HELIX: Billy Campbell and Jordan Hayes Talk The Challenges of Fighting an Unseen Killer (2014)


Three episodes into the HELIX story and it seems like everyone is getting infected faster than they can come up with a cure.  But because a mutating virus cannot be seen readily by the human eye, they can strike anywhere, any time and anyone.  It is even more scary when one is found in a remote area without ready access to help and escape.  Syfy’s new drama series HELIX offers a fine-tuned virus thriller set a research facility in the Arctic.   In a recent press conference call, stars Billy Campbell and Jordan Hayes talked about the mysterious nature of the virus and how it effects in the infected and other challenges of this type of silent-killer thriller.

What did you guys like about this particular series and what exactly attracted you to it?
BILLY:  I was extremely attracted to the genre. I’m a big fan of both “The Thing” movies, the Howard Hawks one and the John Carpenter one, and “Andromeda Strain” is one of my big favorite films.  So I was very attracted to the situation, and of course attracted to the fact that Ron Moore was attached, and not least of which was that we were shooting in Montreal.
JORDAN: I loved the characters. They were obviously very smartly written and very intelligent characters.  It really felt, despite being a science fiction show there was a huge emphasis on the dramatic nature of the writing, and that really attracted me as an actor.

Your characters kind of like a mentor/student relationship, but there are hints that it’s also a little more. Can you comment on that relationship?
JORDAN:  I think it is exactly what you just said, “It’s a mentor/student relationship” and I think that Sarah has a lot of admiration for Alan. She really holds his opinion in high esteem, and she really wants to make him proud and improve her worth and impress him.

How about we describe each other’s characters in three words?
BILLY:  For Sarah, intelligent, of course. I would say there’s just a little, there’s just a spark of defiance.  So I would say:  intelligent, defiant and sexy.
JORDAN:  Alan Farragut is:  commendable, standup guy — I know that’s not one word, but yes, standup guy — and sensitive.

How did you approach portraying Alan Farragut? He seems to have stepped into something he has never encountered before.
BILLY: I’m not sure that I thought about it very deeply. It’s a very black-and-white situation.  There’s an outbreak and they have to contain it. Then things start getting confusing because they are being misdirected by Hatake, and there are all these sort of variables.

There’s so much right now on the news obviously, about the CDC and the flu and everything going around. When you guys first started working on this, reading the script and everything, did any of it every freak you out a bit because some of it could actually happen?
JORDAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean that’s one of the greatest things about this show is that it’s dealing with something that is very real. Throughout history we’ve seen huge epidemics wipe out hundreds of millions of people. And although now thankfully we have the invention of antibiotics and we can treat things much better, it’s still very real and it’s still very scary, and can possibly wipe out thousands of people.
BILLY:  I think it goes to like sort of our most primal fears, the thing which you cannot see that will come in the night and kill you from the inside out. I can’t imagine much of anything creepier than that.

How much were you told about your characters and what was going to happen to them?
JORDAN:  I knew Sarah had the hand tremors before we even started shooting. So in that regard I was made aware of that particular plot point. But there were several things that will surface throughout the season that you’ll see that we just weren’t aware of. I think that that worked in our favor because then we were discovering things in the moment, which was nice because then we weren’t telegraphing things from early on in some of the earlier episodes.
BILLY:  I would have to agree with that. I prefer honestly not to know what’s going on for the very reason that Jordan brings up.

While you were filming did you speculate who was going to be the next to be infected?
BILLY: There was plenty of speculation I think. I think there was a lot of fun speculation as to who might be next in all of that.

<i>Which were your favorite one or two episodes of this season and what did you find the most challenging?
BILLY: That’s hard to say honestly. I think the one upcoming might be my favorite.  The whole thing was a great deal of fun. I don’t know what really was challenging.  I mean it’s always a bit of a challenge to imagine yourself into the circumstances. But even that was relatively easy because of stellar cast-mates and kind of a wonderfully, creepy set and situation.
JORDAN:  I think I just loved the team involved on the project in general. The cast and the crew really made it just such an enjoyable experience.  In terms of difficulty I think for me the most challenging part was necessarily memorizing the dialogue and understanding exactly what we were saying. It was very important for me to have a clear understanding, or as clear as possible as I could, of the science that we were referring to. So that was a little bit like going back to school, and looking at old textbooks and learning about the science all over again.

