Allison Scagliotti has been acting for nearly a decade now, appearing in high profile roles on series such as ER, One Tree Hill, CSI and Smallville. In 2009 she was cast in the recurring role of Claudia Donovan on the Syfy series Warehouse 13. The show quickly became Syfy’s biggest hit series and Claudia became a hit with fans. Warehouse 13 begins its second season on Tuesday, July 6th with Allison returning as a full-time cast member. Joe caught up with Allison recently to talk about how she got the role, shooting in Toronto and little bit of what’s to come in season two.
POP CULTURE ZOO: It’s got to be a little different shooting in Toronto as opposed to Vancouver or LA.
ALLISON SCAGLIOTTI: It is, but you know I actually really like this city. It’s like a miniature New York. I feel like I’m getting a trial run for my move to New York in the Fall. I like it a lot. It’s sort of saturated with culture. The music scene is great, there’s a lot of theater and galleries and everything you could want at your fingertips.
PCZ: Does that keep you kind of out of all the Hollywood craziness?
AS: Yes, absolutely! This was the first pilot season in my entire professional career that I didn’t have to play the pilot auditioning game and in a way I felt like I was a little bit on an island and felt excommunicated from reality. But I was so relieved. Pilot season is one of the most inhumane times for an actor. It’s hell on your self-esteem and you’re hustling trying to secure a show and I felt really, really fortunate to be going into season two as a regular, that was kind of awesome.
PCZ: That’s got to be a little bizarre during pilot season to basically go out and sell yourself.
AS: You do and it’s exhausting. Network auditions especially, I mean I’ve been fortunate enough to test every year and it is a room full of men in suits with a scrutinizing eye. If you don’t make them laugh or cry or feel invested in what you’re doing it’s no fun.
PCZ: Or catch them on a bad day…
AS: Indeed. There’s always that chance.
PCZ: Did you know pretty quickly during the first season that Claudia was going to turn into a full-time gig?
AS: I really wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what to expect, it came about so quickly. When I found out about Warehouse 13 I was about two weeks into a full load at school. I was in my last semester as a freshman in college and this writer that I had worked with before, Deric Hughes, emailed me and said, “I’m working on this really great show right now and there’s a part that just came up that you’d be so perfect for. So, keep an eye out for it and let your manager know and, by the way, I’ll mention you to our showrunner, Jack Kenny.” I had worked with Jack Kenny when I was thirteen, we did a pilot together. Love him, he’s one of the most nurturing people in the business to work for and so I freaked out. I absolutely wanted to be a part of it. I touched base with Jack and he said take a look at the cut of the pilot and make sure before I auditioned that this is something I wanted to be part of. I watched the pilot and then I watched it again and then again and I was really genuinely hooked on it!
I was so invested in the dynamic between Eddie [McClintock, Pete Lattimer] and Jo [Kelly, Myka Bering]’s characters. It was sexy, funny and all of those things and the show strikes this incredible balance between fantasy/adventure and comedy that felt brand new, but so necessary in this sort of climate we’re in culturally. Then I was introduced to the character of Claudia Donovan by way of the sides that I had to prepare for the audition. I vividly remember rehearsing the material with my friend Noland Funk, who has wound up in season two as my love interest. He said to me, “Oh my god, you have to be this girl. There’s never been a part more perfect for you. If you don’t get this I don’t know what this means for this career we’re in.” I auditioned and within the span of a week I’d gone from sixteen units of school to packing up for a three month trip to Toronto. I knew Claudia would be around for a few episodes, but I had no idea that, number one, I’d become a regular and, number two, that the show would blow up the way that it has and accumulate such an amazing fanbase.
PCZ: I think the cool thing was that Claudia was billed as a recurring character, but she immediately clicked with everyone and fit in. I think that worked to your advantage.
AS: It did. Coming on in episode four I did feel like the new kid on the block, but that didn’t last for very long. Saul and I hit it off and immediately it almost felt like we had been working together for decades even though I’m not quite twenty. Yeah, I really just started to feel like part of the furniture, everyone was so welcoming and nurturing to me, it was kind of an ideal situation. We had a really great time in the first season and in season two I think we’ve really hit our stride with the characters’ relationships with one another and what works for the show, but we’re still mixing it up. I think certain episodes in season two are going to be fan favorites and all in all it’s going to knock you out of the park.
PCZ: It seems like at the end of season one, when Claudia bolts, it looks like she’s the bad guy. But it almost seems her taking off was necessary to show her that these people are really her family and really do care about her.
