EXCLUSIVE: Syfy's 'Warehouse 13' cast and Jack Kenny talk shop
By Wayne Hall Sep 4, 2011, 19:45 GMT
Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock - San Diego Comic Con International Entertainment Weekly and SyFy Party - Hotel Solamar - San Diego, CA, USA © Alan Hess / PR Photos
‘Warehouse 13’ continues to rule the ratings at Syfy!
"Warehouse 13" was renewed for a fourth season. The series will see another 13 episodes in 2012.
“Under executive producer Jack Kenny’s leadership, this superlative team of writers, cast, and crew continue to turn out a series that only gets better and better with every episode,” said Syfy president of original content Mark Stern in a press release. “Warehouse 13 is deservedly the most popular series in our history and we’re delighted to renew it for a fourth season.”
Aaron Ashmore joined the cast this past season.
Weekly, I write a recap of the show, so I was happy to interview several of the actors, including Saul Rubinek, Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly and the program’s showrunner Jack Kenny recently.
SAUL RUBINEK (Artie Nielsen)
Monsters and Critics: Can you talk about how the show has resonated with your fans?
Saul Rubinek: I was saying, I’d like to have an artifact that actually shows, other than Nielsen, the true measure of our audience. My daughter is in college, and nobody in college watches on TV--nobody. They all watch it on the computer--not on DVRs, but computers. DVR needs a television, so they watch it on their computers, and they’re watching it with advertising.
I know that we’re the number one show on Syfy, which is an amazing phenomenon and a blessed phenomenon. But I think they’re underestimating how many people are actually watching our show.
For 35 years, I’ve been doing movies and television, I’m recognized either for ‘True Romance’ or ‘Unforgiven.’ But now it’s all 'Warehouse 13.'
I can tell a ‘True Romance’ fan--he’s got a tattoo. But ‘Warehouse 13’ fans are all ages, all types of people, all walks of life. I live in New York, and the garbage man goes, 'Yo, Saul! ‘Warehouse 13,’ great, keep it up!' A little boy comes up and tells me he likes it. Then there’s the New York University professor, 'Very good show. I really like it very much.' I can’t tell where they’re coming from.
I can tell you that although they’re saying 2.5 million people are watching out show, it’s double that. People need to know that, that they’re making a difference to our show. We like the fact that families are watching our show.
I think that the secret to our show is the fact that they’ve attracted women. How they’ve done it is by making the show more intelligent. I’m a guy, and I’ll watch a show, no matter how dumb it is, if it has action in it. But women want something wittier, they want it smarter, they want the bar to be raised on fantasy/adventure, and so they’ve done that.
We created a family, and we’re trapped in this, that women have brought their husbands and their children to the show. We’ve kept our violence at a minimum, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we’re on at the right time. We’ve found a nice family niche.
I’m a dad. I’ve been married 21 years now, and my kids have been watching the show and their friends watch the show. I’m very proud of that. On some level, a seven-year-old can watch it without you getting bored because there’s stuff there for you as well. There’s some scary things on our show, but I would say 10 is the right level to start watching our show.
Monsters & Critics: There doesn’t seem to be anything else like it at all on television.
Saul R.: I agree. I like the fact that we’re unique. I really do.
M&C: When compared to other networks, does Syfy recognize the fact that the audience is bigger than some numbers indicate, as you mentioned?
Saul R.: Look, they know that there’s a lot of people watching our show. They throw a lot of money behind our show and a great deal of support. The networks are not a problem. We’re a cable network, so we’re a little under the radar to the world at large, certainly seems that way when Emmy nominations come out.
I think that the really unsung hero of our show right now is our Design Department. I think it’s one of the best-designed shows on all of television. I wish that the Emmys would recognize that, but because I understand the business, and I know that you need 10, 15, 20 million people, or you have to be a cutting-edge show like ‘The Wire’ or ‘Mad Men,’ we’re not that show. We’re a family show, we’re not going to be recognized for the same reasons. I love our Design Department. I think they need to be talked about."
M&C: How has working on the show affected you personally?
Saul R.: One of the great things that’s happened for me is that I’ve written a play called ‘Terrible Advice,’ which is a four-person comedy that the great film director Frank Oz is directing, his very first play.
It’s going to be on in a place called the Chocolate Factory in London starting the 22nd of September running into November. It’s a little theater in the South Bank that’s responsible for bringing ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ to Broadway and A Little Night Music.
It’s a great theater, a great way to start. They have Stephen Sondheim’s new musical just premiered there on the road. So I’m thrilled that the play is getting premiered. Thank you for asking your question. I’m selling Syfy, but it’s nice to talk about theater."
