Grant Bowler and Julie Benz in DEFIANCE - Season 1 | ©2013 Syfy/Joe Pugliese

Grant Bowler and Julie Benz in DEFIANCE - Season 1 | ©2013 Syfy/Joe Pugliese

In Part 2 of ASSIGNMENT X’s exclusive interview with DEFIANCE star Grant Bowler, who plays Lawkeeper Joshua “Jeb” Nolan on the Syfy series – which has come out simultaneously with a multi-platform DEFIANCE videogame – the actor talks working with CGI, crews in different countries and his werewolf days on TRUE BLOOD.

ASSIGNMENT X: How is it interacting with the aspects to be added later in CGI? Are you good at visualizing, “Okay, this is a cliff and this is …?”

BOWLER: I haven’t done much of it before. I think I shot more VFX stuff in the pilot than I have in twenty years before. So it is a bit of a trick, but I find it really exciting. It’s like being in a playground again. It’s like being that kid and you’re imagining everything. You’ve got a stick out in the back yard and all of a sudden, you’re playing the U.S. Open. It’s that lovely kind of suspension of disbelief that we all get back to when we were young. So as long as you’ve got a good team doing the VFX, you’re fine. And we were very, very lucky there, and the guys had great mock-ups. Every time we’d go to shoot green screen, they’d got these incredible design drawings of what’s actually behind us, and where, and what elements are going on, so it’s lovely. It’s like playing make-believe.

AX: Was there anything you had to learn how to do for the part, whether it’s handling the alien weapons or driving the strange-looking vehicles?

BOWLER: We call them “Rollers” and, yeah, all of the above. It’s very strange, how they’re geared. And because they’ve been built for us, they react and respond very differently than, say, a car. So yes, there was getting used to that and learning how to do that. There was handling the alien weapons. Handling the alien machinery, or devices, is a matter of figuring out how they all work before you go to operate them. I did do an enormous amount of stuff with all kinds of weaponry, I’d done a lot of before, but again, it’s doing it on a daily basis.

AX: On a cop show, they’ll have weapons experts there to instruct the actors. On DEFIANCE, who’s teaching you how to handle the weapons?

BOWLER: You have an armorer there at all times, whenever anything real or close to real is there. And then we have special response police officers there who are supervising everything. I’d already played three Special Forces operatives, and I’ve trained with all of those guys in the past. So it was a bit lucky. That stuff – how do you pick things up, put things down, how do you use them – I’d kind of done to death before we ever got to the show, so that side of the box was kind of ticked. But then you go into character – how does this guy do it, or how does that girl do it, is this person that proficient, or are they less proficient? I’m a stickler for detail, and one thing that bugs me when I watch films on television is, a) when cops handle weapons like the military or alternatively handle them really badly, like a civilian, or when people who shouldn’t know how to use something are incredibly proficient with it. So you always come back to character. You come back to, well, what about my guy or girl? How good or bad or indifferent are they with these things? And that goes for the machinery, to the cars, to the vehicles, to anything alien or foreign. That thing where people pick things up they haven’t used before and then all of a sudden, they can use them is one of the things that drives me nuts, so I try and make sure, when I’m working, that I put some focus on that and make sure that’s done appropriately.

AX: So we can tell if it’s something that Jeb knows his way around or if he’s never picked on up before?

BOWLER: Exactly.

AX: How much of the alien languages does Jeb speak and how easy or difficult is that for you?

BOWLER: It’s really difficult for me [laughs]. I find the alien languages really hard. It’s interesting. If you’re asked to speak a bit of French, you can kind of trot it out and then check in with five people who speak a bit of French and say, “How am I doing?” and they’ll give you feedback. With the alien languages, of course, nobody’s ever spoken them before. So it’s difficult. It’s getting easier as it goes along, but the pilot and the first couple of episodes, the entire cast were terrified of the alien languages. We’re very, very lucky to have four complete languages written for us and three partial, and they’re really fun to do, once we get the hang of them. But everybody turns up to set, very, very worried on the days when there’s a lot of alien dialogue.

AX: Do you like the way that Jeb is handling himself within the situations in the show or do you have moments where you think, “Oh, I wish he’d learn how to do this?” As either an actor or a viewer?

BOWLER: I feel both as an actor and a viewer that I don’t like perfect characters and I like that he’s extremely imperfect. I like that he has a way of doing things that often comes up against how things work in DEFIANCE. I like that he struggles, I like that he doesn’t always know what to do – those are things that I like as an audience. The things about him that are frustrating are there deliberately, so it’s hard for me to say that I like or don’t like them. [laughs] Those I put there on purpose. And I’m always trying to create the furthest distance, if you like, between where the character’s at and where I want him to be or an audience might want him to be, just because it gives you further to travel, creates a more dynamic journey.

AX: Is there any difference between working in Toronto, where DEFIANCE is made, and working in Australia and working in the U.S.?

