not even sure when it’s on air because they’ve got these very expensive plans and split seasons and I don’t know what they’re planning for 2012 at all. So it would kind of be difficult now. Then again, I could just phone them up and ask them. It’s not impossible but I think you know, we’ve got TORCHWOOD now standing on its own two feet. I think it was always on its own two feet but I think, in the public’s eye, I think there is a nice separate now and they see it as this big, strong, muscular program. So I’m not in a rush to sort of go back and backtrack or anything. Nonetheless, we would always exist in the same happy, lovely created universe. So I think there will be always lots of references to and fro I think. But frankly, who needs that doctor and his [blue boat]? [laughter]
What were some of the biggest challenges you would say in the filming of MIRACLE DAY?
RUSSELL: That’s interesting. I mean, it was interesting for us coming across from Britain to America because, in many ways, it’s the same industry. You have scripts, you have actors, you have a camera. You get on with it and yet everything is slightly translated with a slightly different language. Even the lights have got slightly different names. So sometimes, even three months in, you sit there and go, ‘what are you talking about?’ to one of the sparks or grips or something. You don’t even know the names of the cranes any more. So just the language was a really, really odd thing going from one country to another. But, as ever, the biggest challenge was the same challenge we always faced in Britain, which is realizing the ambition of the show. I think we have done it. It’s a show — we all of us, all the cast and everyone — wants to be bigger and better every week. We always start with a great episode and we want to build on that. There are very unexpected episodes to come that trips into history, great big, modern, epic scenarios. It’s just pushing it all the time. Pushing ourselves to make it bigger, better and bolder and never relaxing. That’s the key to it really, just always pushing. And literally, I have to tell you, like listening to you lovely cast members, we’ve just finished editing Episode 10 and it’s magnificent. Oh my god, it’s good. It’s epic and huge and heartbreaking and wonderful. So we did it. We got there, folks.
John and Eve, how do you manage to keep your characters not only fresh and exciting but also challenging for you both to play from the first season of TORCHWOOD up until MIRACLE DAY?
EVE: That’s not up to us. That’s completely to Russell T. Davies and what he puts on the page for us. He challenges me as an actor every time I get a script through the door. It’s kind of like (new) but it also keeps you alive as an actor and every day you go in and once you’ve conquered the scenes and some of them are massive, big, epic, beautifully written scenes – it’s the best feeling in the world. Every year those characters are evolving and becoming different people and becoming stronger people. Becoming these great kind of modern day kind of heroes, but in a very, very different way. And that goes for every character in it this year. It’s down to Russell and the words he gives us to say.
JOHN: I have to agree with Eve that the thing that I enjoy most about being Captain Jack and working with Russell and everybody else is: every day when you come into or when you get a new script, you’re learning something new about the character. We, as the actors and particularly myself, I’m not one of those actors who likes to analyze things too much. So I trust what the writers and what Russell are doing with the characters in order to give them their journey. My job is to come in and try to make those words on the page come alive on the camera. I think one thing, like with Eve and Alexa and Mekhi and Arlene and Bill and myself and Lauren, what we all have that we do is we bring a little bit of our personalities to those characters and that’s what connects, I think, with the audience and lifts the words that are brilliantly written off of the page. So it’s a collaboration, but it’s also as Eve said rightly off, it’s a trust. We get the words and the words are beautifully written and then we can build from there. And I think that’s why it works.
There is a moment where Jack realizes that he is mortal and intellectually you would think that Jack would be relieved that he is now mortal. But there was a distinct look of fear going on. What was going on in Jack’s head in that moment? And also how easy was it to slip Jack Harkness back on as a character?
JOHN: Jack Harkness is so easy to slip back on because it’s like his coat. It’s very easy to put your arms in and wear it. It’s such a part of me that it comes very naturally. The other part of the question, in regards to him discovering his mortality, yes, there was an element of fear in his face because it’s something he’s never experienced before. It’s something that he — well, until the point where he became immortal – he never really had that moment of fear. To have that and to realize that his body wasn’t healing, that he could die, it was also a moment of confusion because how does he deal with this? How does he handle this situation? What can he do? He’s always been the one who has been the man who put himself in front of harm’s way to help people, has really gone boldly into those situations not fearing any of it and all of a sudden, my goodness, he can’t do this. So it’s also a little bit of excitement there too because he can experience a lot of things that he’s never experienced before. That’s what’s really wonderful about the journey with Jack, when this discovery has happened, because he starts not only having a little bit of fear but he also starts to live a little. That’s what was really nice about the whole aspect of that idea.