M&C: You were talking a little about props. What’s it feel to pay a fan-run company for your props now?
Saul R.: They’re so great at making props! We looked at their Farnsworth and said it’s better than our Farnsworth. And the red light goes on, let’s get that! They’re great, they’re really cool."
JACK KENNY (Showrunner)
M&C: So you’re an actor?
Jack Kenny: Ignore the camera, yeah. That’s why I left acting because I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t like cameras, I like stages with audiences and darkness.
I went to the Julliard Theater Center, trained as an actor. I acted for about 13 years, Broadway and off-Broadway, a bunch of TV and film. Then I started writing because I had too much free time. That’s the trouble with acting in TV and film, it drives you nuts! You sit around waiting all day long for a five-minute scene. I couldn’t do that. I had to write, so I started writing and hooked up with a writing partner. I worked for twelve years with him. We created a show called ‘Titus’ a few years ago, then he got too rich to do this anymore, and I wrote ‘Book Of Daniel,’ and here I am.
M&C: Do you enjoy writing for the show’s cast?
Jack K.: I do. I love my cast. The great thing about this cast is that they can handle such a variety of styles. That’s what I think allows us to do a big broad comedy, a heavy, heavy drama--we really can attack anything. It’s so exciting to be able to do that. It’s fun for the writers, too!
M&C: So, who’s your favorite character on the show?
Jack K.: Well, I am Artie. Saul often says that I just channel him. But he just channels me--we channel each other. I’m a grumpy old curmudgeonly guy half the day, so I’m very much Artie, but I also like to think of myself as Pete. It’s harder to see myself as Myka or Claudia. I don’t know why, but I’ll get into that. I can more easily see myself as Mrs. Frederic.
M&C: Do you sometimes just pop in on your actors?
Jack K.: Do I pop? Yes, I do. They don’t know when I’m there. I’m always listening. I tell them I’m always listening, so be careful.
M&C: Then you are channeling Mrs. Frederic!
Jack K.: A little bit, sure, why not? Honestly, that’s one of the things I love about writing. When I’m sitting at home and working on a script, I hear them in my head. I hear each individual voice. I was a character actor, and I like character parts, so I throw myself into them, and I can hear they rhythms and I feel their cadences. A lot of the times, what I’ll do with one of my writer’s scripts is I just go and do a cadence pass, I’ll just do a rhythm pass for a joke that might be right for a certain actor that isn’t right for another one or a way that’s something’s expressed.
We’ve gotten to the point now with the actors where, and this is the great thing with a show that’s successful for a longer period of time, they can get a laugh on a look because you know what they’re thinking. When Claudia says something, Artie just gives her a look--he doesn’t have to say anything. I know what he’s thinking. That’s a lot of fun, too, to be able to play that.
We just did a Christmas episode where Joanne had me lying on the floor laughing, she was so funny. Just her look she was giving Pete! It’s a really fun episode.
M&C: Do you write with an idea of how the characters are going to look onscreen?
Jack K.: Yeah, I kind of storyboard it in my head. That’s the great thing about when I get to direct, I can re-write it the way I want to stage it.
I think a lot of writers write that way. A lot of writers hear the character’s voices in their heads.
When I wrote ‘Book Of Daniel,’ I wrote it for W. H. Macy because he’s a friend of mine, and I just heard his voice as I wrote it. Then they cast Aidan Quinn, totally different actor, wonderful and brilliant, so just because I’m hearing a voice doesn’t mean another actor can’t bring who they are to it. I just started hearing Aidan. So it’s really just a question of hearing something specific.
As long as I’m writing for something... I just can’t write randomly. I have to have some voice in my head.
M&C: Who came up with the idea of having the cast enter a videogame?
Jack K.: Oh, yeah. You know, I don’t always remember how ideas came up. I know it wasn’t my idea. It might have been the writer who ended up writing the script, Ian Stokes. I don’t remember. I try not to, actually, I try not to remember what writers pitched what and who pitched what joke because I don’t like to think of my writers as individually this person or that person, and I always tell them, don’t ever tell anybody who’s joke it was because we all live or die together.
It was tremendously challenging because Chris Fisher, our resident genius who directed our three most incredibly difficult episodes this year, brought a style to that. Then our visual effects house--that was challenging, finding the right animation, how do you light it properly, do you want to give it a flatter light so the animation pops more as animation? The set--we used our sets but had to redress them so they felt like inside a videogame. It was tremendous. The wardrobe, it was all big, huge wardrobe, you know, Dungeons & Dragons costumes. It’s a really fun romp.