BOWLER: All of this stuff is all getting to know you stuff, we’re all figuring it out. It comes to shooting cultures. Crews have very different cultures in different countries. I’ve shot in God knows – I’ve mainly shot drama in maybe seven countries, and every place, there’s a very different kind of shooting culture. It’s a part of where you go. It’s like there’s different geography, or the different buildings, or the different weather, or the different times that the sun sets and rises. And [the culture is] dictated generally by the crew, by what they’re used to, by what they’ve been doing for years and years and years. So there is always a slightly different style of going about things. And I really, really love that. When I go home to Australia, it’s all very guerilla, because there’s no money, so everybody tries to fix the problems basically just by banging through them and by coming up with solutions that don’t require any equipment, very grassroots creative solutions. When I’m shooting in the States, there’s always a wonderful amount of facility, crews work incredibly hard and there’s a lot of backup and immediacy. You’ve got a lot of facilities, if you like, at your disposal, or very close on hand.Toronto matches for me in a lot of ways theU.S. The crew is slightly different. They shoot an incredible amount ofU.S. material, but at the same time, culturally there’s a difference. They work very, very hard, but they’re just a little more relaxed, or a little less political. I mean political in the sense of –

AX: Career ambition?

BOWLER: Well, partly, and also, inL.A., there’s always the thing, nobody ever says “no.” They say, “I’ll get back to you,” and then they never do [laughs], because nobody ever wants to upset anybody, because there’s always your next job to think about. In a few smaller markets, what really seems to happen is, it’s a smaller pool, so people work off prior relationships more. There’s less relationships, so there’s less networking and they’re allowed to speak their mind a little more.

AX: You said at the time you did FARSCAPE, you felt, “Ah, never again!” in terms of working in prosthetic makeup, but do you like science fiction as a genre as a viewer?

BOWLER: I’m a huge science fiction fan, but it’s interesting, because DEFIANCE has forced me to define what science fiction is. BLADE RUNNER is one of my top three movies. I’m a huge fan of all of the STAR WARS franchise, I’m a Trekkie, I love LOST and FARSCAPE, and other genre stuff. I’m a huge fan of a) genre stuff and b) sci-fi stuff. I like my worlds immersive. And what I mean by that is, I love it when I don’t have to think about the world, where there’s this kind of very seamless entire other environment created. Sci-fi where it’s like, “Oh, we’re all in present-day Los Angeles but somebody has superpowers,” I’m not really into.

AX: You played werewolf pack leader Cooter on TRUE BLOOD – you didn’t have any makeup, because when the characters transform, they become actual wolves. How was that?

BOWLER: Awesome. I loved shooting TRUE BLOOD. The cast was phenomenal – they’re just the greatest outfit of people you’ll ever meet. And that opportunity to play that kind of fantasy, vampires and werewolves, this awesome otherly creature, that was great. I got to tick my werewolf box on my bucket list in an incredible show. And I loved playing him, because he was just so crazy.

AX: He was a drug-addicted good ol’ boy werewolf.

BOWLER: Yeah. I called them several times before the season started, and of course, that was the season where we introduced the werewolves, and Don Swayze and a couple of the other guys were saying to me, “How are we going to play these werewolves?” The funny thing was, because I was the pack leader, they were all calling me and asking me. And I had no idea. So I was on the phone to Alan [Ball, TRUE BLOOD’s TV creator] and I said, “Alan, how are we going to go about playing the givens of this, the physicality of the wolves and how they operate and their political structure?” And he said, “I want you to play him like a meth-addicted redneck biker.” And I instantly went, “I can do that. [laughs] That’s no problem.” He was a ball. I’d much rather play one of the bad werewolves than the good werewolf. Big Joe [Manganiello] does the world’s best job of playing the good werewolf, but bad werewolves are so much fun.

AX: Do you have a favorite alien race on DEFIANCE?

BOWLER: I like the Irathients. They’re a bit like First Nation characters in a way, and they’re very outsider-y and they have this wonderful kind of universe operating all on their own. They live in these little caravan villages, a little bit like Bedouins. They travel from place to place in these little caravans of carts. They just have entirely their own thing going on, and I’ve always dug those cultures that are a bit like the Basque or the Bedouin, that kind of exist in the modern world simultaneously but separately.

AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about DEFIANCE?

BOWLER: The one thing that I would love to say is, I guess one thing I’m proudest of the show for is this incredible degree of detail that I’ve never seen before, and the elegance of design of the world. And I think it’s hugely owed to the five years of development between Trion and Syfy, and the designs and ideas moving backwards and forwards between two think tanks and being real-world tested as we went to shoot them and then sent back into the game and then the game guys coming up with more ideas and sending them back again. We’ve been very blessed in that conversation, in the idea of two separate entities [television production and videogame production] think-tanking all the possibilities over and over again for five years. That’s a level of development that I’ve never seen before.

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Related: Exclusive interview with DEFIANCE star star Julie Benz

Related: Exclusive interview with DEFIANCE star Grant Bowler – PART 1

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Article: Exclusive interview with DEFIANCE star Grant Bowler – PART 2

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