From it’s debut in 2006, "Eureka" has been one of the highest rated series on the Syfy network. The series is set in a fictional town of super geniuses and stars Colin Ferguson as Sheriff Jack Carter, the everyman who frequently has to save the town from destruction and other mischief. Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra and Neil Grayston also star in the series.
The fourth season of "Eureka" recently began on Syfy and featured some dramatic changes after several characters returned from the past, including the introduction of James Callis ("Battlestar Gallactica") as Dr. Henry Grant, the founder of "Eureka" who is now stuck in the present.
Ferguson and series co-creator Jaime Paglia recently spoke to the press about the ramifications of the change in the new season, some of the guest stars heading to the town and an inside look at the upcoming crossover episodes with "Warehouse 13."
Q: Colin, this will sound like an odd observation but I think that Sheriff Jack Carter is the Sheriff Andy Taylor of this generation. I mean, he’s the town fixer essentially.
Colin Ferguson: Yep.
Q: You also come from a comedy background like Andy Griffith. Does that affect how you process the drama of the series?
Colin Ferguson: Yeah. I come from I guess a Second City background. And when you do as much comedy as I did sort of coming up, the comedy is easy. The comedy is the — you can always throw a joke in. You can always fix something with a bit of levity or reaction and all that stuff.
But you cannot sacrifice the drama to serve the comedy. And I know Jaime feels the same way. So on a show like "Eureka," I think the reason it has a sort of parental [authority] Andy Taylor aspect to it is that the drama is very precious to me.
And the drama is the situations of other people’s lives and the situations that they’re going through and the emotional stakes that they as people are going through, that’s always sacred to me. So the jokes will come — and to Jaime. And so the jokes will always come outside of that.
I think there’s something really parental about that, something very sort of caretaker. You know that you’re safe. You know that nothing will be at the expense of you in a big way. In a little sort of poking fun way, yes but nothing, you know, you’re okay.
And then this season posed unique challenges. What was fun about this season is the best writers we’ve had, it’s the best scripts we’ve had. So in some senses it was the least work I’ve ever had to do because everything was so good right out of the gate.
So then the problem is all of a sudden I’m left with like well, I guess I’d better start thinking about what to do on take two.
And it made it really, really fun this year that we as the actors could then give the writers A, everything they wanted and then oh, and then there’s this ending and this ending. And we threw this joke over here if you want this.
It became really, really fun to feel like we were giving them maybe more than they had hoped or different things and that was a fun exercise for us all season long. And that was a challenge to do that.
Q: What is it about Jack Carter that allows to find solutions for these problems that even a town full of very intelligent people can’t solve?
Colin Ferguson: I think he still has a good moral compass to him. And he has a good logical head on his shoulders but no real facility with information.
So I think he’s a follow the numbers sort of guy in a town where people are so bright, they’re so used to being ten steps ahead or 20 steps ahead, that sometimes it is the little things that he’s good at focusing on.
But he was a federal marshal. I mean, he’s good at what he does. I think he sort of Columbos it sometimes. And pretends to be a little more clumsy than he actually is. What do you think Jaime?
Jaime Paglia: Yeah. I mean in terms of sort of the characters that we have on our show and who they in some part have been patterned after I had a job for a while where I was program manager of this public affairs lecture series in Cambridge where I got to interview all of these amazing minds from MIT and Harvard and around the country.
And people like (Rodney Brooks), who was the head of the MIT robotics lab and [Tim Burnersly] who actually did create the worldwide Web. I really found that a lot of them — their minds just work differently.
I mean their mouths can barely keep up with their brains because they go so fast. And they have an ability in certain domains to be just unbelievably facile. But then it’s not seeing the forest for the trees.
And I think that Carter has always been that guy who doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae. He sees the big picture and he picks up the small details that other people might not notice. That his intelligence — it rivals theirs. It’s just in a slightly different domain.
He may not be amazing at physics but he can read people and he can take in the details and put puzzles together in a different way. So I think that he can see any situation and he just sort of sees it slightly differently than the others do.
Q: Since Zoe left for college at the end of last season, does that mean we won’t see her much in this season?
Jaime Paglia: You will definitely be seeing Zoe this season.