How different was it from the standard writing a couple of episodes ahead of time as far as character development and kind of changing and letting the story flow and change as you went along?
RUSSELL: It was unusual. I mean, even in Britain, we actually got nine episodes ready ahead of transmission, which we then kept on rewriting during production. But there were nine episodes ready at the very start. We had to do this because (the story) goes to and from Wales all the time and it keeps going to Wales all the way through to the last episode. But we only had one trip to Wales right at the beginning of the shoot to shoot everything from those episodes. So we had to get them ready. It was three weeks in Wales to block shoot the scenes that would go into all ten episodes. So it was kind of forced upon us, the necessity of the production, but we planned on that. When I say forced on us, that sounds like an emergency or something. But way back to the previous summer, that’s exactly what we planned in order to maximize the Welshness of it. So that was unusual. It meant none of the writers, not even me, had ever got nine scripts ready in advance or something before. It was a bit of a shock to the whole production team. They get stacks of scripts arriving on their desks and then you’ve got second drafts and third drafts and fourth drafts. So actually, in no time at all, you end up with 45 scripts on your desk. It’s really quite frightening the amount of paper we generate. But everyone does it. It’s just buckle down and read them and get on with it. So it’s a fantastic result in the end where we’re all the way through episode nine, this huge sequence that’s set in Wales, and it all ties together so nicely that it was worth all the planning and all the forethought has really paid off. I’m glad you asked that question because it’s one of the things I’m really pleased about with the show.
Would you have written the show differently if TORCHWOOD was originally picked up by Fox?
RUSSELL: That’s interesting. I think it would have been more of a primetime sort of thing. I mean, I don’t think so. No. Because the document that we took to Starz was the document that we had taken to Fox. It’s one of the good things about TORCHWOOD is that it’s a pre-existing show. It’s already been on for three years. So when people perk up and show an interest and say, ‘hello, we like your show, we might buy it,’ they know what they’re talking about. It’s not an unknown property. So they can’t actually walk through the door and say, ‘we’re not sure about Jack’s sexuality.’ They can’t walk through the door and say, ‘we’re not sure about the statements you make about society or the darkness of the show’ because that’s what it is. So they wouldn’t have been there, had they not known that. Originally, no one ever did raise those objections. So I have no idea. Our casting would have been the same. You couldn’t get a finer Esther than Alexa. Oswald, we couldn’t do better than Bill Pullman. So I think the cast would have looked the same. I have no idea. I wonder. Maybe we’d have a bigger, glossier title sequence or something like that. I’m just conjecturing now. I don’t think so. I think we’ve been given a lot of freedom to make the show that we want. Actually, that’s quite a successful formula no matter what channel you’re on. So you have to trust people. So hopefully it would have been the same.
Alexa, are we looking forward to romance between Rex and Esther or is that strictly just sort of a professional?
RUSSELL: I’ll let Alexa talk about it really. But I think it’s quite clear in the first episode that she’s quite clearly got a bit of a thing about Rex. It’s very understated but she feels attached to him. She feels very friendly to him. She’s the only person at his hospital bed, which maybe says more about Rex than it does about Esther. But there is certainly a bond and a loveliness there. Alexa, what do you think?
ALEXA: I think it’s more than anything she, as much as she wants more, I think she’s just there. There is something very romantic about the idea with Rex. He’s out in the field and it’s dangerous and there is something sexy about it. And here she is, she’s stuck behind her computer. I think there is a longing not only to be with him, but then to also be out in the field and work with him hand-in-hand. So it’s interesting. There is that. We have this little tango, the professional and the personal relationship. You’ll see as the ten episodes go on, she tries. She gives it her all, but Rex as you see, he’s tough. He’s all business, he’s gruff, he’s stern, which is quite I think makes for an interesting pairing between the two of them. Because she has this innocence and she’s naïve and she’s fresh. Then here is this guy that has lived a lot. He’s lived a full life, as well as the Captain Jack character and the Eve character. They all know who they are. They’ve had time for growth and that was what was such an honor for me and so much fun as an actor, playing a character that had clear growth like somewhere to go. She’s not the one that had the weapons training and life on the run. So you kind of see her stumble a little and pick herself back up. And she is surrounded by these strong characters that help her become who she is.
