Flickering Myth sat down with Camryn Manheim to talk about Extant…
Having been praised on during its run on Amazon Prime, Extant heads to Syfy tonight here in the UK. To celebrate, Flickering Myth sat down with Camryn Manheim (Ghost Whisperer) to talk about her role in the show, working with Halle Berry and what to expect from the first season.
FM: What attracted you to the role of Sam Burton?
Camryn Manheim: You know, I knew it was set in the future, so it was a little bit science fictiony and it had a little adventure and thriller to it, and it was so futuristic. And that’s not generally what I‟m drawn to. I like dramatic, legal, it‟s just where I come from. So, I got the script and I started reading it and I’m like, you’re kidding me, you’re kidding me. It’s so provocative. It’s kind of so eerie and thrilling and then adventure and I think it was one of the best scripts.
How would you describe the storytelling on the show?
It is remarkable how the writing staff just introduces things so quietly and severely and it just keeps you going. It’s such a phenomenal adventure that we are going to take people on.
How far in the future is the show set?
It’s about 2045, so it’s about 30 years in the future. And another beautiful thing is we don’t explain it to people. We don’t tell them what things are. We expect people to be smart enough and bright enough to jump on board and figure it out. And I love that. We do not cater to people like, oh, we call this a tether. We just say, put the tether in your mouth, and they’ll figure out what it is. It’s something that we do everyday. That’s how we take people’s temperatures. That’s how we read all their functions and blood pressure, you know. We don’t explain it, which I love. It just is. We are all living in 2045 and we expect the audience to jump on board with us.
What are the themes behind Extant?
We are dealing with technology. We are dealing with entities and otherworldly spirits but we are also dealing with just people. It is about people. And while it’s placed in the future, the beauty of how the set decoration is and how it’s written, is it’s completely accessible to people in 2014.
Why does Molly beg Sam to keep silent about the pregnancy?
She said, you know, I have never been pregnant my whole life. They will quarantine me. They will test me. Please give me some time to figure out what happened. And I agreed to it and then all hell breaks loose. And before we know it we are just put into these incredible situations where we are bribed, we are blackmailed, our lives are in danger.
How believable is the story behind Extant?
It doesn’t feel impossible. The way the writers set it up, when you look at how large corporations work, and conglomerates work and when they want something, and how they will undermine and lie and cheat to get what they want, and what they want is really what‟s at stake here. What – who are they? What do they want? Why are they doing that to them? And why are they doing that to us? And it‟s so layered, and it‟s so smart, and it‟s so compelling, and scary, and there is so much truth to it.
What is it like acting on a show set in the future?
There are a couple of things that really tripped me up. For example, there’s no paper and pencils. And I have spent my life – you know, I’m that actor who loves to have a paper in my hand and loves to pretend like I’m writing things down while I’m talking to you to just make it seem – and all of a sudden I can’t have a paper and I can’t have a pencil. I have a tablet, which I can’t – I don’t know – I mean I’m old. It’s like you‟re putting technology in my hand and I try to do it and things come up on the screen. It is so frustrating for me.
What does the future of medicine look like on the show?
As a doctor, I have all these really interesting contraptions. I’m taking brain scans with wire mesh that lights up and I’m doing ultrasounds and it’s just slightly different and futuristic and exciting. I love props. Oh, I had to take her blood and everything was just – it’s completely different. It’s not like your normal needle. It’s all just tweaked and it‟s fun but it adds a whole new element for us actors to deal with.
What is it like working with Halle Berry?
I have to tell you in my 35 years as a professional actor, Halle Berry is perhaps the most beautiful human being I have ever come across. She is an angel from heaven. She’s a wonderful mother, a wonderful artist, a wonderful producer, a great friend. She is considerate and kind and, you know, one of the guys just got married – she decorated his entire trailer. She doesn’t forget anyone‟s birthday. The trailer is constantly balloons and candy. You know, she doesn‟t eat it, we do, and I wonder if there’s an ulterior motive there [laughs]. She is a consummate professional but she is like an angel.
Are there twists and turns in the plot in the first season?
We never know exactly which way we’re going but we‟re all smashing into each other at all times trying to figure out what the big picture is. And the picture’s so huge and beyond our comprehension that when we think we understand something, there is something else lurking right behind the corner that turns it all around and that‟s what makes it such a thrill.
We do twist and turn a lot. Like, we thought you were our friend, you’re not our friend, we thought you were our enemy, oh, you’re not our enemy. And so it deals with trust, it deals with love, it deals with, you know – it just deals with the human condition in such a really interesting and provocative way I think people are going to love it.
How would you describe the writing on the show?
I like it when writers give the viewers the benefit of the doubt and think that they’re bright enough to take the journey with us and we don’t have to cater to them and they really do that. Smart writers, just, you can‟t fully – it’s not like, oh, you think I’m one person and then I take off a mask and I’m somebody else. It’s not that cheeky. It’s smart.
Extant starts on Tuesday 20 January at 9pm on Syfy UK