Colin Ferguson: Yeah. She comes back for a bunch. She was heavy I would say, in the episode that I directed in the first ten and that’s always great for me. I mean she’s such a great sort of presence on set and I think brings so much to the show that it’s nice that she always comes back.
Jaime Paglia: That relationship has always been I think a really vital, central focus of our show.
And in terms of the reality of contracts and things like that, we just don’t have Jordan Hinson for all episodes produced this season because she was striking out and doing other exciting things as well. But she is definitely still a part of our show.
Q: What was the motivation behind drastically changing the past and present for your characters in the season premiere this year? And how long will those changes play out?
Jaime Paglia: Well, obviously when you’re reaching sort of a Season 4 and then in terms of the actual chronological time that’s passed, Season 5 because we split our last season in two.
If you want your series I think to have, multiple seasons more you want to do something that’s going to be sort of exciting and change things up but not takeaway the essential core of what your show is.
And there was a concept that we wanted to do since Season 1 that [was] Founder’s Day. It is one of the original episode ideas that we gave to the network when we were basically trying to convince them that this was a series that they definitely wanted to green light to pilot.
It was an episode about Carter and at the time it was going to be Kevin accidentally transporting the two of them back to Camp Eureka and then having to figure out how to get themselves back and solve a mystery there without changing the future.
And we were talking about doing that as over the seasons the reason we couldn’t do it is because it was so expensive to do a real period piece. The amount of extra money that goes into costumes and sets and all of those things obviously can be a budget buster.
But we were going to do it as a two hour movie this time around. And then when our schedule changed around and we couldn’t do that we thought "well what if we do it as our season opener? That could be interesting."
Then in kind of kicking it around the idea came up that "well, what we could do is have, maybe a couple of little things change when they get back."
And then it just sort of hit us which says "no, everything could change" which is a different concept that we had wanted to do as an episode where we would start the episode and Vincent would be the head of Global Dynamics.
And Allison would be working at Café Diem and Henry would be the sheriff and Carter would be the mechanic, where everybody was sort of in a different role and over the course of an episode you would discover how they got to be in those roles and that they would get back to normal by the end of the episode.
But it just sort of hit us I think that this was an opportunity to have our same town and our same characters but in new dynamics and relationships. And get to play the fun of that out for a 20 episode arc.
And I think for everybody here it re-energized us because it was a chance to really kind of reboot in some ways and again embrace the aspects of the show that we’ve loved, change some of the things that I wasn’t necessarily as thrilled about.
You know, some might think patterns that we fell into last season that I wanted to move away from. And then I’ll let Colin talk to the acting side. But I think that from our cast it was just new stuff to play and they seemed pretty excited about it.
Colin Ferguson: Yeah. I guess from my side Jaime called me in and I guess I went in sometime in December or January, to the office. And I’ve told this story before. And they, you know, he pitches this idea for going back in time and I say "oh that’s, that’s great."
"You’re going to get shot down at network. There’s no way you’re going to get green lit on that." And he said "no, actually we were there this morning and it’s a go." They’re excited about it. So for us right out of the gate it was instantly fresh.
I mean it was a huge sort of boon for us because it was a statement of faith by the network. It’s a monstrous thing to do. It’s a monstrous reboot to do in Season 4.
So the fact that they would sign off and show their faith in Jaime and the writers and all of that stuff on that level, sort of gave us a bunch of confidence and a bunch of energy. And then [the concept] sat in the writers’ room.
And so the entire ten episodes were sort of filled with this sort of new sense of "well if we could do this then we could do this. And if we can do this then we could do that." And it sort of redoubled on itself over the course of the season. And it made for probably the best ten episodes we’ve done.
Jaime Paglia: I totally agree. And what has been exciting is it’s not just the writers and the actors. It’s the entire team. Our crew, our production designers, our visual effects guys, our writers and directors up there, the network and the studio.
Everybody has just been so excited by the opportunity and they’re all doing their best work. I don’t think the show has ever looked as good. I don’t think the stories have ever been as compelling. And the performances just across the board by everybody, have been really phenomenal.