Can you tell us more about the soulless protest movement? Who came up with those creepy masks? And is the season going to end in a cliffhanger?
RUSSELL: I don’t want to give away too much. It’s a riveting last episode that has shocks and explosions galore and real big, proper revelations. At least, suffice it to say that all your questions are answered if people are worried. I don’t like series that reach a great big cliffhanger that demands you come back the next year. I think the next year should start again from scratch. So you needn’t worry about everything in Miracle Day being answered. Literally, everything you are wondering about is answered in detail not just in the last episode but especially as you hit episodes 7, 8, 9 and 10. It all gets answered, but you do have to keep watching until the very last seconds just to find out everything. And what was the first part of your question?
The soulless protest movement.
RUSSELL: Yes, yes. I sort of came up with the idea and I did a rough design of them and then passed it over to (Shauna), our costume designer and we batted that about. It’s lovely isn’t it? It’s really sort of creepy. It’s kind of a sign of, if you’re wondering what they are, it’s a sign of how mad the world goes because psychologically we all get a bit thrown and shocked and disturbed by what happens to the world. So it’s kind of what I used to call the Twitter World, where crazes and scares and panic-attacks happen amongst people. People are like — you see those vast flocks of birds in the sky changing direction very quickly — that’s what people are doing. They join cults. There is this thing called the 45 Club that believes you can commit suicide only if you jump from 45 floors or higher. Esther’s sister, for example, has a complete mental breakdown because she believes in the soulless. She believes that the human race has lost their souls and are doomed because they’ve lost their mortality. They’ll never get to heaven. So it’s an example of the sort of extreme psychological reactions that society goes through and the soulless is just one of them. We get a lot of these different reactions all the way through the series.
Eve, I’m really loving the whole mommy kicking-butt theme. Is this something that’s going to be recurring throughout the season? And how does this kind of parallel with your life with a new baby and having to work and all that?
EVE: Thank you. That’s an absolutely lovely question. Yes, she doesn’t stop kicking-ass in the entire series. She is like a lioness with her cubs. She’s absolutely fierce and, yes, she uses her fists a lot. She uses a lot of weapons but, yes, it’s all very grounded and very real and quite a lot of it is quite humorous as well. So she is really quite militant this year and full on. Trying to compare it with my life, my god, the only confrontation I have normally is with myself in the mirror in the morning. No, I can’t bear being away from my little darling Matilda. To think of the pressure that Gwen Cooper has on the show every day is unbelievably crazy and huge. So, no, I can’t make a comparison at all although we do have tight tempers the both of us.
Did you guys do all your stunts?
EVE: There is one stunt that I couldn’t because (my head) would have fallen off literally. But I tried to do it and I wasn’t allowed to do it. But I try to do as many stunts as possible. Yes, absolutely.
ALEXA: I tried, but my character has a high fall and right out of the gate, that was not me. No. I want to do within reason – they let us do as much as we’re comfortable. I think all of us like getting wet I guess. John and I, we got wet in our little fountain so we like (getting active).
JOHN: That was the first night we met.
ALEXA: We were in the hot tub right away together.
JOHN: Exactly. [laughter]
ALEXA: I like it. I’m scrappy. I’m a little bit of a tomboy so I enjoy that. But then there is a point where they step in and say, ‘okay, there is fire, there’s explosions.’ They want us to be safe.
JOHN: If it involves jumping off a high building they said no. Anything else, they were game for us to try it.
EVE: As long as you don’t hurt the other person you’re all right.
TORCHWOOD has a history of not being afraid to kill off characters. Now American TV shies away from that because a cast member might be very popular. Has this sort of been compromised? Like are you afraid to kill anyone off for the season? Or might, when the Miracle Day perhaps is resolved in episode 10, the character that should have died like Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes or Mekhi’s Rex Matheson, will they die?
RUSSELL: I think he’s a maverick this man [referring to Jack]. Lovely. Well, yes, I will tell you what’s going to happen in episode 10 right now – as if! [laughter] You’ll just have to keep watching. But that is a dread that hangs over everyone actually. It’s one of those psychological things that gets into people’s heads and disturbs the whole society of this, which is: if you were meant to die will you die? If the spell comes to an end, am I going to drop dead? That certainly holds Rex all the way through it. It holds Oswald in a different way. So, yes, obviously I’m not going to give any answers to that. But there are big surprises, big shocks coming up. But I don’t know if it’s a more British thing to happily sort of kill your cast. Actually that’s not true. I thought the most wonderful thing about Game of Thrones was — and I had never read [the books] and I had no idea who was going to die and I was completely taken by surprise every time it happened. I loved that. Then there is a British show called SPOOKS, which is called MI-5 over here and that had a fine old time knocking off its regular cast on a regular basis. So I think when the stakes are this high, when you’re saving the world and so long as you’re not a family drama, then you know, if you’re going after 9:00 p.m., then you have to be that dangerous. You have to show that lives are at stake. I just think it’s vital actually to show how high the stakes are – so, yes.
