Produced by the SyFy channel in conjunction with THQ, "Red Faction: Origins" is a made-for-TV movie designed to bridge the narrative gap between the events of 2009's Red Faction: Guerrilla and the upcoming Red Faction: Armageddon. Set halfway between the two games, the film stars Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica, Heroes). We caught up with Vernon last week at a "Red Faction: Origins" premiere event in San Francisco, Calif., and chatted about the production experience and video games.
WP: You have experience with the SyFy channel with "Battlestar Galactica" and sci-fi in general with guest spots on "Star Trek." How did you get involved with "Red Faction: Origins"?
KV: Truthfully? I was at Michael Nankin's birthday party. He's a dear friend from "Battlestar," of course, and "CSI" and "Heroes." He's directed me in so many things, and I just said, "So, what are you working on?" (laughs)
He said, "Well, I'm going to Bulgaria."
I said, "Bulgaria? Why?"
"I'm shooting this movie for SyFy."
I'm like, "OK, and?!"
And he goes, "Yes, there's something in there for you."
I said, "OK," and he goes, "I'll get back to you."
(laughs) It was just so sweet, and it took a while because they hemmed and hawed. They always have lots of considerations, but I got the part, and I'm so thrilled.
WP: A lot of your SyFy channel fans obviously know you from your portrayal of Ellen Tigh on "Battlestar." She was a very conflicted character who wasn't directly good or directly bad; she had many shades of gray. How does The Matriarch compare to the character of Ellen Tigh? Is she more direct in her motivations, or is she just as conflicted?
KV: She's much clearer in who she is and in her duties, but she definitely has deep inner wounds that create an inner conflict, but the difference is that she has a destiny, and she's made personal sacrifices because of her destiny. So yeah, she's clearer.
WP: Have you had any exposure to the Red Faction game either before or during production? Or did you approach the role strictly from the script and what the director told you about it?
KV: I'm a virgin gamer. (laughs) Big time! I can work my iPhone, and I can figure out a computer. Gaming is not something that I'm familiar with at all, so I came from a very creative place into his world, and I find it fascinating. In terms of experiencing things — for instance, if I experience a movie or music or whatever — I am very visual and very feeling oriented. At the NBC press release day, they had the Red Faction game there, and I sat down and I tried to play this game. I swear, I thought I was going to fall off the chair. I don't even know what it is, but I felt dizzy. I just kept having a hard time with it. I think people are wired a certain way to really work their thumbs and their brains in that way. I'm just not that person.
WP: What about the filming locations? We had a chat with Brian J. Smith a short while ago, and one of the things that he brought up was the filming location in Eastern Europe. He described it as being almost otherworldly, that it was unlike anything he'd seen before.
KV: Yeah, it was very, very different from other parts of Europe that I've been to. Of course, I'd never been to Bulgaria. It was bloody cold, and we shot long hours. I think all of that really informed our performances, and it was quite a wonderful place for this project to be set, to kind of color it and birth it. The sets are amazing, the extras, everybody around us, it's a very beautiful and raw visual experience.
WP: Production-wise, computer graphics have become much more film-like, but that also means that there's more use of green screen and aftereffects. What's it like as an actor when you're trying to react or interact with things that aren't there while you're filming?
KV: This is my first time with green screen. Even though I was on "Battlestar," I did not have to work on green screens. We're working on a freezing, sub-zero set, so it was very difficult, trying and challenging circumstances. On top of it, I'm having to re-create in my mind everything that I'm — it was wild. As an actress, I found it really fascinating, and I could see it being a wonderful challenge. It's like, if an actor puts on a mask, it frees you up to do so many things and be whatever. The same thing — when it's just your imagination, it informs you in a really different way. Because we shot so late at night and it was so cold, to be honest, I was on survival mode. I was thinking as I'm shooting, "Wow, it would be nice if this went to series because then I could really get into this green screen thing and nurture this experience." But I didn't have that luxury while we were shooting. (laughs) I find it fascinating, though.
WP: With the publicity and the news around Red Faction, have you found that it's brought in a new set of fans that maybe didn't know you from your prior work but are now getting to know you because of a video game-related event?
KV: Well, I think that's going to happen after it airs. I'm seeing a lot of ads for it, and I'm online checking it out, so this is my first introduction to gaming and probably gaming's first introduction to Kate Vernon, and I hope the two will be happily married together. The gaming world is huge, and it's fun, and there are so many aspects to it. I'd love to do a voice for games. If The Matriarch … I don't know … I'm sure there is a voice for The Matriarch. (laughs) It's all creative, and it's lots of fun.
WP: One of the guys from Volition, the development company behind the Red Faction games, is at this premiere event, so you should let him know.
KV: Oh, OK! Maybe I could have you point him out to me. (laughs)
WP: I'd guess that your least favorite part of filming was the extreme cold, but what would you say was your favorite part of the filming of the movie?
KV: Oh, we had a band of merry, merry actors, I tell you. We had a great group of actors and great editor in Matt Michael, great writer in Andrew Kreisberg, and at the helm, of course, was Michael Nankin. They say the director sets the tone, and he was definitely the big daddy on the set and off the set. We were like little pied pipers, all of us together. Thank god we banded together in a foreign country in the freezing cold and dire circumstances, and we had a blast!
WP: Thanks a lot for your time.
Editor's Note: Be sure to check out "Red Faction: Origins" when it airs on the SyFy channel on Saturday, June 4, 2011, at 9 PM/8 PM Central.
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