HAVEN: Star Eric Balfour Talks Season 5 Filming, Scheduling and the Effect of Mara (2014)


In the Syfy series HAVEN, they have always taken big risks with their characters. The biggest risk may be taking the show’s heroine and making her the show’s Season 5 villain. This season has introduced fans and viewers to Mara, a literal Trouble-maker. She is the one who first created the Troubles that plague the residents of Haven – and after the Season 4 finale – she has been freed within the body of the woman we all knew to be Audrey Parker (Emily Rose). This identity-swap has left everyone reeling and struggling to figure out if Audrey is gone for good.

In a press conference call, co-star Eric Balfour talked about the challenges of introducing Mara into the storylines and what it has been like filming double the amount of episodes for this season.

Can you talk a bit about how Duke is going to change this year since he is going to be hurting people, inadvertently?
ERIC: Yes. So there is a lot going on with this new manifestation of what is happening to Duke. It is going to be very hard for him emotionally and physically. I do not know that his role is going to change. What makes Duke really special is Duke is who he is. He doesn’t compromise who he is no matter what. So I do not know that he is going to change. Obviously the character, in a really great way, has evolved over the course of the series quite a bit. And the writers have done an amazing job of that. But I think the biggest difference will be Duke coming to terms with the idea that he is now part of the problem in some ways.

How has Duke’s relationship with Nathan and Dwight changed with the arrival of Mara?
ERIC: The arrival of Mara is going to put a lot of pressure on Duke and Nathan and Dwight’s relationships. Duke and Mara are going to have a lot of business with each other this season – and not all of it good — and it is going to be really hard for Duke. It is been really fun. One of my favorite things about shooting this season has been working with Emily as she plays this character Mara. The dynamics between Duke — Duke inherently is a good man at his core and I do not think that’s ever going to change — but the introduction of Mara, certain forces, and there’s some really compromising for them. For me, it is just been so much fun watching Emily create this new dynamic of the character that she plays. I love the scenes with Duke and Mara. I think the audience is going to love them. They are filled with sexual tension and animosity and camaraderie and anger and confusion and nuance. It is absolutely been my favorite part of shooting this season.

Can you tell us a little bit about what would you expect to stay the same or change this year in the relationship between Duke and Nathan?
ERIC: Well, every season has expectations that way. That’s just a given. Every season, this world that these characters live in gets harder and more intense and they become more invested in each other. So that, in and of itself, is going to put strain on Duke and Nathan’s relationship. But if you ask me, or probably even Shawn Piller, one of the truly great romances of this show is the love story that exists between Duke and Nathan. It is not a romantic love story, obviously, but these guys are like brothers. And they’ve been through ups and downs. This season is only going to push the dynamic of that relationship further and push it to its limits. I realized I love Lucas like a brother. He is one of the most sincere, kind, gentle people I’ve ever known. I love his family. And so, that now has transcended into the scenes that we have seen on the show because it is very difficult for me not to have that there because I feel so deeply.

In what ways have you seen yourself perhaps were to grow and develop as an actor since you began working on HAVEN? And have you discovered any new acting challenges with the Duke role this season?
ERIC: Absolutely. Like any part or anything that you do that you love, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I would make a comparison to boxing and fighting. There’s so much muscle-memory that comes with that. So, as an actor, the ability to push and use those muscles on a daily basis — so much of being an actor in the business is waiting, waiting to get a job, waiting to go to set, waiting to go to an audition, waiting for the next role — so the gift of getting to act everyday in so many months out of the year, it makes you very loose as an actor. That’s probably the best tool that I’ve been given from being on the series — the ability to just feel very pleased, very comfortable and very loose as an actor. Because there isn’t that sort of pressure of having been off the set for a few months or I haven’t been acting in a few weeks or whatever. So I would say that has been the biggest growth for me as an actor: playing the character and being on the show this long. As far as the challenges of this season, this season is going to be really intense for Duke and really heavy for Duke. So the biggest challenge has been in maintaining what is so great about Duke: it is his irreverence and his humor and his ability to laugh in the face of danger. So finding the balance between the intensity of what’s going on this season for Duke and maintaining his nature that has been a challenge. It is one of my favorite things about the character, and you wouldn’t want to lose it. So finding that balance has certainly been the biggest challenge.

