Executive producer and show runner, Natalie Chaidez; stars Britne Oldford and Julian McMahon joined my fellow reporters and I to chat about this SyFy series.
Can you talk about working with some of the both digital, practical effects on the show? Because even with the cut we got, it looks really good and creepy.
Britne Oldford: In working, I think on this show, we were so fortunate to be working with Justin Dix, you know, the most amazing special effects guy. So we were really working with a lot of practical things, you know. A lot with the guns, a lot of the props that has been — certain other pieces were all there for us and ready to be used in the green screen.
So, I thought, I think as an actor that was definitely such a treat because a lot of the time (aliens) and other supernatural nature, you tend to, you know, have to work a little bit harder to kind of pretend and imagine what’s going on but we had everything like in front of us. It definitely added to the show and is a very important part of our show, and it’s kind of the heart of it, and it was a total treat.
Natalie Chaidez: just to follow up that, you know, that Gale Ann Hurd has a long tradition of working with practical effects coming up in the Roger Korman camp.
And that it were — early discussions between Gale and I about grounding this really firmly in practical effects, you know, and not only creatively helping the show but, you know, give it a tactile and a visceral feel that sometimes is lost in the effects, you know. And we hope we provided that. We went to the body horror of the season.
And like Britne said, we had a terrific prosthetics producer named Justin Dix who really is the Greg Nicotero of Australia. We have him in-house in our Melbourne studio and he was building all the Hunter effects from the ground up. We had full-on prosthetics lab in addition to creepy creatures, and just a bunch of other cool toys I wish you guys could have all seen.
Julian McMahon: You know, we kind of lucked out. And I don’t know how do these things happen sometimes but we kind of lucked out with the studio and the location with which we were kind of got distant in a roundabout way, and that was this place out in — what do we end up calling it? (Bloodywood). It was (broad metal) out of Melbourne, just outside of the city of Melbourne.
And Natalie nicknamed it (Bloodywood). Well, this couldn’t be anything further from Hollywood than you could imagine. It was the building and the structure which we actually had our offices in and which Natalie had her offices in, particularly.
We used this as a location for a lot of stuff. It was really a rundown building that which was really applicable to all of the stuff that, you know, we were trying to express through our character and script.
And, you know, a lot of the time you search for these kinds of things and you may be going to find them quite as applicable as what they would be to what you may be desired. And here, we just get this fantastic gift of shooting in the location with which suited the show.
So I think that that kind of add to that element of being able to shoot that kind of stuff. And also, as Natalie said, that kind of grounded quality of what we were doing because it was real and it was dirty, and it was dark, and it was pretty disgusting. So, that all comes across because that’s what it was. I really kind of appreciate that attribute.
Natalie, as a follow up, I know you talked about, you know, the (prison), everything before in New York. But can you kind of talk about the difficulties in adapting it for television?
Natalie Chaidez: I mean I wouldn’t say it’s the difficulty. I mean I’ve done, you know, a very big franchise adaptation with the Sarah Connor Chronicle coming from the Terminator, and I have the opportunity to adapt a classic sci-fi movie and doing 12 Monkeys.
And I think it’s really an opportunity to spread-out because of the narrative of television. You have a whole season, hopefully, more seasons than that. And I really think that, you know, the original sources are turning more and more of a jumping off point for a whole new playground for, you know, show runners and television writers to work from.
This series kind of takes — it seems to be more about terrorism than it actually is about aliens, and that’s obviously something that’s very relevant in our world. Is that something you’re consciously thinking about as you’re making and working on the show?
Natalie Chaidez: You know, look, Hunters had been in development for three years and the role, you know, allegory of terrorism, at least, and terrorists have been, has been, creatively around.
And you know, sadly, it has just become more relevant in the last couple of weeks. And, you know, our hearts go out to, you know, the victims in those recent events. It’s tragic.
And look, I mean these terrorists are the monsters of our time. And you know, science fiction has always been a way to explore relevant social issues in a way that is palatable and to, you know, deal with our fears.