AS: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s very palpable, even more so in season two than season one, that we’re a family and as dysfunctional as any family might be we’re fiercely loyal to each other and we’ll go to the ends of the earth for any one of our team members. We have the family dynamic going on, with a flash of Claudia bickering with Artie and how that mirrors me bickering with Saul.
PCZ: It’s almost like, however cliche it may be, a father/daughter relationship.
AS: It is, it’s a little bit father/daughter, a little bit sorcerer and apprentice. We have a lot to learn from each other, about each other and we make a great team.
PCZ: With all the things you get to do on the show, has anything that you’ve done sparked your interest as far as history or science or something you’d really want to build?
AS: Oh my gosh, well what with all the techno-babble and stealthy maneuvers I get to execute on my computer every episode it’s made me want to become a lot more facile with technology. The extent of my technological ability reaches formatting my iPod and checking my email and editing some movies in iMovie. I wish I was the skilled hacker that Claudia is, but I’m a bit tech-handicapped.
PCZ: Also this year you get to appear on Eureka.
PCZ: Have you already shot that?
AS: Yes, while everyone on Warehouse 13 was on a two week hiatus, they sent me over to Vancouver to play with the Eureka cast and crew and that was such a blast. Neil Grayston and I are very good friends. Neil also came over to Warehouse as Fargo for an episode and then right on the heels of that I went over to Vancouver. It’s funny because Claudia and Fargo are sort of each others counterparts in their respective townships. A major, major part of both crossover episodes is the dynamic between the two characters and the chemistry that they have because they have so much in common. But, long distance relationships never work.
PCZ: So it would be safe to say there might be a little spark of interest between the two?
AS: Oh, I would say there are several volts of interest.
PCZ: So, when you shot Eureka, you’re playing your Warehouse 13 character, but you don’t have the usual actors and settings to play off of. Does that affect how you play the character?
AS: Well, it sort of felt like being in a parallel universe because I’ve got the Claudia shoes on, I’ve got the purple streak in my hair and the weird steampunk gadgetry in my bag, but, like you said, everyone around me is different. The people around me didn’t affect the way I played the character, I know this girl, I am this girl about three quarters of the way. What affected the why I played Claudia on a different show is just that, the fact that it’s a different show with a different tone, a different set of people and a writer’s room with a different set of sensibilities. A Eureka script doesn’t read the same, necessarily, as a Warehouse script. I did my best and they were also very receptive to maintaining who Claudia is, which is based on what we’ve established for her on our show, within the context of a show that has a mythology all its own. I think it’s going to come out really great, I mean the feedback so far from Jaime Paglia and Amy Berg over at Eureka has been really great, so I’m looking forward to seeing the final cut of the episode.
PCZ: Are you at all surprised at the fervor Warehouse 13 has garnered?
AS: Yeah, in the best possible way. From the beginning it took me by surprise, I had no idea what to expect. For one, I started acting professionally when I was eleven and the first three things I did were TV pilots that didn’t get picked up, so I got used to working without anyone seeing it and so I could go to a mall and not have my shirt tugged on by a little kid. When I joined the cast of Warehouse it was sort of the same thing. I expected to go and work with amazing people and have a great time, but I had no idea what kind of fan universe explosion I was going to get into. It was really evident at Comic-Con last year! Fan fervor is nothing to shake a stick at and it warms the heart, really. Every time I go to a convention, and I haven’t been to a lot of them, but the two that I’ve been to I love. I think that the whole fanboy culture, for all of the jokes one can make about it and it is screaming to be joked about, I think it is incredibly healthy. It warms my heart to see cosplay people running around because it’s this group of people coming together to geek out over something they all really like, it’s super positive and a great way for people to connect and meet new people who are into the same things and I like it a lot.
But in reference to the show, as actors we’re really removed from the whole distribution machine. We shoot these episodes months before they air, then they go through the editing process and things are cut or reworked and improved with special effects and music and what comes out in the end is very far from where our heads were when we were making it. One can never tell what someone’s response to it is going to be so it was such an incredible surprise to have the show embraced as much as it was last year and I hope we get the same response this year. I think we will. We seem to have hit our stride, I really, truly believe that. The writers have found the groove and have found out what works. We definitely have the average four million viewers to thank for our season two pick up and the massive product campaign that’s going to be enacted this summer.
PCZ: So it’s safe to say you’re happy to play Claudia for a while.
AS: Yes, indeed. As long she keeps getting to wear these really cool clothes!
PCZ: That’s all I have for now, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.
AS: Of course, always a pleasure to talk to a friend of the show.