Gwen, you have such great chemistry with John and Kai, since of course you’ve worked with them. But was it immediate sort of chemistry, organically with the new cast members, Mekhi and Alexa and everyone?
ALEXA: Careful. I’m on the phone. You’d better answer nice. [laughter]
EVE: I’m so glad she said that. You know what, we always come in to welcome them on board and make sure that everybody is happy so that we make the best project possible. And Alexa, Mekhi, Bill, Lauren – I could go on and on and on. It was a dream to work with them every day. It was just fantastic. They came in and nailed it and that was a big wonderful experience for John and myself to learn that these people are fine actors and had done so much homework and came in and just blew us away. Incredible. I can’t talk highly enough of them.
ALEXA: And vice versa from my end.
What was it like to play such a strong female set of characters? And did you enjoy working with Bill Pullman?
ALEXA: Evie, you want to start?
EVE: Okay darling, yes, why not? To be able to play somebody like Gwen Cooper is a dream come true for an actor. I mean, she’s an absolute powerhouse, but she’s also a very kind of ordinary girl stuck in this beautiful, extraordinary world and situation. It’s how she deals with things and her challenges, which is so watchable and great for me to play. Working with Mr. Pullman was just — it’s very rare that you catch me behind the monitors watching scenes happen. — but I have to with Bill Pullman because it was an acting lesson for me. It was a master class. The guy is a genius. On top of all that, he’s the most gracious gentleman you’re ever lucky enough to meet. He’s just a joy to work with and, yes, wonderful experience, lots of business going down in my little black book as one wonderful experience.
ALEXA: For me it’s very rare that females are written with strength. I always feel like it’s either like the piece of arm-candy or in comedy you’re like setting-up a joke so the guy gets a big laugh and you’re the straight shooter. I a way it gets a little tedious and boring from our end. So it was so refreshing for me to just have a character that was so thought-out and fleshed-out. Russell knew what he wanted and the females are as strong as the males and it was just wonderful.
EVE: Absolutely. We’re not the tits and ass. We actually get to kick-ass like everybody else.
ALEXA: Exactly. And that’s refreshing for us on our end. So it didn’t ever feel like just a strong female character – I felt like it was just great to be a part of whole of all very strong characters. To be the girl to walk in and give breath to Esther, it’s been an honor. And Bill, you hit on Bill. He’s crazy genius. You just say Bill Pullman — he’s the first thing that people freak-out about and just watching him work. You’re in the scene and you just forget you’re even in the scene. He’s just so focused. What I always say is: there are brilliant actors and a lot of them can not be kind. And this is truly just to reiterate, he is one of the nicest people that you’ll meet. I think it’s really refreshing to see someone with such success on his level to still be as humble and gracious as he is.
Since the previous TORCHWOOD series CHILDREN OF EARTH kind of saw the deconstruction of Torchwood and basically the end of it, are we seeing in this series kind of the rebuilding? And what do all the characters think about Jack and Gwen think about being involved in this again and Esther and Rex think about being pulled into this world?
RUSSELL: To be honest, at the end of CHILDREN OF EARTH, Torchwood was closed down. But it was actually leaving in an ideal place for this series to happen, which is a restart and a re-launch. Not a reboot, it’s still exactly the same show. But the program opens up with characters like Esther saying: who is Torchwood? What is happening? What are they? So a brand new audience gets filled in on the information. So it was kind of designed that way. It was kind of cleverly done, dare I say so, to move from one stage of TORCHWOOD to the next. So it wasn’t an ending. It just allowed for this fresh start. John, I don’t know how you felt about it.