Everybody has sort of stepped up to, I think a new level this season. And it’s a really exciting energy to be a part of. I keep on hearing from other aspects of my life, agents or executives who have talked to other people associated or who work on our show.
And they say "we keep on hearing all of these amazing things from your staff and people and your crew." It’s exciting. So, we hope that that translates to people enjoying it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.
Q: Can you talk about working with James Callis this season?
Colin Ferguson: Sure. James, first of all, way back when "Battlestar" and "Eureka" were on the same lot, James was one of the first and definitely most vocal people to come forward and be so supportive and encouraging and helpful.
So it was really fitting that he was the one who gets to come on our show and do ten episodes. And we were really, really happy about that. Working with James, I mean it’s sort of preposterous how nice a man he is.
He’s like the sweetest guy in the world. Like oh, he just extends himself so above and beyond for everybody. So that alone is a pleasure. And then plus he comes at it, it’s nice to get a different energy on the set because he’s such an actor.
And he’s always digging, [through] his own research [into the show's history] to come up with different angles for things.
And it’s really nice, in a season where we are sort of reinventing or rebooting, to have someone doing all that work again. And sort of reminding you "yeah, you know, dig in. See what you can find." So as an actor it was fantastic and as a person it was fantastic.
Jaime Paglia: Yeah. And for us obviously, you know, as writers, as Colin was saying, we have the same soundstages next to each other with "Battlestar Galactica" up north in Vancouver.
And our writers’ offices for the first three seasons were next to each other here and our post production offices were here together in Los Angeles. So, we’re friends with all of those guys over there.
And we love their show. I mean it’s an amazing accomplishment what they did with that show. It’s sort of in a category by itself. And, you know, James is the consummate actor.
So to have him embrace the character that we created for him and to come over and be a part of our series, was really exciting for all of us.
Q: How is Dr. Grant going to affect Carter and Allison?
Colin Ferguson: He’s a bit of a thorn. It’s one of those really difficult things because they have feelings for each other and I haven’t made a move and she’s single and he’s single so you don’t really have a right or any leg to stand on to object.
But when emotionally you do object it puts you in a really strange place. So yeah, he’s a bit of a thorn but he’s also a very nice guy and yeah, it’s a nice — it’s a nice little triangle.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the guest stars coming up this year? And do you have any "dream" guest stars you want to get on the show?
Jaime Paglia: Oh yes. We are — it’s been I think what Colin was saying earlier about having scripts that are polished and ready and all of those things, early, that has all kinds of benefits. And one of them is that you get ahead enough in the game.
You know, obviously your crew has more time to consider scripts on the creative level so that they can prep those episodes and make them look the best that they can. But it also gives you the option of actually going out to guest actors and having something that’s done and ready for them to see.
Where you’re not just saying okay, we have this episode idea that we want to do for you. But you’re not going to be able to see any pages before the week before it shoots.
And, Wil Wheaton is somebody that we were all — I think everybody on the staff, you know, loved "Next Generation." And he’s good friends with some of our writers, (Amy Berg) in particular.
We had the potential for this particular character that we thought would just be perfect for him. And [it] was designed to be potentially recurring. And the plan is hopefully that that is going to happen in the back ten episodes as well.
Jamie Kennedy was a friend of (Matt Hastings) who is one of our co-APs and he’s up there on the ground in Vancouver. And he’s also directed many episodes for us this season.
And Jamie was a fan on the show and wanted to come over and play so we found a role for him that we kind of tailored a bit more in terms of the personality, to him. In terms of some of my dream cast, I’ve always wanted to have William Shatner play Carter’s dad.
That’s just me. I know that that’s a long shot probably. But (Felicia Day) is on our list, Eddie Olmos is on our list. Gosh, I know that – I know I have many, many more but those are at least a couple of the people that I would love to have…
Colin Ferguson: We also have some of our regulars coming back.
Jaime Paglia: Yep. We’ve got Frewer coming back and, you know, Jaime Ray is going to be back. And Jordan Hinson is going to be back. And we might have some surprises in store for you as well.
I should add, Ming Na is also on that list. You know, somebody that we’ve been talking to potentially coming over and seeing us.
Q: What was it like to direct Jamie Kennedy?