There seems to be two camps about Audrey or Mara. Some feel that the Audrey Parker personality is the core or heart of the show, but the other camp feels that even if Audrey becomes just another past persona of Mara’s and thus Mara becomes the main role that Emily plays from here out. Do you fall in one camp or another in that debate? And do you think Duke could address equally well to either outcome?
ERIC: I would probably fall in the camp that the community of characters and the location in this world is the core of the show. So regardless of which incarnation of this character that Emily plays, the show works. It is a testament to Emily, as an actor, that she is able to bring light to all of these versions of the character — of this being. I think for Duke — Duke has a swagger to him that is really fun for me to play, he has a confidence that is definitely beyond my own in real life — so I think whether Duke would ever admit it, I think he has the ability to roll with the punches. My scenes with Mara this season have been some of my favorite moments of the entire series. But I think people are going to be very surprised when they see how this all works out. The writers have done an amazing job of crafting something really special and really unexpected. It is going to knock everyone’s socks off.

Emily mentioned that part of the blocking for this season is that there were more two-person scenes and smaller more intimate scenes. Did you like working that way and getting to spend more one-on-one time versus doing broader, bigger scenes?
ERIC: Absolutely. A hundred percent. The bigger the scene, the more people, the harder to execute, the more broken up and sort of choppy it becomes. The ability to shoot the scene if it is just you and one other actor is really good for business. It is more intimate. You have more time. It is been my favorite part about shooting the series this season — the style in which we have shot. I’ve loved it. It is been great.

Will we see any closure on the Duke-Jennifer side of things this season?
ERIC: We absolutely will. The Jennifer character has a very large role in Duke’s storyline this season. It is a huge motivation for him that it has pretty incredible outcomes, and it is a huge part of the entire arc of Duke’s character this season. I loved working with Emma. I loved the dynamic between our characters, and she is just honestly, one of the coolest people you could ever meet or hang out with. She was such a pleasure to have on the set.

Will the show ever going to go back to the fact that Duke has a daughter? Are they ever going to address that? And do you think he makes a good father?
ERIC: I do not know is the honest answer. It is something we definitely talked about and something we definitely ask the writers about. There’s so much to address and to try to fit in per season. But it is definitely something that we had been pushing for and we hope for. Obviously, there’s the logistics of how that would work because of the nature of the Troubles surrounding his daughter. But I hope we get to see that because I think it would be amazing. Interestingly enough, I do think Duke would make a good father. I think what makes Duke special is that he wears his heart on his sleeve, and in some ways as guarded and cavalier as he can be, his nature has always come through. I think if he were handed this child to take care of — I do not think he could compartmentalize his feelings for a baby and for his own blood — I think it would be amazing to watch that. So I hope it happens. There hasn’t been any definitive answer as of yet. But we still have time.

Will this season return to the focus on Audrey, Nathan and Duke? Will we see more of that or will you be interacting with other characters as well?
ERIC: Absolutely. Obviously, Emily is playing Mara. So you could argue no. But there is definitely a return to that threesome and the core group getting to interact together again. It is one of those things that you can’t predict. The chemistry is very unquantifiable and one of the things that I love about the show. I think it is the strongest asset of the show — the chemistry between the three of us — and now with Adam. He has only added more to that chemistry. So you are definitely going to see a return to that group, at least as far as the three actors go. The characters, as you know, are slightly different.

About Duke’s look this season. It is certainly changed. Was that a personal decision or was that for the character?
ERIC: No, it is for the character. It was actually one of the executive producers, Lloyd Segan. He came to me before we ever started shooting the season and we had an initial conversation going into this season. He said, “How do you feel about changing up Duke’s look and doing something different?” And, to be honest, at first, I was very self-evasive. I had spent so much time and energy towards growing my hair. But he was absolutely right. It was a great idea. Duke, as a character, has evolved. So it felt like the right time to allow his character and the character’s look to evolve as well. It created some challenges at the beginning. I had one opinion about what Duke should look like. Other people had their opinions. But the beauty of what we do is that it is a collaboration and I think that at the end of the day, we all came to something that we’re happy with. I think everyone’s going to be surprised about how it all goes down. It is been fun. It is always fun. Change is good.

Previously HAVEN always just shot 13 episodes and this season it has 26 episode. How is that like for you personally from production standpoint?
ERIC: There are challenges and there are benefits here. Being away from your family and home for double the amount of time is challenging. At the same time, it has in some ways allowed for a little more of a lenient schedule. We have a little more time off. But all in all, It is been great. You stay in rhythm. It is awesome.