JOHN: Again the same, it was what we had always said when the last series had ended — that we had done so well in the ratings and it came as a huge surprise to everybody that we hoped it would have a life. Again, like Russell said, the writing was done in a way that it could. For myself, as the actor to get involved again, with open-arms and open doors. I love the character of Captain Jack. I love what the show stands for. I love the other characters in the show. So it was like putting a comfortable pair of shoes on back to go and do it and shoes that were running very quickly and exciting. And as Jack getting back involved into the storyline himself, if you’re talking as Jack Harkness, I think Jack — although he wanted to keep everything under wraps — when Torchwood raised its head again and he had to go and help Gwen Cooper and they got back together, as soon as they start to see each other, that’s it. They’re back and, I think I’m speaking from Jack, he’s very excited to be back and really wants it back although he really knows it kind of shouldn’t be back. But who cares? It’s there. Let’s do it.
EVE: Torchwood is an absolute – that’s Gwen Cooper’s adrenaline. She is an absolute adrenaline-junkie. It runs through her veins and her heart and her soul. When it’s not there, how on earth are you possibly going to carry on your life without having something to do with that wonderful, weird, bizarre, crazy organization called Torchwood? It leaves the biggest hole ever and nothing, nothing fills it for Gwen Cooper except for Jack Harkness, Torchwood. So, when she is seemingly having this very quiet, very strange, secluded life — when she sees Jack Harkness — when she sees trouble knock on her door — it’s not good. But, in a way, her heart starts pounding again and that’s the Gwen we all know and that’s the Gwen I love playing. So coming back to Gwen Cooper, well, it’s just the best thing in the world.
ALEXA: I don’t know. I was trying to follow all those questions and then I got lost in all your guys’ beautiful, eloquent answers. Then I’m like, ‘what’s my question?’
How does it feel getting pulled into the TORCHWOOD world as an actor and your character, Esther?
ALEXA: I think Esther is kind of a little bit of Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole we go. It just her curiosity gets the best of her. Like Russell was saying, the first thing out the gate is: did you ever hear of Torchwood? What’s Torchwood? And down she goes looking for the answer and who is this Gwen Cooper and this mysterious man in the coat? So she just finds herself quickly without choice. I mean, her life is changed in the matter of a moment in this new world. As far as myself, it’s just been an absolute pleasure. Every single person, Russell and (Julie) called me immediately and just welcomed me with open arms into the family. Just to be called a team member and John and Eve were the same. We’re friends for life. It’s just been a great, great experience so far. And I enjoyed every minute and hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did.
CHILDREN OF EARTH was just so dark and very, very dense with death and stuff. Is MIRACLE DAY lighter? You can’t really kill off Jack since we know his eventual end that you stated in DOCTOR WHO. He becomes (Faisal Bo). So it’s not like we don’t know that he isn’t going to die.
RUSSELL: Anyone on this show — it’s conjectured that Jack is the (Faisal Bo) — but you shouldn’t watch the series and assume that anyone is safe. You know how much I love killing people off. Anything can happen really. And that’s part of the joy of it. That’s part of the adventure and part of the fun. Like I said earlier, you should watch these shows in fear for people’s lives really. And what was the first part of your question?
Is it darker than CHILDREN OF EARTH was or is it more of a lighter feel than all the death?
RUSSELL: I think it’s kind of because we’ve got 10 episodes instead of five, it’s kind of wider than CHILDREN OF EARTH. It’s as dark if not – actually it’s darker than CHILDREN OF EARTH in places. But it’s more romantic in certain episodes. Episode 7 is a hugely romantic story. It’s tougher and [episode] 6 is quite harrowing and quite tough with what Esther goes through in that one and what Rex goes through in that. Six is a real crisis mode for everyone. So we’ve just got more room. We’ve got more muscle. That let’s you have more fun sometimes. There are some great laughs in it between the team. So everything that was good about CHILDREN OF EARTH is there. It’s just a bit wider and a bit broader and if anything, a bit more confident. We didn’t know if CHILDREN OF EARTH would work when we transmitted that. Once you’ve got that behind you, once you’re aware that people liked it, that gives you the confidence to say, ‘okay, let’s go and let’s keep exploring new stuff as well.’ So I hope it’s all of those things.
Are we going to continue to see Jack’s sins or missteps from elsewhere in time continue to come back to haunt him?
RUSSELL: I think you might have hit upon a theme there. I think the most fascinating thing about Jack is that he’s lived for thousands of years both in the future and the past. So it’s such a gift to a writer and to the whole writing team that you sit people in a room and they always gravitate towards that because it’s fascinating. And we’ve done that in the past and taken Jack into some very dark places. We certainly do that this time and, oh my god, there is some shocking stuff to come. It’s absolutely vital to the story. So, yes, without giving away too much, there is some good stuff, isn’t there John?