You both have done a lot of genre work throughout your careers. Do you tend to gravitate toward science fiction and horror personally or is that just sort of how things have turned out in your career?
BILLY:  I dig science fiction. It’s one of my favorite things.  I don’t know why exactly. I mean, since I was quite young, science fiction and fantasy — I went to military school for six years when I was quite young — so it was a big sort of escape for me. I’ve loved it ever since.
JORDAN: It kind of just happened for me.  I have done a fair amount of my work has been in the horror and sci-fi genre, and I guess I’m just fortunate in that regard. It wasn’t a particular choice on my part, it just kind of worked out like that.

What can we expect from your character Sarah moving forward?
JORDAN:  This is true for all of the characters, that when you’re put in a situation like we are, where the stakes are so high, where the stakes are literally revealing them to be life and death, your character gets challenged and you end up doing things that you don’t think that you are capable of doing. I can’t say too much, but I will say that Sarah encounters some very challenging situations where she is forced to do things that she never thought that she would be capable of doing.

Will Alan be trying to save them or will Artic Bio be trying to recruit him, or a little of both?
BILLY: It would be pretty safe to say, I think, that he would be trying to save them. Whether he’s successful and whether they are willing to be saved is another question.  The act of saving them of course is inherently dangerous and who knows what perils lie ahead for Alan and the whole team.

Was there anything memorable or an especially challenging scene that you can recall from working on the HELIX pilot?
BILLY: For me I think it harkens back to the outside stuff before we had a cold room. I mean in the very first couple or few days we were swaddled in our extreme cold weather gear on a stage with fake snow blowing around and in the middle of summer. It was horrible. In fact I remember I got sick because I ingested so much crud into my lungs I got quite sick for a couple of weeks.  So that’s the thing that sticks out to me from the pilot, other than just being so insanely happy to be in Montreal again.
JORDAN: I think the experience that standing out the most for me was the first time that I walked into the BSL4 Lab, onto that set, was kind of great. It was just so wonderful to see all of the scientific paraphernalia and kind of get to play around with it. We had an actual scientist on set who was showing us exactly what every instrument did. I think that was the funnest part for me.

The hazmat suits, how were they to work in?
JORDAN: They were very real.
BILLY:  They were very real. I mean they weren’t built for the show, they were real hazmat suits. And I would have this to say about them; they weren’t as uncomfortable as you might think, because they were ventilated. We had a pack on the back that actually ventilated the helmet. So they were pretty cool to work in. They were a pain to put on. And unless you looked like Jordan or Kyra, they’re not terribly flattering.
JORDAN:  Like Billy said, there’s these ventilation packs. So the helmets were sealed off so we actually had oxygen being pumped into our helmets. And I can remember at least once, maybe twice Billy, you pulled my hose out of the pack.  So they were fun. But like Billy said, they were difficult to get into. But I really liked them and I think they look really cool on screen. So I think it worked out well.
BILLY: That’s because you look the way you do.

Did you guys have a favorite part of the set to work with, or was there something on the set that you found particular creepy?
JORDAN:  The sets were really great, particularly creepy.
BILLY: I really loved was when we did the episode with Jeremiah directing and we go off base, Kyra and I, and we go off to an abandoned listening station. I can’t tell you what happens, but it was dreadfully, dreadfully creepy. The set folks, the set designers and decorators, did an amazing, amazing job with this place. And what happens there is intensely, intensely creepy. I think that was one of my favorite sets.

What can you share about what is upcoming?
BILLY:  This will be more along the lines of uncovering uncovering a mythology and a sort of a deeper story. The story does open up. We are not confined to the base the entire time, and that other characters do make an entrance into the story and they change things up in a very big way.
JORDAN:  Jeri Ryan comes into the show and she’s great. She’s awesome. That just kind of reinforces the notion of how we get to this base and we think we’re dealing with one thing and it’s actually dealing with several other things. So as those several other things begin to surface you’ll see more and more characters come out as well.

To see how the killer virus continues to morph and challenge their efforts to contain it, be sure to tune in Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. for all new episodes of HELIX on Syfy.

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