When we last talked to Lucas and Emily, Lucas was just prepping to direct an episode. What was it like being directed by him and you’ve directed in the past, do you have any plans to do more directing in the future?
ERIC: Lucas has not directed his episode yet. That’s coming up very soon. I am so excited about it for him and for us. I think I actually probably said it a couple of times that I want to make his episode the best of the season because I am so excited for him. I love directors. I love directing. I love the art of directing. So I was happily envious of Lucas that he got to direct on HAVEN. Unfortunately, I can’t because I am not a Canadian citizen. But I am so excited for him and so looking forward to it. Actors make fantastic directors in my opinion. They understand the energy that it takes for an actor to do what he does. They are sympathetic to that. They have a language that they understand with actors when they are directing them. So there’s nothing that I like more than working with a director who has been an actor. Just off the top of my head I worked with Timothy Busfield a few years ago and it was an amazing experience because he truly did understand what it meant to be an actor. Similarly, with Kathy Bates, once she directed SIX FEET UNDER, it was the greatest experience for me as an actor, working an actor of that caliber and to get to act for them as a director. It raised my game so much. On a personal level, I am very much looking forward to directing more. I have a series that I am developing, which I hope to direct as it moves forward. I am developing several different features and I have a show that we’re developing — one that I would love to be able to direct episodes of. So directing is where I would like to take my career in the future moving forward and is obviously a huge part of what I do as an artist.

There was a little lack of clarity when Emily and Lucas did the last call about the number of episodes in season five. They said that Syfy ordered 26 episodes. But then kept referring to it as if it was two different seasons – two separate seasons. So, after the first 13 episodes air, will that be season five to mid-season break, and then the rest of season five comes after or will season six be the second batch of 13 episodes?
ERIC: I will give you two answers to that question. One is I actually have no idea technically. So everything I am about to tell you is completely my opinion. I preface it with that. Here is the deal. In order to make the show the way we wanted to make it, we needed to shoot more episodes because it amortizes the cost. Now this is a production question and this is only my understanding of it. I am just an actor on the show and so I do not make decisions and I am not part of these conversations. But having been doing this for a few years now, I have some understanding of it. But the cost of shooting 26 episodes versus 13 episodes is much less. So I think they may still be figuring it out. The way that we have been treating it on set, as the actors, we have been viewing it as two parts. Now, is it the end of 13 episodes the end of season five? And then a year later or six months later or three months later, the rest? We actually do not know. They whether they call that second set of 13 episodes Season 5B, or they call it Season 6, they haven’t really told us. It is a little bit of an unknown at this point. But as far as we’re concerned, we’re kind of treating them as 2 seasons. When will they decide to air that second 13 episodes, they haven’t told us. I know from an actor’s standpoint, when you shoot a season, there are contractual differences between seasons, one season and shooting a second season. So if you just order more episodes technically in one season it saves everybody from the studio and network-side money because there are things that obviously people contract that change after one season into the next season. So if you call it all one season you can get away with things that — and we all love doing the show — so we all just acquiesce to what was in the best interest of making the show.. . I think it is still up in the air. They could definitely air 13 episodes now and then save the next 13 episodes for next year at the same time, and call it second season another season. They could call it Season 5B. Who knows? They may decide to air it a month or two or three months later. I honestly do not know that they know. And I do not know that they’ve told anyone in the production at the studio. But you have to ask the producers really about that.

What does it mean for you to come back and shoot such a long stretch of the season while you’ve also got a business that you’re building on the side? Are you in every episode for all of the 26 or will you disappear for segments of time?
ERIC: My initial thought when we were presented with the 26 episodes was, “Oh …” And you know what? In a good way and in a terrified way. I mean I’ve said this a couple of times, the fact that the producers were able to pull this off is really a testament to how creative and driven they are. It is an amazing feat to convince any network to shoot 26 episodes of a show that is normally 13 episodes. That’s impressive. So that’s exciting. But it was very scary. I am wholeheartedly invested in this thing that I am building, this clothing company: Electric & Rose. It is my baby. It is my dream that I’ve had for so many years. So I knew it was going to be a challenge. But the producers were overwhelmingly supportive in figuring out how to give me the time I needed to take care of that and nurture that. I will be in all 26 episodes. There was no discussion of not doing any episode. It was just a matter of a few days here, a few days there. It meant a lot of travel and a lot of plane rides, and I am very grateful to United American for keeping me comfortable. But it worked out great. We all are just a few weeks away from launching the clothing line. We hit stores in the middle of October. We’ll be in Equinox Gyms all over the country and YogaWorks and Fred Segals in Los Angeles. And I am so excited about it. It really is my dream come true. So I am grateful, not only that the producers gave me the time I needed to get things done, but the simple fact that doing this show for the last four to five years has given me the financial ability to build this thing. I mean, I do not know if I’ve gotten to say to the producers, or the studio directly, but this show has done a great part of what I am doing. And I will forever be grateful for that.

All new episodes of HAVEN (Season 5) air Friday nights at 7:00 p.m. on Syfy (new timeslot beginning October 10, 2014).

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