And we’re leaving in a time when we’re, you know, we’re scared of going out in public. We’re scared of who is beside us. We’re scares of what we might be coming at us.
And the show is really about that fear and now it’s something as a monster. And you know, also wrestling with some of the larger issues that that those fears create in our culture.
Britne Oldford: I think — yes. That definitely hits it on the nose, really.
Julian McMahon: Yes. Look, I agree with what Natalie said. This is a difficult time that we’re in, and terrorism is the new monster. And it — the launch of the show coincides with something that has happened that is horrific. So your concern immediately goes to people that have been affected by this and your heart goes out for them, and your prayers go to them.
As a television show, I think I’d echo what Natalie has already said, and that is an opportunity to be out to express our fears and to be able to do that through an alien world I think. As a piece, it’s interesting; as a statement also has its kind of its interesting qualities to it.
Tony Tellado: It’s great to talk to you again. I talked to some of you in New York. It was great to connect again. For Regan and Julian, to start, especially as Regan, you had some physical things maybe kickboxing and also wirework it looked like. Can you kind of talk about the physical side of this show? And Julian, kind of had it mixed it up a little bit as well.
Britne Oldford: Definitely. I mean, I know that for the Hunters — I can’t really say in particular because I think for everyone involved it’s a very physically, that it was a very physically demanding project.
But for the Hunters in particular, we had a lovely coach, Peggy, when we were filming in Melbourne the first couple of weeks. And she really helped us figure out how hunters move and what their ticks were, and really kind of feeling grounded in that aspect of the character which is all those subtle, very important…
And, of course, you know, there was, there was a (series) of training and so on for my character, for Regan, with regards to her kickboxing and with regards to just, you know, generally being a very strong, very agile creature or person.
So, it was definitely a challenge. That’s really a challenge because the working schedule was quite intense, but something I enjoyed and would gladly do again.
Julian McMahon: Yes. And mine wasn’t quite — first of all, I have to say that, or I’d like to say, should I say, that I just think Britne’s work in these first two episodes, which is the only two complete ones that have been absolutely wonderful, so kudos to her.
And then also, I just thought she was so well-casted in this piece. And I had kind of discussed that with Natalie as we’re going through it and we have that line at the beginning or the end of, should I say, of episode one where he says what an extraordinary creature you are.
Tony Tellado: Yes.
Julian McMahon: And I really think that that’s quite applicable to how well she suits this piece in that role.
I didn’t have the, you know, as much kind of rough work or any, that kind of physicality stuff. But I did have, you know — look, when we’re trying to develop a creature that we haven’t seen before.
So we were really starting from scratch in regards that like who are these, who are these creatures, where are they from, what do they look like underneath the human, you know, what the skeletal structure. How will they walk if they were on their planet?
All of those kinds of things were very kind of interesting and kind of expected for me to be able to kind of delve into as an actor. And you know, even the clicking noises of the sounds that they make to communicate.
And it was only that kind of stuff that I kind of spent a lot of time on of, you know, how do they move. We decided that they move kind of very, very much from that the center of their groin was kind of a bit, just simply because of their structure was, you know…. And their chest was maybe back a little bit.
And I thought that stuff was really interesting and really kind of fun to kind of explore and examine. And you know, hopefully, we got some of that across on the delivery of it.
Tony Tellado: Yes. And Natalie, could you talk about kind of like developing the aliens? I guess you all sat down and based on the books, and kind of, you know, decided to like the noise and clicking and all of that together.
Natalie Chaidez: Well, look, this is the big joy of this project. The books were really the jumping off point. I began a relationship with the scientist named (Seth Borowitz). He’s a former Brown University neurologist, and he was really fundamental in the development of the creature.
We started from the ground up. We started by talking about their planet, what kind of gravity it would have, how that would affect their anatomy, how that anatomy moves through space, how would…
We came up with the sort of leaning into the world of sound because I wanted to do an alien world that was different from other alien world that we’ve seen. I think we all, you know, kind of thing of lights in the sky when, you know, when we think of an alien show. And I wanted to do something really, really different.
