Transcription by Katrina King. In the new timeline Katrina is a nuclear physicist.
Niall Matter first gained promience starring in The Best Years. Since then he has appeared in a wide range of shows including Stargate Atlantis and the new Melrose Place. Niall joined the hit Syfy series Eureka as Zane Donovan during the second season and soon after became a regular member of the cast. In anticipation of Eureka‘s mid-season premiere on Monday, July 11, I recently talked to Niall via phone about season 4.5 and playing Alternate Zane.
POP CULTURE ZOO: First of all, is it kind of weird being well into shooting season 5, having to go back now and talk about season 4?
NIALL MATTER: It’s actually one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever had to do. Yes, it’s really hard, because I’m trying not to give away anything from season 5, because I mean, half of season 4 hasn’t aired yet. When we film them, we just film them as one season. We don’t know that the network’s going to split them up and go 4 and 4.5 right, so now the last half of that season’s coming out, so I’ve gotta be careful what I say. Have you seen any of the episodes yet?
PCZ: I’ve seen the first 3 back.
NM: Okay cool, so you have a little bit of an idea what’s going on.
PCZ: Obviously I don’t know how the season’s going to end so I’ll still well clear of those questions!
NM: All right, perfect, perfect!
PCZ: Going back to the beginning of season 4 where the whole time line changed and everything, you are playing the only alternate character. How has that been playing a new Zane, basically?
NM: I think it was the best thing that could happen for Zane. I think it was the best thing that could happen for that character. It just brought the possibility to reinvent and breathe new life into him that wasn’t necessarily there before, and it also enabled us to go back to the way he originally was when he came on the show. Or a little more so. In season 3 he became quite calm and reserved in regards to his relationship with Lupo. It actually kind of transcended over into other aspects of the show, I found, so he kind of became like a doting puppy dog a little bit. And it’s been fun to stir that up and completely lose that.
PCZ: I talked to Erica yesterday, and I asked her this same question – since you played Zane and Lupo in a relationship for so long, you guys kind of had sort of an acting rhythm going on. How is that now that you’re playing a different character?
NM: Well, it did shake it up a bit, because now we have to remember exactly what’s actually happened with the characters in this new timeline. In the changed timeline, they don’t have the history that they had. So that’s been the biggest challenge. If I do something and Erica does something we’ll call each other out on it and be, “Y’know what, that doesn’t tie into this reality because of the new relationship.” So, we’ve had to put ourselves in check a few times in regards to what we can say and what we can’t say to each other and how we can react and how we can’t react to each other. We’ve had to rediscover the relationship and basically just start from scratch, which has been fun.
PCZ: That’s gotta be very interesting as an actor. It almost seems like the whole timeline change kinda made the show brand new.
NM: It actually did, it did start it brand new. It gave the show the possibility of having storylines and having past storylines that weren’t ever there. But now they are there, because it’s an alternate timeline.
PCZ: Is there a struggle sometimes when you get a line or a scene, where you might think, “Oh, no, this is the way Zane needs to react” and you’ve got to kind of pull yourself back or rethink it?
NM: Absolutely, that comes up a lot and that’s part of the creative process, right? You’ll get a script and you’ll read through it, and there’s been a few times where I’ve noticed where the lines have come out, and I’m like wait a second, that doesn’t really work for this new Zane. What I do then is I take it to the creative team, the writers, who are amazing, because they come up now when we’re filming. I’ll just go and talk with the writer and rework it, and we figure out where it does fit, and how we can kind of meet both requirements. Myself as the actor, I want to stay true to the character I’ve created, and them as the writers want to stay true to the world they’re trying to recreate, right? So we just kind of find a happy medium and go from there. But you’re right, there’s definitely situations where the old Zane will creep into the new timeline and I’m like, guys, this doesn’t work, we need to change this.
PCZ: With the first episode back, your character Zane and Fargo get to go to space. How was it filming the parts where you’re supposed to be in zero-G?
NM: It was actually quite painful. I was on a rig that was punched in through the back of that space capsule and it was a really small metal plate that I had to lay down on sideways and then they dropped it basically just at the speed of gravity, and then I’d slam into the floor every day. Doing the zero-gravity was difficult because all of those movements were from Neil and I, y’know, so we had to hold our bodies really rigid but still kind of have a fluid motion going with it. It was difficult. I don’t do motion capture stuff, like my buddy sitting in my passenger seat beside me! I’m driving somewhere right now, and my buddy, one of my best friends, he does motion capture, so he probably would have had a heyday with that, but not me. I had a difficult time doing that. It was great though. Neil and I work so well together, and it’s a good thing, because that space capsule – we were in there during the initial filming of that episode, for 3 days. And then we had to go back and do reshoots, and we were in there for another day and a half. And that’s a really, really, really tight space. If you didn’t like the guy, you would not be happy in there. So, I’m thankful that it was Neil that I was working with.