JOHN: Absolutely. The thing that is lovely to hear like that because I love playing those kinds of stories. It allows me to kind of alter Jack a little bit and look into how he has become the man who he is now. When we’re watching him at that moment in time on screen and to go back into the history because I am also a fan of the genre of myself and also I enjoy that kind of in depth look into the characters. Whether it be just with Jack or whether it’s going and looking into more about Gwen Cooper or when hopefully we look into stuff about with Rex. So things like that — it’s exciting as the actor to play those. So I’m always up for I call it time travel through past history. I love it.
TORCHWOOD has always seemed very much aware of current events and current political climates — issues from gay rights to disappointing governments and governmental agencies. How is that underlying awareness still with us in MIRACLE DAY and how does that give you something to continue to write about?
RUSSELL: I just think it’s about a sort of writing with your eyes open. Actually, I don’t have any sort of grandstand about it. It’s just naturally how I write. I believe in putting what’s happened in the world into what you’re writing. You don’t have to write like that. There are marvelous scripts and shows made that don’t do that. But I just love it. It’s just when we were setting up the series of TORCHWOOD, all the healthcare debates in America were raging over Obama’s healthcare reforms. It was ferocious arguments on the right and on the left and it wasn’t a process of me saying, ‘I must put this in the script.’ It’s just what I was thinking about all day, every day. Then you’re thinking about the script all day, every day. So the two just merge. It just can’t be helped really. And I like that. I think TORCHWOOD is entertaining and it’s fun and it’s funny and it’s lively. But also I genuinely think it’s got the nerve to sort of stand up tall and have something to say about the world. I think that’s the point to be honest. But I couldn’t write in any other way. And it’s a joy to write like that. But equally remember it’s a rattling good thriller and you should always entertain at the same time. But I like it. I hope it’s a good Torchwood-style I think.
When Gwen comes out of hiding, does that cause any tension with either her husband or Jack or really anybody involved there?
EVE: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, [her and Jack] that’s just not going to happen any more. As for her and Jack, it’s their partnership. It’s like the day before yesterday. They just get straight back into it and they [click].
Is there a moment like that you can’t wait for people to see on screen?
ALEXA: For me one of the big moments was the reveal of the two characters. And for me, filming – and I say this from a fan boy perspective because my husband is an insane fan boy of TORCHWOOD. So he pretty much said, ‘I will divorce you if you don’t take this job’ – and a big reveal I thought and it kind of catches your breath is when (we’re in) this beautiful big space and Esther is digging, digging, thinking, ‘what is this?’ and then you just look up and there is Captain Jack. It’s such a breathtaking reveal that I just think from a fan’s perspective and a viewer’s perspective, it’s quite an initiation. Then for the fans of Gwen, I think it’s seeing her with that bad-ass rocket launcher.
EVE: Like Alexa, my fiancé is also a massive, massive TORCHWOOD fan and I can’t even leave a script in front of him and he gives me a huge telling off because he doesn’t want to know anything about it. He wants to watch it every week and get excited every time it’s on. I’m not allowed to tell him anything. So I can’t wait for him to see certain elements where he’ll give me a nudge and go I know what’s going on here and get excited about it of course, very excited.
JOHN: My partner doesn’t watch it. I tie him down to the sofa to make him watch it, saying, ‘You’re going to watch this and I don’t care what you say.’ [laughter] No. The thing for me – there is like both [Eve and Alexa] have said, there are a lot of moments in there . . . There is a lovely moment where Jack and Gwen have this conversation over the telephone and Jack is kind of spilling his heart out to her a little bit and he doesn’t know that she is then talking to her baby on screen. That is a moment for me. But also the big moment — I think there are two of the moments for me — are really when Jack and Gwen lock eyes for the first time in a long time — when she comes running out of the house in Wales and he is standing there with a gun in a Land Rover ready for her to jump on board. That’s like the beginning of it all again, that there. The other little exciting bit is just a quirky little thing for me being a fan geek myself is the fact that when Jack is covering as a CIA agent and he calls himself Owen Harper.
EVE: Yes. Me too, me too. Absolutely.
The most disturbing thing about the first few episodes is the [Oswald Danes]. What kind of creative process led you to choose to include a convicted pedophile in this story to such a great extent? And was there any pushback on that from the network? You said you’re leaving TORCHWOOD after this year. Will there likely be TORCHWOOD without you at some point?