I thought about conspiracy movies of the ‘70s and how important sound was. And that led to creatures that were sound based and lived in a very auditory world. That led to the development of our sonic weaponry, and the idea that the aliens, the hunters themselves are communicating their, you know, they have a language that’s like dolphin’s or like bat’s.
And that their click language which we spent literally months from the development of, with our sound designer is embedded inside music, and that they’re using social media much like the, you know, the bad guys and terrorists of our time.
So, really, it was a two-year process, the development of the world, all the way, all the way from anatomical pictures, all the way through, like Julian and Britne said hiring a movement coach to work with our actors that plays as hunters on how a creature from a sound based would move.
Tony Tellado: Very cool. I note to myself, though. I’m not going to eat during the series after the autopsy scene in episode one.
Natalie Chaidez: It doesn’t get any better, so. Yes. I think [laughter]. Thank you.
I’d love to hear a little bit about what you all have kind of taken away from your experiences being a part of this project.
Natalie Chaidez: I would say the most exciting for me was working with Gale Ann Hurd. No offense to all the terrific cast and crew, but I was a huge fan girl.
I was so thrilled when I first met Gale. She is someone who is responsible for some of my favorite movies of all time, the Terminator, Terminator 2 and Aliens. Created some of the most iconic female science fiction characters, you know, in movie history. And so, really, for me the opportunity to learn alongside and work alongside, a pioneer, you know, not just for women but for science fiction is something that — it was an incredible experience and I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life.
Britne Oldford: Yes. I mean, I think what I would really take away from this project was just the experience of it all. You know, living in Australia, living — just traveling the other side of the world, live alone, you know, living there for nearly five months.
It was the most physically demanding project I’ve ever worked on and one of the most emotionally demanding projects I’ve ever worked on, and working with Julian and Natalie, and Gale, and all the rest of the cast, you know.
And it’s amazing, amazing Australian talents that everyone is going to be able to see in a, in a very big way. Just being a part of the project was spectacular. It’s a dream role for me. I love the genre. I love the characters. I love everything about it.
And I’m very excited for it to come for people to see it, and hopefully, makes them question things. I mean that’s really what, as an actor, what I at least want to wanted to hopefully get people an experience and maybe them question their lives or think about maybe having a different opinion about things.
And hopefully, accepting themselves more and feeling more comfortable in their own skin. So, you know, it was just great to be a part of it.
Julian McMahon: Julian. Yes. So I would have to say a little of both. It was Gale’s history and track record and the fact that she’s a legend in this business probably attracted me to the piece, more so than anything else to begin with. And then Natalie’s writing was another big part once I started getting into the scripts.
And then getting to — this is what Britne was talking about, you know. For me it was great to head back to Australia for a period of time to be able to work out there.
I hadn’t done it in a long time and I’m from there, so that was a wonderful opportunity to kind of reconnect with the country I haven’t spent much time in over the last 20 years. We had a really great cast, a great collection of Australian directors. And you’ll see the episodes continue that they just did wonderful work.
And so, really the takeaway of the whole thing — and then I got to play this character that I thought was quite extraordinary. So the takeaway from the whole thing for me it was really just, more so than anything else, a wonderful experience.
And you don’t always get that. So that’s — and it’s very important for me, particularly at this point of time in my life. So, that would be my greatest takeaway.
Natalie Chaidez: Yes. And I would say — this is Natalie. And I would say I am so looking forward to it, because (inaudible) is the best. Like, you know, their vision and the level of interaction, and the feedback that I get from, you know, who are watching the show and into the show, there is nothing like it and that’s why we do it.
So I, you know, I know that I can’t wait, and I know that the rest of the cast can’t wait, too, to jump in and start, and start playing like that.
Special Thanks To The SyFy Channel
Interviews include showrunner Natalie Chaidez, author Whitley Strieber, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, make-up efx supervisor Justin Dix and actor Britne Oldford.
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