Colin Ferguson: It was great actually. It was really, really great. When they said they cast him I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get, because I wasn’t sure if he was going to want to go crazy with it. And I didn’t want him to go crazy.
But he showed up and he was actually the opposite. He — the first take were always as scripted, right on. He nailed it. He nailed the drama of it. And then from them we ratcheted it up. He was an absolute fantastic guy to work with because he could put jokes in wherever you need it.
You’d sort of go okay, do the scene — I think there’s something here. I think there’s something here and I think there’s something over there. He goes "yeah, yeah, yeah." So we do again and he’d boom, boom, boom and throw in three.
We’d do it again and he’d throw in three different ones. So he was an absolute pleasure to work with and I was really, really pleased.
Q: Do you guys have any plans to bring Ed Quinn back as Stark down the line?
Jaime Paglia: We’ll have to see. I mean obviously that’s always a challenge when you kill off a character I was always of the mind that, if we can manage it to leave, we have a Sci-Fi show. So ultimately at the end of the day anything is possible and we love Ed Quinn.
So, I think if the circumstances are right we’ll — I’ll never say never.
Colin Ferguson: I’m really good friends with Ed and we always joke about bringing him back — well I have no say in it but it would be really funny to bring him back as his brother and call him Tony Stark and then just get mileage out of him having the same name as Iron Man.
Jaime Paglia: There you go.
Colin Ferguson: Well he’s big enough. That would work.
Jaime Paglia: Seriously. He doesn’t even need the suit.
Colin Ferguson: No. Oh, you know, he was working out, he was doing all that work working out and he lost — Ed had a child this year so his wife and him had a child. And he said being a dad for three weeks he lost all of the weight he got at the gym.
Jaime Paglia: Yeah. That happens.
Q: What can tell us about the upcoming crossover with "Warehouse 13"?
Jaime Paglia: Sure. We’re thrilled that "Warehouse" has been doing as well as they have. And most of our staff and cast and crew are friends with the "Warehouse" folk from other jobs previously or just from being in the same world.
So we were at Comic Con last year and I ran into Jack Kenny who is the executive producer and Saul Rubinek who is of course the lead on that show and had played a very pivotal character for us, Carl Carlson in Season 1.
And I said "we should do a crossover where we can have Saul play both characters or we could send (Carter) and (Joe) over to help out with you guys or he could send someone else to us."
We joked for a little while about well if we send our characters to your show then it’s your headache not ours. Until the network I think finally said "no, this is actually a really something that we want to do."
We sat down — (Bruce Miller) is co-show running with me this year — and as we were sort of crafting our season and Jack and his team were crafting theirs, we sat down and met and said "okay, look this is what we’re doing. What are you guys doing?"
"Let’s figure out if there’s a good place for this to work out where we could send a character to you and you could send a character to us and maybe have it be almost [but] not quite a two-parter but at least sort of — it felt like there was some continuity.
So it worked out in the timing of the schedule that we could have Allison Scagliotti on our show when they were on their production hiatus and we were able to schedule it so that Neil Grayston could go over to their show during an episode where we were a little bit lighter on this character.
And I think by everybody’s sort of estimation they both did such a great job. I think they’re the best friends now. They’re dying to work together more.
Q: What brings Claudia from the Warehouse to Eureka? And will there be any repercussions from it?
Jaime Paglia: Well we kind of created an interesting, I think romantic dynamic with Claudio’s character and Fargo’s character. And it’s something that starts in the "Warehouse 13" episode that will air the same week as ours as a sort of crossover event week.
So, her visit to Eureka is almost in some ways manufactured by Fargo to get to spend more time with her because he likes her. And, he’s created a real thing for the Warehouse that they could utilize which is their, you know, supposedly the reason that she’s come here.
And then of course as things are wont to do in Eureka, something goes awry and she gets caught up in it with Carter and everybody in terms of trying to help figure things out.
So, at the moment it was a nice sort of two episode arc that leaves the door open for future potential if we decide to do more.
Allison was fantastic. I think everybody loved her. I would totally keep her and if I could figure out a way to steal her away from Jack Kenny without him coming over and pummeling me I would do it.