Pete’s character is a gladiator, because he’s in such good shape this year, we’re trying to get his shirt off as often as possible. It’s all for you!
M&C: Can you talk a little bit about the decision to add Aaron Ashmore’s character this year? He seems to have fit in very well.
Jack K.: I’m glad to hear that because I’m sure a lot of people were worried. You always worry when adding a new character. Honestly, we wanted to make people think that Myka wasn’t coming back so that there’d be surprise when she did, but not too much. There was a lot of panic about Myka.
“I won’t watch your show any more if you don’t bring her back!” Guys, relax! At the end of the first year, we killed Artie! It’s okay! It’s science fiction! Relax, we’ll be fine! Wait until you see this year!
I wanted to add somebody who would bring an entirely different dynamic, different from any of our other characters because all four are so very different now. The great thing about Steve and Aaron’s take on Steve is that he’s not in competition with any of them. He’s his own person.
He feels very different. He compliments every scene he’s in rather than interrupts or distracts or is the same. He’s a different energy every time. I also thought that Claudia needed someone closer to her own age to bounce off of every once in a while. It’s great to have the relationship with Artie, but it felt like she needed somebody to bounce off of.
It also gave us more opportunities to send Pete and Myka on the “A” stories, do their stuff, and not just have Artie and Claudia just stumbling around the Warehouse together. We can mix and match a little more and have a little more fun. We’re just a little bit limited with just four characters.
The idea of being gay--it’s interesting. We had talked about him being gay amongst the staff, and then we were pitching the character to the network. They said, “What about if he’s gay?” And we were like, “Oh! We were thinking that same thing!” We were looking at other aspects of cast diversity as well. We were looking for Asian actors to play that part for the longest time but we couldn’t find that chemistry. They came in and read with our regulars, and it just wasn’t there. We read three actors, and they were all terrific actors, but nobody popped with our cast. Then we opened it up to African-American actors, and we offered it to Pooch Hall. We had a great audition with Pooch---he’s on the BET show, ‘The Game.’ And he was free to do it for a year, and then the deal fell apart because of outside factors.
Then it was three days away from table reading. So, it had to be Canadian because we didn’t have time to immigrate anybody. I talked to our casting director in Toronto. and I said, “Who do you know?”
Aaron is Facebook friends with Robin Cook, and she said, “I think he’s in town. I think I just saw in his Status that he’s in town visiting his girl friend. “ And I said, “Can I have brunch with him tomorrow because we start shooting Wednesday?” And this was Saturday. The table reading was Tuesday, and they had to make a deal on Monday.
So I had brunch with Aaron, fell in love with him. We got along great! There was something I saw in his eyes that made me think he’d be able to tell if somebody was lying. It was just the way he looked at me, and I thought , “Yep! You’re the guy!” We were so lucky to get him. it just worked out great--it was kismet!
JOANNE KELLY (Myka Bering)
M&C: So how much of Myka is in you?
Joanne K.: Like any character, there’s a part of me that likes her, and there’s a part of me that’s really not. One of the things I really enjoyed about playing Myka is that, at the beginning, in the pilot, we see this really uptight, kind of closed off, very OCD kind of girl. We see her evolve, loosen up. I think we need to see her form friendships, relationships with these people.
When you can trust somebody and you know that somebody has your back, you kind of relax and let your hair down. I think we’ve really seen that evolution in her as a woman, and that’s one of my favorite things. This year that kind of evolution really continued. I’m having more fun playing her now.
It was really hard to go to work that day and be all uptight. It was hard! Now I can kind of have a little bit more fun! I really enjoyed that shift because I’m pretty chill. I think everybody here would disagree with me, but I think I’m chill.
M&C: What was it like doing that Shakespeare in the year’s first episode?
Joanne K.: I’m a huge fan! I can pretty much do ‘Hamlet’ top to bottom! My first gig was doing Shakespeare. I did ‘Romeo And Juliet’ in England, so that stuff is in me. Actually, it was one of the reasons Jack wrote it because he knows our personal things that we love. He knew that if he wanted Joanne to come back to the Warehouse, he’d have to pull out some Shakespeare. He’s my favorite writer ever of all time!
M&C: How did you react when Myka was referred to in the second season as “the fat girl?”
Joanne K.: Oh my god, I have to tell you a story! Remember the modeling episode in season two? I’m sitting there and I’m looking at all these models who definitely could use a sandwich ... or two. And I’m sitting there on my chair, which is one of those higher chairs, and my chair broke!
I fell through it! I just laid there with my eyes closed, and thought, “This is going to be one of those days!” And I see all these Amazonian, skinny, skinny girls looking at me!