RUSSELL: Who knows? I haven’t actually said that. I was just musing about one day about moving on, as do we all. Then I look into John Barrowman’s eyes and I’m seduced all over again. I fall into his arms. It’s true. I can’t help it. I’m a pushover. [laughter] As for Oswald, it’s sort of the [story] – I don’t work on that. The moment I thought of the series, I knew that it needed Oswald Danes. I knew he needed to be right at the center of the drama along side the Torchwood team as the perfect example of a world gone wrong. I mean, if you’re having people not dying, you could spend a lot of time telling a drama with an 80 year old woman in the geriatric ward who doesn’t die. Not going to really last for ten episodes, that. It’s not going to be the most thrilling part of the world. And unless you get Gloria Swanson, you’re not going to cast it very well. So it needs to be big, something bold, something explosive, something to get people talking exactly like we’re doing now and with a serious exploration of morality at the heart of that. Are you starting to choose who lives and who dies? Which the active execution does. The fact is that’s part of the reason why the story had to be set in America was that we don’t have state executions in Britain. So that all fitted with the American move to do something that was not a British show. And if you’re going to do that then you’re going to have a very strong character right in the center of it. So his involvement and his movement through the story becomes absolutely fascinating. It’s fascinating right from the start as to who he is and what he becomes and will you trust him. So it’s a good strong bit of storytelling. And it’s premium cable in America and it’s BBC1 in Britain. They’re the home of good, strong, meaty drama. They like these challenges. They like that darkness. They like the intelligence of the exploration of morality and humanity. So everyone was up for it and it was a great exploration.
TORCHWOOD seems to have come out of the gate as incredibly popular in America and before DOCTOR WHO changed networks, it was arguably more popular than the show it spun off from. To what do you attribute TORCHWOOD hitting it out of the park right from the beginning in the U.S.?
RUSSELL: We struck lucky to be honest. I mean, both series have always done very well over here. DOCTOR WHO actually used to get phenomenal ratings on the Syfy Channel actually. People forget that because they didn’t use to advertise it. But it’s available in more homes and did very, very well on that channel. So I just think there is a love here of fantasy, of challenging material. It’s the broad spectrum you get with American networks from primetime cable to the smaller, niche cable channels to the networks is amazing. There is a really wide range of material here. I’ve just been watching that new TEEN WOLF show on MTV of all channels, and I’m 48 years old. I shouldn’t be watching MTV and it’s an excellent show. . . It turns out they made a really, really good show there. So it’s always really surprising and interesting material if you look for it. So along comes TORCHWOOD that is a creative, bold show with a big, strong cast with big, strong ideas. I like to think this is like the perfect environment. So I’m kind of not surprised it worked because there is an audience here for that.
There are a lot of references to 456 in the first episode and I’m wondering if that’s just a nod to the past or if you can tell us is it kind of a hint to something?
RUSSELL: Although I shouldn’t give things away, no, that’s just a nod to the past. I don’t want to raise false expectations that those big gassy monsters are waiting around the corner. It literally sort of ties it into the same world and there are vestiges just flying past you. If you’re a new viewer they might as well be saying ABC or 123, as well as 456. So it’s one of those little references that means something to previous viewers. If you’re a new viewer, it absolutely won’t stop your enjoyment. You won’t think, ‘I don’t know what’s going on here, I can’t follow what they’re talking about.’ But it’s not a false expectation. Literally, I’m not even lying. They are not behind it. It’s not the sort of story in which an alien like the 456 would fit very well. It’s much more based around the human race. It’s wondering, what we are and what we’re capable of and what we become. So old Smokey the Space Pelican is stuck in his box somewhere, that monster. He’s probably somewhere in Britain. [laughter]
Would you ever consider making TORCHWOOD into a film?
RUSSELL: That would be good. Yes. Hooray. There we go. Done. Yes. If you could raise the money for us, that would be brilliant. I don’t know. I think we have a lovely time making TORCHWOOD in all its iterations. It’s been a 13-week series. It’s been a five-part series. It’s been a 10-week series. I think if you get the right story and if it was two hours long then that would be absolutely perfect. I would love to see it. Yes.
On that last final last note, to find out more about the incredible new world of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY and a world full of never-ending life, be sure to tune in for the spectacular premiere on Friday, July 8th at 10:00PM on Starz (Saturday July 9th at 9PM on Space in Canada)
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).