Q: What will determine if you guys do another crossover with "Warehouse 13"?
Jaime Paglia: Well there are a number of factors. I think that it was a good experience for all of us on both shows. Obviously we’ll see how the audience likes it. I know the network has a lot to say about whether they want us to do more.
Part of it is honestly just logistics. It’s a challenge just making your own show. It’s a bigger challenge when you’re trying to coordinate your production calendar and schedules of actors and what days they’re working, with another show’s calendar and actors and directors and all of those things.
And you’re looking for windows, if we have one of their characters come over we know that out of our seven day schedule we’re going to need them for four or five days.
If they’re in the middle of their shooting cycle as well that means that they have to be missing for four or five days from their calendar unless they’re on hiatus. So those are just the nuts and bolts [and] moving parts that you just have to coordinate.
But I think we’re all definitely interested in possibly doing again.
Q: Can you guys tell us about the zombie episode that’s coming up?
Jaime Paglia: It will definitely feature (Erica) and obviously it features Wil Wheaton’s character. And, we had wanted to do a little bit of our sort of version of "28 Days Later" and this is going to be that episode.
Colin Ferguson: I do love that about our show, that we can do – you can choose your favorite movies and you sort of do I want to do a Eureka version of that.
Jaime Paglia: Yeah. I mean we always sort of concede of the show as being a love letter to science fiction where we can sort of take our favorite concepts or stories or homages and genres and do our sort of, Eurekafied version of them.
You know, when it made sense for what was going on with the characters. And it totally fit in with what was happening to our characters in this particular episode.
Q: Colin, does the reboot change your approach to the series from an acting point of view?
Colin Ferguson: No. No, I always approach it sort of the same way. I mean it’s always script first. You know, you get a story and then you figure out how – what you know how to do is going to help tell that story. What I’ve enjoyed about this season is that going to new places.
With what we can deliver I find that the scripts this year are more open to comedy. They’re more open to a little joke here and there than I guess last year or the year before. And that’s really exciting. It feels like there’s a lot more – everything’s grounded in a new way this year.
Which is really exciting. There’s more subtext going on and I like that. So no, I wouldn’t say it changes how I go about it but there’s always different things that are called upon to execute it and that’s what’s been great about this year.
Q: Now that you’ve directed an episode, do you want to write one as well?
Colin Ferguson: Yeah, I’ll answer that real quick for me. I’m a good – I’m a good rewriter. I’m not a good creator. I’m not a good from scratch guy. But once a concept’s there I’m good at sort of tweaking it. So I would be interested in a writing partnership but I don’t have the creator aspect to me.
Q: And Jamie, do you have any desire to direct an episode?
Jaime Paglia: As for directing I’ve been asked this for a couple of seasons now, when am I going to finally do it. And it may potentially happen in these back ten episodes. We’ve been discussing it and hopefully planning for it.
I think it really depends on where we are with the scripts by the time we get to the time slot that would fit for me to do it. I would love to do it. I think it would be an amazing learning experience. And I know that the team that we have will help make sure I don’t crash and burn.
Colin Ferguson: Yeah, I mean the problem for Jaime is obviously as a director you need to be up there for seven days, and you need seven days of prep, so that’s three weeks. So that’s asking him to not be a part of the writers’ room for potentially three weeks and that’s, you know, you just can’t lose a member like that for that length of time.
So I mean I know that’s the battle that he fights regularly as sort of, you know, being asked and wanting to sort of go up and direct. But then to leave the writers’ room is – I don’t even know if you can do that.
Jaime Paglia: And I’ve been fortunate that with (Bruce Miller), running the writers’ room while I’m rewriting and traveling back and forth and doing other aspects of it. When I can’t be in the room with him has made this a real potential thing for me this year.
If we’re sort of aiming towards like Episode 18 ideally. Then that way we will have written the last two episodes at that point probably. And I could still potentially write the finale and then still direct this episode. So we’ll see. It’s my hope. I’ve got fingers crossed.
And with that I actually get to go and watch the midseason finale right now — the cut that just came in which is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever done on the show. I’m so excited. So I’ll just tease you guys with that. Episode 9 is going to be amazing.