Haven: Interview: Eric Balfour & Emily Rose

On Haven, Syfy’s latest series to be spun off from a Stephen King story, Emily Rose plays FBI agent Audrey Parker who comes to the coastal town of Haven on a murder enquiry, and ends up staying to investigate a mystery that may shed light on her own family. Eric Balfour is the enigmatic Duke, who comes into Audrey’s life when he rescues her from drowning in the pilot episode…

Words: Paul Simpson

How did you hear about the project?

Emily Rose:    My manager called me up about this script that she thought was really great, with this great part of a lead FBI agent. I went in and but when I saw all the brunettes about me, I thought, “I’m not going to get this, I’m done.” So I walked in and decided to blast it off, and have fun – and here I am.

Eric Balfour:    Shaun Piller, one of the producers, is one of my oldest and dearest friends. He called me up one day and said, “Oh my god, Eric, you need to play Duke on this new show we’re doing. We can’t afford you, and you won’t do it but I want you to read it anyway!” I thought it was wonderful because it was unique and had humour and suspense. It was a really fun world that I was excited about and it was on a network that was really going to give the show an opportunity to grow, and gain an audience. It’s really paid off because the audience in America has been growing exponentially because they’ve grown to love these characters.

How much backstory were you given ? Or are you finding out as the characters are revealing it to the audience?

Balfour:    Fortunately or unfortunately, we are finding out along with the rest of the audience most of the time.

Rose:     I think we were given different pieces of the puzzle. There were times when they’d tell me, “We don’t want you to work on this part…” or “Head more in this direction.” I’d ask why, and they’d say, “Just trust us. We need your innocence through the show on this, and we need you to find out as we go along.” I’ve even been finding things out after we filmed it!

I am a fan of shows where we don’t explain as much, rather than over-explaining things. It begs our audience to fill in blanks, talk about the show and ask questions. I think asking the questions is part of the journey that makes television so much fun and enjoyable.

Is Audrey still the audience identification character even at the end of the season?

Rose:    I think so. What I like about the three leads of the show is I’m sure everyone can identify with a different person, but Audrey is leading through the questions. But as with any good show, different parts of the audience identify with different characters.

How have you found the effects work?

Balfour:    There’s an episode where my character sleeps with a woman whose curse is that when she sleeps with a man, she ages him to death. A metaphor for life! That was really fun. I got to do this amazing prosthetic makeup that aged me to about 100 years old.

Rose:    They made my butt a lot bigger! (laughs) There is a scene where the effects guys changed the way my face looks, which was interesting to have to play out. In the second episode I have to react to being wrapped in a cocoon, and we deal with butterflies that were not there when we filmed them. I look at someone like Robert Downey jnr in some of these big movies where they have to do that and admire it so much.

It was all about us telling the directors, “Really be specific with us, because we really want to make it look authentic.” There’s nothing worse than seeing a show and not believing what you’re seeing.

Did either of you go back to the Stephen King novella, The Colorado Kid?

Rose:    All of us did.

Balfour:    If you’ve read it, you know it’s just a jumping off point for where we started off from.

Rose:    I think Stephen King was talking about the central theme of mystery and how that can dig at a person when they’re not able to solve it, but also how it can dig at a town, this something that they can’t explain so never speak of. What was great was that our producers found this novella and thought, “What a great place to build a world from, this town that’s unable to solve something that’s key and crucial to them.” When everything else is ruled out, you have to accept this paranormal answer.

I think there’s some similarities between [the novella’s central character] Stephanie and Audrey – though they changed her into an FBI agent to make her more active. The fact that the newspaper journalists carry over from the novella to the show is key to the audience, and if I were an audience member, I would pay very close attention to those two characters.

The show has taken over Lunenberg, a small town in Nova Scotia – did you live there most of the time?

Rose:    I lived there for five and a half months, and Eric was splitting between LA and Halifax. That was quite a shocker for me, and I’m sure it was a shocker for him going back and forth between the two worlds.

Balfour:    Towards the end it got a little ridiculous: I was flying back to LA every other weekend at one point. The northeastern Atlantic coast in general is a really mystical part of the world. It’s pretty special.

The show has a central mystery and stories of the week: which do you prefer?

Rose:    I love the mythology of the characters and how they’re connected, and watching that story unravel. I was a huge Lost fan, and love deeper things coming to the surface. But from a business viewpoint, and as an actor wanting to keep working, I understand the other element to the show. I appreciate it, but artistically and creatively I get a lot of reward from the mythology aspects.

Balfour:    It’s interesting. To me as an actor, in an hour episode it’s very difficult to tell a complete story that quickly all the time. The things that’s always kept me intrigued in shows is the interpersonal relationships of the characters. I think we do as good a job as possible of finding that balance week to week finding a story that is new and fresh and interesting, and at the same time watching these characters grow and build relationships. I’ve very proud of how we’ve found that balance and how it’s grown through the season.

That’s why I’m so excited about the opportunity of doing a second season: I felt halfway through that we were really hitting our stride. I think it’ll be fun for audience members to watch too, because if they’re paying attention they’ll really get to gauge how well this show builds from week to week.

Rose:    We live in an age where audiences can watch shows in order if they want to. Those are the fans I want to play to.

 Haven series 1 is currently rerunning on SyFy UK; series 2 begins later this year.

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