PCZ: Well good thing you guys were friends then!
NM: Yeah! It is a good thing! And I really like that that is the episode that really bonds the friendship between the two of them. Because now that friendship that develops in that episode actually carries through all the way into season 5, man, and up to this point. We’re on hiatus now, but we’re heading back to film the eighth episode of season 5 and I mean, still, that relationship between Fargo and Zane, actually it’s stronger than ever, which is great, and it all started with that “Lift Off” episode.
PCZ: So what do you think is kind of going through Zane’s mind as he’s realizing that these people, from his point of view, he necessarily doesn’t really like, but they actually like him and think of him as a better person?
NM: That’s actually been the determining factor that opened Zane up. Because having people around him that actually care for once, now, he’s shedding off that really thick exterior and that thick skin, and he’s actually starting to care a lot more about everyone else in town which is why you’re going to start seeing some self-sacrificing deeds done on his part.
PCZ: Is it possible that no matter what universe or what the situation, that Zane and Jo are kind of destined to be together?
NM: Absolutely, I think that no matter what could happen in the timeline of Eureka or any universe that they’re in, that those two characters would be drawn to each other and would be together, definitely.
PCZ: One of the precedents that I think that the timeline change kind of set is that it doesn’t matter how many years that Eureka goes, at any point, the show can sort of be reset and made brand new, so I think that’s got to be pretty wonderful to be in a situation like that.
NM: Yeah, I mean it’s literally the show that could go forever. Literally, it is.
PCZ: Do you have any aspirations to do any writing or directing on the show?
NM: Actually, I’ve been jockeying for a directing position on the show for the last 2 years now. Colin is doing another one this season, so is Joe, so is Salli, and it’s great, watching them go through that and do that, because that’s where I began. I was a writer and director at 13, and I didn’t get in front of a camera until I didn’t have enough actors to get in front of the camera for me. So yeah, I’m very serious about getting an opportunity to direct one of the episodes. I’ve already shadowed Matt Hastings, who’s an EP on the show. I’ve also shadowed a little bit with Colin, when he’s doing it. So I hope the producers take my request seriously and I can jockey into one of those positions, definitely. Writing I don’t know, I mean writing on the show – I don’t come from a scientific background. So I have a hard enough time with my own lines and googling everything that Zane’s saying. I give the writing staff props for their scientific knowledge. It’s fascinating to me. I was never ever into the comic books or into the science aspects at all. I’ve always been a jock, like football, hockey. So acting in this show has opened my eyes up to a whole different world.
PCZ: Is it easier when you have a co-actor directing?
NM: It is. Well, because you’re in a relationship already. We’re all friends. Every single actor on that set. I can honestly say that we have a really strong sense of family unity, and you can feel that you’re loved by each and every single one of them. So when you’re working with them, you know that you’re in safe hands. Sometimes when you have a guest director, you get a little bit on your heels, and you’re like, “No no, wait.. wait a second, you’re… I don’t know about that” but when you have someone that’s a cast member directing you, you don’t really question it, you just feel comfortable and you just do your best to deliver what they’re looking for.
PCZ: Excellent. Has there been anything else, in between seasons, that you’ve shot or filmed that we could maybe see you in sometime soon?
NM: Not in between season 4 and season 5, I actually folded up shop with acting. I went travelling. I went to Europe. I’ve just been enjoying my life, because I didn’t really do that in my 20s, at all. I was just working constantly. I was working straight in from the oil field and straight into acting and I hadn’t really quit working in either career. So I wanted to take some time for me, and that’s what I did in between seasons last year.
PCZ: Well, yeah, you need a break every once in a while, I would think.
NM: You do. And I took a long one. I spent over 3 and a half months in Europe last year.
PCZ: Wow. That’s very cool!
NM: Yeah, and I can say that I will live in Barcelona one day. I absolutely love that city. I don’t know if you’ve been, but it’s fantastic.
PCZ: I have not, but I think you’re like the third person just in the last 2 weeks that’s told me that, oddly enough.
NM: Well, then it’s obviously been filling your bucket list this week, hasn’t it?
PCZ: Absolutely! You’re correct, I need to go!
PCZ: Well, I’m very much looking forward to the rest of season 4.5 and highly anticipating season 5, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for season 6 and beyond of Eureka.
NM: Awesome, yeah, we all are! Thanks for enjoying the show and thanks for watching it!