It’s really hard for women. It’s hard for men, now, but it’s been harder for women for a long time. What society publishes as normal is not actually normal and to have that in your head all the time is hard. Being in this industry, it’s hard to balance, and I think a lot of actors would say the same. People come in all shapes and sizes. Go to LA if you want to see people all the same! You couldn’t tell those women apart!
M&C: How does the show treat women?
Joanne K.: I think it makes it cool to be smart! I really like how the show writes women! Personally for me, women are usually, not always but usually, written as peripheral--they’re usually aunts or sisters or girl friends or lovers or wives. The women on our show as just as dynamic as all the men, just as interesting, just as flawed, just as complex and moreso--they’re smarter than most of the guys, which, hello, we all know!
M&C: It seems like this year the show has gotten more serious. Do you sense that as well?
Joanne K.: I think this is our best season so far, and I actually believe it’s true--I’m not just saying that. I really do. I think our premiere and the second episode--they have a certain maturity that it didn’t have before, a kind of sure-footedness that I think we didn’t have before. I think that we’ve earned the right to have really silly bits and really serious bits. I think all the actors can handle it, and I think everybody is more willing to push the envelope a little bit this year. I think we go forth in both directions. Our tongues are very firmly in our cheeks, but sometimes we get some really, real human moments between the characters.
M&C: In that second episode, the sequence with Myka talking with the younger Pete in the hospital was amazing!
Joanne K.: Thank you! I haven’t seen it yet! We recently finished and I can’t watch while I’m filming because I’ll see something that I ate. And I’ll try and fix it and it is just another rabbit hole. Eddie was really good in that scene. Eddie jokes and is quite lighthearted, but underneath that, he runs pretty deep. Don’t tell him I said that! Keep it among ourselves!
EDDIE McCLINTOCK (Pete Lattimer)
M&C: How did your previous acting prepare you for ‘Warehouse 13?’
Eddie M.: I have to thank Hart (Hanson) and the people at ‘Bones’ because Sully was kind of my warm up for Pete. It was really the first time in my career that the business had allowed me to play the cop as opposed to the wacky guy next door. I could still be funny and charming and still be in a position of authority and responsibility. And I got the hot chick! After 14 years of 48 guest spots on 50-some different show and have someone go, “You’re the guy from ‘Warehouse 13!” I met Anna Nicole Smith!
M&C: Your acting as the younger Pete in the second episode of this season was amazing!
Eddie M.: Thank you! Thank you! My wife and I watched the first two episodes on DVD together, just the two of us. And she said to me, “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the show is less cheesy this year.” She goes,” it’s just less cheesy.” I think what has happened is that the show has grown up and still kept it’s sense of humor. It’s become more sophisticated. I have to say, the responsibility goes to Jack Kenny. I never met a man who’s so incredibly--he’s like Robin Williams in that he hears something, his brain processes, and it comes back out with such intensity and brilliance! He is the voice of the show! I mean, everyone’s like, “Eddie, you’re so funny on the show!” and I’m appreciative because I have to have the ability to say the lines, but I give all the credit to Jack for that.
M&C: It seems like ‘Warehouse 13’ has gotten more serious this year.
Eddie M.: Absolutely, but at the same time, we still aren’t taking ourselves too seriously. We have an episode, “Don’t Hate The Player,” which has Neil Grayson from ‘Eureka’ in it. We get trapped inside a videogame, like an RPG. I think it must be a first-person shooter because you’ll see parts where Pete has a sword in his hand and his hand will go out of frame, and you hear a noise, and it comes back in frame and it has a different thing, so it’s almost like being in a first-person shooter.
They’ve done something to the visuals, and it is so off the wall. At the same time, it’s funny because Jack is in charge. It’s not gratuitiously wacky. And it’s almost over the top. Saul plays this crazy Johnny Depp/Monty Python-like character. He just cracked us up! We had to stand there and go, “How are we going to do this?” Tonally, even though the show shifts dramatically, this season I’m proud of more than anything!
M&C: Did you enjoy doing the webisodes where Pete was in a comic book?
Eddie M.: I did! I was a comic-book lover when I was a kid. Still to this day, my wife is like, “Really? Does the Hulk poster have to be in the front room?” And I’m like, “That’s Herb Trimpe, man!” So, to be able to see myself illustrated--I’m getting to live out all my childhood dreams and someone is actually paying me for it! It’s insane! And I get to hang out with Aaron, so that’s very cool!
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&CEddie McClintock Biography -
Eddie McClintock Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesJoanne Kelly Biography -
Joanne Kelly Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesSaul Rubinek Biography -
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